Freelances at Nautilus magazine Tweet for pay

FREELANCES in the US have even poorer provision for enforcing their rights than elsewhere. There is, at last, a move to set up relatively affordable Small Claims procedures - in the shape of a Bill before the House of Representatives, the would-be Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (CASE Act). The Electronic Frontier Foundation is opposing it in case, you know, people have to pay for copyright infringements.

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In the meantime, nineteen contributors to Nautilus magazine have resorted to publishing an open letter to its publisher: "As of December 13, we are writers and editors awaiting payment from Nautilus magazine for a collective debt totalling $50,000. Some of us have been waiting to be paid for more than a year."

They asked supporters to Tweet out #paynautiluswriters - saying "Hopes were high when Nautilus magazine was founded four years ago as 'a New Yorker version of Scientific American' featuring well-researched and thoughtful articles on science and philosophy." Nautilus was "created with a grant from the John Templeton Foundation... [the publisher] promised to pay upon completion of a pending merger with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS," they write. The grant was not renewed and that merger never came about.

On 1 February, Shannon Stirone Tweeted: "the National Writer's Union has reached a payment agreement with... Nautilus. Never doubt the power of a group fighting for what is right. Thanks to everyone for their continued support!" At the same time Evelyn Lamb noted that "Several writers have been paid in full already."

It would of course be better for freelances in the US to have a proper legal recourse. But it took several years to get a small claims court capable of hearing cases involving copyright in the UK, after the existing courts were accidentally stopped from hearing these cases. In this case at lease, a social media campaign seems to be working.