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Court Tosses Freelance Writers’ Settlement

NEW YORK (CN) - In a 2-1 decision, the 2nd Circuit has set aside the settlement of a copyright infringement dispute between freelance writers and a group of publishers, including the New York Times Co., Thompson Corp. and Knight Ridder.

The parties spent years negotiating writers' claims that their contracts did not allow publishers to reproduce their work online without paying them. Manhattan U.S. District Judge George Daniels approved the settlement in 2005, a move the circuit said he had no power to make.

"We have held, albeit outside the class-action context, that district courts lack statutory subject matter jurisdiction over infringement claims arising from unregistered copyrights."

Judges Winter and Walker issued a separate opinion to explain their decision not to recuse themselves after learning that they were probably class members, having held copyrights in law reviews and speeches republished on defendants' databases.

Because the judges divested their financial interest and spent a substantial amount of time considering the case, their continued participation "strikes the appropriate balance between securing the interests of impartiality and its appearance, and reducing the practical costs that unnecessary recusal entails, and does not diminish public respect for the judiciary," Judge Walker wrote. See ruling and recusal opinion.


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