Thursday, October 14, 2004

Major Canadian Newspaper Loses Copyright Case

Recent report from the CBC: Globe and Mail loses copyright case.

The decision, from the Ontario Court of Appeal website:
Robertson v. Thomson Corporation (October 6, 2004).

This decision goes back to an issue from 1995 when freelance writer Heather Robertson disagreed with the Globe and Mail's publication of her articles in Info Globe (long since absorbed by Dow Jones Interactive, now known as Factiva), the CD-ROM version of the Globe, and an electronic version of the Canadian Periodical Index in addition to the hard copy of her newspaper. The Court of Appeal upheld the lower court's decision. My favourite quote of the decision, included in the CBC article and here taken completely out of any sort of context, is from Madam Justice Karen Weiler: "...a database is not a newspaper..."

The CBC speculates as to the implications for future uses of freelance material; however, this is a moot point. Since this decision (and possibly others like it) went to court back in the mid-90's, newspapers have presumably been covering themselves with appropriate terms of agreement when signing on freelance reporters and writers. I doubt we will see much in the way of change as far as users of electronic databases go.

It is unlikely, however, we will ever see articles from the past reinstated to electronic databases. In many ways this is a shame. They will likely only be retrievable through a paper search which, for those of us who have searched manually through years' worth of old newspapers, is largely dooming those articles to obscurity.

Note this decision makes references back to the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada, [2004] 1 S.C.R. 339; 2004 SCC 13 for definitions of copyright.

Thanks to Canuck Librarian for the tip on this!

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