Dumb and Dumber
Last year, Disney-owned Hyperion paid a rumored $150,000 for two books from the staff of the Wisconsin-based humor newspaper and website The Onion. But when the manuscript came in for Our Dumb Century: One Hundred Years of Headlines From America’s Finest News Source, lawyers for the publisher didn’t find the references to Disney — including the suggestion that Walt and Hitler were buddies — all that funny. Hyperion and The Onion parted ways, and the two books were auctioned to Crown for $450,000. Says Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Crown: ”It’s satire…. Some people find it offensive, and others find it hilarious.” Disney had no comment.
The truth is out there, and it’s copyrighted: Twentieth Century Fox, producer and owner of The X-Files, is suing Carol Publishing for copyright infringement over three unauthorized books about the hit series. ”It’s fundamentally unfair to make a pattern and practice of ripping off someone else’s work,” says Dale M. Cendali, Fox’s lawyer, who insists that the episode guide The X-Files Declassified and the trivia book What’s Your X-Files I.Q.? cross the line from commentary to appropriation. (A third book, Beyond Mulder and Scully, is included in the suit for using photos from the show.) Steven Schragis, Carol’s publisher, says he’s willing to concede most of Fox’s points, if only to avoid the costs of a lawsuit. ”You lose even if you win,” he says, pointing out that recent court decisions favoring copyright holders have changed the landscape for unauthorized books and thus ”clearly restrict commentary on popular culture.”