Ms Julia Kogan will now be formally recognised as joint author of the blockbuster screenplay following court ruling
The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) has today handed down its judgment in the Martin v Kogan retrial. Mr Justice Meade found that Ms Julia Kogan, the writer and opera singer, was indeed a joint author of the screenplay for the film Florence Foster Jenkins, which starred Hugh Grant and Meryl Streep.
The latest judgment in the authorship dispute overturns a previous IPEC judgment which found in favour of the claimant and credited screenwriter, Mr Nicholas Martin.
Keystone Law litigation partner Lawrence Abramson and intellectual property partner Robert Pocknell have successfully acted for Ms Julia Kogan in this case since 2015, which centres on claims made by Ms Kogan asserting that she made significant contributions to many aspects of the screenplay based on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins, including the original idea, the characters, the story and the dialogue, which was written during her romantic relationship with Mr Martin. She maintained that the process of writing the screenplay was a creative collaboration in which she participated as a partner with Mr Martin. As a result of the way in which their ideas were intertwined and built upon by both, their respective contributions to the script are inseparable.
Mr Martin, who brought proceedings in 2015, disputed that she was a co-author and sought a declaration that that he was the sole author of the screenplay and the sole owner of the copyright in it.
Ms Kogan raised a counterclaim against Mr Martin for a declaration that she was joint author and joint owner of the copyright in the screenplay, and sought relief for copyright infringement and infringement of her moral rights by Mr Martin’s exploiting it without her consent and without her being given a credit. Ms Kogan also brought a Part 20 Claim seeking similar against Pathe Productions Limited and Qwerty Films Limited, the film companies that produced and distributed the film.
The retrial was ordered by the Court of Appeal in October 2019, following an appeal from the judgment in November 2017. The Court of Appeal found that Ms Kogan’s contribution may indeed have been made as part of a collaboration and passed the quantitative threshold for joint authorship.
The successful retrial not only confirms that Ms Kogan is 20% co-author of the screenplay but also recognises her significant contribution to the film, stating: “Ms Kogan’s input was of great importance to all the central characters. One cannot easily reflect this kind of contribution by pointing to specific dialogue or scenes because it suffuses the whole screenplay.” The judge also ordered the film companies to update IMDb to reflect the joint authorship.
Julia Kogan said: “It was soul-crushing to have years of my work stolen and to be eradicated from my own project. Before filming began, when it became clear that nobody was planning to credit or pay me for any work I’d done on FFJ, we notified the film companies, Qwerty and Pathe, who had been working with me directly, that I was a co-author and copyright owner, but they refused to credit me. Instead, they chose to release the film without my name on it. I’m really grateful to the team at Keystone Law for their help in getting this judgment in my favour.”
Robert Pocknell said: “I am delighted that Ms Kogan’s vital contributions to the screenplay have now been formally recognised by the Judge and she will finally get the recognition she richly deserves as a writer.”