February 26, 2008

The Jerry's Still Out

From Newsvine: Seinfeld Seeks to Toss Author's Lawsuit

I don't know if other people have been following this, but here in publishing land it's pretty much all anybody has been talking about since October.

Basically, in 2006, a woman named Missy Lapine submitted a book to HarperCollins called The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids' Favorite Meals. They rejected it, and Lapine found a different publisher; her book came out in April 2007.

Then, six months later, HarperCollins released a book by Jessica Seinfeld, called Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food. (Good summary of the overwhelming similarities here.)

Now, obviously, it is entirely possible that Collins rejected Lapine because they already had Seinfeld's book in the pipeline, and the whole thing is just a horrible coincidence for Lapine (the same way Deepa effing Mehta has scooped my novel). But the timing is certainly suggestive, and Lapine sued.

The copyright infringement part of her lawsuit is pretty weak, unfortunately, as you can't copyright a recipe itself (KingCasey can breathe a sigh of relief) — merely the text with which that recipe is expressed. Which sucks for Lapine, but what are you going to do?

The second part of her lawsuit is a slander/defamation claim against Seinfeld the author's hired goon of a husband, who, in the wake of the plagiarism claims, went on Letterman and called Lapine a "nutjob". He then compared her to the loonies who assassinated John Lennon and Martin Luther King, which seems gratuitously offensive and, sorry Jerry, but not very classy. The poor woman has already been fucked over by your wife's publisher; why is there any need for you, the most popular comedian in the country, to go on Letterman, the most popular talk show in the country, and compare Lapine to a murderer (and just because she wrote a cookbook that was similar to your wife's!)? Come on! That is douchebaggery in the highest degree.

Of course, I doubt very much that Lapine will have much success in her second claim, either, because (quoth the lawyers): "Jerry Seinfeld made overstatements of opinion for comic effect." They shouldn't have much trouble convincing a judge that Jerry freakin' Seinfeld was making a joke; besides, under New York law, hyberbole is considered a protected expression of opinion, so Seinfeld is pretty safe — even if his actions here make him the most gigantic asshole ever to have graced the universe (hyperbole! hyperbole!).

So, in summary, it sucks being a small-time author, and Jerry Seinfeld is a dick.

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