Watership Down author’s estate wins back rights to classic novel


The estate of the author of beloved novel Watership Down has won a High Court battle against the director of the on screen adaptation. Martin Rosen wrongly claimed he held the rights to the book published in 1972 and written by Richard Adams.

Mr Rosen produced the well-known 1978 film adaptation, an animated television series, an animated miniseries and entered into a deal regarding an audio book. Although Mr Rosen owned the motion picture rights as a result of a contract made in 1976, he claimed that he held all rights in the novel and entered into contracts worth over £400,000 and withheld royalty payments to Mr Adam’s estate.

Judge Hacon ordered initial damages to the estate and terminated the original 1976 contract in relation to the motion picture rights. Mr Rosen was also directed to pay court costs and the estate’s legal fees and is required to provide a record of all licence agreements involving Watership Down. Further additional damages are to be determined at a later hearing.

Mr Adam’s daughter Juliet Johnson 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.”

Rebecca Dixon is a solicitor in the private client department at Barker Gotelee, Ipswich solicitors.

Personal Solicitors Ipswich – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk