A case involving copyright in legal documents has been launched in Canada.
Lorne Waldman, a human rights lawyer, has been given the go-ahead by a judge in Ontario for a class action against Thomson Reuters Corp.
Documents drafted by Mr Waldman and other lawyers have been collected by Thomson Reuter from court records and are being offered to other lawyers for a fee from their online database and retrieval service known as “Litigator.”
In his class action, Mr. Waldman alleges that Thomson Reuters infringe the copyright of the class members by making available, without permission and for a fee, copies of court documents authored by the lawyers and the law firms.
The key issue turns on whether lawyers can claim copyright protection for documents that are available on public court files. A major element of the plaintiffs’ case is that Thomson Reuter are using the materials for commercial profit. The defendants maintain that their action is justified on the basis of freedom of expression and that the case would limit access to court documents if it were to succeed.
It will be interesting to see the outcome in due course, not least as it raises the question of what value society should place on the reproduction of a lawyer’s work – a topic of interest to the ContractStore team!
You can read the case report here: http://canlii.ca/t/fq6v6