Reference:  EWHC 1157 (Ch);  EMLR 507
Court: Chancery Division
Judge: Park J
Date of judgment: 18 May 2004
Summary: Intellectual Property- Copyright - Dramatic work - Joint author - Substantiality of contribution - Infringement - Implied authorisation - Contract
Instructing Solicitors: Schillings for the Claimants; Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for the Defendant
Dubbeljoint, the second Claimant, was a production company which commissioned Miss Jones, the Defendant, to write a play, ‘Stones In His Pockets’, which the company presented in 1996. Miss Brighton, the first Claimant, was the director. In 1999, Miss Jones to some extent rewrote the play, and it became very successful. Miss Brighton claimed that because of her contributions to the play during rehearsals, she should be recognised as its joint author. She also claimed infringement of a draft opening script for the play which she had written. Dubbeljoint claimed it was entitled to a percentage of Miss Jones’ income from the play under the contract in which it commissioned her, and was also entitled to be credited as its original producer.
(1) Whether Miss Brighton was the joint author of the play.
(2) Whether Miss Jones had infringed the copyright in Miss Brighton’s draft opening script.
(3) Whether Dubbeljoint were entitled to a percentage of Miss Jones’ income from the play, and/or to credit as its original producer.
(1) In order to be joint author of a work, one must make a significant contribution towards the creation of the work. Miss Brighton’s contribution, although important, was not of the nature to make her a joint author.
(2) Miss Jones had been impliedly authorised to use the draft opening script in writing the play in 1996, and this authorisation had not been revoked when the play was re-written in 1999.
(3) Dubbeljoint was plainly entitled under the contract to a percentage of Miss Jones income from the play. It was also entitled to credit as the play’s original producer, but had not suffered any loss as a result of Miss Jones’ failure to ensure this, and accordingly would not recover any damages under this head.
This case highlights the nature of the input required to gain the status of author of a copyright work. Although the first Claimants input was described by the judge as “important and valuable”, it was input as a director, rather than as a writer, and accordingly is not protected by copyright. However, even though her claims failed, the first Claimant was given an important asset by the finding on infringement. As the implied licence had now been revoked, the first Claimant’s agreement will be needed for any further exploitation of the play.