‘Wind’ chill for digital carpetbaggers

Mitchell Trust leads c'right crackdown

Scarlett O’Hara never had to worry about digital carpetbaggers.

But the Margaret Mitchell Trust last week moved to defend Tara from Internet pirates.

The threat came in the wake of a judge’s order to stop publication of Alice Randall’s “The Wind Done Gone,” a retelling of the romantic Civil War epic that lifts scenes, characters and dialogue from the original. Randall’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin, is appealing the case.

But the abrupt suppression of the book has created a robust interest in black market copies. Online auction house eBay yanked the book after bidding reached $485. And Frankfurt, Garbus, Klein & Selzer attorney Martin Garbus, a First Amendment expert who repped the Mitchell Trust, says efforts to disseminate the book won’t stop there.

“Given the view of many people on the Net that copyright should fall,” says Garbus, “I would expect to see copies (published) on the Net.”

The “Wind Done Gone” skirmish is just the latest of a series of copyright infringement cases to hit the book trade lately. HarperCollins recently accused author Melanie Neilson of plagiarizing Barbara Kingsolver’s novel “The Bean Trees.” And Random House is suing upstart e-publisher RosettaBooks for issuing digital versions of books that Random still publishes in softcover.

In an age of proliferating copyright violations, even free speech advocates like Garbus are quick to draw a sharp distinction between theft and artistic license. Copyright, he says, “is something you own, like a piano or a house.”