Literary Works in Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation?

Any of you other “industry pros” receive a notice about the class action suit above? Seems freelancers are due some good money for pieces that were used without their explicit permission in electronic databases like LEXIS/NEXIS. Anyway, I received a worksheet to fill out with all my freelance pieces but I don’t know if comics qualify. On the surface, it would seem like they wouldn’t (because I believe services like LEXIS/NEXIS are text-only). They have a website,, but it doesn’t seem to answer this vital question.

Does anyone know the answer? I have to submit the form by Sept. 30.


About joshcomix
Brooklyn-based cartoonist specializing in nonfiction comics about topics like Hurricane Katrina, the media, travel, and finance.

13 Responses to Literary Works in Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation?

  1. thamesrhodes says:

    It seems to me…
    And I deal in copyright and rights and clearances all day long, that the text within the bubbles, is covered under the same copyright that covers the pretty pictures. In a “Text Only” situation, if the “work” is recognizable as your own, then you have a claim. If It was me I would sue the pants off of somebody.
    Titles are not copyrightable, but these could be used as the marker defining the “Text” as your own.
    If you work is up there, and they’re making money, then I think you have a strong case.

    • 4_eyez says:

      Re: It seems to me…
      the problem is I DON’T KNOW if my work has been used in that fashion. what i’m trying to figure out is if everyone who’s published ANYTHING is getting these notices/forms, or if there is some specific reason why i got it.
      unfortunately, neither the letter i received or the official website lists the “articles” in question. if i had access to LEXIS/NEXIS, i suppose i could check what if any pieces of mine were reprinted.
      in any case, thanks for your input!

      • man_size says:

        Re: It seems to me…
        Exactly. YOU have to do the investigative work. It’s annoying nonsense. AND — when you can’t or don’t figure out what you might could claim, “they” get away with whatever stunts their pulling. I love copyright laws.

  2. man_size says:

    I’ve gotten this notice twice. And twice, SBX has told me to trash it.

    • 4_eyez says:

      it’s easy to say trash, but the rewards of due diligence are well worth it: $1500 per work per publisher!!! that could add up to a lot of dough!
      ‘tho i still have a feeling cartoonists are generally not applicable for this class action suit

      • man_size says:

        You find out anything substantial, please keep me posted. Thanks!

      • 4_eyez says:

        after further research…
        i’ve looked into this issue a little more and i’m feeling like it’s probably not worth spending the considerable time it would take to fill this out.
        first of all, if you didn’t register the piece with the u.s. copyright office (which none of us do, right?) then you’d only be receiving token payments:
        $60 for each work originally sold for $3000 or more
        $50 for each work originally sold for $2000 to $2999
        $40 for each work originally sold for $1000 to $1999
        $25 for each work originally sold for $250 to $999
        $5 or 10% (whichever’s greater) for each work sold for less than $250
        for me, that means about $25 per work, IF any of them qualify. that’s a big IF because the lawsuit specifically mentions that “works for hire” are outside the scope of the settlement.
        this, plus the fact that i’m still unclear on whether comics qualify as “literary works” and whether of the actually comics ended up on the electronic databases, makes it extremely dubious whether it’s worth me taking time adding up all the comics i’ve done for clients like FSB, Green magazine, The Austin American-Statesman, In These Times, etc.

      • man_size says:

        Re: after further research…
        Thanks for doing the leg work. Such odd red tape stuff. Publishing is an exploitive bastard. If only I had a heat-seeking copyright gun.

  3. indymag says:


  4. wjcohen says:

    work for hire is the key
    If work for hire is ineligible, forget it – if its like the $1.50 per word game, i assume all freelance assignments for illos are also “work for hire” – we own nothing, we give our words/pix/photos away for a one-time fee and the deal can be cut at the employer’s will. Nice.
    Funny/good story on the non-evolutionary path of the freelance magazine scribe here in “My Life As a Hack”:

    • 4_eyez says:

      Re: work for hire is the key
      yeah, i figured that was the case after looking at the fine print. i only wish it had been more clearly spelled out before i started wasting time thinking about it. like, why was i sent the notice in the first place???
      p.s. can’t wait to see your first post!

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