Wednesday, February 04, 2015

IP question of the day, Harper Lee edition

Amazon's Write On is its project challenging Wattpad, trying to develop writers--including fan writers.  Participants aren't compensated, but this is a commercial endeavor on Amazon's part and presumably it will try to transition the successful ones to paid publishing.  So, here's this morning's email:

Imagine your favorite literary character's past or future.
Readers, rejoice! This summer, Harper Lee will publish "Go Set a Watchman," which revisits characters from her classic novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," 20 years later.
Inspired by this news, we have a special writing challenge:
In 500 words, write a story featuring your favorite literary character at an earlier or later point in their life.
Good luck, and have fun!

1. Assuming no authorization, is this an infringing commercial use of Harper Lee's name?
2. Inducement?
3. More an advertising law question: Given that this is a new initiative by Amazon, who writes the emails to users, and who reviews them?  A new social media endeavor is often handed off to a specific person/group and not integrated with overall advertising, which is simple but can lead to gaps in review.


  1. Colourful_Socks1:20 PM

    This is a great question, one Amazon might be hoping to dodge by keeping everything unpaid and fan based.

    I have another question:
    Harper Lee doesn't own the copyright to TKAM, and is currently extremely elderly; do you know who would have the most to gain, perhaps fiscally, from HL publishing her new book? Who would get the copyright when she passes? Due to her condition, there is some question of how much control she has over the process.

    What do you think?

  2. I'm afraid I don't know enough to comment on that.

  3. Anonymous2:09 PM

    1. I think so.

    2. Yes. Contributory infringement of copyright in the characters (if more than stock characters).