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The Boston Globe won an initial victory in its battle against freelance contributors who sought to prevent the newspaper from keeping a July 1 deadline by which freelancers must sign a new license agreement. An order by Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Carol S. Ball released Monday in the case of William Marx et al v. Globe Newspaper Co. Inc. denied the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction on the issues of likelihood of success on the merits and that there appears to be no risk of irreparable harm. Ball wrote: “The plaintiffs here, all artists, believe with honest and compelling conviction that they have been wronged by the cold, cruel realities of the e-commerce business world. It is not clear, however, that the business practice at issue violates G.L. c. 93A.” The freelancers, which include writers, photographers and illustrators, filed a class action suit after learning the license agreement would give the Globe the right to publish their work, including on the paper’s Web site, without additional compensation. If the freelancers do not sign the agreement by July 1, they will not be able to work for the paper. Bill Berkowitz, who is representing the Globe, said based on Ball’s decision, the newspaper company will move to have the case dismissed within the next week. Plaintiffs’ lawyer Indira Talwani, an attorney with Segal, Roitman & Coleman in Boston, could not be reached for comment before deadline. The significance of Ball’s decision is that she accepts the defendant’s position that based on a 1975 decision involving the Globe, PMP Assoc’s Inc. v. Globe Newspaper Co., it will be difficult, if not nearly impossible, for the plaintiffs to prevail, said Berkowitz, a lawyer at Boston’s Bingham Dana. The newspaper argued that a mere refusal to deal with someone is not a violation of the law, he said. The freelancers retain the copyright to their work. Noting that requiring freelancers to sign agreements is not an isolated practice, the judge’s decision will be of interest to other publishers and freelancers, he said. “I imagine freelancers in other areas will be looking to see what the court will do, if agreements with freelancers will be upheld,” Berkowitz said.

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