Not so often I get to post an obnoxious email and respond to it on my blog, but even given that rarity, this one is special. Unlike spam from fictitious British lawyers or cease-and-desists from large multinational corporations interfering with a money-making operation that wasn't making any money anyway, this letter comes aimed directly at my current project, Monsters and Mormons which I'll be coediting with Motley Vision's Wm Morris.
The email was sent to the submissions address for Peculiar Pages (which, I might add, was not in the prerelease linked above, and so someone had to go looking for it) and looked like this:
- From: Dana Peter Klun Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 4:51 PM Subject: Pending Copyright Infringement, Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Attn: Peculiar Pages legal dept. From: Dana Peter Klun, Assistant to the Assistant Administrator The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate, US Offices 408 Debruce Road Livingston Manor New York 12758 All of us know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the most read author in the world. To this day, Schools and Universities ask for permission to use his work to teach students how to write better. In addition, officially licensed interpretations of his work and major characters continue in popularity around the world, including the current novel series by Laurie R. King and the recent film from Warner Bros. Pictures which has made over .5 billion dollars already this year so far. These and many other projects share one thing in common: Those in charge of those projects contacted The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate, US Offices before they commenced the project to arrange proper permissions and payments prior to beginning work on their projects. This shows respect for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his creations and also respect for their own derivative works. According to the submissions guidelines for "The Monsters & Mormons Anthology" as listed on your A Motley Vision websites by author William Morris, "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [used] Mormons as stock villains in the early days of genre fiction" and that this would be used as a starting point for works you intend to collect from participating writers. I need not remind you that in the US, the Sony Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1997 (105th Congress, 1st Session H.R. 604) has extended the renewal term of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works among others for an additional 20 years. This means that all works published after December 31, 1922 are protected for 95 years following the date of publication. For further information see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c105:HR.604. The characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Professor Challenger, Brigadier Gerard and the Hound of the Baskervilles among others (including villains) are trademarked by the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate. Use of any character or any book not in the public domain for any purpose whatsoever is prohibited without a license from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate. While we are understandably perturbed that you would begin a collection based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle without consultation with us and while we are within our rights to take further action, we are still willing to assume good faith on your part and to discuss with you various payment options for legitimately incorporating the artistic legacy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle into your own artistic attempts. Although there has been some legal confusion in the past as to who has stewardship over Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary legacy, do not think that we lack the legal rights or moral fortitude to proceed against you should we feel it necessary. More information on our legitimate claims can be found at http://www.sherlockholmesonline.org/TheEstate/index.htm. We thank you for your prompt consideration into this matter and will expect your reply by Friday April 9, 2010 (ten days from now) before our New York offices close at 5 p.m. I look forward to resolving this with you in a mutually beneficial manner. Sincerely, Dana Peter Klun, Assistant to the Assistant Administrator The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Literary Estate, US Offices 408 Debruce Road Livingston Manor New York 12758
I'm not even sure where to start with this. Maybe with the fact that this will not be a derivative work of Holmesiana? Or that we haven't actually issued submission guidelines (coming soon though, Doyle Estate be d****d!)? Or the whole irritating irritatingness of the entire letter?
Or maybe I'll take this as an opportunity to talk about how much I think the Bono Act was a huge mistake.
I think I'll refrain though, and for two reasons. 1) I haven't consulted with Wm yet (ergo, this is only appearing on Thutopia and not on AMV or PP). 2) I like that mustachioed man's literary legacy. And besides, if anyone would get into haunting, it would be an old occultist like Conan Doyle.
And so I am withholding decision-making for now. Advise me. Stop me from being rash if rash I be.