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Monday, 22 September 2014

Electronic Rights Defence Committee: Payout Starts


I consider this something  of a personal victoryAfter more than 17 years of work and worry, the Electronic Rights Defence Committee (ERDC) has received the green light from Quebec Superior Court to distribute the fruits of its class action against The Gazette  and the newspaper's various owners. 

Claim forms are now available at http://www.erdc.ca  Freelance writers who wrote for The Gazette between 1985 and 2010 should fill one out if they want to take part in the distribution.  Writers will receive shares of Postmedia A stock according to a point system that was approved at a special ERDC general meeting in 2012.  

Claimants will have until March 5, 2015 to file, listing all freelance stories they wrote for The Gazette during the period covered by the class action.  The on-line resource Canadian Newsstand (Proquest) may be helpful in doing this.  It is available through many libraries including the Bibliothèque et archives nationales du Québec.  To gain access to the collection by getting a free BAnQ card, consult http://www.banq.qc.ca/services/pret/carte/index.html.

In various settlements, the  ERDC received 189,479 shares in PostMedia A stock and $83,210.27 in cash, all of which have been held in trust.  In accordance with the Quebec Superior Court decision of September 5, 2014, the cash plus the proceeds of the sale of about 20,000 shares will be used to reimburse the Fonds d'aide aux recours collectifs (the Quebec agency which provided $86,999.35 in seed money for the class action,) and the ERDC lawyers, who are entitled to receive 25 per cent of cash and stock, plus taxes, under their agreements with the ERDC.

And why is this such a big thing for me?  Not that I ever wrote much for The Gazette.  Before the kids were born I wrote frequently for the Montreal Star, but when I started back in the freelance game it had folded.  So I did  a few things from The Gazette, and then the newspapers--along with many others--started its electronic rights grab.  Without permission and compensation, freelancers articles were made available on-line.  Eventually the Canadian Supreme Court (in a similar case brought by Heather Robertson against the Thomson chain) ruled that copyright belongs to writers, unless expressly conceded, whence comes the ERDC's settlement.

I was a bystander at the beginning of the case but for the last ten years or so, I've been closely involved.  Takes a lot of mulish determination to see something like this through, and I'm proud to have been part of this persistent, perservering effort.

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