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SC gives landmark judgment on ownership and copyright

13 June 2023 11:21 pm - 15     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The Supreme Court recently gave a landmark 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.


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  Comments - 15

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  • Love LK Tuesday, 13 June 2023 11:56 PM

    Intellectual property rights must be protected in Srilanka..many academics have been stealing works of other original writers and yet no action has been taken. .Now many PhD are fake in Sri Lanka..Many professorship are fake in Sri Lanka and all done to milke government money and yet this case is given priority...what is wrong with our judiciary....When billions of rupees are wasted with these fake promotions and professorship no action take either by universities nor by UGC and yet this case if highlight....when a poor man plucked a mango to feed his hungry children; he is punished by our court but when millions are taken like these professional thieves ( politicians; academics ; civil servants and other no action has been taken ? Whither Sri Lanka ? A paradise is turned into Hell by our judiciary; executives ; politicians.. Academics; civil servants and others ..

    Jayamaha Wednesday, 14 June 2023 10:05 AM

    10 long years to hear the case

    Gaston Wednesday, 14 June 2023 10:22 AM

    One cannot clap with one hand. The chef was neither a writer nor a graphic artist. He was interviewed, and someone else has written the book. The publisher only printed it, so the copyright should distribute the profits fairly. In the field of music, big labels exploit poor creators, and they own the product indefinitely. According to the law, the artist is not even entitled to perform or sing the song.

    Cedric Wednesday, 14 June 2023 10:55 AM

    Intellectual property is about the original ideas developed by the mind, development and application. That is all the chef's and not the interviewers or the writers, who should have been remunerated as agreed. It is sad that it has taken this long to sort this issue out.

    Sagara Wednesday, 14 June 2023 11:13 AM

    In this case, publisher acknowledged Chef Pubilis Silva owns the book with an agreement and rented an editor to write the book and her fees paid. An editor or printer or graphic artist or any other worker worked on a book, DO NOT OWN the book. Justice is finally delivered.

    Mahila Thursday, 15 June 2023 07:52 AM

    Copyright remains with "Original Idea Creator"!!!??? Other claims are Pusillanimous!!

    Dr. Nalin Gotabhaya de Silva Wednesday, 14 June 2023 11:02 AM

    Actually speaking these ancient Sinhala culinery methods and tricks are ownd by the Bath-ammas. Books sale and popularity that draws money is due to the reputation of the Chef. So he owns high % of royalties.

    Gerry (UK) Wednesday, 14 June 2023 02:11 PM

    To: Love UK The worst type of PhDs in Sri Lanka, I think, are those with honorary degrees. Many don't deserve them, with universities responsible for denigrating the value of those who genuinely deserved and received them, either by earning or as an honour. Worse is the public use of Dr, when no honorary degree must be used that way (confirming empty vessels make most noise - pirunu kalae jala nosalae). The undeserving honorary PhD are, in this way, insulting those who earned theirs by genuine effort.

    Love UK Wednesday, 14 June 2023 05:12 PM

    Dear Gerry ( UK) A few dodgy PHD holders have tarnished the good names of genuine PHD holders in Sri Lanka .. recently we have mashrooming PhD holders in Sri Lanka in humanities...I don't know about other subjects...but the quality of higher education has dramatically gone down.....Sri Lankan universities have had a tradition of maintaining a high standard in old days socially in old days it was not easy to get postgraduate qualifications ( M.A; MPhil and PhDs from ) universities of Peradeniya; Colombo and Sri jeyawardenapura.....but all those higher quality of education have gone now..I agree with you that all Honourary PhDs useless....we must appreciate all those hardworking people who do PhDs in different fields.

    Tantrum Wednesday, 14 June 2023 05:41 PM

    Re. the discussion on pseudo PhDs and professorships, there is a water bottle-selling man in Mount Lavinia who distributed his business cards to whoever he meets and it says, PhD(Hons). He has thrived on political connections. Also, in Sri Lanka, Professors galore! When they go home also they call themselves 'professors'.

    Mahila Thursday, 15 June 2023 07:56 AM

    To elation of their beloved Spouses!!??

    Demuni de Silva Wednesday, 14 June 2023 11:49 PM

    Auther and editor are not one and the same person !

    Jonathan Thursday, 15 June 2023 12:28 AM

    How can anyone say that the book is originally by Publis de Silva? He also has got together some old recipes to compile the contents. The decision cannot be fair unless Publis created some original, never-before-cooked meals himself first.

    ponkoh sivakumaran Thursday, 15 June 2023 05:53 AM

    Judging by the number of professors in Sri Lanka, the country must be a country of the greatest number of intellectuals. They are frauds. They write in Sinhala and Tamil. There is no one of standing to review their works. Intellectual property becomes a joke in SL.

    Nuwan Thursday, 15 June 2023 02:54 PM

    Here we can continue arguing who owns the IP. For me all arguments seem valid. Publis owns it, may be traditional bath ammas own it, or the editor owns it. It's not the point. A court has delivered a judgement in accordance with the law. And we all have signed up to accept it. If you need something different, get the laws changed through the parliament. The laws and judiciary works like that. And we the many citizens of Ashikland do not seem to understand that.


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