Parker Case in Court

Longtime visitors of this site know about the Dorothy Parker copyright case, which we’ve been following for almost two years. Today it went to court, or I should say, in front of the judge.

I went to U.S. Federal Court in Manhattan, the Southern District Court, at the Moynihan United States Courthouse. This was Silverstein v Penguin Putnam, 01 Civ. 309 (SDNY). Today the oral arguments were presented, supporting summary judgement motions. Neither side wants to go to trial on this, so it was before U.S. Judge John F. Keenan.

For a quick recap of the case, click here. In one sentence: Silverstein’s book Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker was apparently used as the basis for an entire section of Dorothy Parker Complete Stories. Silverstein alleges copyright infringement.

For the defense, attorney Richard Dannay presented Penguin’s case. He argued that what Silverstein wants to protect, isn’t protectable. His position is copyright law doesn’t give Silverstein protection for being the person who compiled the material. Silverstein was represented by Monica McCabe. She argued that what Penguin did — actually photocopying “NMF” — was such a blatant copyright violation that the court would have to award damages for violating copyright law.

The matter is now before Judhe Keenan. He said he will make his decision soon.

After the arguments were made, Silverstein stepped outside the courthouse. He said, “The judge seemed to grasp the essence of our legal position, but I’ve been around way too long to predict what the judge is going to do. We’ll see.”

I wasn’t a very good reporter, and didn’t bother talking to the three Penguin attorneys. But they didn’t look happy. They are facing a big fine, plus the possibility of having to withdraw “Complete Poems” from bookstores.

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