Sierra Club Settles Copyright Claim On Bootlegged News

The Sierra Club of Canada has settled a Federal Court copyright claim with Blacklock’s Reporter. The group admitted to republishing bootleg news articles on its own website without permission or credit. The stories were reprinted word for word under Sierra Club’s own headlines.

“Copyright breaches cost newsroom jobs,” said Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan. “Reporters like all Canadians deserve compensation for their work.” The original articles were paywalled and available only to subscribers and licensees.

The Sierra Club Foundation said its actions were not malicious, and that “changes to website protocols have been made to prevent a reccurrence.” The club posted the articles for weeks until they were detected.

John Bennett, executive director, initially apologized and blamed the copyright breach on staff. However Bennett declined to name the source of the bootleg articles, prompting Blacklock’s to file a Federal Court application.

“The articles in question were posted on a Google site by one of your subscribers,” Bennett wrote in an email. “I would suggest you better communicate with them about sharing materials.” In court submissions Blacklock’s counsel noted terms and conditions are continually posted on the website.

The action was settled out of court at the Sierra Club’s request. “We welcome an end to these unhappy incidents,” said Doan. “Copyright is not a technicality; it is our livelihood.” Blacklock’s has determined the source of the articles.

They Liked The Stories

Evidence submitted to Federal Court showed on December 8, 2013, Sierra Club electronically published an article headlined, “A disaster, simple as that, says Gus Etchegary, chair, Community Fisheries Alliance of Newfoundland & Labrador”. The origin of the article wasn’t identified. It was identical to a Blacklock’s story published eleven days earlier, “A Disaster, Simple As That”, by reporter Kaven Baker-Voakes.

In a second incident on February 16, 2014, Sierra Club published an article it headlined, “CETA Calm Now, Storm Later – Dairy farmers face tidal wave of subsidized imports”. No source for the article was named. The article was reprinted word for word from an earlier February 7 Blacklock’s item, “Calm Now, Storm Later”, by reporter Alex Binkley.

A third bootleg story, “Feds Stung By Eco-Ruling”, was republished by the Sierra Club of British Columbia at its own website on February 18, 2014. All the offending articles have since been removed by the club.

Publisher Doan noted that Blacklock’s, the only reporter-owned and operated newsroom in the Parliamentary Press Gallery, has to date filed Federal Court actions against three other organizations for violating the Copyright Act by republishing or distributing articles without licensing agreements. Trials are pending.

“We will defend our rights vigorously,” Doan said.

By Staff

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