An issue which came before the Singapore High Court in Pioneers & Leaders (Publishers) Pte Ltd v. Asia Pacifi c Publishing Pte Ltd [2010] SGHC 211 (“Pioneers & Leaders”) was whether an incorporated body can be the author of an original work. In this landmark decision, Lai J. held that an incorporated body may be the author of an original work and in such a case, the work is protected for 70 years from the year in which the work was fi rst published.  

Both parties in the case publish horseracing magazines.

The Plaintiff claimed that it owned the copyright in the format, presentation and compilation of horse-racing information in the Plaintiff’s Punter’s Way magazine (“the Works”), and that the Defendant’s Racing Guide magazine had infringed the Plaintiff’s copyright in the Works when the Defendant’s horse-racing magazine had horse-racing information and tables arranged in the same sequence and/or in a substantially similar manner to the Works.  

In rebutting the Plaintiff’s claims, the Defendant argued that since the Plaintiff was not able to establish the authors of the Work, copyright could not subsist in the Works because under the Copyright Act only natural persons could be an ‘author’ of copyright protected works. In this case, ideas, suggestions and criticism relating to the Works were contributed by many persons, some of whom were not employees of the Plaintiff. Such persons did not assign the copyright in their ideas and suggestions to the Plaintiff. The Defendant also claimed that there was no originality in the Works as the use of tables to display horse-racing information was commonplace in the industry.

On the issue of authorship, Lai J. held that the Copyright Act did not prohibit an incorporated company from having authorship in an original work. In the case where employees from different departments of a company contribute in creating small parts of a work and the company as a whole brings together all the parts to create a fi nal product, the company could be the author of the work.

Further, Lai J. held that consistent with the duration of copyright protection afforded to works which were published after the death of an author and anonymous or pseudonymous works, the duration of copyright owned by an incorporated entity is 70 years from the expiration of the calendar year in which the work was fi rst published.

In addition to the above, Lai J. was also of the opinion that suffi cient skill and labour was applied to the Works such that the Works had suffi cient originality, and that further the Defendant had incorporated a substantial part of the Works into its Racing Guide magazine. As a result, Lai J. found for the Plaintiff.