Sherry Argov, author of Why Men Love Bitches, and Why Men Marry Bitches, has filed a lawsuit against Group Planeta and four affiliated companies charging the Spanish publishing giant with copyright infringement and breach of contract related to the sale of the Spanish-language editions of Argov’s two titles in Latin America as well as in Europe and England. According to the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Planeta and its Editorial Diana Mexicana subsidiary have under paid Argov by at least $1 million by engaging in a number of practices that included: assigning the book to unknown entities without Argov’s permission; deceiving the author by paying royalties based on paperback rather than hardcover prices; selling editions in England and Europe with acquiring the rights; and concealing publication and sales of different editions of the books.
Spanish-language rights to Latin America for Why Men Love Bitches were acquired by Editorial Diana in June 2004 and in June 2006 the company bought the same rights to the sequel. Editorial Diana was acquired by Planeta in 2008 and, according to the complaint, Editorial Diana assigned the rights to Argov’s books to Planeta without permission, which then “secretly assigned the rights again to several publishers in other countries,” the complaint said.
In an interview, Argov said she began investigating what was going with the Spanish-language rights when Editorial Diana failed to account for royalties she believed were owed her, especially since Why Men Love Bitches was a bestseller in several Latin American countries. She stepped up her inquiries after she took back the Spanish language rights to Love Bitches from Adams Media in 2008 and to Marry Bitches in February 2010 from Simon & Schuster. She said she only filed suit after years of unsatisfactory responses from Editorial Diana. “The numbers weren’t adding up,” Argov said. And despite terminating the agreements with Editorial Diana in September 2009, the book is still being sold by the company.
Editorial Diana wouldn’t comment directly on the suit because the matter is with the company’s lawyers, but Jose Calafell, president of Editorial Diana did issue a statement to PW about its overall practices.” Through its 60 years of existence, our prestigious company and sisters, have never given cause to face a claim of this sort and our professional practice is based on ethics and respect to third parties rights. An evidence of this is our market presence that has reached more than 25 countries,” the statement said.
Argov’s lawsuit includes a number of example of what Argov alleges was Editorial Diana’s underreporting or misreporting of sales. In one instance, the complaint states, after denying for five years that a hardcover edition of Love Bitches existed, in September 2009 Editorial Diana acknowledged such an edition did exist after Argov e-mailed the company a link of the hardcover that was for sale on eBay. Editorial Diana paid Argov $73,738 to cover hardcover sales, a figure that Editorial Diana had no documentation for and that Argov believes is too low.
In addition to damages, the suit is asking the court to enjoin Planeta from publishing the two books anywhere in the world and to enter a judgment declaring the agreements between Argov and Planeta/ Editorial Diana void. “Filing a lawsuit is never pleasant,” Argov said, “bit I felt I had no choice. We’ve been trying to talk to them for years.” “Our goal is to get answers and an accounting,” added Argov attorney, Edward Colbert III.