Yesterday, May 25, 2010 Sack Goldblatt launched a class proceeding against Thomson Reuters Corporation and Thomson Reuters Canada Limited on behalf of a class of Canadian lawyers and law firms. The Statement of Claim claims that Thomson Reuters breaches copyright by making available original lawyer created legal documents for fee or subscription without permission from, or compensation to, the authors of the documents.
The representative plaintiff is Lorne Waldman, a leading immigration and refugee lawyer, whose work for Maher Arar has allegedly been copied by Thomson Reuters through its “Litigator” service. Litigator is a fee and subscription-based database for lawyer-created court documents that permits users to copy and edit documents for their own purposes.
The law firm's statement says" At no time are the authors of these documents informed that their documents are copied, sold, or reproduced. Documents downloaded from this service are branded “© Thomson Reuters Canada Limited or its Licensors. All rights reserved.”"
According to Mr. Waldman, this case raises important issues about copyright law in the digital age.
"I have always been open to sharing my work in order to advance the law and assist members of the legal profession and the public, however I strongly believe that I and other authors of these documents have the right to ensure that our work is used appropriately, and with our knowledge and consent. This case will determine whether large corporations like Thomson Reuters can profit from the work of others, obtained and copied without permission."
John Gregory's listserv has had a vigorous discussion on how far the fair use defence will stretch.