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Supreme Court Rules on Internet Publishing Permission

Aired June 25, 2001 - 10:15   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to Washington and our Jeanne Meserve, who is standing by with some developing news there -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Leon, we're expecting a flurry of decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court as its term draws to an end. We know about a couple of them at this point, one of them having to do with the Internet and copyright laws.

The case was entitled New York Times vs. Tasini. It had to do with who owns the copy -- who owns the electronic rights to articles that freelance authors put forward. Can they be put on the Internet without permission? Today the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 against the publishers, with Justices Breyer and Stevens dissenting.

Charles Bierbauer has some background on the case.

Well, apparently, we don't have that package at the moment.

We do have another decision from the court. This one has to do with federal election law. The issue is whether a political party has a First Amendment right to make unlimited campaign expenditures in coordination with the party's congressional candidates -- a decision here as well. We are told that the court has upheld spending limits.

We're now going to go back to that first case we talked about having to do with the Internet and copyright laws.

Here's Charles Bierbauer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN TASINI, FREELANCE WRITER: The Copyright Act does not allow...

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jonathan Tasini is a freelance writer. He's usually eager to sell articles to "The New York Times." But Tasini is not pleased when "The Times" allows those articles to be reproduced on its Web site or in databases, such as Lexis-Nexis, without his direct permission.

TASINI: We want our work out there. We simply want to have our permission asked and to get paid a fair amount.

BIERBAUER: The media, including TIME Inc., owned by AOL Time Warner, the parent of CNN, argue electronic versions are simply revisions of the original publication, for which the freelance writers have already been paid.

For freelancers, the electronic rights are a big deal.

TASINI: It affects all freelance authors. And I use the word authors broadly: photographers, graphic designers and illustrators and writers.

BIERBAUER: But historians and researchers fear archives will be depleted if publishers feel they could be sued by anyone who's ever written a freelance article.

LAWRENCE TRIBE, ATTORNEY FOR "NEW YORK TIMES": The net result would be that everyone who wants to find their articles online or find them on a CD-ROM or access them electronically will find a gaping black hole.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: And so the court ruling today 7-2 that the big companies like "The New York Times" have to get freelancers' permission before they post their work online -- that decision 7-2.

Charles Bierbauer is at the court reviewing this and other decisions coming down from the court today -- Leon, back to you.

HARRIS: All right, thank you, Jeanne. We'll get back to you later on.

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