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ABFFE UPDATE

July 31, 1999 Previously in ABFFE Update Volume 1, Number 9
ABFFE Web Site Now Offering Banned Books Material, Pleasantville T-Shirt

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression is now accepting orders for material for Banned Books Week 1999 (September 25-October 2) through its web site, abffe.com. Banned Books Week kits are automatically sent to ABFFE members in early September. But you will still want to visit the site to look at the special T-shirt that ABFFE has created for Banned Books Week based on last year's hit film "Pleasantville." In the movie, citizens of Pleasantville, upset by changes occurring in their town, attack the library and burn books. An artist protests by painting a mural depicting the book burning. The ABFFE "Pleasantville" T-shirt feature art from the mural, which was painted by noted Los Angeles artist Frank Romero.

Pleasantville T-shirts and additional Banned Books Week material can also be ordered from ABFFE by telephone, fax and mail. The August 9 issue of "Bookselling This Week" will contain an order form.

ABFFE Fights Dustin Hoffman Over Expansion of Publicity Rights

Nobody would deny that celebrities have a right to prevent unauthorized commercial exploitation of their name or likeness. But, as recent events in California have shown, the so-called "right of publicity" can come into conflict with the First Amendment and even threaten booksellers.

ABFFE has recently taken sides against the actor Dustin Hoffman in a case he brought against "L.A. Magazine" over the use of his image in a fashion article. The article used digital wizardry to put a new dress on Hoffman's character Dorothy from the film, "Tootsie." Hoffman contends the picture was a commercial use of his image. The magazine argued that the image appeared in an article, not an advertisement, and is therefore protected by the First Amendment. ABFFE joined an amicus brief filed by newspaper and magazine publishers who are worried that the case will widen the right of publicity, giving stars unwarranted leverage over editorial content. The Association of American Publishers also joined the brief.

California Bill Gives Families of Dead Celebrities Power Over Portrayals

As if to underline the danger of an expanded right of publicity, the California Senate has approved a bill that gives the families of deceased celebrities more control over the use of their names and images. 

ABFFE has joined those opposing the bill because it creates the possibility that a bookseller could be dragged into a lawsuit filed by the family of a dead celebrity that is unhappy with the way their relative has been portrayed in a biography or even a work of historical fiction. Until now, literary works have been exempt from laws protecting "the right of publicity," which gives celebrity families the right to control the use of the deceased's name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness. However, S.B. 209 eliminates the explicit exemption of literary works in favor of a vague guarantee of First Amendment rights, which will probably encourage many lawsuits. Although publishers would be the main targets of these suits, booksellers are likely to be dragged in as well and could be forced to pay monetary damages. It doesn't even matter that they did not know that they were doing anything wrong.

Both AAP and PEN American Center have announced their opposition to S.B. 209. PEN's statement was signed by 19 of the nation's leading writers, including Edward Albee, Paul Auster, Russell Banks, Judy Blume, Ron Chernow, Don DeLillo, Jamaica Kincaid, Arthur Miller, Susuan Sontag, William Styron and Amy Tan.

S.B. 209 is now being considered by the Assembly. California booksellers who have not contacted their Assembly member are urged to do so as soon as possible. For more information, contact Chris Finan, 212/587-4025, .

ABFFE to Undertake Strategic Planning Process

Hoping to build on recent gains, ABFFE will soon begin a strategic planning process similar to the one that has reshaped the American Booksellers Association. Recent gains in membership and the success of ABFFE's first online auction in April have demonstrated a potential for growth. The plan will provide strategies to encourage growth and ensure that booksellers remain in the forefront of those defending First Amendment rights. ABFFE's strategic planning process will be led by Suzanne M. Welsh, a former bookseller from Mansfield, Ohio, who has served on the board of the Great Lakes Booksellers Association. Welsh worked as a senior marketing manager at Ingram Book Company until resigning earlier this year to establish her own consulting business in Cleveland. She has previously prepared strategic plans for the  Junior League of Cleveland and the YWCA of Mansfield.

Suzanne Welsh Joins ABFFE as Director of Special Projects

Welsh is also joining the staff of ABFFE. She will serve as director of special projects, which will give her responsibilities relating to fund development, marketing and communication. Her primary responsibility will be overseeing ABFFE's auctions, both the Silent Auction at BookExpo America and its online auctions. Welsh was hired to replace Audrey Eisman, the Silent Auction manager since 1994, when she was named the ABA's Marketing and Education Coordinator.

Reminder: Titles Sought for ABFFE Violence Reading List

ABFFE members have made several good suggestions for titles to include on its projected "Selected Reading List on Violence and Youth," which will be distributed to booksellers soon. If you have a suggestion, please call Chris Finan, (212) 587-4025. You can also reach him by e-mail, , or fax, (212) 587-2436.

 

 Previously in ABFFE Update

 

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