Final settlement in class action suit preferable to drawn out trial, says Heather Robertson
Heather Robertson, the apparently indefatigable lead in the long-running lawsuit Robertson vs Thomson et al says that the settlement was preferable to going to trial and that it would mean more money, sooner, for freelance writers.
As readers of this blog and other reports will know, the struggle (see this and related posts below) concerns the allegation that the various publishers posted articles of freelance authors online without permission, contrary to Canadian copyright laws. It was announced earlier this month that a settlement had been reached for about $5.475 million with Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd., Rogers Publishing Limited, CEDROM-SNi Inc., ProQuest Information and Learning LLC. An earlier settlement was with Canwest in June and an even earlier settlement in May 2009 with The Thomson Corporation (now Thomson Reuters Corporation), Thomson Reuters Canada Limited, Thomson Affiliated and Information Access Company (formerly The Gale Group Inc.) and CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc.
The settlements already made and the proposed settlement to be adjudicated in April total about $24 million. Writers will receiving an as-yet unspecified portion of this after legal fees from the suit are deducted.
In a report that was published on the Toronto Freelance Editors and Writers listserv (available only to subscribers), Robertson said in part:
As with any lawsuit, there are risks of going to trial and it is possible a judge would find that the defendants did not breach copyright laws or that class members are not entitled to as much compensation as this settlement provides. The defendants have raised a number of complex defences as justification for their conduct. Overcoming these defences may be difficult and costly. This action also presents unique challenges to success. It is based on a provision of the federal Copyright Act that provides “statutory damages” to compensate for a copyright infringement. No court has applied a claim for statutory damages under the Copyright Act on this scale in similar circumstances. It is thus extremely difficult to anticipate the outcome of a trial.
She also said a settlement was preferable because a trial, even if successful, would draw the process out even longer.
A trial in this action could still be years away and, even if we won, it is a near certainty that the defendants would pursue any and all appeals.
She also reports that, in light of an earlier settlement with Canwest, any funds from the possible sale of Postmedia shares would add more(unpredictable)funds to the amount available to freelancers.
Over the next several months we will be working hard with the lawyers in this case to prepare for the settlement approval hearing in April 2011 and to design the claims process for the distribution of settlement funds to freelance authors and other persons that qualify as class members. Our objective is to create an efficient system for the distribution of settlement funds.
Writers who are members of the class action can obtain all of the details about the settlement hearing in April from the website of the law firm that is handling it, Koskie Minsky LLP.
- The last part of long-running Robertson class action tentatively settled for $5.475 million
- Two settlements down, one to go in the Robertson class action
- Robertson suit settlement goes to court for approval June 16
- PWAC hails settlement of rights suit as "a great achievement"
- Long-running freelance suit against publishers settled for $11 million
- Robertson decision explained, more or less
- What's what in the Heather Robertson case
- Robertson wins groundbreaking freelance suite after more than a decade of struggle
- Robertson vs Globe gets to high court