IMDb credits in the Intellectual Property and Enterprise Court

Written by Samuel O’Toole | June 25, 2021

Intellectual Property

The IMDb (Internet Movie Database), as the name suggests, is an online database of information relating to films, TV and online content. It claims to be the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity comment: I cannot verify that comment, but I can confirm the Intellectual Property and Enterprise Court has recently provided guidance to what contribution is required for a writing credit in its database.

The recent decision was handed down by Mr Justice Meade in Martin and another v Kogan [2021] EWHC 1242. The initial trial in this litigation was heard by His Honour Judge Hacon in 2017, then there was an appeal to the Court of Appeal in 2019 which was then retried in January 2021. The dispute concerned the authorship of the screenplay of a film about the latter part of the life of Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy American socialite who loved music, but was not a good signer.

The net result of this litigation is that Ms Kogan was found to be a joint author of copyright for 20% of the screenplay with Mr Martin. Mr Justice Meade found that in the event Ms Kogan was a joint author of the screenplay, then a writing credit should be arranged on IMDb.

The writing credit did made it onto IMDb in the following format (before only Mr Martin was listed):

“Writing Credits

Nicholas Martin … (written by)

Julia Kogan … (written by) (originally uncredited)”

The credit had been arrived at by the impartial “film companies” (Florence Film Limited, Pathé Productions Limited and Qwerty Films Limited) applying the IMDb rules. Mr Martin did not take too fondly to the credit, arguing that Ms Kogan’s 20% contribution to the screenplay was not sufficient to get a writers credit.

Mr Justice Meade went onto consider the parties submissions, and noted that “The task is unprecedented as far as I know and I do not purport to create any general principle.” The Judge heard submissions from the parties which related to guidelines from the Writers Guild of America and the Writers Guild of Great Britain, he found that although Ms Kogan’s contribution was small, it was real and not trivial and whilst she didn’t write many words of the screenplay the Writers Guild of America’s guidelines was broader than just words.

In light of this, the Judge held that the current credit complies with the above listed film companies’ obligations following his judgment.

This is an interesting judgement as we have the IPEC making a decision as to the validity of a writing credit on the IMDb, at trial neither party disputed that if Ms Kogan was found to be an author she should get a credit, but it turned out to be an issue worthy of a judgement.

Fun fact: Mr Justice Meade’s judgement also got a mention in the “trivia” section on IMDB.

Written by Sam O’Toole, Solicitor

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