This class action lawsuit concerns media outlets that reproduced the work of freelance writers and artists on electronic databases without consent or additional compensation. The suit alleges that this practise amounted to copyright infringement and that freelance contributors deserve payment for the electronic reproduction of their work. The lawsuit was launched in 1996 by freelance writer Heather Robertson.
The Defendants in the case include 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.
A settlement of the case was approved by the Superior Court of Ontario on August 12, 2009. Under the terms of the settlement, the Defendants agreed to pay $11 million. Freelance writers and artists who contributed to any of the specified media outlets may be eligible to claim settlement money. Staff writers are not eligible to participate in the settlement.
Following deductions for professional fees and other court authorized distributions, the copyright settlement fund available to eligible writers will likely amount to roughly $5.5 million. The settlement stipulates that a writer can recover up to a maximum of 1% of this amount, which is estimated at $55,000. A list of the publications covered by the settlement is available on this website and on that of Cole & Partners (the court-appointed settlement claims administrator). Further details of the settlement are also available on these websites.
Freelance writers and artists who wish to make a claim should consult the publications list on this website, or the website of Cole & Partners, take note of eligible media outlets they have contributed to, then fill out a claims form and return it to Cole & Partners. Freelancers can also consult a subject database, available in many libraries, to compile a list of writing credits that may qualify for settlement funds. Freelancers do not need to provide copies of published articles as part of their claim. Claim forms have to be submitted by January 18, 2010.
Once claim forms have been collected, Cole & Partners will determine payment based on a point system which will take into account compensation, length of articles, and prominence of the media outlet they appeared in.
Freelancers without access to email or the Internet can contact Koskie Minsky or Cole & Partners and request a copy of the publication list and claims form, to be sent via fax or surface mail. Freelance writers with additional questions about the settlement are also urged to contact these firms.