Home » Copyright/Intellectual Property, Legal Stuff » Cassandra Clare hits back at Sherrilyn Kenyon’s lawsuit alleging copying

Cassandra Clare hits back at Sherrilyn Kenyon’s lawsuit alleging copying

14 February 2016

From The Guardian:

Young adult novelist Cassandra Clare is “surprised and disappointed” by a lawsuit accusing her of copying fantasy author Sherrilyn Kenyon’s novels, according to her lawyer, who has rejected Kenyon’ claims as baseless.

Kenyon’s case, filed last week, claims that when her Dark-Hunter books are compared to Clare’s Shadowhunter series, “in many respects, the elements are virtually identical”.

. . . .

In Clare’s first public response to the accusations, her lawyer John Cahill said: “Cassie was both surprised and disappointed that Ms Kenyon would file this baseless lawsuit, a decade after the debut of Cassie’s books …

“Tellingly, the lawsuit failed to identify a single instance of actual copying or plagiarism by Cassie … There is little chance of anyone confusing Cassie’s young adult themes and orientation with the sometimes very adult storylines in Ms Kenyon’s books. Indeed, we expect that all of Ms Kenyon’s claims will be dismissed.”

. . . .

Cahill added that Kenyon’s suit “rests on a basic misunderstanding of copyright law and Cassie’s totally original work”.

“The law does not protect ideas and myths, it protects only the expression of those ideas,” Cahill’s statement reads. “For instance, Ms Kenyon complains that Cassie stole her idea to use ‘normal objects … imbued with magical properties such as a cup, a sword, and a mirror,’ but those ideas and many others to which Ms Kenyon lays claim have long been part of our storytelling tradition from ancient times to the present.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Scath for the tip.

Copyright/Intellectual Property, Legal Stuff

40 Comments to “Cassandra Clare hits back at Sherrilyn Kenyon’s lawsuit alleging copying”

  1. No matter what the fan fiction community may want to say about her she is, in this case, absolutely correct. Neither standard genre tropes nor ideas are subject to copyright, only their expression. Unless Kenyon has more to go on than that this doesn’t appear to be a very well thought out case.

  2. Aside from the excerpts, apparently some of Kenyon’s comparisons are of things that happened in Clare’s series BEFORE Kenyon wrote similar things in hers.

    Some of my readers have read both series, and mentioned that during our conversation about the situation prior to this article.

    “In addition, many of the characters and events cited as similar by Kenyon in her lawsuit appeared in Cassie’s works prior to their appearance in Kenyon’s,” said Cahill. “The lawsuit is filled with basic factual inaccuracies about Cassie’s work that would be recognised by any reader of her novels. For example, the lawsuit identifies a main character’s stepfather as her ‘best friend’, alleges that the term ‘daimons’ appears in her books (the word is never used) and claims that one of her main characters is based on a Kenyon character whose similar attributes were first revealed some three years after Cassie had created and told the backstory of the relevant protagonist.”

  3. http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2016/02/sherrilyn-kenyon-sues-cassandra-clare-for-wilfully-copying-her-novels/ from a couple days ago.

    A few links in the comments — a couple which others thought proved there was more to the case and that the case had a chance …

    • If you mean the link to the list of similarities presented, some of those similarities apparently aren’t “Kenyon did it first” but rather “Clare did it first” instances, which is what the quote from Clare’s lawyer is in relation too.

      Not saying Clare didn’t use similar things or have similar characters to Kenyon’s. Obviously, there are similarities.

      But some of those similarities are long known tropes or elements used by loads of other writers, and some were used by Clare before Kenyon used them.

      Which would seem to weaken her case by listing those Clare actually used first, since she’s accusing Clare of “wilfully copying” her work.

      • I mean, how can one copy something from another, when the the other hasn’t done the copied thing first? 😉

        • Time travel, duh!

          Obviously the subtext in Kenyon’s complaint is Clare is a time traveling alien, she just didn’t know which race so couldn’t add it to the lawsuit.

          • Time travelling alien? That’s a bit of a stretch.

