Québec freelances launch £12·5M copyright case

THE ASSOCIATION of Independent Journalists of Québec (AJIQ) is suing nine newspapers and four magazines for $CAN 30 million (£12·5M) for infringement of freelance journalists' copyright. The newspapers and magazines have been selling freelance journalists' work without their permission to the database company CEDROM-SNI. This re-sells it in electronic form, as compact disks under the name Actualité Québec and on a Web site called Eureka (www.eureka.cc).

The suit was filed in April in the Superior Court in Montreal, against the newspapers La Presse, Le Devoir, Le Soleil, Le Droit, Le Quotidien, Le Nouvelliste, Progrès Dimanche, Voir and Les Affaires, the magazines l'Actualité, Affaires Plus, Commerce and P.M.E., and CEDROM-SNI. All failed to respond to AJIQ's request in March that they begin negotiating an agreement that recognises freelance journalists' copyright.

After failing to reach agreements with the separate newspapers and magazines, AJIQ concluded that a class action suit would be the only way for journalists to gain copyright recognition. Journalists in Québec have not seen a rise in income for over a decade. They do not have the resources to sue individually for damages or to seek injunctions to stop copyright infringement. AJIQ is assisted by the National Communications Federation of Québec's Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN for Confédération des syndicats nationaux). (The Freelance is trying to imagine the UK's Trades Union Congress taking up a case for journalists. Back in a moment.)

The lawsuit names 200 journalists who have been affected. Their names will not be released. Journalist André Bélanger has agreed to act as the principal claimant representing the group in the lawsuit.

AJIQ estimates that 15,000 articles have already been sold by CEDROM-SNI without authorization. It is claiming damages in the amount of $CAN 2000 for each article, totalling $CAN 30 million, and has requested a permanent injunction to prevent further sales or reproduction in electronic form. Voyez http://www.ajiq.qc.ca/ (en Français).

Sep/Oct 1999
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