Remote and Controlled
The initial response towards the Tasini case is cloudy at best. Publishers are aware that they are responsible for expensive retribution without non-staff writers' permission to publish content online, but freelancers are also faced with a conundrum to decide whether to relinquish their rights and ask to be additionally reimbursed, risking being purged from esteemed archives. In many cases, the pros and cons have established a new angle in which to view digital rights control. Not unlike the music industry's Napster, in which digital content was freely distributed without the permission of musical artists, NWU sustains that distribution of content created for print without permission to use on the Web is as much a violation. And while many freelance writers claim that the ruling establishes digital content's legitimacy, others disagree, saying that the ruling provides an even greater strain on an already over-worked industry.
ForeWord magazine's editor-at-large, Gene Schwartz, says that understanding the dichotomy between content creator and distributor is critical in understanding the future of digital rights management. "Although I have no way of validating the claim by publishers that they will have to remove a large number of items from the various data bases on which they reside, I believe that in this instance, the minority in the Tasini decision was on the reasonable side of where the new technology is taking us," says Schwartz. "I am a strong supporter of intellectual property rights and of rewarding authors to the full extent of a share in any revenues generated by their work product. New contracts are providing for electronic distribution so that the effect of this decision on the future will enable authors to negotiate for revenue shares in applications that were not feasible before digital and e-commerce technologies. I think one has to look at articles in magazines and newspapers in the context of how they originally found their way to market and achieved value not just through content but also through publication and distribution in association with a lot of other content. Publishers have a good case to make for wanting to acquire the material outright in the same way as they try to do graphics and designs." He says that tracking rights and payments for future access would have been more costly than the potential rewards.