Late Author’s Family Win Back Watership Down IP Rights


The family of the late Richard Adams have been awarded the rights to the author’s novel Watership Down.

The High Court has ruled found in favour of Watership Downs Enterprises, the estate and family of Adams, against the US director of the 1978 animation, Martin Rosen.

Rosen, who owned the motion picture rights to Watership Down under his original 1976 contract, was found to have been wrong in claiming ownership of all rights to the book.

The court heard that Rosen had proceeded to enter into contracts worth more than £400,000 while claiming that he held all rights to the novel.

He also made $85,000 from an unauthorised licence for an audiobook adaptation and failed to pay the estate fees and merchandising royalties from the 2018 TV adaptation.

The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court ordered Rosen and his companies to pay an initial $100,000 in damages for copyright infringement, agreeing unauthorised license deals and denying royalty payments.

Rosen and his companies were also directed to provide a record of all license agreements involving Watership Down and pay court costs and the estate’s legal fees totalling £28,000.

Rosen is set to pay additional damages, to be determined at a later hearing. The 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.

The court also terminated the original contract in which motion picture rights for Watership Down were originally granted to Rosen in 1976.

The decision comes after years of legal dispute between Watership Down Enterprises and Rosen and his companies.

Richard Adams died in 2016 aged 96. Watership Down was a bestselling novel across the world, and won the Carnegie medal and the Guardian children’s prize.


Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

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