            She’s obviously an entity that exists in several points in time simultaneously.

            • Come on, people. Einstein’s gravity waves have just been detected changing the flow of time.

              And it was Clare riding these times waves that triggered her own detection.

              She should have been more discreet, of course, but that doesn’t warrant a lawsuit.


          • LOL. I recall an SF short story I read as a kid (If anyone can provide the author and title, I’d appreciate it.) where 2 SF authors with very similar personalities and both living in NYC wound up submitting near identical stories to an editor.

            One wrote painstakingly and slowly, the other quickly. The quick writer ususally submitted his story first. The slow author was then accused by the editor of somehow idea copying.

            The slow author was incensed at this continuing situation. He slowly retyped a Lovecraft story, then sat on it. The quick writer submitted his story, which the editor bought — it was, after all, a d**n good story.

            When the story was published, readers complained that it was a plagerized Lovecraft story, and quick writer’s career was tanked.

            The premise of this story was a hazy telepathic connection between these two similar personality/lifestyle/location writers, and that quick writer subconsciously “lifted” slow writer’s original stories and submitted first. It was a very amusing story. 🙂

  4. there have been since forever weasel authors who change a few words around, using other’s hard earned works as a “template’ to copy from. Literally often writing page by page from another’s work. One hears such at ‘writers’ gatherings, from, I think, the incredibly naive who want more than learning craft, to be noticed, be important. It appears they wind up being derivative rather than important, as the reading community is often quite sophisticated about who has the verve and who has second and third paler water of the original soup.

    I’d have to read the entire law suit to see what all elements are; it’s hard to parse with the fragments noted, but overall, in a writerly rather than legal direction, I’d say that Miss Kenyon would do well to lob her fastest smash-shot over the net and write immediately for YA as well as A’s. And dominate her field there also.

    See it in sculpture classes all the time, not only in writing: There are originalists who take the wire armature and flesh it out with vital shine and grace, with a sure touch and the end result is wild and beautiful. Then there are those who have similar armature and try to copy the ones who have the verve innate, the ‘it,’, the seeming magical eye and touch, and theirs is ok, but would be the difference in spirit and definition between a living monarch butterfly and one pinned into a picture frame. One alive. The other ok, still retaining color of sorts, but dead. Deader than dead.

    Something about original conceptions that come to us, makes the spirit live and sing. Trying to pull /take/copy spirit from what we see elsewhere, instead of the mysterious force that “has us”, colonizes us in unique ways in our own voice, is, to me, folly. A guarantee of perhaps nice, but also deadened.And massively, often, deadly and boringly predictable.

    Just my .02

    • USAF–this is a brilliant explication of the power of originality and how impossible it is to truly replicate. Thank you.

      • best to you Karen, you are right,
        ‘power’ is the operative word in originality… force, verve

        to me, the biggest most gross lie born of invidia is ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’ Cant tell you how many professors and writers who are insanely covetous have said such. I think, to try to make others forget their amazing creative magneto.

        Seriously, to believe there is nothing new under the sun, one must never ever look into a telescope or… microscope. One must believe the entire ja-jillion bodies universe never moves, never changes, never allows its billions and billions of possibilities affect/ flow through/ move us.

        • “Nothing new under the sun” has always irritated me, and I think you hit on why it has. Like the idea there are only seven basic plots, it tries to make stories into something static that can be pinned down, when great stories are always dynamic with a soul of their own. Thus they can never be successfully imitated. Dynamic stories are why I reread books I love. Even though not a word has changed since I read Lord of the Rings at age 14, I have a far different reaction to it now I’m older. I would rather reread a great story a hundred times than read a hundred pale imitations of it. Every time I reread a great story, I get something different from a it, a new insight.

          • Don’t EVEN get me started on “six-word stories”. THEY’RE NOT STORIES. They’re ideas, they’re first sentences, they are not stories.

            A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Six words that leave the reader to infer everything are not stories.


          • Phew. Forgot to say, YES! Karen. Totally agree. The rant took me over. 🙂

            • 🙂 Thanks–and I get the rant. If six words can be a story, I’ve written 166,667 such stories consecutively.

