A New York Times story by Edward Wyatt reports on the belated lawsuit by Pearson Education, the publishing company that owns the copyright to the Dick and Jane primers, against a division of Time Warner in Federal District Court in Los Angeles claiming that the book Yiddish With Dick and Jane violates Pearson’s copyrights and trademarks.
The brisk-selling book examines adultery, drug use and other tsuris that afflict Dick and Jane as adults. When it was published in September by Little, Brown & Company, part of the Time Warner Book Group, Pearson was farmisht and did not take any action. After an Internet video promotion of the book began attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers and the book’s sales topped 100,000, however, Pearson decided that the fun was over.
The book, by Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman, with illustrations by Gabi Payn, states on the front and back covers, spine and copyright page that it is a parody. But the lawsuit says the book “is not a parody, but is an unprotected imitation” because it does not use the copyrighted characters “for the purpose of social criticism.”…
In a statement, Little, Brown said the book was “entitled to the full protection of the First Amendment and related laws permitting expression of social commentary.”
“This suit aims at the heart of creative expression,” the company said, “a position no publisher should take.”…
Mr. Weiner and Ms. Davilman said in an interview that they did not understand why Pearson sued. Before publication, they said, Pearson asked for, and received, a prominent disclaimer on the book saying it “has not been prepared, approved or authorized by the creators or producers of the ‘Dick and Jane’ reading primers for children.”
Ms. Davilman said she believed that the lawsuit was “a good old shakedown for money.”
A spokeswoman for Pearson said the company would not comment on the lawsuit. Earlier this month, when Pearson filed the suit, its lawyer, Stephen W. Feingold, wrote to the plaintiffs offering to discuss a settlement and saying that it had initially “decided not to sue over a title it thought would not be commercially successful.”
That decision apparently changed, Mr. Weiner said. He added: “We’re both fascinated and horrified at the same time. We’re on shpilkes.”
Me, I thought you “had” or “got” shpilkes (nervous energy, psychic pins and needles), but a little googling suggests you can be on them as well. Farmisht (and major props to Wyatt for using it straight-faced, letting the context define it) means ‘mixed-up, befuddled.’ At any rate, I’m on Little, Brown’s side here, and I look forward to leafing through the book next time I’m in a bookstore.