Copyright, Obituaries, and $10 Million in Statutory Damages
Art Law

Copyright, Obituaries, and $10 Million in Statutory Damages

An obituary aggregation site – yes, there is such a thing – was in the business of reposting obituaries, both text and photos, taken from the sites of Canadian funeral homes and newspapers. This database of obituaries was a way to attract visitors who could then buy flowers and ‘virtual candles’ on the same page as the obituary, to generate profits. Not surprisingly, someone complained. Thomson v. Afterlife Network Inc ., 2019 FC 545 (CanLII) was a class action lawsuit against the obituary aggregation company, Afterlife, for copyright infringement, based on the unauthorized copying and publication of over a million obituaries. Shortly after the class action lawsuit was launched, the Afterlife site shut itself down. Class action members expressed that “an obituary they had written for a family member, often accompanied by a photograph, had been posted on Afterlife’s website without their permission. The evidence of many Class Members is that they had written the obituaries in a personal way and that their discovery that the obituaries had been reproduced with the addition of sales of candles and other advertising was an emotional blow to them. In some cases, inconsistent information was added, for example, inaccurate details about the […]

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