Mitchell estate says book infringes on 'Gone With the Wind' copyright

Wednesday, March 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ A black writer's version of Margaret Mitchell's classic ``Gone With the Wind,'' penned from the perspective of an ex-slave, has Mitchell's estate crying copyright infringement.

Acting as trustee of the estate, SunTrust Bank is requesting a temporary restraining order to stop the publication of ``The Wind Done Gone,'' by Alice Randall. Publisher Houghton Mifflin says it still intends to publish the novel.

``Once upon a time in America, African-Americans were forbidden by law to read and write,'' Randall said in a statement issued Tuesday. ``It saddens me and breaks my heart there are those who would try to set up obstacles for a black woman to tell her story.''

The lawsuit calls Randall's novel a ``blatant and wholesale theft'' of ``Gone With the Wind.''

The court will have to decide whether Randall's work borrows too heavily from Mitchell's saga of the South during and after the Civil War. In ``The Wind Done Gone,'' the narrator, Cynara, is the mulatto offspring of the white master and a black woman on the plantation ``Tata.'' The book begins in 1873 during Reconstruction and has references to Cynara's half-sister, ``Other,'' and Other's former husband, ``R.'' Cynara is the name of a poem from which the phrase ``gone with the wind'' was taken.

A hearing is scheduled Thursday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

Houghton Mifflin issued a statement Tuesday calling the book fair comment. ``It is unconscionable to deny anyone to comment on a book that has taken on such mythic status in American culture,'' executive vice president Wendy Strothman said.

Maura Wogan, one of the Mitchell estate's lawyers, said SunTrust has a duty to protect the copyright to the 1936 best-selling novel to ensure it is not mistaken for an authorized sequel.

``The Mitchell Trust has authorized sequels to `Gone With the Wind,''' she said, referring to Alexandra Ripley's ``Scarlett'' and another sequel in the works.

``Publication of `The Wind Done Gone', of course, will have a huge impact on the trust and is to be published without their permission at all,'' Wogan said.