Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Was It Good for You?

It's been some six years since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of freelance writers in the landmark New York Times v Tasini. As a gung-ho member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors and the Authors Guild, I followed directions and stood firm for my rights and those of my fellow writers.

What did it get me? On the plus side, I received a few hundred dollars as the result of a settlement with the Authors Guild. On the minus side, I was summarily drummed out of Publishers Weekly, for which I'd been a contributing editor for 14 years.

To get around the Tasini decision, PW (and I assume all Reed publications) required freelancers to sign a paper relinquishing all rights to their previous book reviews, with no compensation. Following the ASJA line, I refused. A few days later, I received a curt note from the editor-in-chief (then Nora Rawlinson), telling me that since I wouldn't give up the rights to my reviews, PW no longer had need of my services--in any capacity whatsoever.

What to do? PW had me over a barrel. It was the major source of my freelance income; I'd been compiling the spring & fall announcements for more than a decade, which brought in a tidy sum of money. After a few days of soul-searching, advice seeking, hemming and hawing, I caved. I signed the #%@! agreement.

And then, guess what? My services were still no longer needed. So much for my life as a scab.

I'm wondering how other writers fared under Tasini. Send me your stories.

For one opinion, see: The Tasini Decision: A Victory for No One.


Katharine said...

Bella, you're well rid of PW. Its owner, Reed Elsevier, has a division (Reed Exhibitions) that sponsors arms fairs, events that attract representatives from the militaries of many nations and that have featured cluster bombs in the past.

As a freelance copyeditor who does ESL (English as a second language) editing for many international physicians and researchers who want to be published in U.S. medical journals, I don't want to be associated with a company that helps provide access to weapons. I've stopped accepting projects from authors who plan to submit their manuscripts to journals owned by Elsevier.

I'm also urging people to boycott the BEA and the London Book Fair, both organized by Reed Exhibitions, until Reed Elsevier directs its subsidiary to drop the arms fairs.

You can read more here.

Bella Stander said...

You're made of sterner stuff than I, Katharine. Reed owns many trade journals, including medical ones, as well as Lexis Nexis. Arms fairs give me the creeps, but no way I'll boycott BEA; it's vital to my business. And I'd go to the London Book Fair in a heartbeat if I could afford it.