Remote and Controlled
The National Writers Union (NWU) is the trade union for American freelance writers with 17 local chapters throughout the country and nearly 6,500 members nationwide. The goal of the union is to establish and enforce writers' rights. Recently, union President Jonathan Tasini won his latest battle against The New York Times Company in which the Supreme Court ruled freelancers must be compensated for content used digitally. In 1993, Tasini filed a copyright lawsuit on behalf of himself and members of the NWU, but eight years and one verdict later and publishers are just starting to feel the effects. In a statement by President and CEO of Magazine Publishers of America (MPA), Nina Link called the verdict a lose-lose situation. "It seems that everyone loses—publishers, students, researchers, readers and ironically, freelancers. Publishers lose because they will have to spend a tremendous amount of time and resources to purge freelance materials from their databases."
The New York Times has since reported that downsizing of its digital archives has begun. Similarly, The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that its Web site is also experiencing a subtractive diet. In both cases, content attributed to freelance writers from more than 10 years ago is being slashed because the publishers are often unable to contact authors and/or compensate them for thousands of records within both media company's arsenals. In many cases, the news organizations began asking for permission to publish the content from familiar freelancers, but admit its impossible (and expensive) to tackle each and every piece, resulting in outright removal of content rather than risk of lawsuits from hundreds and thousands of freelancers from around the world. The case is a catalyst toward how both content creators and publishers must reconcile digitization in a market once ruled by paper. As a result, mixed media repercussions are inspiring mixed reviews.