*Our special thanks to SOLV Advocaten
In February of this year, the Rotterdam-based publishing house Dubois was accused of copyright infringement by Stichting Kankantrie. Kankantrie claimed that approximately 95% of the cookery book had been plagiarised. On 13 March, the court ruled in favour of Kankantrie’s claim – Kankantrie having been assisted by of SOLV Advocaten – and ordered that the publishing house recall and destroy all ‘revised’ versions of Groot Surinaams Kookboek (Great Surinamese Cookery Book).
Groot Surinaams Kookboek was written 40 years ago by Ms. A.A. Starke and Ms. M. Samsin-Hewitt, a former teacher and head of the First Surinamese School for Domestic Studies and Industry in Paramaribo. The book was first published by Kankantrie in the Netherlands in 1976, and Kankantrie has held the copyright on the book in the Netherlands since then.
In 2009, Kankantrie entered into an agreement with Dubois, which granted exclusive rights to the publishing house to sell Groot Surinaams Kookboek. It was also agreed that the publishing house would inform Kankantrie of the number of sales of each previous quarter and that any payments with regard to the cookery books should take place 30 days after their having been sold. Unfortunately, the agreement was terminated by Kankantrie in June 2016 following a failure on the part of Dubois to disclose the number of sales and as a result of the fact that the publishing house had not made
any payments to Kankantrie since December 2012.
Several months after the agreement had been terminated, Kankantrie discovered revised editions of the cookery book on a number of websites. The publishing house had, evidently, been publishing two versions: the original edition with a modified bar code and a revised edition containing 150 new recipes.
‘They even copied the spelling errors!’
The director of Kankantrie and owner of the copyright to the book recounted that 95% of the cookery book had been plagiarised and copied word for word – even including the spelling errors from the original. Dubois, however, made one crucial change, namely the names of the authors: both names had had to make way for that of the publisher, Diana Dubois. In addition, Ms. Dubois had supplemented the revised edition with 150 new recipes and new photos.
During court proceedings, Diana Dubois claimed that her father had given her the copyright to the book, but that she had forgotten that fact due to memory loss. Dubois asserted that Kankantrie had only been given the rights to publish the first edition of the cookery book in the Netherlands, after which her father had acquired the rights to publish the cookery book anywhere in the world. The judge deemed her claim to be highly unlikely, given the fact no ownership disputes had been brought forward within the time Kankantrie held the copyright. Nor did any evidence come to light of Ms. Dubois’ father acquiring the copyright to the book from the school in Paramaribo. Had Dubois in fact known that she held the copyright to the cookbook, she would never have entered into an agreement with Kankantrie.
The court ruled that the publishing house must cease all sales of the cookery books forthwith and furthermore recall and destroy all existing copies. Dubois was also ordered to bear the costs of the proceedings. Diana Dubois issued a statement indicating her intent to pursue the matter and appeal the court’s decision.
We shall be keeping track of developments with great interest.