17 December 2018Copyright

‘Only Fools and Horses’ tribute in copyright dispute

Popular British sitcom “Only Fools and Horses” is at the heart of a copyright row between two theatre companies.

The company behind the official “ Only Fools and Horses: The Musical” has allegedly accused a rival of producing an unauthorised production which does not compensate the creators of the original TV series.

According to a letter seen by WIPR, Phil McIntyre Entertainments (PME), a London-based events and live entertainment company, has the exclusive right to produce live performances based on the sitcom. The company has accused Australian theatre company Interactive Theatre International (ITI) of infringing its copyright.

ITI describes its “Only Fools: The (cushty) Dining Experience” as “a loving tribute to the BBC series”.

Characters and settings from the series, which originally aired from 1981 to 1989 on BBC One and included subsequent specials, are the basis of ITI’s live show. This production promises a “hilarious night out with the Trotters at The Nag’s Head”, including a three course meal.

According to ITI, which also operates in the UK, PME contacted venues set to host performances of the show threatening legal action if the performances went ahead. ITI said that PME had distributed material to venues announcing PME’s own dining experiences based on “Only Fools and Horses” and “Fawlty Towers” which PME claims are fully endorsed by the creators.

The letter, provided to WIPR by ITI, claims that PME is the only party licensed to produce live performances based on the television series “Fawlty Towers” and “Only Fools and Horses”.

PME is promoting a musical based on “Only Fools and Horses” which is set to open at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London in February 2019, with the backing of Jim Sullivan, son of the original series creator John Sullivan.

The ITI show recently completed a residence at a London hotel and is set to tour the UK in 2019. The company says that while its “show features representations of the principal protagonists from the TV series, it does not reproduce any script or music from the TV show” and is “perfectly legal”.

Alison Pollard-Mansergh, company and artistic director at ITI, said that “PME is bullying venues into not taking our shows in a bid to bully us out of the market”.

It is not the first dispute involving ITI.

In 2016, WIPR  reported that “Fawlty Towers” creator John Cleese was considering legal action against ITI after learning of its “Faulty Towers: the Dining Experience” production. According to The Telegraph newspaper, Cleese had created a theatre show based on the series with PME.

WIPR has contacted PME for comment.

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