Reposted from DLA Piper’s Media Intelligence Bulletin

Editorial Team: Nick FitzpatrickDuncan Calow and Patrick Mitchell

HarperCollins Publishers LLC (“HarperCollins”) has filed a law suit against digital publisher Open Road Integrated Media (“Open Road”) for copyright infringement in relation to the e-book rights to the children’s book, ‘Julie of the Wolves’ (the “Work”).

HarperCollins filed a lawsuit against Open Road on 23 December 2011 in the federal court of New York. HarperCollins claims its original contract with Jean Craighead George, the author of ‘Julie of the Wolves’, gives it the exclusive right to publish the Work in any book format, including “computer, computer-stored, mechanical or other electronic means now known or hereafter invented”. Open Road published the Work in e-book form in 2011 and, in response to the HarperCollins lawsuit, claims to have been granted the e-book rights by the author.

HarperCollins alleges that Open Road’s e-book edition is not only directly competitive with its hardcover and paperback editions but it also hinders HarperCollins’ own plans to publish an e-book edition; “Open Road’s unauthorized reproduction and public distribution of ‘Julie of the Wolves’ by electronic means devalues HarperCollins’ exclusive rights to publish the Work and threatens to divert and is diverting sales of the Work from HarperCollins.” The lawsuit will deal with a crucial question for publishers as to who owns the digital rights in books that were originally published subject to a contract written before the digital age.