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Looks like a win for Heather Robertson

By Christopher Moore | October 12, 2006

Supreme Court ruling on Heather Robertson vs the Globe came out this morning. Text available here

Lots of analysis yet to come. Evidently some of the issues need to be retried. And much howevering in the judgment.

But here is the key sentence from the majority: “Newspaper publishers are not entitled to republish freelance articles acquired for publication in their newspapers in Info Globe Online or CPI.Q without compensating the authors and obtaining their consent.”

On a quick look, it looks like hard cases make bad law (and everything to do with copyright seems to be a hard case these days). A confused, disunited court, attempting to parse the meaning of digitization, when it would be better with a clear law-and-economics focus. This case was about payment not about technology. The authors contribute value, the authors are entitled to be compensated. That’s the heart and soul of copyright, and the judges err when they imagine it is all about changing technologies.

Still, a win’s a win. The Supreme Court still says you can’t take other people’s work for commercial benefit without permission or payment. Glad to have that on the record.

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