A dispute concerning the screenplay for the 2016 Hollywood biographical comedy “Florence Foster Jenkins” (FFJ) – a film about a tone-deaf New York socialite who labours under the delusion that she is a talented opera singer – has this month produced a Court of Appeal decision centering on the parties’ own adjustment to reality. Apart from highlighting a perhaps lesser-considered pitfall of working with your other half, the judgment emphasises the practical difficulties of applying the test of joint authorship in English copyright law.
The matter first arrived at the UK’s Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) in 2017, when screenwriter Nicholas Martin brought a claim against opera singer/children’s author Julia Kogan. Mr Martin and Ms Kogan had begun a romantic relationship in 2011, and lived together until the breakdown of their relationship in 2014. During that period, early drafts of the FFJ screenplay came into being. Whilst it was accepted that Ms Kogan had introduced Mr Martin to the real-life story of FFJ, little else about the creation of the script was agreed. Continue Reading