The Supreme Court today finally granted review in Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, a dispute over the long-negotiated settlement between freelance writers and database and news media publishers over copyright compensation for republication of their works. The Court had "re-listed' the case on the agenda for its private conferences seven times, according to respondent Irvin Muchnick's Freelance Rights blog.
The settlement flowed from the high court's 2001 ruling in New York Times v. Tasini, which vindicated freelancers' right to compensation. A lengthy mediation of class-action lawsuits followed, resulting in a settlement in 2005 that created an $18 million fund to be distributed to freelancers. A group of objecting authors challenged the settlement, and in 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit voided it on jurisdictional grounds. The appeals court said it had no jurisdiction over assertions of copyright infringement for works that had not actually been registered with the copyright office. Since most freelance works are not formally copyrighted, the ruling seemed to dash hopes of a settlement ever being reached.
The high court, in granting review, re-worded the question presented to encompass only whether 17 U.S.C. 411(a) restricts "the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts over copyright infringement actions." The case will be argued in the fall.