By: Jason Williams

NWU’s Tasini Wants Securities and Exchange Commission to Look Closer

Jonathan Tasini, president of the National Writers Union (NWU), has asked the
Securities and Exchange Commission to review The New York Times Co.’s initial
public offering (IPO) filing. Tasini claims the Times ‘failed to report significant
liabilities facing the company as a result of a decision in a landmark lawsuit,’
read the letter to the Commission’s chairman, Arthur Levitt.

The landmark decision refers to Tasini, et al. v. The New York Times, et al. in
September 1999 that found the Times and the other media companies named were
violating the copyrights of free-lance writers by not compensating or seeking the
written permission of writers when publishing their work in online databases or

‘The New York Times, via its Web sites (as well as other media such as Lexis-Nexis)
has essentially created a virtual copyright infringement machine,’ reads the letter,
which claims the Times failed to report these material facts in filing its IPO.

The NWU also sent a copy of the letter written by New York City Comptroller Alan Hevesi
– which expresses concern over the potential liability of media companies in light of
Tasini v. New York Times – to 36 media companies. Hevesi is the investment adviser and
trustee for five New York pension funds totaling 90 billion.

‘We have opened a new phase in our quest to get freelance writers their fair share,’
said Tasini.

Nancy Nielsen, Times Co. spokesperson, said that the charges the NWU has made are ‘wrong
and misleading.’ Nielsen maintained that the Tasini case is ‘far from over,’ and that even
if the Times Co. loses its appeal for a reversal of the decision, losses would be

‘We’ve had written contracts with free-lance writers [since 1995] who give us the right to
reprint their articles in all media,’ Nielsen said. ‘The archive only goes up to one year,
so all of those are covered by the free-lance contracts,’

The National Writers Union represents 5,700 free-lance writers across the nation and is
affiliated with the United Auto Workers union.


Jason Williams ( is a
reporter for Editor & Publisher magazine.

(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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