Open Road Integrated Media has denied charges made by HarperCollins that it infringed HC’s copyright when it published an e-book edition of Jean Craighead George’s Julie of the Wolves, but in an unusual twist George has asked to be made part of Open Road’s case. In a statement released on February 16, George said, “I have asked to intervene in this action to protect my rights under copyright and under my original contract with HarperCollins. When I signed that contract in 1971, eBooks did not exist so I could not have granted those rights. I am with Open Road all the way.”

In its formal answer to the HC suit, which was filed December 23, Open Road contended that the 1971 contract between George and HC did not give the publisher the right to publish an e-book and said it will argue its e-book publication of Wolves “were expressly authorized by a valid, written agreement with Ms. George, who retained e-book publication rights under the contract.” Open Road further asserted that HC’s claims “are barred because it does not own the applicable copyright in Julie of the Wolves.”

In its suit, HC charged that its contract with George gives it the right to be the exclusive publisher of Wolves, “in book form,” including via “computer, computer-stored, mechanical or other electronic means now known or hereafter invented.”

In a statement issued by Open Road, the company said, “We are confident that we have secured all necessary eBook rights from the author Jean Craighead George and that we will prevail. HarperCollins’s claim is nothing but an attempt to seize rights that were never granted to it and to change the existing law with respect to eBook rights.”