Tasini Oral Arguments Heard at the Supreme Court

By Quint, Barbara | Information Today, May 2001 | Go to article overview

Tasini Oral Arguments Heard at the Supreme Court


Quint, Barbara, Information Today


Silence in the court. As the last red light flickered on the dais, the long legal debate over the rights of publishers to distribute content created by freelance writers in electronic form came to an end at 11:04 a.m. EST on Wednesday, March 28. Now the nine justices of the United States Supreme Court will conduct the only meaningful discussions of the topic, while the publishing and online information world waits, perhaps until as late as the end of June or even July, to hear how it all turns out.

Oral arguments by lawyers representing publishers (the plaintiff) and defendants (Jonathan Tasini of the National Writers Union, et al.) took only 1 hour. But then, with rare exceptions, all oral arguments take only 1 hour--or less--before the U.S. Supreme Court (http://www.supremecourtus.gov), which runs a very tight and briskly efficient ship when it comes to listening to attorneys. (The justices even specify the color of folders for briefs presented to them.) Besides, copyright was not the only matter on the court's calendar that day. It also had to hear arguments for and against the medical therapeutic services of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative.

For a complete background of the case and all the players, read Carole Ebbinghouse's Sidebar column from the January 2001 issue of Searcher magazine, "Final Hours: Tasini Goes to the Supreme Court" (http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/jan01/ebbinghouse.htm). For NewsBreaks summarizing the case, including the impact it has already had on the online information industry, see Paula J. Hane's "Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Tasini Case" (http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb0011131.htm), or "Freelance Authors Turn Up the Heat with More Lawsuits; Major Database Providers Under Siege" (http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb000821.1.htm).

In the end, however, it all boiled down to one question for the Supreme Court to decide: "Are reproduction and distribution of a periodical in electronic form, as well as in print, privileged under Section 201(c) of the Copyright Act, or does electronically publishing the same contents infringe upon the copyrights held by contributing freelance authors?"

Representing the plaintiffs (publishers) was Laurence Henry Tribe, a Harvard law professor, while Lawrence Gold of Washington, DC, represented the authors. Tribe represented the New York Times Co.; the Tribune Co.; Newsday; AOL/Time Warner's Time Magazine, Inc.; Reed Elsevier's Lexis-Nexis; and Bell & Howell Information and Learning. Transcripts of the oral arguments, available from Alderson Reporting Co. (http://www.aldersonreporting.com) or on the Supreme Court's own Web site, do not indicate which justice is speaking, but sometimes the attorneys will respond to a justice by name. As usual in oral arguments, the justices barely let each attorney get one paragraph out of their mouths before the questions came rolling in.

Justices Scalia, Ginsberg, and O'Connor grilled Tribe about why contracts and cash couldn't handle the problem. Tribe countered by mentioning the technical difficulties and, when challenged on the draconian removal of masses of articles, pointed out that the damages under the law could run from $250 to $10,000--or even $30,000-- per infringement and that infringements might be considered to occur whenever an article was downloaded, voiding the 3-year statute of limitations written into the law. (One wondered whether Tribe might regret making this damage analysis should his clients lose the case.) Justice Breyer questioned the technical process of creating a digital version of, in his example, The Washington Post. Tribe seemed to grow a little testy as the lengthy question ate up his time. Justice Souter worried that Nexis was basically a reprint production service and that authors would not have enough protection even if the language of the law appeared to grant the rights to publishers.

On that happy note, Gold rose to expound on the authors' rights. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Tasini Oral Arguments Heard at the Supreme Court
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.