Cassandra Clare’s lawyer has made the first public response to the lawsuit taken out against her by urban fantasy author Sherrilyn Kenyon.
ICYMI: Kenyon’s case alleges copyright and trademark infringement; the main comparison being drawn between Kenyon’s ‘Dark-Hunters’ and Clare’s ‘Shadowhunters’. Kenyon is asking for ‘damages, lost profits, and an end to the infringement.’
In response, one of the most important comments Clare’s lawyer makes is that “the law does not protect ideas and myths, it protects only the expression of those ideas.”
Well, not quite, V. But ideas are slippery and certain symbols and characters have been made what is called ‘archetypal’, which basically means they are ‘recurring’. Some might even call them ‘cliche’, seen again and again in literature and film. The romance author, Courtney Milan is quoted saying “Sherrilyn Kenyon didn’t invent the idea of a band of humans fighting the supernatural”.
The tricky thing about narrative is that it repeats itself. It has to. The story of our lives often follow similar paths with similar themes and issues and it’s only natural that those stories that communicate this effectively, will be reused.
Huh. Where have we seen…
Part of Kenyon’s case points out the similar use of “normal objects … imbued with magical properties such as a cup, a sword, and a mirror”, all of which are ancient, mythic symbols that could be called ‘timeless’, or indeed, in the right (or wrong) context, ‘cliche’.
To substitute these symbols which have been “long been part of our storytelling tradition from ancient times to the present”, for something else might work:
But it can lose potency and risks becoming a parody. Which is totes fine if that’s your goal.
The point is, it’s not an easy case to navigate. When does an idea become solid enough to become a copiable fact?
Both authors have strong fan bases, and each camp has for the most part been seen to be supportive and sensitive towards both sides. Lawsuits aren’t fun (no duh) but we hope the case is settled as peacefully as possible, with a satisfactory result for all involved.