Mock legal threat causes panic at major publisher

In the midst of an author discussion about how some companies grumble about having their Web sites mentioned in books, even if it’s favorable, I wrote the following parody letter. I’m still wondering if this is where things are heading. The names herein have been changed to protect the, um, innocent.


“Dear Sir: We noticed that in your book “Teach Yourself Some Crazy Subject in No Time!” (BigPublisherInc, 2003) you make an oblique reference to a “web site designed predominantly in browns” and are convinced that you’re talking about our own site, http://www.intuitive.com”



Here’s the entire letter, in all its glory:

Dear Mr. Smith,


We noticed that in your book “Teach Yourself Some Crazy Subject in No Time!” (BigPublishersInc, 2003) you make an oblique reference to a “web site designed predominantly in browns” and are convinced that you’re talking about http://www.intuitive.com


Though we recognize that the reference is favorable, we are upset that you didn’t request permission in advance and believe that the book was written purely so that you and your publisher could profit, with none of the revenues coming back to us.


We are therefore petitioning both you and your publisher to destroy all copies of this book immediately, including a recall of any copies that might have been sold. You have 14 days to respond to this petition before we file suit in Colorado Superior Court and a parallel suit with the WIPO against any possible overseas editions.


Alternatively, we believe that we’re entitled to 5% of the revenue stream from this book and all future editions, calculated against the cover price and paid in blocks of 50,000 copies. If you and your publisher are willing to accept this alternative, please immediately issue a certified check to our firm for $62,475.00 USD.


In the future, please seek permission before writing about identifiable Web sites such as our own.


Sincerely,


D. Adam Taylor, Esq.
e-lawyer

This is entertaining, but it’s much funnier to learn that the author of the book being parodied sent my mock message along to his publisher and reported the following:

“I had to share it with you: your parody letter scared the hell out of publishing executives from BigPublisherInc, all the way up to its biggest corporate parent. They didn’t recognize it was a gag! :-)”

This is just waaayyyy too funny not to share.

Here’s the most amazing thing about this particular entry, though: this is actually a blog posting that I wrote in mid-2003 but forgot to change from ‘draft’ to ‘publish’. I’m finally publishing it, two years later!

One comment on “Mock legal threat causes panic at major publisher

  1. That’s funny–but unfortunately very common. Publishers are extremely frightened of IP lawyers (and also unfortunately, probably for good reason, the way that fair use rights are withering in the US). When I’ve attempted to get permissions to reprint screenshots of websites or very small chunks of text in books, I’ve been frequently denied (or just ignored, which is effectively being denied, since in most cases my publishers are requiring explicity permission) even in cases when I’m attempting to use the website in question as a *good* example. The person in one large, academic publisher I contacted to get permission to reprint 800 words as part of a discussion about interfaces told me that I’d need to get their permission–and pay permission fees–to reprint “even a single word from [X’s] books.” I said, “If I wanted to use the word ‘the’ in my book, I’d have to get your permission?” He said yes.

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