              • Karen and Meryl. Six word stories sound like ,unless they are near haiku, to be about 1 inch deep

                • Agreed, USAF. Something like a haiku would be the only exception to me too, and that’s not a story but a pithy observation.

    • Kenyon already does write YA — her YA series, Chronicles of Nick, debuted in 2010.

  5. I’m not an attorney, keep that in mind.

    I read the legal complaint and it does seem to hinge solely on whether “shadowhunter” infringes on “dark-hunter” to cause confusion in the marketplace.

    There was a similarity claimed between two sigils but that seems minor. I say that because if you do a Google image search for shadowhunter and dark-hunter, you’ll see that shadowhunter’s main emblam, a kind of simplified diamond with wings, looks vaguely similar in shape to dark-hunter’s “Jaden’s emblem” (whatever that is). Dark-hunter’s main emblem is entirely different. Whether that’s enough to claim infringement I don’t know.

    I guess in the end, I’m agreeing with Petit’s take on this. While Mia’s link to the exhibits detailing the similarities between the stories is on its surface compelling (I haven’t read the books), the main complaint focuses solely on dark-hunter / shadowhunter confusion contention.

    (Although I must admit, if CC did break down those books and copied the elements–but see Scath’s comment above noting the problems with that contention–I’d be amazed at the amount of effort that would take. Seems like it’d be easier just to roll your own.)

    • Slight coding correction to Mr Peschel’s approval of my offhand comments: My comments are here at PV, not on my blawg. And won’t be on my blawg: I got an outside consult about two hours after that comment that counsels keeping my mouth shut for now, until there’s a formal filing in response to SK’s complaint. Then I will post at my blawg… and I won’t show mercy* to anyone.

      * Mr/Ms USAF probably knows this one: “mercy” can be found in a dictionary between “maim” and “mutilate” — but not in my job description.

    • I had a contest winning entry in 2006 that used Shadows and Shadow Hunters.

      Please. These are so common in SF. Babylon 5 had Shadows. Probably a gazillion books. Seriously? Dark Hunter is so vague sounding. It’s not a fresh, new, made-up title. Dark Hunter and Shadow Hunter —neither ring as very original.

    • The complaint lays out more than just a weak trademark infringement claim. The complaint lays out a “filing off of the serial numbers” type of copyright infringement. All of the little similarities alone look petty when viewed individually, but when viewed as a whole, it looks more like Claire (as USAF mentioned above) used Kenyon’s work as a template for Claire’s books. At least that’s what I glean from the complaint and especially that Exhibit 3, which compares all the elements of the characters and plot, etc. (I haven’t read either author’s works).

  6. What bothers me about the whole situation is that Kenyon’s comparisons in support of her “wilfully copied” argument aren’t original inventions by her, and have been used by hundreds or thousands of other authors, prior to and since her Dark-Hunter novels were published.

    I’m also bothered by the fact it’s pointed out that the popularity of her series seems to be understood as everyone being exposed to it.

    I’d never heard of Kenyon or Dark-Hunters until maybe 4-5 years ago, and then only because I saw a couple of her books at the library. I’ve only read one of her Dark-Hunter novels, and it wasn’t my cuppa, so never read the rest.

    I’d be pretty upset to turn around and get sued by Kenyon because I used a “magic mirror” in one of my UF stories published after hers, because she did it before me. Though of course, she didn’t do it before Snow White (which was my “determining inspiration.”). 😉

  7. Maybe Jim Butcher could sue both of them? Just sayin’.

    • Or Maybe the Tolkien estate should sue Robert Jordan’s estate for The Eye of the World? Or Terry Brooks for The Sword of Shannara?

  8. ‘… imbued with magical properties such as a cup, a sword, and a mirror,…’ Oh oh, J.K. Rowling is in big trouble now!

    • a cup, a sword, and a mirror

      All items used in pagan ceremonies since, well, forever. I guess great-times-a-thousand-grannie can come back and sue them all for stealing.

