How do you credit a non-writing screenplay author?

Posted: July 8, 2021

What credit on IMDb do you give someone found by a court to be a joint author of a film screenplay, who may not actually have written any of it?  That question was considered by Mr Justice Meade at the IPEC in the latest chapter of the Martin v Kogan case.[1]

After considering IMDb rules and the definitions in the respective guidelines of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and the Writers Guild of America, Meade J decided that “(written by) (originally uncredited)” was the fairest credit, reflecting as far as possible the relevant guidelines, his main judgment and the test of “authorship” under UK copyright law. 

Comment

Credits play an enormous role in determining a writer’s position in the film and TV industry.  Film scripts are often the work of a few writers, but quite often the credit that we see on screen isn’t wholly representative of the work that went into putting the final script together. 

While Mr Martin wrote the final version of the screenplay in this case, Ms Kogan’s contribution was held to be significant to all of the central characters, and she defended her right to a credit in a six-year legal battle. The judge was satisfied that the film production companies’ credit for Ms Kogan’s contribution on IMDb complied with their obligations under his judgment.  He noted that this was the first time a court has had to rule on such a matter and stressed that he did not purport to create any general principle.  Nevertheless, should such an issue arise again in another case, the parties’ agreement on the appropriate credit is likely to be informed by the judge’s approach. 

In any event, this case is an important reminder for any producer on the need for clarity as to whether other writers have worked (or are working) on a project and, for work that has been created collaboratively, the need to make a determination of the authorship of the work to make sure that the necessary rights have been obtained, and that the correct individuals are credited. 

Further, from a writer’s perspective, in addition to including adequate credit and credit arbitration provisions in the writer’s contract, writers should ensure that their name is on any draft of a script delivered.  They should also keep copies of all materials (scripts and supporting work) and accurate records of delivery dates and, if it is a collaborative work, ensure that the contractual position is reflected from the outset.

Juliane AlthoffAssociate Solicitor, Simkins LLP

To read the full article, click here.  Written for Entertainment Law Review.


[1] Nicholas Martin v Julia Kogan [2021] EWHC 1242 (IPEC) (19 May 2021).