GBS: Wolson v. Reed-Elsevier


Here’s a recent copyright case of note: Wolson v. Reed-Elsevier, No. 09 Civ. 4040 (S.D.N.Y. Jan 29, 2010). It’s of interest because it’s a copyright case, that touches on class actions, indeed on the Literary Works litigation now before the Supreme Court, and because it was decided by Judge Chin.


Judge Chin allowed the aggrieved copyright holder in this case to sue because the Literary Rights Class Action settlement, unlike the GBS, explicitly covered only violations up to the date of that settlement, and did not contain a prospective release. Whether the prospective release of future violations in the GBS is allowed, will be ruled on by Judge Chin and the appellate courts.


I am confused. The ruling notes that “the Literary Works settlement agreement states that ‘no claims shall be released with respect to works that have not, on or prior to the date of this Agreement, been reproduced, distributed, displayed or transmitted by an Defense Group member.’” My mother always told me to avoid double negatives, so I would read this to say that claims are released for works that had been reproduced or distributed by a Defense Group member prior to 21 March 2005. According to the ruling the article had been distributed by Reed, namely when it published the article in 2002. So since it had been reproduced and distributed by a Defense Group member, shouldn’t the claim against that defense group member have been released?

Chin’s comments on the need to provide adequate notice to the class in a class action settlement and the importance of a “rigorous process for court approval of a class settlement” are interesting. I note, too, that Chin would not rule on the adequacy of notice provided to class members at this stage, which makes it all the more important to address this properly at this stage of GBS. Has Boni earned his $30 million dollars?


Peter: The plaintiff here alleged e publishing violations after the 2005 effective date of the Literary Rights Settlement, up to 2008, and Judge Chin is giving him the chance to present evidence of those instances. I very much agree with your mother’s wise advise and try hard never to fall short on that score.

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