Wednesday, 15 April 2009

ERDC Class Action Gets Go-Ahead: Yesssss!

There are times when, even though a fight is not won, you feel extremely pleased about the way a battle is going. One of them is right now, because after far too long, the Electronic Rights Defence Committee has received authorization for its class action against Montreal's The Gazette and associated media players.

If you think this is old news, you are forgiven. We started at the end of the 1990s and we're still at it. In February 2008 we had a three-day court hearing which I blogged about then. Last night we sent out the press release you'll find below, and next Thursday we're going to celebrate: April 23 is World Book and Copyright Day, and what a way to mark it! If you're in Montreal, join us to raise a glass from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. downstairs at the Brutopia Pub, 1215-19 Crescent St., between Ste. Catherine St. and Rene Levesque Blvd.

Press Release:

Green Light for Class Action, Finally

After more than a decade, the Electronic Rights Defence Committee (ERDC) 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 electronic use without permission or compensation for work by freelance writers in The Montreal Gazette. The defendants are the 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 - the 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 US Supreme Court, which has agreed to decide whether a lower court has jurisdiction to approve settlement agreements. The Association des journalistes indépendants du Québec (AJIQ) is also currently in the process of undertaking a class action against several Quebec media providers.

Link to judgment (in English) (Search for
Superior Court decisions in March 2009 (cour superieure, keyword: ERDC)


Jack Ruttan said...

Huzzah, and thanks for your tireless work in bringing this about, Mary!

Chrystal Ocean said...

Would "freelancers" also include bloggers?

Mary Soderstrom said...


The case is against specific media concerning newspaper stories reproduced on a particular data base. But the principle is the same: work should not be reproduced without consent and (usually) compensation. When we win, it will be another precedent. But until then bloggers are sort of out on their own, unless they start their own class actions, it would appear.



Jack Ruttan said...

I think the more these actions happen and are publicised, the more difficult it gets for providers to offer freelancers crummy, rights-grabbing contracts with the excuse that "everyone signs it -- it's the standard thing."