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Archive for Saturday, April 21, 2001

Wind Done Gone’ loses copyright suit

April 21, 2001

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— A federal judge on Friday blocked the publication of a novel he said borrows too liberally from "Gone With the Wind" and infringes on the copyright of Margaret Mitchell's classic novel.

U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell ruled that Alice Randall's novel "The Wind Done Gone" is essentially a retelling of "Gone With the Wind" from a different point of view using the same fictional characters and places.

Randall's story, Pannell wrote, "constitutes unabated piracy of 'Gone With the Wind."'

Randall, whose book was scheduled for publication by Houghton Mifflin in June, argued that her story, told from the point of view of Scarlett O'Hara's mulatto half-sister on the plantation Tata, was a political parody.

Pannell disagreed, writing that Randall's "recitation of so much of the earlier work is overwhelming" and constitutes an unauthorized sequel.

"When the reader of 'Gone With the Wind' turns over the last page, he may well wonder what becomes of Ms. Mitchell's beloved characters and their romantic, but tragic, world," Panell wrote. "Ms. Randall has offered her vision of how to answer those unanswered questions. ... The right to answer those questions and to write a sequel or other derivative work, however, legally belongs to Mrs. Mitchell's heirs, not Ms. Randall."

Attorneys for Mitchell's estate had sued to stop publication of Randall's book. The attorneys argued in a hearing Wednesday that the issue was not one of free speech as Randall and the publisher claimed, but about providing protection to authors and other creative artists.

"It's a wonderful decision," said Martin Garbus, a lawyer representing the Mitchell trust. "It protects authors and publishers."

Randall, who lives in Nashville, and Houghton Mifflin argued that the book was serious parody and could be published without substantial harm to the "Gone With the Wind" franchise.

"We are disappointed in (Friday's) decision," said Wendy Strothman, executive vice president at Houghton Mifflin.

"Publishing rests on the two principles of copyright and the First Amendment. Houghton Mifflin has vigorously supported its authors and protected those principles since its founding in 1832. We will continue to do so."

Other writers, including Pat Conroy, Harper Lee and Toni Morrison, have publicly supported Randall in the dispute.

"I can't believe the book will be suppressed," said historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., one of 20 artists and intellectuals who signed a petition in support of Randall's novel. "The Mitchell estate is doing a wonderful job of advertising for Houghton Mifflin."

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