Colombian Court Rejects Invasion of Privacy and Copyright Claims Against Gabriel García Márquez

Several Colombian news outlets have reported that the Superior Court of Barranquilla has ruled in favor of Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez in a case brought by Miguel Reyes Palencia, who claimed that the central story line of the author’s 1981 novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold was based on events from his life, and that he served as the model for one of the book’s principal characters, Bayardo San Román. El Tiempo (Nov. 28, 2011); El Occidental (Nov. 29, 2011). Reyes Palencia contended that he was entitled to fifty percent of the worldwide profits of the novel and its screen adaptation because he was essentially a co-author of the work. He also claimed that the publication of the story–about a murder committed in the wake of an abortive wedding–violated his right to privacy. A lower court disagreed and dismissed his claims in May 2010. El Espectador (May 11, 2010).

On appeal, the Tribunal Superior de Barranquilla noted that it was Reyes Palencia himself who revealed his identity as the source of the Bayardo San Román character in an interview he gave to a magazine. The court also determined that García Márquez’s work did not infringe the privacy rights of any actual persons because it was the product of his creative imagination. The court observed that,

Hundreds of literary, artistic, and cinematographic works have had as their central story facts from real life, which have been adapted to the creator’s perspective, without this becoming an impediment to [the author’s ability] to claim economic rights over them.

The court also rejected Reyes Palencia’s claim of co-authorship of Chronicle of a Death Foretold. The court found that Reyes Palencia–

… never would have been able to tell the story in the manner in which the writer Gabriel  García Márquez did, and would not have been able to use the literary language that was in fact used. The work is marked by originality.


Hat tip to IP tango.

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