The following was just released (following an embargo) by the Electronic Rights Defence Committee, a group of former Gazette freelance writers who have received authorization to bring a class action lawsuit (UPDATE: Link fixed. Stupid gummit website.) against The Gazette, Canwest and related companies for republishing freelance articles submitted to the paper in the Infomart article database.
The release is presented here without comment, since as an employee and freelancer (though not a member of the committee) I’m in a conflict of interest.
After more than a decade, the Electronic Rights Defence Committee has received authorization from Quebec Superior Court to proceed with a class action suit against some of the biggest names in Canadian media.
At issue is the electronic use without permission or compensation for work by freelance writers in The Gazette. The defendants are Montreal Gazette Group, CanWest Global Communications, Hollinger Canadian Publishing Holdings, CanWest Interactive, Southam and Southam Business Communications, Infomart Dialog and Cedrom-SNI.
In February 2008, the Honourable Eva Petras, J.S.C., heard three days of arguments from Mireille Goulet, ERDC lawyer, and a team of lawyers representing the defendants. The Justice’s decision was rendered March 31, 2009. It authorizes the ERDC to institute class action proceedings with writer and translator David Homel as its official designated member. The class action group includes all freelance writers whose articles, originally published in The Gazette, have been allegedly illegally reproduced on the Infomart data base since 1984.
The next steps will lead toward a trial on the merits of the case, a process which may take several years to reach a conclusion.
The ERDC case is one of several in North America seeking compensation for unauthorized electronic use of freelance writers’ work. In October 2007, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled five to four in the Heather Robertson vs. Thomson case that freelancers do indeed hold copyright on their work reproduced in electronic data bases. The US$ 18-million class action settlement in the United States which followed from the Tasini vs. New York Times case is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court which has agreed to decide whether a lower court has jurisdiction to approve settlement agreements. The Association des journalistes indépendants du Québec is also currently in the process of undertaking a class action against several Quebec medias.
I’ll update with a response from The Gazette or Canwest if one is issued publicly.