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Author Topic: An odd little copyright question regarding novel covers  (Read 255 times)

MYK

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For those of you who are science fiction fans, you may remember Walter Jon Williams' novel, "Voice of the Whirlwind".  He re-released it yesterday with a new cover:

http://www.walterjonwilliams.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/VotW18.6x9-683x1024.jpg

Also within the last few days, someone else released a novel with this cover:

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/5134FWXPS8L._SY346_.jpg

The core part of the image is identical.  There are a few minor changes made, such as the blur, some red "dust" highlights, and a slight vertical compression.

If the covers were by two different artists -- or rather one artist and one copyright-infringing "artist" -- then it's obvious that this is actionable.

If the covers were by the same artist, and Williams received an assignment of the copyright, then I believe it would still be copyright infringement.

But assuming arguendo that there is no copyright assignment of the first cover image to Walter Jon Williams, and that the artist is the same, would there be any way to go after the artist for reuse of this sort, if not under copyright then as some sort of trade-dress-like action?  An argument could be made that the two highly similar covers would confuse readers into thinking that they are in the same series, or that the second author is a pseudonym for Williams.

A few months ago, Amazon halted sales of a book over a similar cover-confusion issue;  in that case, the mimic second book was deliberately mocking the first book.

http://file770.com/?p=33951

But that was just Amazon kicking Vox Day in the nuts because, well, Vox Day.  'Nuff said.  I'm wondering what legal issues and avenues might exist in cases like this.
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"The life of a patent solicitor has always been a hard one."  Judge Giles Rich, Application of Ruschig, 379 F.2d 990.

Disclaimer: not only am I not a lawyer, I'm not your lawyer.  Therefore, this does not constitute legal advice.

Tobmapsatonmi

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Re: An odd little copyright question regarding novel covers
« Reply #1 on: 10-10-17 at 04:28 pm »

Wait and see if those in the know (artchain or smokin) contradict me, but I think it'd be unusual to actually assign cover art for a book.  More likely license it exclusively or non-exclusively.

I'm assuming in this case that Oleastri just told WJW it was non-exclusive or no deal.

OR the cover on the "Recruit" book may be an infringing knock-off of Oleastri's work (noting I can find the cover art credits for Oleastri when searching the WJW book but not for the James Victor "Recruit" book).
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