Thursday, February 09, 2017
Blacklock’s appeals $65,000 costs award in litigation that “should never have been commenced let alone carried to trial”
In an unusually trenchant costs award, Justice Barnes of the Federal Court has ruled that Blacklock’s must pay the taxpayers of Canada an “all-inclusive amount of $65,000 plus interest….” This follows decisively upon Blacklock’s clear loss in the first case of what I have called a “litany of litigation” of 11 lawsuits against the Government of Canada and/or its agencies, not to mention several other cases against other parties in the Federal and Ontario courts
I went on to quote from the Court’s ruling:
 …I also reject the Plaintiff's argument that this case raised "strong public interest considerations". Rather, this case was about the Plaintiff's attempt to recover disproportionate damages without any apparent consideration to the legal merits of the claim or to the costs that it imposed on the taxpayers of Canada.
 Any reporter with the barest understanding of copyright law could not have reasonably concluded that the Department's limited use of the subject news articles represented a copyright infringement. Indeed, the fair dealing protection afforded by section 29 of the Copyright Act, RSC, 1985, c C-42, is so obviously applicable to the acknowledged facts of this case that the litigation should never have been commenced let alone carried to trial.
 I am also troubled by Plaintiff's attempt to claim an excessive amount of damages beginning with its demand for compensation completely divorced from the Department's limited use of the two articles. In no circumstances would Blacklock's losses have exceeded the cost of individual subscriptions by the six officials who read the articles; yet Blacklock's demanded a license fee equivalent to its bulk subscription rate of over $17,000.00. This practice appears to be consistent with Blacklock's usual approach which is to hunt down, by Access to Information requests, alleged infringers and then demand compensation based on an unwarranted and self-serving assertion of indiscriminate and wide-spread infringement. The record discloses that in several instances government departments acquiesced for business reasons and paid the full amounts demanded. In this instance the Department appropriately took a hard line and succeeded in its defence.
In the latest of many unusual twists and turns in Blacklock’s “litany of litigation”, as I have called it, Blacklock’s has chosen to appeal the December 21, 2016 $65,000 costs ruling, while notably not attempting to appeal the underlying judgment itself.
Here is Blacklock’s Notice of Appeal – the content of which is unusual in certain respects, not least of which is the inclusion of a quote from a blog. I will refrain from further comment on this document at this time.
As I indicated in blog of December 21, 2016:
Costs awards are usually very hard to appeal successfully – especially one such as this where Justice Barnes has provided ample reasoning and a detailed calculation in Annex “A”.
The appeal process will likely take several months at least to unfold. Meanwhile, Blacklock’s has commenced four additional actions in the Federal Court in 2017. I shall update on these shortly.