Home » Legal Stuff, Romance » Class Action Suit against Harlequin by its Authors Moves a Step Forward

Class Action Suit against Harlequin by its Authors Moves a Step Forward

23 October 2014

PG has just learned that the judge hearing Keiler et al v. Harlequin Enterprises Limited et al, a class-action suit brought by a group of Harlequin authors against HQ alleging a massive underpayment of royalties, has formally certified the authors as a class.

This means that the lawsuit, which was previously dismissed then reinstated in part by an appellate court, can move forward.

Here’s the order docket entry:

U.S. District Court

Southern District of New York

Notice of Electronic Filing

The following transaction was entered on 10/23/2014 at 3:00 PM EDT and filed on 10/16/2014

Case Name: Keiler et al v. Harlequin Enterprises Limited et al
Case Number: 1:12-cv-05558-WHP
Filer:
Document Number: 49

Docket Text:
STIPULATION AND ORDER REGARDING CLASS CERTIFICATION:… Pursuant to stipulation of the parties, and based on the allegations in the Fourth Claim for Relief of the First Amended Complaint filed November 5, 2012 (“Complaint”) and submitted by proposed class representatives Barbara Keiler, Mona Gay Thomas, and Linda Barrett, the Court hereby certifies the claims and issues in the Complaint for class treatment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23, as more fully set out in this Order. When fashioning an order under Rule 23, the Court must satisfy itself that the prerequisites of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) have been satisfied… Once the prerequisites of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) are satisfied, a class action may only be maintained if the action falls within one of the categories enumerated within Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)… Accordingly, the Court makes the following findings and conclusions as stated herein. THE COURT HAVING READ AND CONSIDERED the Stipulation of the parties, and finding that the requirements of Rules 23(a) and (b) are satisfied, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the class is certified, defined as follows as set forth herein. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Barbara Keiler, Mona Gay Thomas, and Linda Barrett are designated as Representative Plaintiffs for the class; IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that DavidWolfLaw PLLC and Boni & Zack LLC are appointed Class Counsel; and IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Class Counsel are directed to submit within thirty (30) days of the entry date of this Order, a proposed plan concerning Notice of Pendency of Class Action to be given to the members of the class. (Signed by Judge William H. Pauley, III on 10/16/2014) (ja)

 

It’s not the end of the lawsuit, but, as mentioned, this is a major step forward for the authors.

The class covers authors from the US, Canada, UK, Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand who signed standard HQ publishing contracts between 1990 and 2004 that included the following language in the All Other Rights clause:

On all other rights exercised by Publisher or its Related Licensees
fif typercent (50%) ofthe Net Amount Received by Publisher for
the license or sale of said rights. The Net Amount Received for the
exercise, sale or license of said rights by Publisher from a Related
Licensee shall, in Publisher’s estimate, be equivalent to the amount
reasonably obtainable by Publisher from an Unrelated Licensee for
the license or sale of the said rights;

Which contracts also provide that New York law will apply and include no arbitration clause. The class covers those authors whose works have been published as ebooks.

The full order is set out below (click the four-arrows box in the lower left corner for a larger version):

 


HQ Order (Text)

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27 Comments to “Class Action Suit against Harlequin by its Authors Moves a Step Forward”

  1. Wow, they are going up against the Murdoch empire . . .

  2. Really glad to hear this. Sure hope the authors eventually prevail. Harlequin’s shell game just wasn’t right.

  3. This must be such a shock to publishers, having authors get all uppity and ungrateful.

    • I think that is a rather unfair statement. It’s not shocking to publishers. Everyone has known about this process and potential lawsuit forever now. Furthermore I don’t know of any other publishers that have anything close to a royalty structure like this.

      • That was just Barbara being snarky Steven, she’s really sweet once you meet her.

        For what it’s worth I applaud your statement.

      • “Royalty structure” is a nice way of putting it. Do you condemn the publishers actions?

        • Although Zacharius didn’t say so explicitly, it sure reads like he disapproves of it.

          It is a sucky royalty structure for sure, but it is a royalty structure. What would you have him call it?

  4. Can’t wait to see the Author’s Guild weigh in on this.

    Hmmm *googles*, guess I better not hold my breath while I’m waiting.

  5. I’m so pleased this is going forward. Never published by Harlequin, but I felt so bad those authors were harmed by that giant corporation. As if they needed more money on the backs of struggling romance writers. I look forward to hearing the authors win this one.

  6. Good. I don’t remember the reasoning for the previous dismissal, but it seems it was something along the lines of “You signed the contract, now live with it.” HQ was definitely not acting in good faith, so far as I understand how that works legally.

    Still no question it was a slimy and monstrous thing to do to writers.

    • The dismissal was something along the lines of: You were silly to expect writers to be treated fairly.

      The judge in question had absolutely terrible reviews on legal sites–so bad that even people who’d -won- in his court were prone to give him bad reviews.

      Unrelated to that, he was elderly and has passed away since issuing that ruling.

  7. The best part of being at NINC this year has been the announcement about this in the middle of a session today and the wild applause that followed.

    And then buying named plaintiffs a drink.

  8. I am glad they are encouraged. That’s good. I hope this works out for all of them.

    And the clause quoted above ought not to be written so obfuscatingly. lol

  9. I’m not a romance reader…nor writer, for that matter…but I sure do hope the authors manage to get what they are after and it makes the news.

    Such egregious contract terms and the way those terms were then handled, need to see a bright light.

  10. I was shocked when I read the details of this case. What an atrocious way to treat people.

    I wish the authors the best of luck.

    If this case ever got in front of a jury, Harlequin would be fried.

  11. I was with the three named plaintiffs at the Ninc conference this past week, and there was much festive celebrating when the news came through. Quite a gala day!

  12. This, along with the “Ellora’s cave” suit, heralds *big* changes about to happen. IMO, if, as is suspected, “Big Publishing” (except for a certain well known “exploding space ship publisher” 🙂 ) is “paying ‘targeted’ royalties to some authors, there will be a _massive_ problem.
    PG can speak to possible RICO suits, fraud charges, etc.This could herald the end of many “publishers” and their “parent corp.’s” My guess is that this may be what was driving the S&S settlement with Amazon. Now, they can get “accurate” sales figures (from Amazon).

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