Reprint Rights and Wrongs
Learning from the past
ForeWord magazine editor-at-large, Gene Schwartz, says, "While there are gray areas, I believe it is always ethically safe to go back to the analog practice for which electronic form is a metaphor. There are numerous analog metaphors—the clipping service is a good one, as are microfim editions—which enable the user to separate out for their purposes a single article from its context."
But using the same logic for digital content didn't satisfy Tasini, who compared creative copyright to merchandising. He claims, "Rather than negotiate with freelancers, The Times is using threats and intimidation to further exploit writers labor. The Times is telling writers that unless they sign a retroactive rights contract—that takes away all past and future rights to their work without additional pay," negotiations will be halted. This includes reprints.
Dan Brill, publisher of Canadian-based Graphic Exchange, disagrees with the claim. Brill believes that collective copyright laws solve ownership qualms for digital asset repurposing and reprints. "Content is free," he says. "Value equals content over relevancy, where's Shakespeare's a one and anything to do with Timothy McVeigh is a zillion." He explains that to somehow label content the same across the board (be it digital data or reprints), is the same as "applying a value standard," which he also says is "ludicrous."
But according to United States title 17, U.S. Code, copyright itself is "a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of original works of authorship." As copyright relates to digital assets, the Copyright Office has denied a request from the Digital Media Association to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to decide whether a Webcasting service becomes interactive when a consumer exerts some influence on the programming offered by the service. It did recognize, however, that the amount and type of influence a consumer has on the programming offered by the transmitting entity will affect whether the activity is characterized as interactive or non-interactive. On this point, the Office determined that it would be unable to fashion a set of criteria or guidelines beyond those already set forth in the law, despite the latest Tasini verdict. The reaction from reprint companies varies, although a recent move suggests that the market is paying close attention to copyright.