15 Jan OPERA SINGER WINS COURT BATTLE OVER FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS AUTHORSHIP
Opera singer Julia Kogan has won a court battle over the authorship of Florence Foster Jenkins and will now receive a co-writing credit on the 2016 film starring Hugh Grant and Meryl Streep.
Julia Kogan played a key part in the creation of Nick Martin’s script for the 2016 film but was uncredited when it was released. Ms Kogan said she asked for a credit when the film was released, and sued Mr Martin after she continued to be shut-out of the project.
The case centred on claims made by Kogan 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.
The film centres on a wealthy heiress in 1940s New York who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.
Kogan maintained that the process of writing the screenplay was a creative collaboration in which she participated as a partner.
Martin, whose previous writing credits included UK drama series Midsomer Murders and The Bill, originally brought proceedings in 2015 to dispute that Kogan was a co-author and sought a declaration that he was the sole author and copyright owner of the screenplay.
An earlier trial of the case found in Mr Martin’s favour.
Kogan raised a counterclaim to Martin to declare that she was joint author and joint copyright owner of the screenplay and sought relief for copyright infringement and infringement of her moral rights by Martin’s exploiting it without her consent and without her being given a credit.
She also brought a similar claim against Pathé Productions and Qwerty Films, the film companies that produced and distributed the film.
The retrial was ordered by the Court of Appeal in October 2019, which found that Kogan’s contribution may indeed have been made as part of a collaboration and passed the quantitative threshold for joint authorship.
The High Court, earlier this week, has now ruled that Ms Kogan had come up with the original idea for the screenplay and had been more than merely a “sounding board” for Mr Martin’s ideas as the script was created.
“Ms Kogan had the initial idea”, Mr Justice Meade said in the ruling. “This is almost the only thing that she contributed alone. She “had a feeling for the musicality of the screenplay and its interaction with the characters and their development. She had an understanding of musical tuition and the feel of the world of opera and 1940s New York. She made plot and character suggestions based on this. She made some suggestions for dialogue which were worked up with Mr Martin into important scenes.”
Florence Foster Jenkins producers Pathé and Qwerty Films have issued a response to the High Court verdict.
“We regret that Julia Kogan’s dispute with Nick Martin over authorship of the screenplay for Florence Foster Jenkins could not be resolved out of court,” they said. “Nick believed that he was the sole author of the screenplay and the court found that Pathé and Qwerty had no reason to doubt his word.”
“The judge also found that in the circumstances there was no criticism of Pathé or Qwerty for the fact that Julia had not been accorded a co-author credit on the film’s release. As requested by the court, the credits that appear on the Internet Movie Database are being amended to state that the screenplay was written by Nicholas Martin and Julia Kogan. We trust that this now lays the matter to rest.”