Wednesday 6 May 2009

Robertson Versus Thomson Settlement: Great News for Writers, But What's a Fair Contract?

More good news on the electronic rights front: Heather Robertson and The Globe and Mail etc. have reached a settlement on payment for unauthorized electronic use of freelancers’ work. The case, you’ll remember, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which found that freelancers’ do own copyright unless expressly relinquished.

Just what the terms are should become clearer on the weekend when there will be legal notices in the Globe and the National Post. At the moment, the figure of $11 million is what’s being talked about. That’s a tidy sum which should cover a lot of back payment.

Robertson and her lawyers deserve much credit (and thanks from writers) for the long, tough battle they fought. The only disquieting things come in the fact that the defendants made no admission of wrongdoing, and in the quote from Sue Gaudi, the Globe's vice-president general counsel: "It is primarily a historical matter from the days before The Globe and Mail entered into written contracts with our freelance contributors. We value our relationships with our freelancers and are happy to move on."

Decent contracts are one of the items high on the list of concerns in a similar case against The Gazette and several other corporations, which I'm involved in. The Electronic Rights Defence Committee just received authorization to proceed to class action, claiming not only unauthorized electronic use of articles but also forced signing of unfair contracts.

To be continued, for sure.

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