UPDATED The U.K.’s Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) has ruled that Julia Kogan be formally recognized as joint author of the film “Florence Foster Jenkins.”
Directed by Stephen Frears and starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, the 2016 film told the story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite not having the best singing voice. It scored best actress Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for Streep and supporting actor Golden Globe and BAFTA nods for Grant.
Kogan, an opera singer and writer, claimed that she made significant contributions to several 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 screenwriter Nicholas Martin (“Midsomer Murders”). She maintained that the process of writing the screenplay was a creative collaboration in which she participated as a partner with Martin.
Martin brought proceedings in 2015, disputed that Kogan was a co-author and sought a declaration that he was the sole author of the screenplay, and the sole owner of the copyright in it. Kogan raised a counterclaim against Martin for a declaration that she was joint author and joint owner of the copyright in the screenplay. Kogan also brought a claim against producers Pathe Productions Limited and Qwerty Films Limited.
In 2017, the IPEC ruled in favor of Martin. A 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 Kogan’s contribution indeed may have been made as part of a collaboration.
On Monday, Justice Meade ruled that Kogan is 20% co-author of the screenplay. The judge has ordered the film companies to update IMDb to reflect the joint authorship.
Kogan was represented by Keystone Law.
“It was soul-crushing to have years of my work stolen and to be eradicated from my own project,” Kogan said. “Before filming began, when it became clear that nobody was planning to credit or pay me for any work I’d done on Florence Foster Jenkins, 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 favor.”
“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,” Pathe Productions and Qwerty Films said in a statement. “Nick believed that he was the sole author of the screenplay and the court found that Pathe and Qwerty had no reason to doubt his word. The judge also found that in the circumstances there was no criticism of Pathe 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,” the statement added. “We trust that this now lays the matter to rest.”