The New Yorker’s copyright hack: I am a very proud owner of the DVD set, The Complete New Yorker. It is truly incredible to have almost 4,200 issues of the magazine compiled in one spot. However, it doesn’t take long for a user to ask the question the Wall Street Journal (free feature) answers today: Why does The Complete New Yorker feel so low-tech?
Answer: The explanation lies in a years-long battle over a clause in U.S. copyright law concerning the ownership of rights to magazine articles written by free-lancers.
“When Congress revamped copyright law in 1976, it said magazine publishers retained the right to print collections and revisions of past issues. But when a magazine wants to republish a free-lance work in a new and different format, the free-lancer must be compensated accordingly, two more-recent court rulings have found. That means when republishing articles on DVD or other digital formats, magazines must pay free-lancers again, get their permission to republish free — or preserve the original print context. The New Yorker’s solution was to scan the original magazine pages onto DVDs.”