A recently filed federal lawsuit marks a new chapter in an ongoing dispute between the editors of a book about a long-term education experiment in Winnetka, Ill. and the book’s former publisher.
Arline Paul, James Bellanca and Mark Paul are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, costs and attorneys’ fees from their once partner and publisher, Eric Miller, for copyright infringement and false advertising, among other things.
For their part, the plaintiffs claim Miller is essentially selling bootleg copies of the book and misrepresenting their involvement with him in publishing the book.
Miller claims the plaintiffs have not paid him what he is owed for his work on the book, and until they do so, he maintains all rights to the publication.
The suit comes as the plaintiffs gear up to try and sell the work to another publisher.
The book in dispute focuses on an experiment in education and learning that was carried out at New Trier High School in Winnetka from 1972 to 1983. Paul and Bellanca helped develop the experiment and Paul’s son, Mark, is a writer and editor.
The plaintiffs began gathering information about the experiment, including memoirs from those involved, in 2009 with the intent of compiling a book tentatively named “Becoming Self-Directed Learners: Student & Faculty Memoirs of an Experimenting High School 40 Years Later.”
All memoirs and other writing gathered for the book was contributed for free, the suit states.
Most of the material for the book was collected by the spring of 2012. It was then that the plaintiffs contacted Miller, an alumnus of New Trier High School and graduate of the experimental learning program himself, to publish the book. Miller is the editor and publisher at Wicker Park Press Ltd.
About a year later, the plaintiffs fired Miller and ended their publishing contract with him because of a “general lack of competence and a marked failure to follow through with tasks and responsibilities,” according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs then asked Miller to give them proof of expenses he’d incurred in connection to project, return materials retaining to the book, including the original manuscript, and remove references to the book from his website.
Miller sent a seven and a half page invoice for expenses that the editors “vigorously” disagreed with, according to the complaint. The issue of how much Miller is entitled to receive has yet to be settled, and is the basis for another lawsuit.
Miller is still selling a book about the school, and is representing the editors as being connected with the project, according to the complaint. The book was listed in Wicker Park Publishing’s spring/summer catalogue, which is available online, and is still displayed on its Facebook page.
The plaintiffs are claiming that when they fired Miller and ended the publishing contract, he lost his rights and ownership of the book.
The plaintiffs’ suit include counts for copyright infringement; false advertising; consumer fraud and deceptive businesses practices; deceptive trade practices; right to publicity; and declaratory relief stating that the plaintiffs own all the rights to the book.
In addition to damages, costs and legal fees, the plaintiffs are asking that Miller be prohibited from operating Wicker Park Publishing’s website, or starting a new website, until all references to the plaintiffs and the book are removed from his website.
The plaintiffs are also asking that a statement saying that Miller and Wicker Park Publishing do not hold any rights to the book be placed on Wicker Park Publishing’s homepage for six months after the court’s ruling, or six months from when it was first posted, whichever comes first.
The federal lawsuit comes after Miller filed a state lawsuit against the editors in Cook County Circuit Court.
Miller’s complaint against Arline Paul and Mark Paul primarily focuses the publishing contract Miller and the Pauls signed regarding the book, but also includes a count for false light invasion of privacy and a count for defamation per se.
Miller claims that the publishing contract is in effect until the matter of his expenses is settled, and he therefore still has rights to the manuscript. Miller has threatened to sue for copyright infringement and breach of contract if the plaintiffs publish the book before then.
Back in the federal case, the plaintiffs claim part of the reason they filed suit is because of Miller’s state case.
“Any hint of a copyright dispute, no matter how completely groundless, even frivolous, the allegations against the Editors by Miller and those acting on his behalf may be, would likely prove inimical to the Editors’ efforts to gain interest in the Center Book and third-party commitments to promote and sell the Center Book,” the suit states.
The plaintiffs are represented in the federal suit by Lake Forest attorney C. Michael Kendall.
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