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Class-Action Suits Against Authors and Publishers

25 June 2011

On the same day Passive Guy drops a little thought about class-action suits, the Boston Globe reports on two class-action lawsuits against authors and their publishers.

To be completely clear, based upon what the Globe writes, these seem to PG to be enormously without merit.


Before this year, there had been only two significant class action suits against major publishers, both of which were settled. Since January, however, both Simon & Schuster and Penguin Group have found themselves staring down the barrels of class action litigation.

S&S filed an aggressive response to a class action complaint from lawyer David Schoen, who has temporarily backed away from his attack on Jimmy Carter’s controversial 2006 tome, “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid.’’ In his plaintiffs’ lawsuit, Schoen said Carter’s book was “an anti-Israeli screed’’ characterized “by falsehoods, misrepresentations, misleading statements, omissions of material facts and outright lies.’’

More recently, two plaintiffs in Montana sued local resident Greg Mortenson and Penguin, which published the gajillion-selling “Three Cups of Tea,’’ a heartwarming tale about all the nice things that happen to strangers in the wilds of Central Asia. The sequel, “Stones Into Schools,’’ sold pretty well, too.

The Montana suit alleges that the author and publisher “have repeatedly fabricated material details in the books ‘Three Cups of Tea’ and ‘Stones into Schools.’ The purpose of these fabrications was to induce unsuspecting individuals to purchase these books and feel good about Mortenson, thinking he was such a humanitarian for the sole benefit of children. These fabrications have generated significant sums of money for Mortenson . . .; and Penguin in the form of book sales.’’

Link to the rest at The Boston Globe (you may have to register and/or log in to read the entire article on this annoying site)

The article goes on to discuss The First Amendment which certainly seems to cover the authors and books mentioned.

Legal Stuff

5 Comments to “Class-Action Suits Against Authors and Publishers”

  1. I think I’d be more interested in class action suits brought by groups of authors against publishers who might be withholding or losing or misplacing or mis-counting ebook royalties through ‘shoddy’ or ‘lax’ accounting practices. That would be of far more interest to me.
    The above seem to be disagreements about content and the validity/honesty of the material presented. I’m not exactly seeing class-action in either of those, but then I’m not a lawyer.

    • Julia – You’re correct about the class-action suits in the blog post. I’m not aware of any filed by authors yet.

  2. The first Mortenson book’s been the subject of a recent expose by 60 Minutes and a follow-up ebook by Jon Krakauer. Krakauer’s book is particularly enlightening. It’s the donations to the charity that are at issue. A smart lawyer needs to figure out how to file a suit on behalf of those who feel wronged because they’ve donated to the charity on the strength of the story told in the first book. That’s the real issue.

    • I’ve thought of five more points I should add to that post already. No time, no time…and here’s probably not the place to get into it, anyhow. Read Krakauer’s book for a better idea of some innovative angles for attacking Mortenson and his publisher. Who has the better points might be best decided by a judge but it seems more like an issue of fraud with regard to the spending of the money in the charity, and the way he got people to donate to the charity, and the way he got the charity to buy copies of the book (with those donations) to give away to publicize the charity (supposedly)… You get the idea.

    • LP – I can see the possibility of a fraud claim, but I think you would need much more than a book and the royalties the book earned.

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