With a judgement issued on June 15, 2015, n. 12314, the Italian Court of Cassation ruled on a new plagiarism case concerning the bestseller “Gomorra”, written by the famous author Roberto Saviano.
In particular, in 2008, the Editor Libra summoned Mr. Saviano and the Arnoldo Mondadori S.p.A. before the Court of Naples, in order to ascertain the violation of its copyrights, having the defendants illegally reproduced in the abovementioned work some newspaper articles edited by Libra, and to seek material and non-material damages.
The defendants claimed, on the one hand, that the author conducted an autonomous creative activity and that the contested facts, consisting of news reports, fell within the public domain; on the other hand, they denied that omitting indication of sources constituted infringement and sought damages for the illegal reproduction on the part of Libra of articles written by Saviano.
With a judgement issued on July 7, 2010, the Court of Naples rejected the claim of the plaintiff, embracing the crossclaim of Mr. Saviano. Libra appealed the decision, maintaining that the Court of first instance failed to take into account the two different grounds of illegality brought forward by the plaintiff, namely the illicit reproduction of the news without proper indication of sources and the textual reproduction of the articles published on the plaintiff’s newspapers.
The Court of Appeal of Naples, with judgement No. 3239/13, partially reversed the decision of first instance, and found that the reproduction of the articles was illegal and lacked indication of sources. Mr. Saviano and the Arnoldo Mondadori Company appealed the decision before the Court of Cassation.
The Court of Cassation clarified that the originality and creativity of the bestseller Gomorra was not in question, but the case concerned rather the plagiarism of limited and specific parts – quantified by Mr. Saviano as 0,6% of the 331-pages book – for which the author did not carry out any creative activity. Therefore the Supreme Court, by stating that three of the seven contested texts amounted to plagiarism as “Gomorra” reproduced the articles almost entirely, pointed out the principle according to which the plagiarism can be partial.
In conclusion, the Court rejected the request of the claimants to declare the use of the above-mentioned plagiarized parts as a lawful appropriation of news, holding however that quantification of damages was not possible. In fact, the loss of profit had to be ascertained in the light of the peculiarity of the case, as the plagiarized work (the newspaper articles) and the infringing work (the novel) did not compete, but were distributed through different trade channels and had different consumers. Therefore, the decision was remanded to the Court of Naples for quantification of damages.