Court clears ‘Wind’ retell for publishing

District court injunction lifted

A U.S. appeals court Friday gave Houghton Mifflin the greenlight to publish “The Wind Done Gone,” Alice Randall’s controversial retelling of “Gone With the Wind.”

The court lifted a preliminary injunction banning publication of the book, reversing a district court decision last month that found Randall’s novel in violation of the copyright of the Margaret Mitchell classic.

A range of media groups and writers had denounced that district court decision as a grave threat to the First Amendment. Toni Morrison and Harper Lee supported Houghton Mifflin and Randall, while the PEN/American Center, the New York Times Co., Dow Jones and Microsoft, among other orgs, filed briefs on their behalf.

“Never in my 30 years of book publishing have I seen such an outpouring of support for a book,” said Houghton Mifflin Trade and Reference division prexy Wendy Strothman.

Parody or piracy?

Several parties have defended the Mitchell estate, however. Randall’s novel makes extensive use of characters, scenes and dialogue from the Mitchell classic. St. Martin’s Press and Guggenheim Foundation head Joe Connaroe, among others, have supported the estate’s position that Randall’s novel is a an act of piracy and not a form of parody protected by the First Amendment.

Houghton Mifflin, which has been in the news recently as a possible acquisitions target of French conglom Vivendi Universal, expects to release 25,000 copies of “The Wind Done Gone” within the next few weeks.

But the estate’s attorney, Martin Garbus of Frankfurt, Garbus, Klein & Selz, told Daily Variety that the legal saga is far from over. The estate could seek damages, a new injunction or appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.