Author successfully defends copyright claim
Legal experts from Carpmaels & Ransford and 8 New Square acted for the Penguin Random House writer
Ian Kirby and Aled Richards-Jones of Carpmaels & Ransford LLP and Andrew Lykiardopoulos KC and Henry Edwards of 8 New Square have successfully defended author Lara Prescott against a copyright case brought against her by Anna Pasternak in respect of Pasternak’s book, Lara.
The judge found that copyright in Pasternak’s book had not been infringed by Prescott’s book, The Secrets We Kept (TSWK). Pasternak had claimed seven chapters in Prescott’s book infringed her copyright. The case was not a verbatim copying claim; however, Pasternak claimed a substantial part of the selection, structure and arrangement of facts and incidents in her book had been copied by Prescott.
During the trial, Pasternak admitted she had never read Prescott’s book. The judge described it as “extraordinary” that an author could claim infringement of copyright in their own book, and bring proceedings, without having read the allegedly infringing book.
The judge warned authors against the assumption of copying simply because of a similarity or apparent similarity of events, when using the same sources to refer to actual historical events. The judge said such similarity is inevitable when common historical sources are used.
In relation to a separate claim that concerned three sentences of a translation of a historical quote, the judge ruled copyright in the translation had been infringed. Although he deemed Prescott’s use to be fair dealing and done in good faith, the translator had not been acknowledged. The translation was not Pasternak’s own work and she acquired the copyright in it over a year after starting her claim. The acknowledgments at the back of Ms Prescott’s book will be amended accordingly.
Prescott said she was “very pleased to have been vindicated” by the court.
“The Court found zero instances of infringement between my novel, The Secrets We Kept (TSWK), and Anna Pasternak’s book titled Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago”.
She added: “Ms Pasternak might have been able to come to the same conclusions herself had she ever read my book. But as she admitted in court, she’s never even read The Secrets We Kept—not before first threatening to sue me, not before pitching her claims to the media, not before filing her lawsuit, and not even before going to trial.
“Above all else, this judgment affirms my artistic integrity throughout the years I spent researching, writing, and editing my novel”.
Prescott said she was “extremely grateful” to have had the support of her publisher, Penguin Random House, throughout the proceedings.
She added: “No one gains from unwarranted copyright litigation; it merely threatens to degrade the artistic freedoms we all cherish. I’m relieved that I can now get back to the things which matters most to me: my family and continuing to write my second novel”.
Penguin Random House commented: “For three years, Ms Prescott has publicly endured the most damaging and serious allegations that an author can face and has dealt with various legal threats from Ms Pasternak around the world. It is right that the judgment today fully vindicates her. Penguin Random House UK has a long and proud history of supporting its authors and we had no hesitation in standing behind Ms Prescott from the outset.
“This ruling is a timely reminder that copyright law exists to protect authors’ rights and creative expression at the same time as enabling writers to draw from the historical record. It does not permit anyone to monopolise historical facts or sources”.