Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster have joined with the estates of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac and Arthur C. Clark to file a lawsuit against Frederik Colting, Melissa Medina, and their publishing firm, Moppet Books, charging copyright infringement.
Filed January 19 in the Southern District of New York, the suit alleges that Moppet Books’ KinderGuides, a line of illustrated children’s adaptations that feature versions of The Old Man and the Sea, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, On the Road, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, with “willful copyright infringement of four acclaimed copyrighted classic novels.” The suit notes that PW wrote about the launch of the KinderGuides in August 2016.
The suit charges that the KinderGuides seek “to capitalize on the [classic] Novels’ enduring fame and popularity,” describing the titles as “a transparent attempt to recast their unauthorized derivatives as 'study guides' intended for the elementary school set.”
The suit also points out that Colting was sued in 2011 by the J.D. Salinger estate for writing and publishing an unauthorized sequel to The Catcher in the Rye. “He was enjoined by this Court from publishing that book and his cry of fair use—which he will no doubt raise yet again—was soundly rejected. Now operating under the name Moppet Books, Colting once again proceeds to brazenly infringe the rights of different authors.”
The plaintiff publishers ask the court to permanently enjoin Moppet Books from “reproducing, publishing, distributing, advertising, selling or otherwise disseminating the KinderGuides” in the U.S. In addition, the suit asks the court to order the destruction of all copies of the KinderGuides and to order Moppet Books to recall any copies in circulation and destroy those as well. The plaintiffs’ suit asks for damages to be awarded in an amount to be determined by the court in addition to plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.
Contacted by PW, Colting said the KinderGuides were “nothing different than what the many other educational publishers providing study guides are doing, like Cliff's Notes and Sparknotes, and have been doing for many years.” He added: “We are quite surprised by this as we feel that we are protected by law to provide commentary upon these classic novels, just like our fellow educational publishers.”
“It is hard, as a small publisher, not to feel as if we are bullied by these big publishers,” Colting said. “But we will fight this and defend our right to do KinderGuides.”
Based on statements issued by both PRH and S&S, Colting will have a fight on his hands. In its statement, S&S, publisher of Old Man and the Sea, said Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel "is being published in direct contravention of long-held strategic considerations and decisions made by the Hemingway estate, the copyright holders, and in contravention of the-long held exclusive publishing rights of Scribner/Simon & Schuster.
PRH, publisher of the other novels in the complaint, stated that the publication of the works in a condensed form is i"n plain violation and in complete disregard of each author’s exclusive rights, under U.S. Copyright law, and without any regard for the author’s own wishes."
This story has been updated to include statements from S&S and PRH.