Copyright case deems ‘Only Fools and Horses’ character as a literary work

Being a nationally recognised sitcom doesn’t stop there being controversy.

Shazam Productions which was set up by the Only Fools and Horses creator John Sullivan took a legal step and filed a claim against a business who were operating an “interactive theatrical dining experience” called Only Fools the (Cushty) Dining Experience. This experience was operated without any licence to use the name or be linked to the TV show. This being said the experience included performances by actors playing the key characters such as Del Boy, Rodney and Boycie.

The claim centred around the copyright protection afforded in the scripts of the show and the characters.

The lawyers for Shazam Productions claimed that the scripts were a ‘literary’ work rather than a ‘dramatic’ work. The key here is that a literary work is afforded a higher degree of protection.

The operators of the experience arguments back that the show does not amount to anything that could infringe copyright and they deemed their actions as not ‘passing off’ themselves as the TV show as they state they made it clear it was not connected and was a ‘tribute’ show.

After being asked to watch some of the show, the Judge deemed in his ruling that the character of Del Boy could be deemed as a literary work, whereas the scripts of each episode are dramatic works.

The Judge stated that there were “significant commonalities” between the TV show scripts and the experience and it is likely that the consumer would believe the two are connected, due to the similar costumes, set design and marketing material. Therefore, the experience did infringe copyright protection and could not proceed without a licence or permission from Shazam.

Jim Sullivan, the show creator’s son, commented after the case to say he was happy with the result and stated that the experience was of poor quality and was difficult to watch and compare to his fathers work.

If you have any questions about copyright protection, please get in touch with our IP team today.

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