NWU supports fair use

From: Irvin Muchnick <irvmuch[_at_]netcom.com>
Date: Sun, 15 Sep 1996 09:39:09 -0700 (PDT)


Writers not out for money from browsers on the Net  

In "Sealing fate of free content on the net?" (Cyberscape column, Business section, Sept. 8), Tom Abate expresses the fear of so-called envelope technology "hounding us relentlessly for stealing a crumb of intellectual property."  

If such a scenario ensues, it won't be because of writers. The National Writers Union supports a very generous definition of fair use, and we are categorically not interested in stamping out browsing or casual, noncommercial  copying by readers.  

Readers have always been able to pass a book, a magazine or a photocopy of an article along to a friend. Writers have no problem with that and we do not want reading to become a forbidden act committed in a locked room by those few who possess the golden key.  

What writers object to are others reselling our work without sharing any of the income with the original creator. The problem is not a reader who makes an electronic copy for a friend but rather publishers who try to coerce freelance authors into surrendering all rights to their work for the same price that they used to get for onetime  print publication.  

A similar problem occurs when publishers systematically commercialize works of their freelancers in new digital formats without permission and without paying for the material.  

To redress this abuse of rights, the National Writers Union has backed a landmark federal lawsuit, *Tasini et al. v. The New York Times et al.*, and has launched an innovative collective-licensing agency, Publication Rights Clearinghouse.  

Perhaps envelope technology will be part of the solution for preserving the independence and dignity of writers in the 21st century. But we won't support any solution that attempts to suppress the spontaneity or free flow of noncommercial  information on the Internet.  

National Writers Union
San Francisco  


Bruce Hartford is, along with National Writers Union president Jonathan Tasini, one of the principal co-authors of *Authors in the New Information Age*, the NWU's comprehensive position paper on electronic publishing issues. The full text of the paper (as well as other information about the NWU and its collective-licensing agency, Publication Rights Clearinghouse) is available at

*Authors in the New Information Age* can also be acquired in booklet form, for nominal cost, from the NWU's National Office West. For details, send an e-mail message to
<nwu[_at_]nwu.org> or call (510) 839-0110.
Received on Sun Sep 15 1996 - 16:40:32 GMT

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