Rachael Ray, the Food Network star and bestselling cookbook author—most recently of Yum-O: The Family Cookbook (Clarkson Potter)—has legions of fans. But she also has a significant number of detractors, who take issue with Ray's chirpy voice, catch phrases “EVOO” and “Yum-O,” and penchant for bizarre dishes like cheeseburger salad. Elizabeth Hilts, author of Getting in Touch with Your Inner Bitch, is one of those critics, and Grand Central will publish Hilts's unauthorized parody Every Freaking! Day with Rachell Ray on September 3. The $12.99 trade paperback sends up the 30-minute-meal queen's magazine Every Day with Rachael Ray, picking apart everything from Rach's vocab (“Chop to it”) to her fondness for lowbrow ingredients. Humor aside, parodies can be risky business, and Grand Central's legal team has been closely involved with the book's publication, from cover to content.
Every Freaking! Day is prominently labeled “unauthorized parody” on the front cover, and the publisher has changed the spelling of Rachael Ray's name to Rachell Ray. There's also a boxed note on the copyright page stating that the book “has not been prepared, approved, licensed or endorsed by Rachael Ray or anyone affiliated with the Rachael Ray business.” Grand Central doesn't seem overly worried about Ray taking legal action, though. In an e-mail, the publisher told PW, “There is a healthy tradition of protection for parodies under the First Amendment. It is clear that the book is not authorized and that it is not intended to be taken as anything other than a humorous parody of a cultural icon and a society enamored of cooking shows and celebrities. There are many parodies out on the market, including some parodies of our own titles (like Blank, a parody of Blink); there are Harry Potter parodies, Martha Stewart and Vogue parodies, and a parody of The Dangerous Book for Boys.”
Last month, the New York Times reported that Little, Brown editor Geoff Shandler isn't concerned about Goodnight Bush, a parody of the children's classic Goodnight Moon. Goodnight Bush pubbed in late May, and the publisher is depending on the fair use doctrine, which allows limited amounts of copyrighted material to be used without permission. But Little, Brown did run into problems with its 2004 bestseller Yiddish with Dick and Jane, which prompted the owner of the rights to the classic “Dick and Jane” primers to sue in 2005, alleging copyright and trademark infringement. That case was amicably resolved, and the book remains in print in its original form.
Courts have had a mixed history in determining what amounts to fair use in a work of parody. In the last major publishing case involving parody, a court allowed Houghton Mifflin to publish Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone in 2001, but did not clarify the parody issue. After a lower court granted Margaret Mitchell's estate a temporary injunction against the publisher, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta lifted it, stating that the prior ruling “amounts to unlawful prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment.”
Grand Central is optimistic, though: “Parody is a healthy form of expression and in these challenging times we are all in favor of a good laugh.”