Until now, monster mash-ups have been done with novels that are no longer protected by copyright due to the author being dead longer than fifty years. Prime examples include Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. But now Antartic Press is being sued (and rightfully so, in this author’s opinion) by Jeff Kinney, the author of the Wimpy Kid series. According to this article by Publishers Weekly,
In the filing, Wimpy Kid noted that since the publication of the first book in April 2007 it has rapidly become a “cultural phenomenon,” selling more than 52 million copies, with merchandising that includes T-shirts, hats, action figures, swimwear, and board games. It calls Diary of a Zombie Kid “a counterfeit, copy, and/or colorable imitation.”
I’ve discussed monster mash-ups on this blog before here, and while I believe they are a worthwhile contribution to the literary world, it is definitely an infringement of an author’s rights to see such a title being produced with such blatant theft of intellectual property. But having also seen Diary of a Wimpy Vampire in the shops this season, I wonder if a court case will go up against that author too, even if the similarity isn’t as clear. It can be argued that once something is in the public domain it is up for free use; consider the case of Red Hot Chili Peppers suing the producers of Californication in 2007 for their use of their song title for the show title. The court case is still unresolved. There will always be parodies – Mad Magazine has been doing it since 1952 – and the line between copyright and parody can easily be blurred by good lawyers and free speech amendments. However, I do feel that Jeff Kinney has the right to defend his work should he feel that the zombie version hurts his original series. What do you think?