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Carol Sues Paramount Pictures Over Letter Campaign
Jim Milliot -- 9/14/98
The Carol Publishing Group filed a lawsuit last week against Paramount Pictures, charging the movie company with libel and with interfering with its business practices. The complaint stems from a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Paramount charging that Carol's publication of The Joy of Trek: How to Enhance Your Relationship with a Star Trek Fan infringed Paramount's copyright with regard to the Star Trek name.
In June, Judge Samuel Conti issued a preliminary injunction granting Paramount's request that Carol be prohibited from distributing any additional copies of Trek. Paramount also asked that Carol send letters to its accounts notifying them that they were bound by the terms of the injunction. A New York judge, however, found that booksellers were not subject to the preliminary injunction and therefore could continue to sell copies of the title already in inventory. The court did grant Paramount's request that Carol provide Paramount with the names of the customers who received the book.According to Carol's suit, Paramount's attorneys then wrote letters to Carol's accounts giving the impression that if the bookseller or wholesaler sold existing copies of Trek, they would be in violation of the injunction. "What Paramount did was outrageous," Carol publisher Steven Schragis said. "It gave the misleading impression that if booksellers sold their copies of the book, they would be in contempt of court, which is not true." Schragis also said the letter-writing campaign "implies that we did something illegal, which hurts our reputation." The suit is seeking an unspecified amount of damages from Paramount.

Paramount's original lawsuit against Carol, which is ongoing, is just one in a series of complaints brought against publishers by other copyright owners alleging that the publication of unauthorized books related to copyrighted works is a copyright violation. Schragis said that recent rulings have made publishers more reticent about publishing such unauthorized books. "I know we have canceled a few books. It seems that fair use d sn't mean what it used to," Schragis continued. Regarding what is permissible to be published and what is not, he said, "we need a clear set of rules."
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