Class action suit by freelancers against the Montreal Gazette is in wrap-up stages

A class action lawsuit launched by freelancers against the Montreal Gazette is in its final stages.

The lawsuit, which began to take shape in 1997 and first went to court in 2008, alleged that the Gazette had been reproducing freelancers’ work electronically for years without consent or compensation.

An organization called the Electronic Rights Defense Committee pursued the suit. The group represents freelancers whose work was published in the Gazette between 1985 and 2010.

The class action suit was settled in 2010 and resulted in the creation of a fund comprised of 189,479 Postmedia voting shares and $83,210.27. Any freelancer who authored at least 5 articles in The Gazette between January 1, 1985 and June 6, 2010 will soon be eligible to file a claim for a share of the settlement. Drafts of the claim forms are available on the ERDC website.

This case represents the latest in a string of lawsuits against publishers over the issue of digital rights. In 2009, Heather Roberton succeeded in her class action suit against the Globe and Mail over digital rights. Because of these types of cases, many publishers now use contracts that require freelancers to relinquish their digital rights.

Background to the Montreal Gazette case can be found in this post on the PWAC Quebec website.


Posted on August 8, 2014 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

6 Responses

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  1. Written by Hannah
    on August 8, 2014 at 9:28 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Do eligible freelancers need to do anything at this point in time? (i.e. Register as members, etc.?) Does having been involved in the Heather Robertson class action suit preclude involvement with this Gazette suit?

    • Written by editor
      on August 9, 2014 at 9:28 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      Keep an eye on the ERDC website over the next few weeks. I’m sure they’ll be posting updates when action is required from claimants. And you can contact them through their website with questions about eligibility.

  2. Written by Joe Clark
    on August 9, 2014 at 8:47 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Because of these types of cases, many publishers now use contracts that require freelancers to relinquish their digital rights

    …and your members sign on the dotted line 100% of the time.

    Where are Story Board’s mighty backers in the fight against this reproduction of freelancers’ work?

    • Written by editor
      on August 9, 2014 at 9:19 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      Actually, a lot of writers represented by the Canadian Writers Group and the CMG refuse to sign rights-grabbing contracts. But the nature of freelancing means that there are always other writers willing to sign draconian contracts for the sake of a prestigious byline. The CMG has pressured several publishers to change bad contracts over the past several years and will continue to do so. But as long as publishers can find writers willing to sign away their rights, it’s going to be a tough battle.

  3. Written by Joe Clark
    on August 11, 2014 at 10:13 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Yes, I suppose that is a plain statement of facts. It’s also an evasion of my question.

    How many CWG members have signed “rights-grabbing contracts”? A figure to within one significant digit will suffice. It would help to break down that statistic into writers who signed before being represented by Finkle et al. and those who signed afterward.

    It would be more honest for CWG to admit that, in the wake of Robertson’s suit, which was more of a shitshow than you think, all publishers simply changed their contracts to demand every single right up front, with indeed the implied threat that they’ll just hire somebody else if you don’t sign. I fail to see how this counts as any kind of victory. And I feel I have a right to say that, since I was the first one to receive the Globe’s freelance contract and I was the one who immediately faxed it to PWAC.

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