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Man awarded €3,500 in damages for breach of copyright

A man has been awarded €3,500 in damages after a court found that his former employer had breached his rights of copyright in a drama about the Great Siege of Malta.

Saviour Mallia told the court that he had been engaged by MK Leisure Ltd to create a spectacle about the Great Siege. This was known as "Knights Spectacular 1565". He had written the script and the plot and engaged a number of collaborators to help with the music, choreography and costumes.

In 2010, he was dismissed from work but the company continued to perform the show without asking his permission to use the copyright he had in it.

Mr Mallia claimed he was entitled to damages for breach of copyright.

He claimed he owned the copyright to the plot of the show, the theatrical composition, the stage management and the amendments which had taken place from time to time, and the lyrics to the three songs he had written and which were used in the show.

The company claimed that Mr Mallia's salary had covered the copyright which was a collective work. There was no written contract of employment between the parties.

Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti ruled that there was no doubt that Mr Mallia had been engaged as artistic director to create the show.

Nor was there any doubt that Mr Mallia had carried out this work under his employer’s supervision, that the employer had come up with the idea for the show and with its financing. The company had also employed the people who Mr Mallia needed to prepare the show.

But the court found that the fact that the company had told Mr Mallia what the show was to be about did not make it a co-author of the work. A person who suggested a series of ideas and key story lines for a work written by others was not entitled to share in the copyright protection.

In conclusion the court found that Mr Mallia was the author of the work and owned its copyright.

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