A bootleg news aggregator has settled a $21,750 copyright claim after republishing articles on a Facebook blog, the largest known settlement of its kind in Canada. The defendants’ lawyer was Professor David Fewer, director of the University of Ottawa’s Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic.
Blacklock’s Reporter in 2015 sued the blog operators for $20,000 as well as punitive damages and costs for republishing dozens of password-protected articles. In an unusual settlement, the aggregator One Big Campaign paid $21,750, volunteered a public apology and waived all confidentiality of settlement terms.
“We apologize for republishing Blacklock’s copyright-protected material without permission, payment or licensing agreement,” the bloggers said.
Evidence showed One Big Campaign republished numerous other media works including copyright photos owned by CTV News, Globe & Mail, Reuters, Postmedia and others. Blacklock’s articles were pasted to the users’ Facebook page and subsequently republished by the Moncton Free Press.
One Big Campaign was a registered third-party advertiser with Elections Ontario. The news blog was used to solicit thousands of dollars for political polling. The bloggers paid $157 to access Blacklock’s work.
“It’s Not Okay To Steal”
The Facebook bloggers in 2015 rejected a $5,000 settlement offer from Blacklock’s and dismissed a copyright warning from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, a financial donor to One Big Campaign. “Caution: I think it is still a copyright violation to reprint an entire article unless permission is granted whether or not it is behind a firewall,” a union executive wrote the bloggers. “The analogy might be that of a store having a sidewalk sale.”
“It is not okay to steal stuff because it’s out on the sidewalk,” wrote the OPSEU official; “I think it would be a mistake for One Big Campaign to play the victim here.”
The bloggers instead hired as counsel Professor Fewer, a copyright adviser to the Department of Justice who has repeatedly accused Blacklock’s of unethical practices. Fewer in 2015 published a commentary on the company’s earlier successful copyright litigation with the headline, “Feeding The Trolls”.
An Access To Information return on Fewer’s correspondence with Justice Canada identified 53 pages of redacted files. Department records were withheld under “solicitor-client privilege”, according to Access file A-2016-01935.
Prof. Fewer also issued various media statements on Blacklock’s prompting corrections and apologies including the following notice published February 27 in the Law Times:
“CLARIFICATION: Law Times in a January 30, 2017 article (“Feds must take action on copyright trolls”) quoted David Fewer, director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, commenting on copyright litigation by the publication Blacklock’s Reporter.
“Fewer was quoted, ‘If you read between the lines, you can tell there is dissatisfaction with the conduct of Blacklock’s, and I think the case is a clear signal to future copyright trolls that this isn’t going to be tolerated.’
“The article failed to disclose Fewer in 2014 and 2015 acted as counsel for defendants in two separate copyright actions by Blacklock’s, both settled out of court. The most recent Ontario Superior Court action resulted in a settlement in which Fewer’s clients paid $21,750 to Blacklock’s and issued a public apology. Law Times regrets the omission.”