This case is truly the gift that keeps on giving: we get free Christmas viewing on Channel 4 - I will unashamedly confess that it was on my Christmas watch-list - and the producers/stars/financiers got some free intellectual property to exploit. Free?! (I hear you cry) - Yes, free.

As we know, the simplest ideas are usually the best but this one is clever in both its concept and in its execution. You see, as part of the Wagatha Christie trial, open justice principles and our insatiable need to document and record-keep, all trials are recorded. Through a simple and inexpensive EX107 form, (so not quite free), one can apply to the Court for a copy of any tape which, as we all know, is stored in the same warehouse that stores the Arc of the Covenant at the end of Raiders. That also explains why you must be patient whilst they look for it.

I digress. You arrange for the tape/recording to be sent to a transcription service, (no one would sponsor this article so you’ll have to Google potential suppliers), and there you have it - a hot off the presses, printer-fresh transcript which, if you cross out the first part of the word, is in fact the script to a Christmas blockbuster.

Hire some relatively well known actors including Michael Sheen of Hollywood and Tony Blair imitation fame, Tonks from Harry Potter and the Boy’s love interest in About a Boy to play Vardy herself, and you can adapt the year’s best scandalous press-fodder!

The proceedings were filled with memorable lines about arguing with pigeons that don’t care if they’re right or wrong, allegations of evidence tampering and confusion about Davy Jones’ locker - no script wizard was needed here!

Defamation and privacy

One would think you would want to tread mightily carefully in telling a tale of two now notoriously litigious individuals in Coleen and Rebekah. The latter was so stubborn she pursued her own claim all the way to the quite literally bitter end. I still forget that she was the one that took the case to the Court, as it was so awful to watch that you forget it was self-inflicted. The other in Rooney - still wearing her deerstalker hat – adamant all the way to the Court doors that she had cracked the world’s most interesting whodunnit.

But the producers can have their cake and eat it here - pursuant to section 7 of the Defamation Act 2013, one has a defence of absolute privilege when reporting on Court proceedings. As the proceedings here fall squarely in the public domain, the defence applies. There are no pesky privacy rights at risk of being traduced either due to the benefit of the civil proceedings and open justice.


The production itself openly admits at the start of the footage with a neat disclaimer that it didn’t stray from the transcripts or the documents disclosed in the proceedings. They also made it entertaining, for example, a scene of Rebekah Vardy spinning her web from a comfortably expensive bathtub whilst the text of her WhatsApp messages appear in a bubble next to her head (pun intended). The same applies for other characters too.

And Coleen’s Instagram posts and photos which caught Vardy in the act also appear here exactly as they did in the real life events. I thought for a moment they might recreate them with the actors in the recreated drama but no fear, the defence of fair dealing has been justly applied (most likely the copyright exception of parody, caricature and pastiche).

The production also used clips from the great British television media to lend authenticity. I expect the fair dealing defence applies here too, particularly as a very small amount of footage necessarily must be and was used here for that defence to apply - and sufficient acknowledgment of the IP holders is given in the credits. It is possible of course that they procured a licence. The only reason I doubt the latter is because the former is free and with a tight production budget one would want to avoid spending on the permission of broadcast networks which would inevitably involve legal fees in negotiating those licences.


All in all, a very clever case of generating a marketable product from something entirely in the public domain - it appears that is very much in vogue this year as we have also been treated to three adaptations of Pinocchio (see my earlier article on this topic here).

Very solid entertaining Christmas legal-fare. 4/5.

I hope you all had great Christmases with Santa bringing you some free IP of your own. All the best for 2023.

P.S. Another company has done the same for Johnny Depp’s US based proceedings which also works for all the reasons set out above.