Parker Copyright Battle: Heading for a Finale?

It seems like we have been following the Dorothy Parker Copyright Fight since we were a freshman in high school. Not really. Only six years. However, there is news to report. As reported today, the case is going to a judge next week. Federal Court normally does not get a chance to hear poems get tossed around, but Dorothy Parker will be the subject of Silverstein v. Penguin Putnam Inc.

In brief (and this is hard to do) Stuart Y. Silverstein compiled and edited Not Much Fun: The Lost Poems of Dorothy Parker. He offered it to Penguin Books, which publishes many other Parker books. They declined. Then in 1999, Penguin published Dorothy Parker Complete Poems, and used a photocopy of Fun as a section of the book. Silverstein sued them. He won a round. Then Penguin won an appeal. Then it went back and forth. The book was pulled from stores. And now here we are for what could be the final chapter.

As says today:

“We don’t think there is a copyright issue here. We think this is factual material that anyone has a right to use,” says Alex Gigante, Penguin Group USA’s senior vice president for legal affairs. “If [Silverstein] has found some undiscovered Parker poems, he’s done a great bit of research, but everyone else has a right to use them.”

However, the copyright issue could decide a new wrinkle in copyright law. says today:

“The appellate court said there were some details Judge Keenan had not considered,” says Silverstein’s attorney Mark Rabinowitz of Neal, Gerger & Eisenberg. “The issue to be decided now is whether Stuart’s selection of poems shows a minimal level of creativity. If we establish minimal, more than slight, creativity, then we have copyright protection for the entire compilation.”

And good news: your esteemed president of the Dorothy Parker Society will be attending the trial, notebook in hand. Watch this space for more developments.

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