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NWU, Brill Meet to Resolve Contentville Dispute
Calvin Reid -- 7/31/00

A dispute between the National Writers Union and Steve Brill's Web venture Contentville.com over the ownership of the material it is selling online seems to have been defused after a cordial meeting last week between Brill and NWU president Jonathan Tasini.

On July 17 the National Writers Union issued an e-mail alert to its members after receiving "numerous" complaints that Contentville.com, a Web site that sells all manner of content, from books to speeches to dissertations, was selling previously published works by NWU members without the writers'permissions. Tasini and the NWU are the plaintiffs in a long-running copyright suit (News, Apr. 17) in which the courts have ruled that freelancers'published works cannot be republished in electronic form without their permission.

Brill immediately posted a reply to the NWU alert on Jim Romenesko's Media News Web site (www.poynter.org). Brill said that although Contentville.com's database vendors claim to own the material being offered for sale, he would meet with the NWU to resolve the issue. After the meeting last week, Brill told PW that Contentville.com and NWU are negotiating to allow writers who dispute the presence of their material on Contentville's site to point it out, and to register their articles with the NWU's Publishing Rights Clearing House, a permissions and payments entity launched by the NWU in the wake of the legal ruling in its favor.

Brill told PW that once the material is registered with the PRC, "we'll use it and pay the writer. We're taking the lead on this because it's legally required, it's the right thing to do and there's no reason not to do it. I'm a former freelance writer, and I'd be pissed off, too." He also noted that Contentville.com will publicize the new policy and "if the writers don't like the PRC's deal, we can take it [the disputed material] down from Contentville."

Although Tasini cautioned PW that details of the agreement were still being negotiated, he acknowledged that "Brill is head and shoulders above most publishers on this. He understands that there is a problem."
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