AGC clarifies claim by Lee Kuan Yew's estate on ruling over oral history transcripts

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew in a 1980 photo. The Attorney-General's Chambers has clarified an assertion made by Mr Lee's estate regarding the limited copyright to his oral history transcripts.
The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew in a 1980 photo. The Attorney-General's Chambers has clarified an assertion made by Mr Lee's estate regarding the limited copyright to his oral history transcripts.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) has clarified an assertion in a statement by Mr Lee Kuan Yew's estate that was issued following a High Court ruling on interviews Mr Lee had given in the early 1980s.

The AGC said on Friday (Sept 30) that the estate's statement was incorrect in saying that the High Court decision that the estate holds a limited copyright to the oral history transcripts was a "key point" that the Government had "disagreed with" the estate on.

The court ruled this week that the estate has the copyright to the transcripts, but not in the conventional sense that it is entitled to access, copy and use the transcripts.

Instead, it has copyright only for the purpose of ensuring the Government's compliance with the terms of the agreement Mr Lee had signed regarding the interviews, which were done when Mr Lee was prime minister.

 

They were part of a Government oral history project and are covered by the Official Secrets Act owing to the political sensitivity of their contents, the court added.

In a statement on Friday, the AGC said in response to press queries: "On the contrary, the Government agreed that the estate does have a limited copyright to the transcript under the interview agreement between Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the Government."

"In fact, the High Court's finding that the Estate held a copyright, 'but only for the purpose of ensuring the Government's compliance with the terms' of the agreement, is identical with the argument that the Attorney-General submitted to the court on behalf of the Government on 14 July 2016," AGC added.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the executors of the estate of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who died on March 23 last year, had applied to the court to clarify an agreement their father made over the control and use of the interviews.

The Government submitted that the late Mr Lee provided for the copyright to remain with him, and upon his death, his estate for a limited period of five years - and only after that period would copyright vest in the Government.

However, the agreement also bifurcated physical custody of the transcripts from copyright ownership. It put in place a "two key" system that provided for the Cabinet Secretary to be custodian to the documents, the Government said.

Lawyers for the Lee Kuan Yew estate, Rajah & Tann, had said on Thursday it welcomed the High Court decision that the estate has the copyright to the tape recordings and transcripts of Mr Lee's interviews. "This resolves a key point on which the Government disagreed with the estate," they said.

The estate added that it was reviewing the court's ruling that the copyright vested in the estate is limited to ensuring the Government's compliance with the interview agreement, and does not include a right to use or make copies of the tape recordings and transcripts.

"The estate believes that such an interpretation of the interview agreement runs contrary to the context, language and purpose of the interview agreement, and is considering an appeal against this ruling."