17 November 2017Copyright

John Lewis ‘helped themselves to my picture book’, says cartoonist

The 2017 John Lewis Christmas advert has caused controversy after a political cartoonist highlighted its similarities with his 1986 picture book.

Chris Riddell, who works for The Observer newspaper, sent out a tweet yesterday, November 16, accusing UK retailer John Lewis of “helping themselves” to his book. The tweet was accompanied by a video of the advert playing while the pages of his book turned simultaneously.

The John Lewis advert features a monster called Moz, who sleeps under a child’s bed and snores loudly. The pair strike up a friendship but Moz has to leave as his snoring is keeping the child awake.

Riddell cited his 1986 picture book “Mr Underbed”, which also featured a monster of a similar colour (blue) striking a friendship with a child and keeping him awake with his snoring.

“In this age of shrinking publicity budgets it is very generous of John Lewis to devote their Christmas advertising campaign to my 1986 picture book,” he stated in a Facebook post.

In an article in The Guardian newspaper, he stated that the “idea of a monster under the bed is by no means new but the ad does seem to bear a close resemblance to my creation”.

In a statement, John Lewis denied any wrongdoing, and stated that the advert’s story is “utterly different” to Riddell’s.

“The story of a big hairy monster under the bed which keeps a child from sleeping is a universal tale which has been told many times over many years,” the firm said.

“Ours is a Christmas story of friendship and fun between Joe and Moz the Monster, in which Joe receives a night light which helps him get a good night’s sleep. The main thrust of our story is utterly different to Chris Riddell’s.”

Jerry Bridge-Butler, partner at Baron Warren Redfern, told WIPR that it would be very difficult for Riddell to follow up with a copyright claim.

“It’s difficult to see any valid copyright infringement claim being brought, as copyright doesn’t protect ideas; it does exactly what it says on the tin and stops people making direct copies,” he explained.

“It isn’t to say he couldn’t bring a claim if he wanted to; there have been several examples of similar actions in the past. I often have people come to me with similar grievances, but copyright doesn’t work that way in the UK, it doesn’t protect ideas in that way.”

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