3 August 2017Copyright

A sight for sore eyes: Penguin and Simon & Schuster secure picture books copyright win

Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster secured a win against two authors late last week, after a US judge ruled that picture books based on famous novels infringe copyright.

The publishers, and the estates of US writers Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway, sued Fredrick Colting and Melissa Medina, the founders of Moppet Books, in January this year.

Moppet Books publishes KinderGuides, a line of books which recast famous novels into illustrated books for young children.

In the suit, filed at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, the plaintiffs argued that Colting and Medina infringed the copyright of four acclaimed novels:  “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, “The Old Man and The Sea”, “On the Road” and  “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

The novels were written by Truman Capote, Hemingway, Kerouac and Arthur Clarke, respectively, and the copyright of the novels is owned by the plaintiffs.

Penguin and the other plaintiffs said that the defendants call the infringing works “guides”, but the plaintiffs argued that they “do not purport to be companion reference books or study guides for readers of the novels”.

On Friday, July 28, US District Judge Jed Rakoff granted summary judgment to the publishers on nine counts of copyright infringement.

Rakoff added that a memorandum explaining the reasons for the ruling would be issued in due course.

The plaintiffs said that they were pleased by the court’s ruling in favour of their joint motion for summary judgment.

“The ruling recognises the clearly infringing nature of the KinderGuides books and unambiguously supports copyright holders’ ability to exercise control over the publication of their works,” they said.

Colting, one of the authors, said: “It's safe to say that we are disappointed in the ruling and the entire lawsuit. Greed is allowed to trump, what we feel is, a ground-breaking venture that was for the benefit of our literary future.”

He added that Moppet Books will continue its mission of creating “beautiful books that inspire learning”.

“Our goal is still to make literary guides to 50 of the most classic novels, and pending an appeal, we’ll learn what we can from Judge Rakoff’s ruling and will update and reformat the KinderGuides in question,” he added.

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