THE family of Watership Down author Richard Adams can now plan new projects honouring his memory after winning a landmark court case.

The novel Watership Down was published in 1972, sold over four million copies in the UK alone and has been translated into over 20 languages.

Now, Watership Down Enterprises, the estate and family of the author, has won a High Court lawsuit against California-based producer Martin Rosen, who wrote and directed the 1978 animated film of Adams’ novel.

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Juliet Johnson, Richard Adams’ daughter and the managing director of Watership Down Enterprises, who lives in Oxford, 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 honour the powerful and pertinent messages of Watership Down about the environment, leadership and friendship.”

Oxford Mail:

The Adams family has strong links with Oxford’s Story Museum, so new projects could involve the venue, which is due to relaunch when the coronavirus lockdown eases.

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In 2017, the Pembroke Street museum held the official launch event for Mr Adams’ last story, The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon. At the event, Mr Adams’ daughters, Rosamond Mahony and Ms Johnson, pledged £5,000 from the publisher’s advance to the museum’s funds.

The gift was explicitly instructed by Mr Adams before he died at Cumnor Hill House care home on Christmas Eve, 2016, aged 96.

Oxford Mail:

He had attended the event where the appeal for funding to create the Story Museum was launched, and his daughters said he had backed the idea completely.

In the judgement issued on May 27, Mr Rosen and companies controlled by him were ordered to pay the estate court costs and an initial payment for damages totalling approximately $95,000 within 28 days for infringing copyright, agreeing unauthorised license deals and denying royalty payments.

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The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, in the case heard by His Honour Judge Hacon, also terminated the original contract in which motion picture rights for Watership Down were originally granted to Mr Rosen in 1976.

Oxford Mail:

The High Court heard on May 22 that Mr Rosen entered contracts worth over $500,000 after wrongly claiming he owned all rights to Watership Down.

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The court was told Mr Rosen made a further $85,000 from an unauthorised licence for an audiobook of the novel, and failed to pay the estate both the fees for a 2018 TV adaptation of the novel, and a share of the associated merchandising royalties.

In addition to damages and legal costs, IPEC granted an injunction preventing Mr Rosen and his companies from continuing to license rights to Watership Down which they did not own.