Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Eleactronic Rights Defence Committee hearing

The Electronic Rights Defence Committee, a group representing freelancers for the Montreal Gazette whose work was used in electronic databases without their knowledge or consent, is finally getting a day in court. Today is the last day of hearings before a judge in Montreal to determine whether the group has standing to represent these freelancers in a class action suit. As one of the people who falls into this group because I wrote a business travel column for The Gazette in the 90s, I was in court Monday to observe the proceedings and it was looking good.

Of course, being granted class status is probably just the beginning of a long fight. The case of Tasini v. The New York Times, which is similar, has actually been settled for multi millions but writers have yet to see a penny. The case of Robertson v. Thomson in Toronto is now scheduled to go to trial in September, 2009 according to what I have heard. This latter is a case over electronic rights led by Heather Robertson representing freelancers for The Globe and Mail and other Thomson publications. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that freelancers do hold copyright to their material in electronic form, and that the case should proceed to trial. But this may take years and again it will no doubt be a long time before anybody sees any money from the corporate giant.

At least, the partial victory of writers in the recent Hollywood strike seems to be a good precedent.