1395804 Ontario Ltd. (Blacklock's Reporter) v. Canada (Attorney General), 2016 FC 719

The Federal Court has upheld a case management Prothonotary's decision staying nine of ten actions by the same plaintiff, Blacklock's Reporter, finding that moving forward on a single action was the option that best achieved the interests of justice and the just, most expeditious and least expensive determination of the issues in dispute.

As described by the Court, Blacklock is a subscription-based news corporation that covers politics, bills and regulations, reports and committees, as well as the Federal Court and public accounts in Canada. Blacklock alleges that the Defendants have unlawfully distributed its articles within their respective departments or agencies and have breached its copyright after having obtained the articles by way of single-use subscriptions or through third-party sources.

The Court noted the following common defences in the ten proceedings: whether Blacklock owns the copyright in the articles alleged to have been infringed; the novel defence of abuse of copyright; the defence of fair dealing when articles are copied/used for internal government reporting purposes; the proper assessment of damages (whether they be loss of profit apportioned per article or the value of an institutional licence); and the availability of punitive damages.

The Prothonotary had concluded that it was in the interests of justice to stay the nine actions given that 1) the issues raised by the various actions significantly overlapped, 2) a stay would avoid costly duplication of judicial and legal resources, 3) a real risk of contradictory decisions existed, 4) Blacklock would not suffer prejudice, and 5) proceeding with the ten actions would cause prejudice to the Defendants.

On appeal, the Federal Court agreed with this decision and dismissed the appeal. Nine of the proceedings remain stayed and the tenth is scheduled to be heard in September 2016.