Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Electronic Royalty Rights

I keep a little list of news stories I'm interested in beside my desk. The list reminds me to follow up periodically to see if anything has changed with those stories.

Since last May, I've had the case of Frederick H. Martini, Inc. v. Pearson Education, Inc. on that list.

Frederick H. Martini is a writer of textbooks initially published by Simon & Schuster (S&S) in the 1980s. Since 1998, when they acquired the S&S unit, Pearson Education has published Martini's work.

In late 2004, Martini--a researcher at the University of Hawaii at Manoa--filed suit against his new publisher. According to a 5/16/05 article in Publishers Weekly (PW), Martini charged that "Pearson was selling electronic editions of his works for which it did not own electronic rights." Martini also complained that Pearson wasn't paying him his full royalty on sales.

Pearson responded by filing a motion to dismiss the case. In February, 2005, that motion was denied. At the time the article appeared in PW, the case was in discovery with Judge Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Martini had a number of complaints: First that Pearson had not updated all their contracts with him to include electronic rights. He further claimed that they were selling electronic products on which they did not own the rights. Finally, on the electronic and print products for which Pearson did hold rights, Martini claimed the company was either not paying royalties or not paying the full amount of royalties owed. Publishers Weekly cited one product (a CD-ROM) on which "Martini received a 1% royalty when the contract called for a 12% payment."

"Industry members have long been concerned that the sale of online products could be difficult to track." (PW).

A discussion today on a writers' loop I belong to reminded me of the Martini case, and I checked Judge Illston's calendar. According to her docket for 3/25/06, there was a "further case management conference" scheduled for 3/31/06 (last Friday).

It sounds like the case is proceeding with glacial speed through our justice system.

Michael Lennie, Martini's attorney, was quoted in the PW artice as saying that they filed suit "after months of discussions with Pearson failed to produce a full accounting of what products Pearson has published that were derived from Martini's works but were released without his knowledge." My best guess is that Judge Illston is helping to obtain that full accounting.

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