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Dorothy Parker Anthology Lawsuit Trial Begins

The NYT’s Motoko Rich gives an overview of LA-based lawyer Stuart Silverstein‘s ongoing, long-running lawsuit against Penguin for using Silverstein’s book NOT MUCH FUN: THE LOST POEMS OF DOROTHY PARKER as an uncredited source for their own anthology. The issue in question is whether Silverstein is entitled to what is known as “compilation copyright” protection for his selection of Parker’s work. Four years ago the case went Silverstein’s way, and all copies of the Penguin anthology were supposed to be pulled. But then in 2004, the ruling was reversed – leading to the trial that begins today.

Interestingly enough, neither Silverstein nor Penguin will receive royalties -they all go to the NAACP, which got them after Parker left her estate to Martin Luther King, whose own estate went to the NAACP thereafter. Which is why David Shanks, chief executive of Penguin, said Silverstein’s suit was depriving the NAACP of royalties. “His suit and the injunction denies the NAACP the compensation Parker sought to provide it,” he told Rich by email. “Silverstein is simply seeking to personally profit from the sales of Parker’s poems.” Silverstein thinks otherwise. “If someone stole your car and offered to let you keep your vanity license plates,” he said, “would you consider that a fair offer?”

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