Champion of freelancers, Heather Robertson, dies at age 72

Canadian journalist Heather Robertson passed away this week at the age of 72. Robertson co-founded both the Writers’ Union of Canada and the Professional Writers Association of Canada. She was a best-selling and award-winning author who championed the rights of freelancers in the digital age.

Robertson’s 1995 class-action lawsuit against the Globe and Mail claimed that freelancers should be compensated when their articles are used in a publication’s digital archives. Her case went to the Supreme Court in 2006 and resulted in a multi-million dollar settlement.

Derek Finkle of the Canadian Writers Group says Robertson’s fight had a major impact.

“Like many others, I think what she did in leading the class action suits was very courageous as much as it was generous, as I can’t imagine how much of her time it consumed,” he says.

“In the end, writers were compensated for the electronic use of their work for a specific period, and perhaps just as importantly, it offered a glimpse at what the market value for those uses might have been.”

Finkle says publishers fought back against the lawsuit with changes to their freelance contracts.

“The net result as soon as the first suit was filed was the sudden emergence of freelance agreements that, for the most part, grabbed digital and electronic rights without the compensation that the Robertson settlements hinted at,” he says.

“One can only now wonder if that’s what Robertson anticipated at the outset.”


Posted on March 21, 2014 at 11:15 am by editor · · Tagged with: ,

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