Sunday, 24 February 2008

ERDC Hearing on Class Action Authorization Begins

Finally, our day(s) in court!

The Electronic Rights Defence Committee (ERDC) today begins a three day hearing before Judge Eva Petras of the Quebec Superior Court on authorization for a class action over electronic rights and copyright. It’s a saga that goes back a long way, but may yet end in affirmation of the principle that copyright rests with the creator unless specifically ceded.

On April 7, 1997, the ERDC, of which I’m the current president, took the first steps toward the multi-million dollar class action against Southam Inc, CEDROM-SNJI, Infomart-Dialog and Southam Business Communications for 37,000 instances of copyright infringement of freelancers’ work dating back to 1985.

More than ten years later, the ERDC is still up in arms over the fact that freelancers’ work was (and frequently still is) reproduced electronically without consent or compensation. David Homel has been our class representative since 2003 (our first class representatives Nancy Lyon and David Fennario had to withdraw) and the case has been modified to reflect changes in The Gazette’s ownership. The defendants now are Montreal Gazette Group, CanWest Global Communications, Hollinger Canadian Publishing Holdings, CanWest Interactive, Southam and Southam Business Communications, Infomart Dialog and Cedrom-SNI). Making these changes has slowed the case down, but we also have met with delaying tactics on the other side: it took nearly a year to arrive at a mutually agreeable date for the class authorization hearing now set for February 25-27.

Other information about class actions against newspaper and media over the issue of electronic rights grabs:

1. 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. This is good news, although the closeness of the decision is disappointing. Now that the points of law have been settled, the Robertson vs. Thomson case will go to trial on the question of “implied consent” September 29, 2009.

2. The US$18 million class action settlement in the United States which followed from the Tasini vs. New York Times case is currently in limbo. Some class members contested the settlement, the US Court of Appeals found problems with the definition of “class” and jurisdiction of the lower court and threw out the judgment. so even though the process of finding who is eligible to receive money began in the summer of 2005, no cheques have been given out. What comes next is up in the air.

More later, you can be sure.

No comments: