Monday, March 02, 2009

Tasini Redux

The Tasini case is back in the US Supreme Court. It will be recalled that the authors won a victory of sorts several years ago and the US Supremes rendered a judgment that strongly encouraged a settlement so that important databases could remain intact.

The trouble is that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals refused to approve the resulting $18 million settlement on the basis that it had no jurisdiction to deal with unregistered copyrights in a class action where the "overwhelming majority of claims within the certified class" were, not surprisingly, unregistered:
...we first ask whether the Copyright Act’s registration requirement is jurisdictional and 15 then ask whether each claim within the class must satisfy that requirement. We answer both 16 questions affirmatively
The Court will hear this case on the narrow point of " “Does 17 USC 411 (a) restrict the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts over copyright infringement actions?” Note that the section applies to US works and not foreign works.

Actually, this point is potentially not that narrow because it may require deeper scrutiny of the the rather confusing registration provisions of the US legislation, which are far less important though by no means irrelevant to foreign copyright owners. The issue of the Berne Convention came up en passant in the Circuit Court.

Here's a good discussion by a new blogger on US Law (at least new to me), Ben Sheffner, whose blog is avowedly "from a pro-copyright-owner perspective." I've added his blog to my blog roll. He makes a valiant but doubtlessly futile effort to draw Bill Patry back into the blogosphere on this issue.


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