Canwest to Pay Up to C$7.5 Million to Settle Freelance Writers' Lawsuit

Canwest Global Communications Inc., the Canadian media company in bankruptcy protection, agreed to pay as much as C$7.5 million ($7.1 million) to settle a group suit by freelance writers who claimed republication of their work on the Internet broke copyright laws.

Because the company is in bankruptcy protection, the writers will be allowed to file a claim for the settlement amount and share in the distribution to creditors, either in cash or shares of a new company, said Peter Osborne, lawyer for Canwest’s management directors.

An Ontario judge will be asked to approve the settlement at a June 16 hearing.

“The idea is to provide finality and certainty,” Osborne told Ontario Superior Court Judge Sarah Pepall at a hearing in Toronto today.

Canwest, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, filed for bankruptcy protection on Oct. 6 as it faced demands for repayment of more than C$1 billion of debt. The company had about C$4 billion of debt at the time. Canwest’s newspaper unit won bankruptcy protection on Jan. 8. The company agreed to sell its television assets to Shaw Communications Inc. for about C$2 billion and its newspapers for C$1.1 billion to a group of bondholders led by Canadian media executive Paul Godfrey.

Pepall today agreed to extend Canwest’s bankruptcy protection to Sept. 8 to allow the company to complete the sales.

1996 Lawsuit

Heather Robertson, a freelance writer, first sued Thomson Corp. in 1996 claiming the company infringed her copyright when it stored her work in electronic data bases. She expanded her suit later to include Bell Globemedia Inc., then the publisher of the Globe and Mail newspaper, and Canwest.

Thomson, now Thomson Reuters Corp., and Bellglobe, now known as CTVglobemedia Inc., agreed to pay C$11 million last year to settle the suit.

The cases are In the Matter of a Plan of Compromise or Arrangement of Canwest Publishing Inc., CV-10-8533, Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Toronto) and In the matter of a Plan of Compromise or Arrangement of Canwest Global Communications Corp., CV-09-8396- 00CL, Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Toronto).

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Joe Schneider in Toronto at Jschneider5@bloomberg.net.

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