- Case Summary

University / Undergraduate
Modified: 25th Jun 2001
Wordcount: 558 words


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Legal Case Summary

Summary: A landmark case where the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of freelance journalists in regards to copyright infringements by print and electronic publishers.


In this case, freelance journalists Jonathan Tasini and others filed a suit against The New York Times Company, along with other print and online publishers, for copyright infringement. The publishers had been reproducing the freelancers’ work in electronic databases and CD-ROM collections, without obtaining their consent or compensating them. The plaintiffs claimed that this was a violation of their rights under the copyright statute.


This case revolved around the interpretation of certain clauses in the Copyright Act. The key issue was whether the privilege given to publishers under § 201(c) of the Copyright Act to reproduce the contributed work in a “revision” of that particular collective work would include the reproduction of the work in electronic format. The Court also had to consider the nature of digital technology and how it applies to the concept of copyright.


The Tasini case was a key precedent in the digital age, setting a new standard for copyright law in the context of electronic publishing. It affirmed the importance of gaining express consent from authors when reproducing their works in differing mediums. This case also had wide-ranging impacts on the publishing industry and raised important questions about the reproduction of copyrighted works in the digital era.


The US Supreme Court, in a 7-2 ruling, sided with the freelance authors. The Court held that the republication of the writers’ articles in electronic databases or CD-ROM versions was outside the scope of the publishers’ privilege under § 201(c). As such, the publishers could not reproduce the authors' works in these new formats without their permission. Therefore, the publishers were found to have infringed the copyright of the freelance writers.


  • New York Times Co. v. Tasini, 533 U.S. 483 (2001)
  • Copyright Act § 201(c), U.S.C (2000)

Journalist Brief

In the case of New York Times Co. v. Tasini, the US Supreme Court sided with freelance authors who had filed a suit for copyright infringement. The publishers had reproduced the authors' work on electronic databases and CD-ROMs without their permission or compensation. The Court held that this fell outside the publisher's privilege to reproduce the work under the Copyright Act's terms and hence was an infringement of the authors' rights. This case set an important legal precedent for copyright law, particularly in the context of digital technologies.


What was the New York Times Co. vs. Tasini case about?

Answer: It was about whether publishers could reproduce freelance writers' works in electronic databases and CD-ROM collections without their permission, under the privileges granted by the Copyright Act.

What was the Court's decision?

Answer: The US Supreme Court ruled that such reproductions fell outside the publishers' privilege given by the Copyright Act and was hence a copyright infringement. Therefore, the publishers could not reproduce the authors' works in these formats without their permission.

Why is this case significant?

Answer: It set a key legal precedent for copyright law in the context of digital technologies, underlining the need to obtain express consent from authors for reproducing their works in different mediums.

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