A court in England has ruled in favor of Watership Down Enterprises, the estate and family of author Richard Adams, in an action brought against producer Martin Rosen, who wrote and directed the 1978 animated film of Adams’ novel “Watership Down.”
In a judgment issued on May 27, Rosen and companies controlled by him were ordered to pay the estate court costs and an initial payment for damages totaling approximately $95,000 within 28 days for infringing copyright, agreeing unauthorized license deals and denying royalty payments. Additional damages will be assessed at a future hearing.
The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court – in a case heard by His Honour Judge Hacon – also terminated the original contract in which motion picture rights for “Watership Down” were originally granted to Rosen in 1976.
The court heard that Rosen entered contracts worth over $500,000 after claiming he owned all rights to “Watership Down.” Rosen made a further $85,000 from an unauthorized license for an audiobook of the novel, and failed to pay the estate both the fees for a 2018 TV adaptation of the novel – a co-production between the BBC and Netflix – and a share of the associated merchandizing royalties.
In addition to damages and legal costs, IPEC granted an injunction preventing Rosen and his companies from continuing to license rights to “Watership Down,” which they did not own. The court has directed them to give further disclosures of their activities, and to destroy infringing materials.
Juliet Johnson, Adams’ daughter and the managing director of Watership Down Enterprises, said: “As custodians of this most beloved novel, our family has an obligation to protect the publishing and other rights for ‘Watership Down,’ and to preserve the essence of our father’s creation. After many years trying to resolve matters directly with Martin Rosen, we are extremely pleased with the High Court’s ruling. We can now look forward to the future and develop new projects that honor the powerful and pertinent messages of ‘Watership Down’ about the environment, leadership and friendship.”