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AG Advocacy and Legal Updates: December 2018

Literary Agency Donadio & Olson Files for Bankruptcy
Some of you may have heard about the embezzlement by Donadio & Olson’s bookkeeper, which we wrote about in June 2018. The Agency’s accountant Darin Webb was charged with fraud and embezzlement of client and agency funds. This was a matter of concern in the writing community not only because it put writers’ royalties at risk, it also raised the question of “What happens when an agency isn’t able to pay its clients?” Matters escalated recently when D&O filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition on Monday, December 3. The Authors Guild has received a notice stating that a Proof of Claim form must be filed on or before March 11, 2019.

A High School Newspaper Is Censored
The Authors Guild recently signed on to a letter to the Springdale, AR School District protesting its decision to suspend publication of the school newspaper and remove an investigative article from the publication’s website. The student reporters had investigated and reported on an article of great interest to the student body—namely, whether the requests of several football players to transfer schools violated district policy or the guidelines of the Arkansas Activities Association. Not only did this blatant censorship of the school paper violate the students’ First Amendment rights, it violated Arkansas state law granting student journalists legal protections beyond those required by the First Amendment. We are pleased to have learned that the School District has decided to repost the article in question, but it is not yet certain whether the school paper will be able to resume publication without the school doing a pre-publication review (which is quite likely to have a “chilling effect” on reporters of any age).

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal in TVEyes Copyright Case
On December 3, the Supreme Court denied Fox News’s appeal of the Second Circuit’s decision in Fox News Network v. TVEyes, Inc. This means that the Second Circuit’s decision—that TVEyes’s practice of copying, indexing, and showing its clients up to 10-minute clips of Fox News’s programming did not constitute a “fair use” of Fox News’s copyrighted material—stands. The court’s interpretation of “fair use” has been steadily expanding for years, especially when the use has been deemed a “transformative” one. The Supreme Court’s decision to let the Second Circuit denial of fair use stand hopefully reflects a continuation “toward resetting the balance to ensure copyright law does what it is supposed to do—protect the artist’s ability to benefit from their work so creators will keep on creating.”

Small Claims Bill to Be Reintroduced to Congress
In the upcoming Congress, which starts in January, members of the House Judiciary Committee have committed to reintroducing a bill to create a small claims court in the Copyright Office (which the AG has championed for several years). If passed, the bill will provide creators with an affordable alternative to federal courts in which they can enforce their copyrights and protect their work from infringement. Incoming House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has confirmed his ongoing support for the bill. We will continue to advise on any needed revisions to the bill and to work on its Senate counterpart, which will be sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA).