Robertson v. Thomson, et al
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.
April 18, 2011
The deadline to appeal any disallowances of claims by the claims administrator has expired. We are pleased to advise that the processing and payment of all claims under the settlement of this matter is now complete.
March 1, 2011
We have been advised by the Claims Administrator that the claims process is now complete, and that cheques are scheduled to be mailed to qualifying class members today, March 1, 2011.
February 22, 2011
The Honourable Madam Justice Horkins issued her decision in respect of the outstanding appeal in this matter on February 22, 2011. To view a copy of the decision, please consult the “documents” tab to the right of this page.
January 4, 2011
Now that all necessary court approvals have been obtained, the claims administrator will shortly be in a position to distribute funds to claimants in this proceeding, pending the resolution of an appeal to the Court regarding the claims administrator’s disallowance of a claim. Under the judgment approving the settlement agreement, class members whose claims have been entirely disallowed are permitted to appeal their disallowance.
The Court has set a deadline for the filing of submissions by the appellant of January 21, 2011, with responding submissions on behalf of the claims administrator due by February 4, 2011. Once the outcome of the appeal has been determined, the claims administrator will be in a position to issue cheques to qualifying class members.
December 10, 2010
On December 8, 2010,the Honourable Justice Horkins issued an order approving the fees of the claims administrator and fixing the class proceedings levy.
Now that all necessary court approvals have been obtained, the claims administrator will shortly be in a position to distribute funds to claimants in this proceeding, pending any appeals of the administrator’s disallowance of claims.
November 17, 2010
Individuals who have filed a claim in this matter should now or shortly be in receipt of a letter from the Claims Adminsitrator, Duff & Phelps (formerly Cole & Partners) advising them of the outcome of their claim as filed with the claims administrator.
It is anticipated that payments to claiming Class members will proceed by the end of 2010.
May 31, 2010
The claims filing deadline in this matter expired on March 30, 2010. The Claims Administrator is in the process of reviewing claims filed by Class members. Members will be kept appraised of the progress of the claims adjudication through uptates to this website.
January 29, 2010
Class members are advised that the claims filing deadline has been extended by Order of the Court, dated January 29th, 2010. Class members now have until Tuesday, March 30, 2010 to file a claim with the Claims Administrator, Cole & Partners.
January 15, 2010
A release entitled Deadline to File Claim in Copyright Case Fast Approaching was released to all media on January 15, 2010. The release can be accessed through the “Documents” link to the right of this page.
January 14, 2010
Class members are advised that a further list of publications for which claims may be made has been provided to us by the Defendants. This list includes such publications as the Toronto Star and the Hamilton Spectator. The list can be accessed through the “Documents” link to the right of this page.
Class members are reminded that the deadline for filing a claim with Cole & Partners is January 18, 2010 at 5:00 p.m., Toronto time. If a member has already submitted a claim form, but has not included a claim for publications on the fourth list, they are encouraged to file a supplementary claim with the claims administrator listing these additional freelance works. Finally, class members should also consult a subject datatabase, to ensure that their claim is complete.
November 10, 2009
The opt out period in this case expired on November 2, 2009.
Class members are reminded that they have until January 18, 2010 to file a claim with the Court Appointed Claims Administrator, William Dovey of Cole & Partners. Class members are encouraged to consult the three lists, available under the “Documents” link to the right of this page, to assist them in completing their claims forms. These documents list the publications from which subject works have been reproduced in electronic databases by the Defendants.
Class members requiring assistance in completing their claim forms are encouraged to contact us for assistance.
September 18, 2009
A notice of court approval of this settlement is to be published in The Globe & Mail, The National Post, La Presse and Le Journal du Quebec on September 19 and 26, and October 2, 2009, setting out the details of the settlement. A copy of this notice is accessible under the Documents link to the right of this page.
Under the settlement, the defendants have agreed to pay the all inclusive amount of $11,000,000 to members of the Class, less $4,000,000 in legal fees, claims administration costs, notice publication costs, certain charitable contributions, and a 10% levy payable to the Law Foundation of Ontario. The compensation owing to Class members will be determined on the basis of a points system. Briefly, a member’s entitlement to compensation will be calculated on the basis of a points system, which takes into account whether or not the Class member was remunerated for their work, the length of the work, and the publication in which the work first appeared.
The judgment approving the settlement, accessible under the Documents link to the right of this page, amended the Class definition by limiting claims to those of Creators of Works published prior to May 1, 2009.
Class members who do not wish to seek compensation or take advantage of the take-down benefit may opt out of this proceeding by filing written notice of their desire to opt out to class counsel by no later than November 2, 2009.
Class members who wish to file a claim or take advantage of the take-down benefit may do so by filing a claim form with the court-appoint claims administrator, Mr. William Dovey of Cole & Partners, by no later than January 18, 2010, at the following address:
80 Richmond Street West, Suite 2000
Toronto, Ontario, M5H 2A4
A copy of the claim form is accessible under the Documents link below.
August 14, 2009
We are pleased to advise that the settlement of this matter has been approved. To view the judgment signed by the Honourable Mr. Justice Cullity, dated August 12, 2009, please consult the Documents link on this web page.
Class members will shortly be provided with Notice of Settlement Approval through various newspapers, following which class members may opt out of the proceeding. The Notice of Settlement Approval will also provide class members with further information on how to file a claim for compensation under the Settlement.
June 24, 2009
We are pleased to advise that the proposed settlement of this action has been provisionally approved by the Superior Court of Justice, subject to providing the Court with further details and submissions with respect to the administration of the claims process. A copy of the Court’s Endorsement is accessible through the link entitled Documents on this webpage.
June 23, 2009
On June 16, 2009, the parties to this action appeared before the Honourable Mr. Justice Cullity of the Superior Court of Justice, seeking approval of the proposed settlement. His Honour reserved his decision on the motion. We will advise members of the results of the motion when they become known.
May 9, 2009
A tentative settlement has been reached in this matter. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, the Defendants will pay C$11million, inclusive of legal and settlement administration fees, to provide benefits to Class Members. The proposed settlement includes a claims-based compensation plan for class members, an alternative take-down benefit for certain freelance Works, as well as certain donations. The settlement includes a release of all claims and a license in respect of all Works not taken down. Class Members will be provided a further opportunity to opt out of the Proposed Settlement if it is approved by the Court. The parties will appear before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice at the Court House located at Osgoode Hall, Courtroom 4, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario on June 16, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. to ask the Court to approve the proposed settlement. Class Members may attend the hearing and may ask to make submissions regarding the proposed settlement. Any Class Members who wish to object must provide written notice of their objection to Class Counsel by June 8, 2009.
February 11, 1999
This action was certified as a class proceeding by order of the Honourable Mr. Justice Sharp.
- April 18, 2011
News Releases and Reports
- February 22, 2011 Decision dated February 22, 2010
- December 8, 2010 Order of the Honourable Justice Horkins
- January 30, 2010 Press Release: Deadline to File Claim in Copyright Case Extended
- January 15, 2010 Press Release: Deadline to File Claim in Copyright Case Fast Approaching
- January 14, 2010 Titles Comprising the Publications dating from February 1, 2005 and onwards
- November 23, 2009 Order dated November 23, 2009
- November 3, 2009 List of Canadian Publications Available on InfoGlobe Online
- November 3, 2009 List of Canadian Publications Available on Gale Databases
- November 3, 2009 Canadian Print Publications made available Online by Carswell
- October 5, 2009 Class Action Claim Form Instruction Sheet
- October 3, 2009 Publication de l'avis dans La Presse
- October 3, 2009 Publication de l'avis dans Le Journal
- October 3, 2009 National Post Notice
- October 3, 2009 Globe and Mail Notice
- September 19, 2009 Publication de l'avis dans La Presse
- September 19, 2009 National Post Notice
- September 19, 2009 Globe and Mail Notice
- September 19, 2009 Publication de l'avis dans Le Journal
- September 18, 2009 Notice of Approval of the Settlement of Class Proceeding Robertson v. Thomson and Others.
- September 18, 2009 Formulaire de réclamation du recours collectif
- September 18, 2009 Class Action Claim Form
- August 12, 2009 Judgment of Justice Cullity Dated August 12, 2009
- June 24, 2009 Endorsement dated June 24, 2009
- May 1, 2009 Settlement Agreement
- March 2, 2001 Amended Statement of Defence
- February 16, 2001 Amended Statement of Claim
- February 11, 1999 Certification Order February 11, 1999
FAQSWhat is a class action?
A class action is a lawsuit which provides a method for a large group of people with common claims to join together to advance one large claim. Class actions are a more efficient and cost-effective way for groups of people with common claims to gain access to the legal system and seek justice.
What does certification mean?
In order for an action to proceed as a class action, the court must determine whether it is appropriate for the case to be treated as a class action. Some of the factors the courts consider are the extent to which the claims of the class members are common, and whether a class action is preferable to other methods (such as individual actions) of advancing the issues. The decision as to whether a class action should be certified takes place at a certification hearing and is decided by a judge. If certified, a representative plaintiff will advance the action on behalf of all of the class members.
How do I know if I am a Class Member?
The certification order will always contain a description of who is a class member. We post the certification orders in our actions so that you can review them. You do not need to “sign up” to become involved in a class action. If you are included in the class description, you are automatically a class member who will be affected by the outcome of the class action unless you decide to “opt out”.
Are Class Members notified of the certification of the class proceeding?
Yes. After the claim has been certified, the court will authorize notice to be given to the members of the class.
Can I opt out of a class action and pursue independent legal action?
Yes. When a class action is certified, class members are always given an opportunity to opt out of the action. A deadline is imposed for opting out. If you do not opt out by the given deadline, class members will be bound by the outcome of the class action, whether it is successful or unsuccessful. If you opt out, you will not receive any benefit if the action is successful.
Will there be any cost to class members for legal fees?
Typically, class actions are handled on a contingency fee basis, which means that the class action lawyers will be paid only if the class action is successful at trial or settled. In that case, class counsel fees may be paid by the defendants or out of the settlement or judgment proceeds as approved by the court. In addition, the plaintiff may seek funding assistance from the Class Proceeding Fund which, if funding is granted, may provide funding for disbursements.
I still have questions…
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