Freelance class action cheques hit the mail – should we be celebrating?

Freelance writers across Canada were raising their glasses to Heather Robertson over the weekend, after cheques started hitting the mail boxes of claimants in the former Globe and Mail freelancer’s class action lawsuit against the Thomson Reuters Corporation and others.

Robertson v. Thomson, the 2006 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, found that newspapers and magazines did not have the unilateral right to re-publish freelancers’ work in other formats, notably computerized databases. An $11 million settlement followed. Since that decision five years ago, Robertson has launched other class action suits alleging similar facts on behalf of groups of freelance writers.

But should freelancers be celebrating the payday? In the wake of the Robertson case, publishers have gone on a rights-grabbing spree. Today writers face regressive contract language that eats into the secondary re-use income that often keeps a freelancer’s head above water.

The value of repurposing stories has dropped, as the boiler-plate contracts of some major media outlets allow publishers to put articles up on the web and into databases that are resold with no further compensation. In an increasingly digital world, that’s where the money is, and publishers – wary of a Robertson repeat – are turning more to their lawyers than to their editors when a freelancer makes a pitch.

So drink up today, because without compensation for digital rights, the cash may not be there tomorrow.

P.S. If you’re wondering why your fellow freelancer can buy a Lexus with his payout, while yours can barely buy lunch, check out the points system on page 25 of the settlement. Payouts were capped at $55,000, or 1% of the total distribution to claimants.

Posted on March 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm by editor · · Tagged with: , , , , ,

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  1. Written by The Pay Day Loan Specialists
    on March 15, 2011 at 6:12 am
    Reply · Permalink

    Interesting and fully enjoyable Information. Yes its a big question that should freelancers be celebrating the payday? I think the decision made by Supreme Court of Canada is really very tough for persons who are doing freelancers’ work.

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