Copyright Law

Canadian Lawyer Files Suit Claiming Westlaw Has ‘Purloined’ Lawyer Documents

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A Toronto lawyer who represents a Canadian engineer alleging he was wrongly accused of terrorism and sent to Syria for torture is pursuing a separate but related suit that claims Thomson Reuters Corp. is improperly asserting a copyright in lawyers’ documents.

Lawyer Lorne Waldman claims Thomson Reuters posted a document in its Westlaw Litigator database that he filed in Canadian courts on behalf of engineer Maher Arar, Courthouse News Service reports. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Arar’s appeal on Monday, leaving him without a remedy in U.S. courts.

The suit (PDF) by Lorne Waldman seeks class-action status, $50 million in damages and disgorgement of any profits made by violations of the Canadian copyright law. The suit filed in Ontario superior court claims the company copied more than 50,000 legal documents from court files, posted them in its Litigator database and made them available for a fee.

According to the suit, “the defendants further authorize and encourage their subscribers to infringe copyright by suggesting in their marketing material that the purloined intellectual property be used to ‘get a head start on [their] own document creation.’ ” The suit claims the copying was “flagrant, high-handed and reprehensible.”

The lawsuit breaks new ground in Canada, where the law provides a “fair dealing” exception for research or private study, The Lawyers Weekly reports. Wendy Matheson, the lawyer for Thomson Reuters, told the publication that the company disputes the allegations and is defending the suit. She did not elaborate.

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