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Public Relations Protest

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Public Relations Protest

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Group of authors charge Public Relations Society of America with unfairly reprinting and distributing their work; Society maintains it has made "fair use" of the material

A DOZEN WRITERS claim that the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has unfairly distributed and profited from their copyrighted work.

For almost 18 years, PRSA has compiled chapters from books and excerpts of published articles into "information packets" which the association loans for a fee.

For PRSA members, the fee is $17. The general public pays $55, plus a $3 postage and handling charge.

The writers -- some of whom are members of PRSA -- say the society never asked permission to use the work.

Also, the writers believe they have a right to a share of the loan fees.

Raymond Gaulke, COO of PRSA and a former chief marketing officer of the Newspaper Association of America, referred calls about the matter to John Beardsley, president of PRSA.

"We plan to talk to people on the writer's committee who are members of PRSA and see if they feel aggrieved in any way," Beardsley said.

"But we also want to make clear that we have operated within the privilege of fair use."

PRSA provides the information packets as a "public service," Beardsley said, and does not make a profit. The PRSA loan program, Beardsley said, "actually operates at a slight loss."

"We send out loan packets for about $55 and about half of that goes to Copyright Clearence Center CCC)," Beardsley said. "The rest goes to cover our costs."

The CCC is an agency through which permission to photocopy certain material is granted. PRSA joined CCC almost a year ago, Beardsley said.

Isabella Hinds, director of professional relations for the company, said "CCC operates on a contractual basis." We represent very specific rights holders. We have been very clear with PRSA that there are a number of publishers that have decided to use our service.

"That does not represent any kind of blanket authorization. There are publishers who choose not to use our service," she said.

Some of the material included in the information packets originally was published in Quill and Association Trends. …

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