What the court found

The Supreme Court building.
The Supreme Court building. PHOTO: ST FILE

The High Court largely agreed with the Government's interpretation of the agreement and ruled that, while Mr Lee Kuan Yew's estate has the copyright to the interview transcripts, it is only for the purpose of ensuring that the Government complies with the terms of the agreement.

It also ruled that the Official Secrets Act (OSA) is relevant and applicable in this case.

In dismissing the estate's application, Justice Tay Yong Kwang said Mr Lee's right to grant permission to access, copy and use the transcripts was personal to him, and it was not Mr Lee's intention for his estate to have free use or custody of them.

"Based on a plain reading of the Interview Agreement, I agree with the plaintiffs' interpretation... that the LKY estate inherited the copyright to the transcripts for the five-year period after LKY's death," said Justice Tay.

"However, this copyright is a limited one," he said.

Justice Tay noted that the transcripts come within the category of protected information covered by the OSA, thus restricting anyone in possession or control of them from dealing with them without the Government's authorisation.

 
 
 

"The Interview Agreement cannot be interpreted based solely on contractual principles applicable to a normal copyright assignment," he said.

That the agreement stipulated the transcripts be kept in the custody of the Cabinet Secretary and was signed by three parties also lends support to the Government's claim that the documents dealt with politically sensitive matters, he added.

However, Justice Tay said it would be proper for the Government to inform lawyers for Mr Lee Kuan Yew's estate if he had given written permission to anyone to access the transcripts.

And if such permission had been given, the Government should provide evidence to the estate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2016, with the headline 'What the court found'. Print Edition | Subscribe