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Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 00:56 GMT 01:56 UK
US court backs authors' web rights

Ruling gives freelancers victory over media giants
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in Washington

The US Supreme Court has handed down a landmark decision dealing with copyright law in the digital age.

The court ruled that media companies must obtain permission from freelancers before posting their work on the internet or including it in other electronic archives.

The case pitted freelancers against media giants such as the New York Times, Tribune companies, Newsday and AOL Time-Warner's Time magazine.

The seven-to-two ruling by the court is a defeat for the media titans.

They might now be liable for copyright infringement for freelance articles and images they republished from their newspapers and magazines onto the World Wide Web and then electronic databases.

Seeking permission

The companies argued that the electronic versions were simply revisions of the articles or images in print. But the court ruled that inclusion in an electronic database is different from other kinds of archival or library storage of material that once appeared in print.

Publishers will have to seek freelancers' permission and pay them for posting their work online or including it in an electronic archive.

The case will mainly affect articles, illustrations and photographs published a decade ago before freelance contracts provided for electronic use.

The ruling could affect what is available for free online.

During the case, media companies argued that they would probably remove material from their electronic archives rather than haggle with writers over permission and fees.

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See also:

19 Apr 00 | Business
Protecting your copyright on the web
14 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Creators fight for copyrights
14 Feb 01 | Entertainment
EU votes yes to net piracy law
13 Mar 01 | Business
Napster deflects blame for delays
07 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Hollywood faces piracy battle
19 Sep 00 | Business
Digital rights and wrongs
27 Mar 99 | UK Politics
Internet in copyright shake-up
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