17 October 2016

Copyfight! What happens when copyright meets official secrets?

In his judgement, the honorable Tay Yong Kwan appears to have made a Solomonic decision: the Attorney-General gets his Official Secrets Act to apply to the interview and transcripts, and the Estate of the late Mr Lee gets its full copyright to the same interview and transcripts. That is to say, the Estate has "full copyright and literary rights", only to the extent of checking that the Government complies with the Interview Agreement.

Rafael's Judgment of Solomon

13 October 2016

Memories, Official Secrets, and the National Archives: A matter of governmental judgment or archival discretion?

In the case of Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang vs Attorney-General, the honorable Tay Yong Kwan has ruled that the transcripts of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's interviews with the National Archives are:
1. covered by the Official Secrets Act;
2. copyrighted by Mr Lee's estate, but only to the extent of "ensuring the Government's compliance with the Interview Agreement"; and
3. in custody of the Cabinet Secretary [our note: till 2020, when the Government may exercise the discretion to hand them over to the National Archives then, at a later date, or never, or indefinitely delay that decision].

Both the Estate and the Attorney-General appear to have disregarded the consideration and interests of the Archives itself when they argued their cases. Neither the National Archives of Singapore, any of its fellow SARBICA member associations, or even the International Council of Archives were called by either side to submit an affidavit for the case. It thus falls on us at Illusio to illustrate how an archival institution or a community of archival experts may possibly view the case. Or at least, weigh in on whether and when archival interviews should be official secrets, and who typically has copyright, and explain why.