February 26, 2016 16:24 ET
MONTRÉAL, QUÉBEC--(Marketwired - Feb. 26, 2016) - In a ruling today, Judge Michel Beaupré, from the Superior Court of Quebec, refused to authorize the class action that Copibec wished to undertake against Laval University on behalf of all authors and publishers from Quebec and abroad. According to the judge, copyright infringement issues require an individualized case analysis for each author and each publisher and Copibec's class action distinguishes itself from other class actions already authorized in this matter. The Court also found that Copibec could not represent the group because they are members of Copibec's member organizations and not of Copibec directly. The court nevertheless indicated that it "did not endorse the claims of the University on the merits."
Mr. Daniel Payette, attorney for Copibec and the class action members, said that his clients feel the judgment is clearly unfounded because it applies a narrow view of the authorization of class action criteria, contrary to the teachings of the Supreme Court, and that they will appeal the decision. If we followed the logic of the Court, thousands of authors and publishers, domestic and foreign, should file individual applications before Quebec's various civil courts to uphold their claims, often modest, for reproduction without authorization or payment of their works.
Since June 1, 2014, the Quebec University decided not to seek permissions from authors and publishers and to stop paying royalties for the use of their works in the collections of texts sold to students or made available on the Internet. Laval University reproduces annually more than 11 million pages, extracted from more than 7,000 works. It is, in Quebec, the only university and the only educational institution to behave in this way, all the other institutions having obtained general licenses from Copibec and agreed on reproductive rates.
On November 10, 2014, Copibec and representatives of authors (such as the poet Guy Marchamps and the author Jean-Frédéric Messier), publishers (such as Leméac and Les Presses de l'Université du Québec) and reproduction rights organizations, filed a motion in the Superior Court to obtain court authorization to exercise a class action. They demand from Laval University, in addition to ceasing these illegal reproductions, material, moral and punitive damages in the amount of approximately $ 4 million per year on behalf of all persons whose copyrights were violated.
On March 10, 2015, 34 Quebec authors, including Michel Tremblay, Marie Laberge and Yann Martel, co-signed an open letter (in French) in which they denounced the contempt of Laval University over the fair remuneration of creators. The rector, Denis Brière, responded by citing cuts of more than $ 20 million to justify not taking a license which, he said, costs $ 620,000 per year.
Danièle Simpson, president of Copibec, said she was surprised and disappointed that the court did not grant the authorization, but given the strength of Copibec's file, is confident that the permission to appeal will be granted and that it will experience a positive outcome.
Copibec is a not-for-profit organization established in 1998 by the Union des écrivaines et écrivains québécois (UNEQ) and the Association nationale des éditeurs de livres (ANEL) to manage the reproduction rights of works in print and digital format. It has been empowered to manage the reproduction rights of 2,330 publishers and 24,295 Quebec writers, as well as writers and publishers from foreign reproduction rights organizations from 32 other countries, including France, Belgium and the United States.
Copibec's Interim Executive Director