Ricky Gervais (of The Office and Extras fame) is being sued by freelance writer and artist John Savage for the alleged copyright infringement of Savage’s book entitled Captain Pottie’s Wildlife Encyclopaedia.
Following up Hollywood stardom and acclaimed fame with the writing of a children’s book may now be run of the mill for the rich and famous (Kevin Rudd and Chopper Read are cases in point, albeit without the Hollywood stardom and acclaimed fame), but few receive success the likes of Gervais’ Flanimals released in 2004. Flanimals has garnered massive attention, giving life to three sequels and is soon to be turned into a $80 million Hollywood film in which Gervais is to play the lead character, a Puddloflaj named Puddy.
Unfortunately for Gervais, Savage has started proceedings in the UK High Court claiming Gervais’ Flanimals breaches his artistic and literary copyright by being “broadly the same in content and character”, and that both Captain Pottie’s and Flanimals are “a whimsical take on the animal kingdom through the use of drawings and text”. Savage is asking for an account of profits, which would include reference to the Hollywood film adaptation of Flanimals.
Gervais is staunchly denying the claims, stating that the concept and illustrations from Flanimals existed before Captain Pottie’s came about. Readers may be reminded of the law suit brought against J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury Publishing for Rowling’s novel Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, written about here. As any good copyright lawyer knows, ideas and concepts are not protected under copyright law, and if Gervais chooses to defend the allegations in court, Savage will have to demonstrate that Gervais’ work is objectively similar to his own. Whilst we don’t know the details of the case, nor have we been so privileged to read Captain Pottie’s Wildlife Encyclopaedia, it seems unlikely that copyright infringement will be found if the only similarities between the books are that each is “a whimsical take on the animal kingdom through the use of drawings and text”.