In The News: Crime and Lawsuits
Dismissed for want of prosecution.
By Michael Stillman
A couple of the more notable cases involving books and bookselling have been delayed or deleted. The case of Raymond Scott, of Durham, England, was postponed until August when his attorney informed the court that Mr. Scott was in the hospital, recovering from an unspecified operation. Scott is the gentleman who walked into the Folger Library in Washington last year with a copy of a Shakespeare First Folio he said he wished to have authenticated on behalf of a Cuban owner. Instead, the Folger's expert identified it as being the copy stolen from the Durham University Library a decade ago. Scott, a most colorful, high-living playboy, denies the accuracy of the expert's identification, and sticks to his story that it belonged to the family of his Cuban girlfriend. Rather than seeking to hide, Scott has sought out publicity for the past year, making the most of, not to mention extending, his 15 minutes of fame. However, it now appears that authorities have further complicated his situation by leveling theft charges over a few other items, such as credit cards and a driver's license, found when his home was searched after the initial charge.
The case of E Baron Auction vs. Sandra Efroni appears to have quietly faded away. That was the case where an eBay seller took his customer to court for posting negative feedback. Efroni had purchased a couple of cheap medallions from E Baron, and felt both should have a case (just one did), the shipping was too expensive, and the seller had taken too long to repost the items after an earlier listing. However, all of these were clear to the buyer before she placed her bid. In other words, there was nothing deceptive in the seller's listing, but the buyer still did not approve of his business practices. Is this grounds for negative feedback? Ms. Efroni thought so, Baron thought not. Ebay is unclear on this point. E Baron took her to court in his home state of Illinois, not at all convenient for the reportedly out-of-work California resident.
For months, this case was postponed in the Cook County Circuit Court. Finally, on the latest hearing date, June 10, 2009, the court announced the case has been dismissed for want of prosecution. The parties can now return to buying and selling, though it is doubtful either has benefited from this whole episode, either financially or in terms of reputation. Meanwhile, the glaring hole in eBay's feedback system, that allows buyers to post damaging, possibly unfair negative comments, with sellers having no means to explain, remains unfilled.
In The News: Crime and Lawsuits
Willy the Wizard book photo, provided as part of PR release.
As one lawsuit ends, another begins. The estate of writer Adrian Jacobs has sued the publisher of the Harry Potter books for copyright infringement. They claim that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was based on Jacobs' The Adventures of Willy the Wizard, published in 1987. Jacobs himself never made such a claim, but that is easily explained by the fact that he died, "penniless" according to the estate, in 1997, before the Potter book was published. I have no idea whether there is any validity to this claim. I am one of the few people who has not read a Harry Potter book, and one of the very many who has not read a Willy the Wizard book. However, the publicity campaign on behalf of Willy over what should be a matter decided in court makes me suspicious. The final paragraph of a news release sent out by the estate begins, "Mr. Paul Allen, the trustee of the estate, said ... 'Because it is not right for the Estate to comment upon matters proceeding before the Court...'" Huh? If it's not right to comment, why are you doing so? A contact given in the press release provides the name of Max Markson, whom the Daily Telegraph describes as a "celebrity publicist." It makes one wonder if this is an attempt to sell copies of a forgotten book, or garner some sort of a nuisance settlement. Why else go to such efforts to publicize a private legal matter?
Theft of the most evil kind, the defacing of old books, has reached the heartland, the University of Kansas to be exact. Six books, valued at $5,000, were found to have had plates removed. These are not the library's most valuable possessions, and the lack of subject connection between the plates indicates the thief may be a small time operator looking to sell them on a venue such as eBay. Unfortunately, this theft ups the ante for libraries trying to balance security with access. The Kansas Library possesses over 4 million volumes. Of these, 400,000 are kept in their research library and 800,000 in the library annex. These are sites with restricted access. However, the library noted, "We do keep some relatively valuable books in open stacks; this is a common practice among many academic research libraries, because we must balance protecting the materials in our collections with fulfilling our mission of making them accessible to students, faculty, and other researchers and scholars." If not even 1.2 million books in restricted access is enough, will libraries, already competing with the ease and speed of online resources, have to become even more user unfriendly? These are difficult times for libraries.