“Gomorra”: the Supreme Court and a case of copyright infringement

The Supreme Court recently issued an interesting ruling (no. 12314 of 06/15/2015) concerning copyright. In that judgment, the Court confirmed its case-law on copyright infringement limited to certain parts of a work, and it is expressed on compensation of the damages.

The dispute, according to the decision of the Supreme Court, which covers a famous literary work “Gomorra”, dates back to 2008 when the editor Libra Editrice Scarl sued the author of the work, the writer Roberto Saviano and his publisher, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore SpA, for violation of their moral rights and property protection in matters of copyright. According to Libra in the opera “Gomorra” was played (sometimes textually faithful) articles published in local newspapers owned by Libra and news events related to the phenomenon of the Camorra in Campania, reproducing, without indicating or the name of the head of the publishing house and this despite the express request of Libra.

The defendants statue that “Gomorra” is an independent creative work and that the alleged similarities were irrelevant in the face of the 330-page work, which however those similarities related stories commonly known.

The Court of Naples, judgment of 7 July 2010, rejected the claims on the fact that the high creative work of Saviano, due to the original combination of events linked to the Camorra crime with personal stories of the author, posed the same on a completely different level from mere journalistic chronicle of events. It must therefore be excluded copyright infringement by the defendants. The first-instance judgment was appealed by the publisher Libra. With judgment 3239/13, the Court of Appeal of Naples partially upheld the appeal of Libra, ensuring the unlawful reproduction in “Gomorra” of three of the seven articles published in local newspapers and condemning the defendants the removal of the status quo and payment of compensation settled at Euro 60,000.00.

Roberto Saviano and Arnoldo Mondadori Editore appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled on the creative character of the newspaper articles, noting that the concept of creativity does not coincide with that of creation, originality and novelty, but refers to the personal and individual expression. Therefore, a work is protected simply for the existence of a creative act, however slight. A work can be therefore considered creative even though it consists of ideas and concepts simple and can be considered as belonging to the literature also in the case in which the word is used to communicate information data processed and organized in a personal and independent by the author. The Court also founds that newspaper articles are expressly recognized as creative works by the law on copyright. Therefore the Court concluded that the ruling on appeal had properly recognized the creative character to newspaper articles because it considered that they were the result of data processing and information expressed in a personal way.