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Freelance Writers, Publishers Accord Tossed by Appeals Court

A federal appeals court rejected a settlement between publishers, including New York Times Co., and freelance writers who accused the companies of copyright infringement.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York vacated a lower court order approving the agreement, finding a group of freelance authors with certain claims weren’t adequately represented, according to a decision filed today.

“We conclude that the district court abused its discretion in certifying the class and approving the settlement, because the named plaintiffs failed to adequately represent the interests of all class members,” the appeals panel said.

The writers claimed in a class-action, or group, lawsuit that publishers violated their copyrights by electronically reproducing and posting their work in databases. A judge in 2005 approved the settlement, which was valued at as much as $18 million for the writers.

Danielle Rhoades Ha, a spokeswoman for Times Co., didn’t immediately comment on the appeals court ruling. Patrick Kerr, a spokesman for Reed Elsevier Inc., another publisher in the case, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The appeals court case is In re Literary Works In Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation, 05-5943, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Manhattan).

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