Dog-Eared and Dispatched: January 5, 2014Cheers to the new year, literary citizens! We hope all of you enjoyed a lovely denouement to 2013 and a fabulous leap into 2014. In this week’s rundown of the wild world of book culture, actor Shia LeBoeuf confesses (remorselessly?) to plagiarizing the writings of Daniel Clowes and Benoit Duteurtre. In other news, the Library of Congress has named Kate DiCamillo the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Meanwhile, both the Authors’ Guild and Apple continue their respective uphill court battles. Finally, literature’s most beloved private detective finds himself under the public eye as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are placed into the public domain.
Almost immediately after posting his latest short film, HaroldCantour.com , actor Shia LaBeouf was unmasked as a plagiarist—and not a very good one at that, apparently. As reported by MobyLives , comic book writer Josh Farkis and Buzzfeed’s Jordan Zakarin instantly noticed that “nearly every scene in [LaBeouf’s] film had been lifted from acclaimed comic book writer Daniel Clowes’ Justin M. Damiano [published by Fantagraphics in 2007].” Further investigation of LaBeouf’s previous creations revealed an even greater compulsion toward plagiarism, with LaBeouf taking sections of Benoit Duteurtre’s novel The Little Girl and the Cigarette (Melville House 2011) and including several lines eerily similar to the work of poet Charles Bukowski within his comics. Following these discoveries, LaBeouf took to the twittersphere to apologize for his transgressions—or so it seemed. However, an analysis of LaBeouf’s series of apologies revealed an apparent pathological need to plagiarize, with several of LaBeouf’s twitter statements taken directly from other famous apologies, such as those made by Kanye West, Tiger Woods, and Robert McNamara. “His apology is a non-apology, absolving himself of the fact that he actively misled, at best, and lied, at worst, about the genesis of the film,” stated Eric Reynolds, associate editor of Fantagraphics and Clowes’ editor. “No one ‘assumes’ authorship for no reason. He implied authorship in the film credits itself, and has gone even further in interviews. He clearly doesn’t get it, and that’s disturbing. I’m not sure if it’s more disturbing that he plagiarized, or that he could rationalize it enough to think it was OK and that he might actually get away with it. Fame clearly breeds a false sense of security.” In an even weirder turn of events (yes, it gets weirder), LaBeouf commemorated the new year by taking to the skies with his apology, writing “I am sorry Daniel Clowes ” across the the Los Angeles horizon. However, the sincerity of—and thought processes behind—LaBeouf’s apologies are nevertheless under serious speculation, especially in light of defiantly glib twitter posts such as this (published December 31): “You have my apologies for offending you for thinking I was being serious instead of accurately realizing I was mocking you. ” According to Publishers Weekly , both Fantagraphics and Melville House are “exploring all legal actions.” “It’s like he can’t write a word without borrowing from someone else,” Reynolds stated. “It was funny on Monday, but as this thing goes on, its become creepy and sad.” [MobyLives, Refreshing Content, The Film Stage, Publishers Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter]
On Thursday, January 2, the Library of Congress’ Every Child a Reader program named bestselling children’s book author Kate DiCamillo the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature . As outlined on the Library of Congress’ website, it’s the duty of the candidate selected for this two-year position to “raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.” Utilizing the theme “Stories Connect Us,” DiCamillo will travel across the country to encourage reading among children and young adults. According to New York Times writer Julie Bosman, “Ms. DiCamillo is already a star of the children’s publishing world, a winner of the Newbery Medal, and a reliable best seller. She writes fluidly across genres and age groups, from picture books to chapter books, experimenting with themes of loss, parental absence and spiritual redemption.” DiCamillo is best known for her novels “Because of Winn-Dixie” and “The Tale of Despereaux,” the latter of which won the 2004 Newbery Award. Preceding ambassadors include Jon Scieszka (The Stinky Cheese Man & Other Fairly Stupid Tales) and Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia) . The official ceremony for DiCamillo will take place on Friday, January 10, at the Library of Congress. “I want people to read together and I want to show people that stories can help us see each other,” DiCamillo told Publishers Weekly. “I’m interested in ‘community reads’ that pull together disparate people in a town or a school or a hospital or an orphanage, where everybody reads the same book and talks about it.” [The New York Times, Library of Congress, GalleyCat, Publishers Weekly]
The Authors Guild rang in the new year by filing an appeal against Judge Denny Chin’s dismissal of their copyright lawsuit against Google Books. So far, no briefing has been submitted by the Guild, although AG Executive Director Paul Aiken did tell Publishers Weekly that this case represents “a fundamental challenge to copyright that merits review by a higher court.” In other legal news, Chief Justice Denise Cote has denied Apple’s bid to extend its deposition of Roger Noll, the expert witness and Stanford economist who has calculated Apple’s total charges in e-book damages at $307 million. Cote’s ruling keeps the damages trial on schedule for May 2014, although a response to Apple’s latest appeal has yet to be given and could result in a stay of the proceedings. [Publishers Weekly]
As of December 23, 2013, Sherlock Holmes is now part of the public domain. This decision came as a result of a lawsuit filed by author Leslie S. Klinger against the Conan Doyle estate. The Conan Doyle estate made initial contact with Klinger and publisher Pegasus Books to inform them of their need to obtain a license for Klinger’s forthcoming anthology, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes. In their communications, the estate expressed their intent to block the book from being sold by all major retailers should Klinger and Pegasus fail to comply with their request. Klinger retaliated by stating that the works were now under the public domain as per the Copyright Act and launched his lawsuit. The final ruling has determined that all pre-1923 story elements may be used without seeking a license (with a small selection of post-1923 character elements still under copyright). In a statement to Publishers Weekly following the court’s decision, Klinger said, “Authors, stand up for your work—don’t be bullied by those whose economic position makes it possible for them to win when they shouldn’t. Let me be clear: I’m not one who says that ‘information wants to be free.’ Artists should be entitled to fair and reasonable profits from their work. Copyrights are important protections for artists. But when they are over, they’re over.” [The New York Times, GalleyCat, Publishers Weekly]