Too close for comfort?

Canadian author alleges publisher and U.K. writer stole idea for children’s book

Covers of the book published by Scholastic (left) and Carruthers' self-published book.

We recently shared the story of a freelancer who suspected a profile idea she had pitched was stolen by the publication (it turned out that likely wasn’t the case). Losing an idea for a story is one thing, but there are many other article ideas in the sea, as they say, and forgetting about it and moving on is usually the best course of action. But what if the idea is a big idea—a book-sized idea? What to do then?

If you’re London, Ont. author David Carruthers, you sue.

Carruthers’ story, as reported by the London Free Press, goes like this: he first pitched a children’s book to Scholastic Canada in 1995 and then twice more; each time, the book was rejected. He eventually published the book, The Bird That Wanted to Fly, with his own money. This past January, he came across a book published by Scholastic called The Penguin Who Wanted to Fly, which in his opinion bore a too-strong resemblance to his own book. Scholastic’s title was written by a U.K. author, Catherine Vase, and was published a decade after Carruthers’.

Just like with articles, the idea for a book can’t be copyrighted; however, plots and characters can. The similarities between the two books that Carruthers alleges are too similar include: the books’ covers (see above); the main characters (a penguin with a polar bear friend); the plots (a penguin who wants to fly); and a character name (in Carruthers’ book the penguin is nicknamed Flip-Flap-Flop, and in Vase’s book the penguin is named Flip-flop).

Carruthers is suing Scholastic Canada, Scholastic U.K., and Vase for $2.5 million. Neither of the Scholastic offices nor Vase have responded to the lawsuit’s allegations. Carruthers posted the info about the two books to his Facebook page and wants public feedback on whether his book was stolen or not. Still, the author doesn’t seem entirely embittered by the experience. He told the London Free Press he thinks Scholastic is a great company and he’d like them to publish one of his books.

Posted on October 26, 2011 at 10:37 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Written by Chantelle
    on October 29, 2011 at 11:06 am
    Reply · Permalink

    There was an error in The London Free Press as Catherine Vase’s Penguin is named Flip Flop, not the polar bear in her story.

    • Written by editor
      on October 29, 2011 at 11:37 am
      Reply · Permalink

      Thanks for letting me know, Chantelle. I’m going to correct that in the post.

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