February 22, 2019
Albo v The Winnipeg Free Press et al 2019 MBQB 34
Dr. Albo is an architectural historian and a resident of Winnipeg. According to Dr. Albo, in and around October 2011, he discovered that there was a hidden master plan for the architectural development of the City of Winnipeg that dated back to the first two decades of the twentieth century. After conducting research, he revealed that during this time frame the city’s elite had sought to transform Winnipeg into a utopia, based upon the international reform philosophy called the City Beautiful Movement. This movement used beautification and monumental architecture as central devices to correct social order and instill moral and civic virtue amongst citizens.
Based on his research into the subject, Dr. Albo developed PowerPoint slide presentations, which he delivered to various public gatherings in Winnipeg. After viewing one of these presentations, Press staff members became interested in the idea that the influence of the City Beautiful Movement on plans for early twentieth century Winnipeg might be attractive to Press readers. After a number of further presentations and meetings between Dr. Albo and Press staff, Dr. Albo was retained as a paid consultant to assist in a project to publish a series of articles.
The first of the articles discussed, amongst other things, the plans for Winnipeg’s architecture at the turn of the twentieth century that Dr. Albo covered in his presentation. However, the articles did not focus on the historical roots of the plans but, rather, moved forward to cover the development of Winnipeg architecture throughout the twentieth century with a look forward to what the future might hold.
After the articles were published, the MAA (Manitoba Association of Architects) approached the Press and offered to share the cost of republishing the articles in the form of a coffee table book to commemorate the 100th anniversary of MAA. The Press agreed and republished the articles in the form of a book: Randy Turner, City Beautiful: How Architecture Shaped Winnipeg’s DNA, (Winnipeg, Winnipeg Free Press, 2014).
Dr. Albo takes the position that the Press was not entitled to republish the articles without his consent, and that he did not provide his consent.
Dr. Albo does not claim to be the author of the articles or the book but claims that his contribution to the articles and/or his contract with the Press nonetheless gave him the right to prevent their republication. While the Press agrees that some of the facts and ideas in Dr. Albo’s presentation also appear in the articles, the articles represent Turner’s story and writing and are certainly not a copy of any work in which Dr. Albo may claim copyright.
The Press denies that Dr. Albo has the exclusive right to write about the plans for Winnipeg at the turn of the twentieth century. The Press maintains that many others had written on the subject before Dr. Albo and, in fact, Dr. Albo’s presentation itself drew heavily, if not entirely, on the works of others.
In this decision the MBQB dismissed the claims of breach of copyright and breach of contract brought by a paid consultant on a story, who sued the Winnipeg Free Press for republishing the story as a book.