NINC Legal Matters
As all of you are aware, Harlequin has been involved in a class action lawsuit commenced by three of their authors regarding e-book royalty rates. At present the disposition is this: “On April 2, 2013, the Court issued a decision dismissing the First Amended Complaint on the ground that, in Judge Baer’s view, it did not state a claim.” Though it appears that the case has been dismissed, this did not happen before NINC was brought into the matter as a subpoenaed third party.
On Friday, March 15, 2013, I, as president of NINC, received an email from Cecil Chandless, Legal Consultant for Harlequin Toronto, that NINC headquarters in Manhattan, Kansas, would be served with a subpoena.
On Monday, March 18, 2013, Tonya Wilkerson, our Central Coordinator, was served a subpoena.
The general contents asked for all records related to conversations and documentation between the complainants and/or NINC members on issues involving Harlequin e-book royalties.
The board met in both regular and special session daily during the subsequent week in order to discuss the matter and hire legal counsel to help us both comply with the subpoena and protect our members’ rights and privacy.
Because of the possible complexities the subpoena represented, I interviewed several attorneys in order to find appropriate counsel.
We are very fortunate to have a good and strong relationship with several attorneys through our Literary Lawyer Directory. Thanks goes out to Mr. Thomas Higgins, who was instrumental in helping define our issues and who aided us in seeking the appropriate legal counsel in the correct jurisdiction.
After investigating several other possibilities, I spoke with Mr. F. Robert Stein, a attorney many of you may be familiar with because he writes a column for Nink from time to time on legal literary matters. Mr. Stein was very enthusiastic about helping NINC but felt we might need an attorney with litigation skills. This was the general consensus of all attorneys I spoke with. Mr. Stein, in turn, approached one of the partners in his firm, Pryor Cashman LLP NYC, Mr. Phillip Hoffman, who agreed to represent us. We signed a contract and engaged him. Mr. Hoffman understood completely NINC’s desire to comply with issues where we could without violating the privacy of our membership. We were up to speed with documents delivered to Mr. Hoffman and ready to comply with the subpoena when the judge’s ruling was delivered on the matter on April 4.
Your board served you well, effectively, quickly, and very professionally. I could not have done this alone in the timely manner required. Members of the board researched and screened our archives for materials appropriate to the subject of the subpoena, did background checks on potential issues, and exercised due diligence in all areas of this matter. Thank you, board.
At present, because of the actions taken by the judge, the subpoena is a non-issue and no documents were delivered to Harlequin. The Plaintiffs are confident of the merits of their position and are considering how they will next proceed in this matter.
Now for something completely different. Once every three years, NINC sends out a membership survey. 2013 is our year. You will be receiving a short but very important survey this summer. Please take a few minutes and fill it out. It will be up on the website, and we will send it out as an email. The information gathered helps us know our membership better so that we can better serve your needs. This year’s survey will take a more in-depth look at e-books. We would like to have some hard facts to put forth this year at our conference to counter the assumptions made last year about e-book sales. Our membership is not the average self-published author, and we want to be able to represent you and NINC in the best possible light.
— Laura Castoro