Thursday, March 03, 2011

Freelancers start receiving settlement cheques from Robertson copyright class action suit

Cheques have gone out to, and some have already been received by, Canadian freelancers as part of the settlement in one part of the long-running class action suit Robertson v. Thomson Corp. et al. The total paid out will be about $5.5 million, following deductions for professional fees and other court authorized distributions, with freelance writers receiving varying amounts depending on the number of articles that they published with the Globe and Mail and other defending publications.

This payout represented the first of three disbursements that will eventually be made in the decade-long action, fronted by freelancer Heather Robertson (see earlier stories listed below.) The essence of the suit was that the defendants repurposed or sold freelance articles for which they had only paid one-time rights, without the freelancers' permission or appropriate compensation.

The settlement of this part of the case was approved by the Superior Court of Ontario on August 12, 2009 and defendants in the case agreed to pay $11 million.These included the Thomson Corporation (now, the Thomson Reuters Corporation), Thomson Canada Limited (now, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited), Thomson Affiliates and Information Access Company (now, The Gale Group, Inc.) and Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. (now, CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc.). Over 350 Canadian publications were cited in the case, including The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, Chatelaine, Canadian Geographic, Toronto Life and now defunct Saturday Night magazine.

In November it was announced that a second part of the action had been settled with defendants  for $5.475 million with Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd., Rogers Publishing Limited, CEDROM-SNi Inc., ProQuest Information and Learning LLC. A separate deal was announced with Canwest in June as a precursor to the sale of the company.

According to a posting on the site of the lawyers for Robertson, the settlement stipulates that a writer can recover up to a maximum of 1% of this amount, which is estimated at $55,000.

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