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Information About Suntrust Bank v. Houghton Mifflin Company

April 20, 2001
Contact: Patti Embry-Tautenhan
BSMG Worldwide

Houghton Mifflin, author express disappointment over ruling. Publishing Company says it will appeal

BOSTON - Houghton Mifflin and author Alice Randall said they were disappointed in Judge Charles Pannell Jr.'s decision today to grant the Mitchell Trusts a preliminary injunction to prevent the publication of The Wind Done Gone.

Houghton Mifflin said it will appeal the decision. Randall appealed to readers and writers.

"I wrote this parody to ridicule a book that has wounded generations of Americans," said Randall. "I look forward to the day when readers will be able to judge my book for themselves."

"I strongly disagreed with today's ruling. As many writers and experts from Henry Louis Gates Jr. to Pat Conroy have affirmed, Ms. Randall's work is a parody," said Wendy Strothman, Executive Vice President, Trade and Reference Division Houghton Mifflin Company. "Today's ruling, if allowed to stand, will have a chilling effect on all those who seek to use free expression and parody to explode myths and provoke new thinking. Alice Randall's subtle and witty parody offers a powerful antidote to the painful stereotypes and treatment of African Americans portrayed in Gone With the Wind. The Mitchell Trusts are threatening to re-define American parody as we know it.

"For 170 years, Houghton Mifflin has protected and promoted the intellectual property rights of America's finest writers from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Philip Roth. We understand the value of copyright and an author's right to control characters and sequels. At the same time, we respect the free exchange of ideas that fuels the publishing industry and that enable us to publish important books that change the way people think. Alice Randall's slender book transforms the reader's understanding of an epic work that has caused significant pain and misconception of a key time in America's history," Strothman said.

Earlier this month, attorneys for the Mitchell Trusts filed a lawsuit in the Northern District Court in Atlanta to stop the publication of Randall's book, claiming it violates their copyright. Houghton Mifflin believes that the book is a political parody and that its publication is proper under the fair use doctrine of the Copyright Act and the First Amendment.

A growing list of authors and scholars have publicly voiced their opposition to the Mitchell Trusts' efforts to stop publication of the book, including Toni Morrison, who was the first African American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Shelby Foote, noted Civil War historian, and Charles R. Johnson, author of Middle Passage, winner of the National Book Award.

"Rarely have so many preeminent authors spoken out in support of a young writer whose work they admire," Strothman said. "Toni Morrison, Larry McMurtry, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and many others, have joined in this battle. We are immensely grateful for their support."

Houghton Mifflin is a leading publisher of textbooks, instructional technology, assessments and other educational materials for elementary and secondary schools and colleges. The Company also publishes an extensive line of reference works and fiction and nonfiction for adults and young readers. The Company's Internet site can be found at www.hmco.com.

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Suntrust Bank v. Houghton Mifflin Company Court Papers

Houghton Mifflin Company's Press Statements

Questions and Answers about this dispute
Letter of Support
List of Authors
Biography of Alice Randall

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