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Judge hears arguments in Gone With the Wind parody case

By The Associated Press


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ATLANTA — A federal judge heard arguments yesterday on whether he should issue an injunction against publication of a Gone With the Wind satire.

Attorneys for the estate of author Margaret Mitchell asked U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell to block Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone, because they said it borrows too liberally from the classic.

Lawyers for the publisher, Houghton Mifflin, called the book, due out in June, a political parody that has a right to be published.

"There is no evidence that publication will have any harm to Gone With the Wind," said Joe Beck, who represents Houghton Mifflin. Randall "was making a political comment on slaves and free slaves and their relation to the American South," he said.

Pannell did not rule immediately but said he expected to decide as early as tomorrow.

He will rule later on the merits of a suit by the Mitchell estate that claims Randall has infringed on the Gone With the Wind copyright by writing what essentially amounts to a sequel.

"A political parody was my original pitch," Randall said after the hearing. "If I had written a sequel to Gone With the Wind, no one in my family would have spoken to me."

Other prominent writers, including Pat Conroy, Harper Lee and Toni Morrison, have publicly supported Randall in the dispute.

In Randall's novel, the narrator, Cynara, is the mulatto offspring of the white master and a black woman on the plantation Tata. The book begins in 1873 during Reconstruction and has references to Cynara's half sister "Other" and Other's former husband, "R."

"Other" apparently is Gone With the Wind heroine Scarlett O'Hara and "R." her third husband, Rhett Butler. Tata appears to be the O'Hara Plantation, Tara. Cynara is the name of the poem from which Mitchell took the phrase "gone with the wind."

Beck argued during the hearing that Mitchell's novel depicted blacks as "scarcely just one generation out of the African jungle" and said the language alone illustrates that Randall's book is a parody and not a sequel.

"The Wind Done Gone does not continue that language or the insults," he said.

Wendy Strothman, an executive vice president at Houghton Mifflin who sat next to Randall at the hearing, also said the book was serious parody.

"We're not in the sequel business," she added.

Martin Garbus, a First Amendment lawyer representing the Mitchell trust, said he respected Randall's mission to write about slavery but called her book "an insult to black writers."

"She's written this story using someone else's property," he said. "If Ms. Randall were ever ripped off, she'd be sitting on this side of the courtroom. I wish her all the luck in her new book, but this book cannot be published."

Garbus maintains the case is not about free speech but about providing protection to authors and other creative artists.

"I can sum up our argument this way: If Houghton Mifflin and Ms. Randall win this case, it will be the end of copyright law as we know it," he said after the hearing. "The law will be so weakened that it will no longer have the power to protect anyone."


Wind Done Gone injunction lifted
Federal appeals court panel calls previous ban ‘drastic’ prior restraint; author Alice Randall vows parody of Gone With the Wind will be published quickly.  05.25.01