Can we freely write, publish or tell the lives of famous people?
On this point the Court of Milan (IP Section) recently rendered a descision to settle a dispute between two authors (Antonio Prestigiacomo and Marcello Sorgi) on the life of the Sicilian Prince Raimondo Lanza di Trabia, the man who invented the soccer transfer market and who was Rita Hayworth's lover and a close friend of Onassis.
The Court ruled that in the case of biographical works of well-known personalities, the facts and events that affected them belong to the common patrimony and are not autonomously monopolizable by anyone. Copyright protection protects instead the formal choices, the stylistic and editorial techniques, created by an author.
The Court ruled that the text of plaintiff Antonio Prestigiacomo, "The Restless Prince. The life of Raimondo Lanza di Trabia "undoubtedly enjoys copyright protection both in terms of originality and novelty. As for the originality, Prestigiacomo’s Book is in fact configured as the personal result of the harmonization of real facts, also historical, and true facts, organized and stylistically reworked with a particular technique. The text is in fact the fruit of the alternation, in the narrative fabric, of interviews articulated in questions and answers, clearly identifiable by the presence of the quotation marks, made by the author to various characters who have had direct knowledge of the Prince.
However, the Court ruled that with respect to the identity of the main character and of many events narrated, there is a certain distance between the two stories, so to believe that they are autonomous creative works, belonging to different genres, each individually protected.
The work of Prestigiacomo cannnot in the end be considered plagiarized by that of Marcello Sorgi and that the biographical works of well-known personalities, but not with reference to the facts and the events that concerned them,are not monopolizable.