New York, NY, May 14, 2001—PEN American Center, the national association of writers, today joined a number of First Amendment and anti-censorship organizations in calling on a Federal Appeals Court to reverse a lower court decision enjoining publication of Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone. The case will be heard by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on May 25 in Atlanta.

In announcing the organization’s decision to reiterate a position taken before the District Court, PEN’s President Frances FitzGerald called the case “a vexing one for writers because of the importance of reconciling two core values of the organization: the vigorous protection of copyrights and emphatic opposition to prior restraints on the publication of books.”

Executive Director Michael Roberts stressed that PEN was again taking no position on the conflicting claims of copyright infringement versus permissible use. “The Mitchell Estate argues that The Wind Done Gone is an unauthorized sequel that deploys characters and situations from Gone With the Wind in violation of the Estate’s exclusive control of copyright. Houghton-Mifflin asserts that Ms. Randall’s book is a transformative work employing characters and situations from the original to an insurgent purpose. We believe these claims need to be sorted out at a trial. Our quarrel is with the use of an injunction, which effectively thwarts public discussion of important issues and ideas, exactly the sort of discussion the First Amendment was designed to protect. A court should be very reluctant to use this maximum weapon, particularly in the absence of a persuasive showing of irreparable harm to the proprietors of Gone With the Wind.”

FitzGerald added, “PEN views copyright as crucial and favors strong penalties for its infringement. The copyright regime encourages and rewards creative achievement and is essential to the survival of a vibrant literary culture. But in most cases this essential right can be fully protected, and an injured party’s losses compensated, through an award of monetary damages. PEN believes the freedom and rights of all writers and readers are best protected by minimizing the use of legal proceedings to interfere with the publication of books. This book purports to say something important about race; how can we judge that assertion without reading it? The Mitchell Estate’s interests can be fully protected at trial, but first attend to the freedom of the public to read, discuss, and judge.”

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 105, lsiems@pen.org