from the copyright-as-censorship dept
Earlier this year, we wrote about a crazy lawsuit filed by Gene Kelly's widow, after finding out that a college professor named Kelli Marshall was working on a book collecting interviews with Gene Kelly. Marshall and her publisher reached out to a number of people associated with those interviews to clear any legitimate copyright claims (interview collection books are pretty common, and the copyright issue rarely gets in the way). Kelly's widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, claimed that she held the copyright on all of Gene Kelly's interviews, and sued Marshall for infringement. This was crazy for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that the person being interviewed very rarely holds a copyright in the words they said (and Kelly's widow made a mad dash to the copyright office to try to register these interviews right before suing). There's also the whole fair use thing.
A couple months back, the court tossed out the lawsuit -- but not over the issues mentioned above. Instead, the court noted (correctly) that the issue wasn't "ripe" for court, because Marshall hadn't even written the book yet, so it's crazy to claim that it's infringing when we don't even know what's in it. So that's a victory, but not a great one for Marshall, since it likely means she's still facing a lawsuit once the book is done. And based on that Marshall has announced that she will no longer write the book.
Despite the judge’s ruling in our favor, I have decided not to move forward with the book. After much frustration and deliberation, I realize I have neither the time nor the resources to endure another potential lawsuit. I regret this for my research. I regret this for academia and the university press. But mostly, I regret this for the fans of Gene Kelly.I can totally understand why she would do this. Yes, you could argue that she could file a lawsuit for declaratory judgment of non-infringement -- and probably win, but what a hassle that would be (not to mention an expensive hassle). Instead, we get yet another example of a completely bullshit copyright claim being used to censor -- and in this case, an academic book.