tasini.jpgOr any other content for that matter? Do you? Or does the copywriter that you hired for the project?

That's what got me thinking after reading that the U.S. Supreme Court resurrected a possible settlement in a class-action lawsuit brought by freelance writers.

In that case, New York Times v. Tasini, freelance writers brought a class action against The New York Times (among other publishers), claiming they had not given permission to the publishers to use their work in connection with online databases. In short, said the authors, if the publishers wanted to use their articles online in addition to the print format, they needed to pony up and pay the authors an additional fee.

Without going into the merits of the case, that could be a nasty surprise for a small business. Imagine you've hired a copywriter to create a new brochure for you. You like it and want to use pieces of it on your blog. Do you have the right to? Specifically, do you have a written agreement with this copywriter? Does it specify that the copywriter's work is being done on a "work-for-hire" basis? If not, you could find yourself having paid for the privilege of using the brochure "as is," but with no rights to own it, change it or use it in other contexts/formats. Now wouldn't that be a kick in the rubber parts!

For other possible legal perils online, get your free copy of Internet Law & You Power Pack.