Originally created 05/11/02

Settlement reached in book parody suit



ATLANTA - Nearly a year after losing the fight to keep The Wind Done Gone off bookstore shelves, the protectors of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind have agreed to an out-of-court settlement that ends their battle against Alice Randall's novel.

Under the terms of the settlement announced Thursday, publisher Houghton Mifflin agreed to make an unspecified contribution to Morehouse College, a historically black school in Atlanta. In return, lawyers for Mitchell's estate agreed to stop trying to block sales of Ms. Randall's book, which tells the story of Gone With the Wind from a slave's point of view.

Lawyers for the Mitchell trust argued that Ms. Randall appropriated characters, scene, setting, plot and even some passages from Gone With the Wind. Houghton Mifflin and Ms. Randall argued that The Wind Done Gone was a parody protected by the First Amendment. They also maintained that, by imagining what Scarlett O'Hara's slaves thought and felt, the book offered a new perspective on Mitchell's story.

An Atlanta judge had blocked publication of The Wind Done Gone in April 2001, ruling that it violated the copyright of Mitchell's 1936 classic about the Civil War. A month later, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that the injunction was an "extraordinary and drastic remedy" that "amounts to unlawful prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment."

The book was published in June 2001 and was on best-seller lists for weeks, selling more than 150,000 hard-cover copies at about $22 each. The book was released in paperback in April, selling about 60,000 copies, Houghton Mifflin spokeswoman Lori Glazer said.

Even though the book was already available, lawyers for the Mitchell estate had said they would continue the lawsuit in hopes of getting damages.

Ms. Randall's husband, David Ewing, said he was glad the book was finally "out of the hands of the court."

"We're glad that it is all behind us," Mr. Ewing said. "(The book) will now forever be in the hands of readers, librarians and book stores."

Ms. Randall retains all rights to adaptations of her book not affected by the settlement, meaning she might be able to earn money from a movie version.

Martin Garbus, a lawyer for the Mitchell estate, said Thursday he was prohibited from talking about the case and that the "settlement would have to speak for itself."

The Mitchell family has longstanding ties to Morehouse. In the 1940s, Mitchell paid for dozens of scholarships for Morehouse students through a secret arrangement with school President Benjamin E. Mays. Earlier this year, Mitchell's nephew, Eugene Mitchell, presented the college $1.5 million to endow a humanities chair to be named for his aunt.

The publishing industry closely watched the lawsuit, which could have affected how extensively parodies can borrow from a copyrighted works. A similar battle had been waged over the novel Lo's Diary, an irreverent retelling of the late Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita from the young girl's point of view. The two sides eventually reached a deal to share royalties.