The Supreme Court recently gave a historical judgment with regard to the ownership of the copyright of a work of renowned Chef Publis Silva, which is relevant to authors, publishers and all other connected parties in the respective field.
Defendant Appelant in the case Sarasavi Publishers (Pvt) Ltd. Nugegoda made an appeal to the supreme court against a judgment delivered by the Commercial High Court in 2013, with regard to the owner of the copyright of the Sinhala book titled ‘Galkissa hotalaye Publis Silvage hela ratawata iwum pihum,’ a culinary skill book by Chef Publis Silva.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprised of Murdu N. B. Fernando PC, J. P. Padman Surasena and A.H.M.D. Nawaz delivered the judgment in favour of the books’ author and publishers respectively Chef Publis Silva and Sarasavi Publishers (Pvt) Ltd.
The content of the book that mainly dealt with the Sri Lanka culinary methods, is a brainchild of the veteran Chef Publis Silva based on his culinary skills and experience as an internationally renowned chef.
As detailed by him following a series of interviews providing necessary information to the compiler, the book had been compiled by Ms. Dharma S. Samaranayake, a former editor of a Sinhala newspaper. For her services editorial/compilation fee has been paid to her by the Sarasavi Publishers at the request of the Chef. The book was first published in 2005.
The copyright of the book was fully possessed by Chef Publis Silva. As the owner of the book he has entered into an agreement with Sarasavi Publishers. Based on conditions of that agreement Sarasavi Publishers paid royalties to Chef Publis Silva.
In 2008 after several years of publishing of the book even after its sixth edition, the compiler Ms. Dharma S. Samaranayake filed a case at High Court against Sarasavi Publishers claiming that she is the author of the book and hence royalties must be paid to her by Sarasavi Publishers.
The High Court gave a judgment in favour of her and declared that Compiler Ms. Dharma Samaranayake has the copyright of the book and issued a permanent injunction to the publishers preventing the publisher from publishing, distributing, possessing and sale of the book. Further, the court gave a direction to the publisher to make a payment to the compiler under the provisions of Intellectual Property Act.
Against the decision of the High Court, Sarasavi Publishers made an appeal to the Supreme Court in 2013. After hearing the appeal, considering the evidence and submissions made by all parties and also examining the previous judgment given by the High Court, the three judge bench of the Supreme Court unanimously declared that the decision of the High court to declare the plaintiff/compiler – Ms. Dharma S. Samaranayake as the author, owner and copyright holder of the work is in error. They further stated that moreover, the relief granted to the plaintiff – Ms. Samaranayake is erroneous, ambiguous, imprecise and not in accordance with the law. Hence her request to enhance the damages for 12 prints was fully rejected by the Supreme Court.
Accordingly the three-judge bench gave a unanimous judgment to set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court and also to dismiss the plaint made by the compiler Ms. Dharma S. Samaranayake with costs fixed at Rs.25,000 payable by her to the Defendant-Appellant-Sarasavi Publishers, Nugegoda.