      Clare is a known plagiarist, so it’s no surprise that someone sued her. Of course, it’s not going to be easy or cheap to win the case, going by what I’ve seen others say (like, Kenyon came out with some of the stuff after Clare).

      As to the breaking down and slightly re-writing, I’d bet that’s done all the time. Some do it better than others. In the Barbie doll world, dolls made to imitate her were called clones (and she was basically stolen from the Bild Lili doll). Happens all over, I guess.

      • This is the other thing I keep seeing: “Clare’s a known plagiarist.”

        That’s been well-documented, as well as Clare’s reactions to being accused of doing it.

        But Kenyon isn’t accusing her of plagiarizing. Clare didn’t take Kenyon’s books and try to pass them off as her work to anyone.

        The “ideas” part doesn’t fly as proof of plagiarism either, because all the ideas/things mentioned in the complaint have been used by other writers long before she or Clare used them.

        If Clare plagiarized Kenyon’s ideas, then Kenyon’s guilty of plagiarizing some of Clare’s as well, since Clare used some of those ideas/elements in her series BEFORE Kenyon used them herself.

        The only point mentioning Clare’s past plagiarism has is to remind everyone she did wrong in the past, and assume that’s she done wrong again.

        Also to make it clear that nothing’s ever forgotten on the internet, so you know, don’t ever make mistakes.

    • are you kidding? I’M in trouble now: cup -for my soap– mirror, yup, gotta be able to see. Sword, sure, my razor. How else does one shave.

  9. It boils down to the TV series having “shadowhunters” in the title.
    However, Kenyon wasn’t the author I expected to sue her.
    Claire/Clare’s previous history may be against her, if not in the courts, then with her audience.

  10. Everyone knows the best thing she’s ever written (she being Claire, or Clare) is the Very Secret Diaries, right?


    (Just click on her name.)

    • LOL–thanks for reminding me of this, Will. Read these back in 2002 and had quite a chuckle then. It’s the only thing of Clare’s I’ve actually read.

  11. I guess I’d better not write any books about cops and bad guys.

  12. That “Clare did it first” thing is a fallacy. While it is true that Kenyon’s Chronicles of Nick were published AFTER The Mortal Instruments, Nick’s backstory is threaded throughout the Dark-Hunter series – which came out BEFORE The Mortal Instruments. This comment on a Dear Author post explains it: http://dearauthor.com/features/industry-news/wednesday-news-kenyon-v-clare-editions-at-play-star-trek-continues-and-disneys-so-meta/comment-page-1/#comment-808579

    Here’s a photo of an early edition of City of Bones, which includes the word “Darkhunters”, before it was changed in later printings: https://twitter.com/has_bookpushers/status/698155918534537216

    Here’s a Tumblr post with screenshots of Clare’s fanfiction compared with TV/film scripts: http://posh-brit-guys-are-hot.tumblr.com/post/138456381901/fuckyeahdiomedes-amooseintransition Not word-for-word copying, but lightly rewritten. That doesn’t relate to Kenyon, though; this is just Clare’s history.

    Also, Clare tried to sell merchandise of her Lord of the Rings fanfic, but she may not have gained permission from the Tolkien Estate before she did: http://web.archive.org/web/20020526055402/http://verysecretdiaries.com/ Again, this is nothing to do with Kenyon – just Clare’s history.

    I still don’t think writers unrelated to the case should worry about how the case affects them until the outcome. Kenyon isn’t trying to stop ANYONE and EVERYONE from writing specific things – just Clare. You only need to worry about “if this sets a precedent” when/if the time comes. The case is in early days yet – I’ve heard these suits can take years.

  13. I think it’s time for a series about the Shadow-Hunters who war with the Dark Hunters over the rights to control the all-powerful Rune Sigil.

  14. Write Fight! Write Fight! Guess we’ll see who’s right! 🙂

  15. Whether she’s successful or not with this case I would think it would prevent any future plagiarism by CC. Maybe that was the real goal of the effort to begin with?

  16. Having read the complaint, I was surprised that there is not one specific instance of actual copying of text.

    She may have something stronger on the trademark claims, if her facts are true.

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