Legal documents surrounding the case of a man deported by American authorities following the September 11 attacks have provided the basis for a group of Canadian lawyers and firms to initiate a class action against Thomson Reuters.
The class action, launched last week, accuses Thomson Reuters Corporation and Thomson Reuters Canada Limited of breaching copyright by making available original legal documents for a fee or subscription without permission or payment to the original authors.
The Statement of Claim alleges Thomson Reuters removed over 50,000 documents from court files, copied them and scanned them into a downloadable format, posted them in their database and made them available to subscribers for a fee.
The claim seeks general damages for the whole class of around $57 million.
The lead plaintiff, Lorne Waldman, an immigration and refugee lawyer, filed the Statement of Claim.
He initiated the action after finding out that Thomson Reuters, via its "Litigator" service, had made available to subscribers documents relating to the public inquiry into the deportation of Maher Arar.
Waldman acted for Arar, who resides in Canada and holds dual Canadian and Syrian citizenship, when the Canadian government ordered a public inquiry into his deportation from the United States to Syria.
In September 2002, Arar was detained by American authorities on suspicion of being a member of Al Qaeda, after a stop over at John F Kennedy International Airport on his way back to Canada. After a period of solitary confinement, he was deported to Syria, where he was held for almost a year.
In the aftermath of the September 11 2001 attacks, the Bush Administration initiated a policy where terrorist suspects were flown to "host" nations for interrogation. This practice was widely labelled "extraordinary rendition", and was used to describe the extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another.
Critics and former detainees of this policy have reported instances of abuse and extreme interrogation techniques.
The Canadian government subsequently ordered an inquiry into Arar's treatment, and found that there was evidence that he was tortured while in Syria. The inquiry further found there was no evidence he had any links with terrorist groups.
Arar was issued with a formal apology by the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and awarded over $12 million by the Canadian government in 2007.