Kickstarter might be a crowd-funding platform that can lead to the revival of entertainment properties (see Veronica Mars), but it's also being watched by publishers for the potential of infringing copyrights.
Witness HarperCollins Publishers, which has just forced Kickstarter to remove a proposal for a sequel to Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.
The project from UK illustrators Geoffrey O. Todd and Rich Berner intended to raise £25,000 for a book, Back to the Wild, that would share the story about what happened to Max and the creatures he encountered. The book was also going to be dedicated to the memory of Sendak, who passed away a year ago.
But in a DMCA notice that was registered at Kickstarter, HarperCollins indicates that even a proposal for an unproduced work can cross the line.
The project creators clearly didn't see this one coming.
According to a cached copy of their proposal, the creators say they had "been very careful not to impinge on Mr Sendak’s copyright and have taken the necessary legal advice around this whole project."
Their proposal included sample illustrations for the story of how Max is now in his '30s and how his daughter, Sophie, has been introduced to Wild Things and creates a solution to the problem of overcrowding among the creatures.
HarperCollins has its own remedy for the overcrowding.
According to a description of the allegedly infringing material in the DMCA notice, "The infringing material is a proposal to create a 'sequel' to WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, entitled 'Back to the Wild,' using the characters, scenes and copyrightable elements of the original work. Any such unauthorized 'sequel' would clearly violate the Estate's right to create derivative works."
The liability for a future endeavor is unclear. Kickstarter might not wish to be subject to any contributory infringement claim. On the other hand, Kickstarter was recently sued for terminating service for a user in the midst of a fundraising campaign.
The removal of the Back to the Wild project was first reported by GalleyCat, which noted that Sendak once vowed never to write a sequel to Where the Wild Things Are. In that interview, Sendak commented, "People said, ‘why didn’t you do Wild Things 2? Wild Things 1 was such a success’. Go to hell. Go to hell. I’m not a whore. I don’t do those things.”