Freelancer Files Web Property Suit Against Boston Globe

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One of the emerging legal controversies regarding intellectual property and the Internet came to the surface yesterday when freelance writers, photographers and illustrators filed a class action lawsuit against The Boston Globe Newspaper Co.

According to a prepared statement released on behalf of plaintiff Bill Marx, the lawsuit stems from The Globe asking its freelancers to sign an agreement that permits the news organization to republish their content across any medium, while the contributing professional yields copyrights for future sales of such contributed content. Marx, who has contributed freelance book criticism pieces to The Globe, said that the newspaper threatened never to hire his services again if he didn't sign the pact.

The meat of the debate lies in The Globe's rights, through its freelance contracts, to sell archived material online indefinitely for a sum a money per article without compensating the person who submitted the work. Currently, the newspaper's stories are being sold for approximately $2 to $4 at

The legal action is Marx et. al. v. The Globe Newspaper Co. The argument will likely rest on Massachusetts statutes that prohibit deceptive and coercive business practices. The National Writers Union, the Graphic Artists Guild and the American Society of Media Photographers are backing Marx in the case.

The Boston Globe was unavailable to respond to the lawsuit. It hasn't been announced when the lawsuit will go to court.

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