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Artists’ Rights Upheld in Court—Witnesses Report Pigs Flying Over Front Street

This Magazine Staff

A press release today from the Periodical Writers Association of Canada (my employer) delights in a landmark copyright ruling in Ontario. And I quote:

“…the Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a lower court ruling in favour of PWAC member Heather Robertson, who is leading a class action suit on behalf of thousands of freelance writers against The Thomson Corporation and others regarding re-use of freelance work without permission or payment.

The suit revolves around the publisher’s re-use or repurposing of written content after it had initially appeared in the printed edition of a daily newspaper. Robertson filed her suit after finding a number of her articles in an electronic database used by the Globe & Mail for resale of their editorial content. Robertson had originally sold the work for one-time use only in the newspaper, and was not in line to receive any compensation for the unlicensed re-use.”

Read about the case in today’s, yes, Globe and Mail.

The opinion of writer and artist groups across the country has always been if we create it, we own it. If you want it, you have to pay for it. At the very least, you have to ask for it. This ruling supports the creator position.

Okay, so copyright issues are a big snore for most folks, but this is a real concern for artists and creators of all kinds, who are increasingly finding the steering wheel to their own expression wrenched from their hands. It is also an obvious concern for publishers who find themselves in a brave new electronic world with few guidelines or rules. For instance, who owns the words I’ve just written, me or THIS Magazine? I know the answer. Do you?

Good on the Ontario Superior Court for unmuddying the waters a bit, and bad on the dissenting judge for apparently not knowing the difference between a newspaper and a library.

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