Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bones and Hotson

By the pricking of my thumbs, something litigious this way comes.The Total E-bound sexed up Study in Scarlet is now refering to the main characters as Hemlock Bones and Dr Tom Hotson. (Seriously, Tom Hotson).

Given that the novel is in the public domain this has also the signs of the so-called Conan Doyle estate (not, mind you, his actual descendents--for more info see this post and attached comments) asserting their ridiculous trademark claims over the characters. A claim that most publishers blithely ignore with no obvious consequences.

7 comments:

blarney said...

I just received an email from Total E-bound that they couldn't sell me this book because of trademark issues with the US. I was completely baffled! I was under the impression that most, if not all, of the Sherlock Holmes stories were in the public domain. I emailed the company to find out what the trouble was.

Do you remember when Game of Shadows came out, there was some crackpot woman claiming to be the holder of the US copyrights for SH and threatening to withhold them if Robert Downey Jr, didn't shut his dirty, gay friendly mouth? I wonder if she's at it again?

Emily Veinglory: said...

I would say, yes. The "estate" asserts the characters are trademarked, even though the book is public domain. But they let people trample all over the so-called trademark unless it is high profile and homosexual.

I am a bit disturbed that Total Ebound was caught by surprise by this. As you mention, it is a well known phenomenon. And instead of caving they could have stood by law and precedent and gone ahead. After all, changing the name is probably not enough if their claim had any merit.

In for a penny....

Violet Vernet said...

I don't agree that it's fine to crib 10,000 words from A Study in Scarlet, mix them in with original writing, and slap Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's name on the cover as "co-author." I suspect the latter is the source of the lawsuit. If all this writing was entirely original and ACD wasn't listed as co-author, they could have just gone ahead and published it and they would not have had any problems, but it's not ethical to describe ACD as co-author, that implies that he wanted to collaborate with Sarah Masters, or left an unfinished work that he completed. My issue with this book is not its explicit content nor homosexual interpretation, but only its shabby cribbing of A Study in Scarlet and unethical citing of ACD as co-author. I realize that this is an unusual POV given that I am myself a pastiche writer, but I do draw the line at this and am glad the publisher has made corrections to what I consider unethical practices.

Emily Veinglory: said...

The lawsuit cannot be copyright based as this work is in the public domain in the US and UK. It can only be based on the longer lasting legal right such as trademark (which the Estate asserts they hold over all major characters).

Of course what is ethical or artistically desirable is a separate matter from what is legal.

Emily Veinglory: said...

p.s. all they changed is the names, not the text.

Cress said...

Apologies if this is a duplicate. I got an error message.

I've never read the book, but I believe that "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" lists Jane Austen as the coauthor, and uses passages from the original book. Austen's book is out of copyright also. Why is it okay and legal for the zombie version to list Austen as the coauthor as if she wanted to collaborate on a zombie novel, but it's not okay for this Holmes novel? It's giving Sir Arthur credit for the words he actually did write, just as Austen got credit, regardless of her intent to create the derivative work.

Violet Vernet said...

Not being a huge Austen fan, the P&P mashup doesn't bother me (probably does bother some Austen fans). I just happen to love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writing and hate the idea of someone presuming to "co-author" with him without his consent.... I don't know whether its legal, presumably it is, but I still think it's shabby behaviour. Pastiche can never be truly original, since another writer has already done the hard work of characterization, but it need not be a shamelessly plagiarized rip-off. I love pastiche, I own a lot of it, and I also love gay Sherlock Holmes stories, and erotic gay romance. I just don't like stealing text and presuming to "co-author" with a deceased and well-loved author who cannot give his permission. I would never allow anyone to do this to my writing, and therefore I disapprove of inflicting it upon ACD.