Recently, the Court of Venice ruled on a case regarding plagiarism of the work of a lawyer. The Court stated that legal works are protected by copyright if they are the result of a personal, new, original and creative processing of the law and of the practice of a sector in which the lawyer has expertise, and as long as they are not simply a functional processing thereof.
In the case in question, a lawyer (referred as “A”) noticed that a company (referred as “Alpha”) circulated an internal regulation that was identical to a text that he created in the past while advising another company.
Therefore, lawyer A sent a cease & desist letter to Alpha, requesting the company to cease unauthorized use of the piece of work.
In response, Alpha indeed ceased using the internal regulation however indicated that one of its legal advisors, another lawyer (referred as “B”), provided the regulation at issue. In fact, lawyer A realized that lawyer B was one of his former associate.
Even though Alpha ceased use of the regulation, lawyer A served a writ of summons on the company, requesting to be acknowledged as the creator of the regulation and claiming damages.
Consequently, Alpha joined its legal advisor into the proceedings in order to avoid liability.
The Court dismissed the claim against Alpha on the grounds that it was unaware of the plagiarism, while it found lawyer B liable for plagiarism, ordering the latter to pay compensation damages to lawyer A.
The decision of Court of Venice is welcome: it appears to be one of the few and perhaps the only known one of its kind by the Italian courts clearly acknowledging a level of creativity and hence copyright in legal works as such.