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Playwright is owner of 'Stones in his Pocket', court rules


Pam Brighton

Pam Brighton

Playwright Marie Jones (above) . . . a court has ruled she was the sole author of 'Stones in His Pockets' but said Pam Brighton (centre) had made a contribution to the play.

Playwright Marie Jones (above) . . . a court has ruled she was the sole author of 'Stones in His Pockets' but said Pam Brighton (centre) had made a contribution to the play.


Pam Brighton

IRISH playwright Marie Jones claimed victory yesterday after a London court rule that she was the sole author of the smash hit play 'Stones in His Pockets'.

But the judge ruled that Ms Jones's one-time friend and collaborator, theatre director Pam Brighton, had made a contribution to the play.

'Stones', which is currently on tour in America and the Far East, has taken millions at box offices in the West End, Broadway and worldwide. It is to be made into a film starring Dylan Moran and Michael Sheen. Mr Justice Park ruled that Pam Brighton's claims failed "in most respects".

But he held that Ms Brighton - who claimed to have made an "extraordinary" creative contribution to the comedy - did have copyright in a draft opening script of the play.

"Ms Jones is in my view the sole owner of the copyright in the 1999 version of 'Stones in His Pockets'," he said.

"However, for the future, Ms Brighton, through her copyright in the draft opening script of the play, is a person whose consent is needed for new contracts by Ms Jones to exploit the copyright of the 1999 version."

Handing down his judgment, Mr Justice Park said ordinarily he would say if one party had lost or won.

"In this case I am not going to do that because it cannot be said that one party has wholly succeeded and another has wholly failed. I am afraid I will have to leave everyone to work out from the explanation in the judgment what the effect of it is," said the judge.

Belfast-based Ms Brighton claimed damages or an account of profits for alleged infringement of copyright.

Ms Jones contested the claim in a five-day high court hearing that was the culmination of a two year legal battle.

Before the trial began, Ms Jones paid £30,000 (?45,000) in royalties to Ms Brighton and co-claimant, the DubbelJoint Theatre Company, and offered £1 compensation for an earlier failure to acknowledge the company first staged the play.

The judge ruled no compensation should be paid.

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Although lawyers for Ms Jones would admit only that the cost of the action was "a six-figure sum", it is likely this was up to ?375,000.

Mr Justice Park was critical of a director of the DubbelJoint Theatre Company, Shane Connaughton, who helped Ms Brighton finance the action.

The judge went to see the play, which ended its run in the West End at the beginning of this month, during the hearing.

Speaking outside the court Ms Jones said the first she heard from her one-time friend was five years after the play had been a success when she received a solicitor's letter.

"I think part of the problem was that there was a rumour that I had become a multi-millionaire from the play, which I am not. I still have a mortgage. If anyone thinks I have that kind of money it just makes me laugh an awful lot.

"I think also she did feel very strongly she did have a case and there should be some money coming her way," said Ms Jones.

She said the past two years had been extremely stressful for her and husband, actor Ian McElhinney, at a time when their children were doing exams.

"What Pam did was what it was her job as a director to do, which was to give me some notes. I had a contract to take notes from a director which I did.

"It is just a sad day in theatre if directors everywhere start to think that because they gave notes to a playwright they have a claim to authorship.

"But then, I don't think they would want to go through two-and-a-half years like this," said Ms Jones.

If Ms Brighton decided that she did not want to give permission for the "small, very small" part of the play based on her notes then she would rewrite it, Ms Jones said.

"It would not really take that much to do it," she added. "I wrote this play, not Pam."

Ms Brighton was not present for the judgment, but her solicitor Simon Smith said she had brought the action to be acknowledged for her "significant" contribution to the award-winning play.

"Until very shortly before trial Marie Jones had never admitted the significant use she had made of Pam Brighton's notes.

"Were it not for these proceedings the general public would not have been aware of this and Pam's true role in the success of the play," he said.

Speaking outside the court, Ms Jones said she was just relieved her legal ordeal had ended.

She said she just wanted to concentrate her energies on her new play, 'The Blind Fiddler', which opens at the Belfast Opera House in July before moving to Ennis and the Edinburgh Festival in August.

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