Teapots Threatened by Hot Air–News at 11

Edit for update: Since this was posted, the OP first unlocked comments, then insulted commenters, then privacy locked the entry.  As of now, 15:34 PST on Tuesday October 14, the post is no longer public.  Neither legal action, nor apologies have been forthcoming from any party.  I’m hoping all parties have decided to let it die, but for the sake of honesty, I’m leaving this post in place and unedited except for this note.

A certain LJ blogger posted his belief that Caitlin Kittredge has infringed copyright of Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius comic with her recently-sold IRON CODEX trilogy. Once people began chiming in that he plainly had some problems understanding what copyright infringement was, he deleted the comments–and they were not ranting, abusive ones (except maybe mine in which I invited him to eat some crow). Now he has deleted the reposts and turned off comments.

This is cowardice.

When you accuse someone of a civil offense in public, you can expect a few discussion points to arise. If you don’t have the spine to stand up and take the pasting you’re going to get for making unfounded accusations in print (this is called libel, Todd) you shouldn’t then delete them and pretend you have a leg to stand on and that no one has pointed out the error and insult of your position.

You should apologize.

Now, I’m biased; I’m a friend of Caitlin’s. But I’m also a fan of the Foglios from back in the WotC days and I’ve been in the writing biz long enough to know that a vague sales-pitch description of a project that isn’t even published yet does not constitute grounds for a copyright infringement case. The two projects, even as listed, do not have enough points of similarity to meet the legal standard of copyright infringement as established by the Art Buchwald case from the late 80s (Buchwald sued Fox studios over the similarity of the Eddie Murphy vehicle Coming to America to his own piece “the King of Queens”. ) The only things these two projects have in common is that they have a steampunk setting (not the same city or time frame or background or particulars, however), and they revolve around a young female protagonist who is “mechanically gifted.” The points of similarity go no further. Agatha of the the Foglios’ series is not remotely the same character, nor is the plot or theme the same. Agatha lives in a Victorian world of mechanical marvels. Caitlin’s character lives in a steampunk version of the 1950s among magical as well as scientific threats. And there are no Lovecraftian elder gods lurking about screwing up the world in the Foglio’s series. There’s plenty of room for both of these stories to coexist without stepping on each other’s territory, and developing a vaguely similar idea is not copyright infringement. (Otherwise Neal Stephenson would have to sue the Foglios for Agatha’s distant resemblance to the protagonist of his own book The Diamond Age and how silly is that?)

Todd’s “contemplation” of “how badly this is going to blow up inCaitlin Kittredge’s face” is laughable at best, but his accusation is still insulting. It’s fine to be a fan of someone else and to feel a sharp pang when you see a surface-similar project getting a big advance when your own fave has not, but that doesn’t mean anyone’s “stoled (sic)” anything from anyone. The Foglios certainly know better than to rely on a “sold to” report as a starting point for high dudgeon, much less legal action–they’re pros and they’ve been around the business block enough to know what’s worth making a stink about and what isn’t. This isn’t even in the neighborhood.

Man up, Todd. Apologize and unlock the comments.

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About Kat Richardson

Writer, editor, eccentric pain in the tail, bestselling author of the Greywalker novels.
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3 Responses to Teapots Threatened by Hot Air–News at 11

  1. Adele says:

    To be honest, read enough in any one genre and you’re going to see things come up that are pretty similar. It’s kind of the nature of the beast.

  2. Yup. It’s pretty silly.

  3. Jenna says:

    I was thinking the same thing.

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