Emily the Strange Sues Possible Inspiration Source

Emily the Strange has a movie in development for 2010. Often, when that happens, filmmakers want to be sure that the property ownership is clear. (No one wants another Watchmen situation.)

So, in an example of how twisted our legal system can be, Cosmic Debris (owners of the Emily the Strange property) has sued Marjorie Sharmat and Marc Simont. Who are they? The writer and illustrator of the Nate the Great series of children’s books (news via Robot6). One particular book from 1978, Nate the Great Goes Undercover, features a character named Rosamond who had long black hair and was kinda creepy.

No big deal, there are plenty of “goth girls” in literature, right? (And in fact, that’s Cosmic Debris’ argument.) However, as discussed here, one of Emily’s very first appearances features her in the same pose as Rosamond, with very similar looking (mirror image) cats surrounding her, and accompanied by the very same text, “She looked like she always looks. Strange.”

Emily comparison to Rosamond

Most observers find the two images too close together to be a coincidence — same hair, same dress, same shoes. Rob Reger, Cosmic Debris owner, says, “Nathan Carrico first conceived of and used Emily as a character for a skateboard design in 1991… Although the designs and worlds of Rosamond and Emily are different and readily distinguishable, … we phased out the original skateboard design upon learning of the Rosamond character.” To me, that seems an interesting decision if Rosamond truly had no influence on Emily’s creation.

Here are more comparison pictures showing more similarities. This all hit the blogverse in December of last year. You would expect those who appear to be the ones infringed upon to be the ones suing, in the normal course of things (as many comments suggested), but now, Cosmic Debris wants a judge to prevent the authors from claiming infringement or collecting any damages. Whether or not that’s their motive, such a ruling will allow their movie to proceed.

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15 Responses to “Emily the Strange Sues Possible Inspiration Source”

  1. Manuel Says:

    Oh, there are a lot of similarities to believe Emily is a copy of Rosamond, the original gothic girl. Even both have four strange black cats. Just pay attention to the ‘comparison pictures’ and realize by yourselves.

  2. thekamisama Says:

    They may wish they had just not bothered. This has the potetnial to do just the opposite of the intent. They are now going to cost the original “Nate the Great” creators some considerable legal fees to defend an obvious earlier and original creation. If they had no intentions of defending the work before, they certainly have cause now. It smacks of aggresive and mean spirited litigation and I hope Cosmic Debris ends up regreting this action in severe monetary ways.

  3. Joe S. Walker Says:

    Cosmic Debris swiped their name from a song by Frank Zappa, too…

  4. mahendra singh Says:

    This smacks of delicious hubris … if they retain a good lawyer, Sharmant & Simont will eventually earn more money in damages from this bizarre and utterly brazen lawsuit than they ever did from the book’s royalties.

    Huzzah for the mind-numblingly destructive and insatiably rapacious greed of so many American businessmen!

  5. Jeremy L. (aka Phlegon) Says:

    This sort of case should be completely dismissed without being heard. Why should any of us create anything if we forever thereafter must fear that someone else will come along, copy it, and sue for the rights? Better to just not create anything at all, or else keep it to ourselves, and spare ourselves the headache of being sued.

  6. mahendra singh Says:

    I’d like to add another comment and point out to all artists that this case shows the need for you to defend your copyright as soon as you have a problem and not adopt a laissez-faire attitude, leaving it for later or assuming that the offenders will go away.

    Cosmic Debris’s lawyers will base their case on the point that since Sharmant & Simont never told them (CD) to desist, the copyright is either not theirs or they have not bothered to enforce it, almost the same thing.

    Sharmant & Simont can clean up but only if they hire a good attorney. This should be an interesting case study for all those advocates of a brave new copyright-free world to contemplate.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Early on, there was a comment that the authors had passed information along to their publisher. I’m not sure they completely own their copyright, which might make all this more complicated.

  8. thekamisama Says:

    Nate the Great was published by one of Random House’s companies…

    Ouch. I thought Cosmic Debris had the potential to screw up with this case. Now it looks like they walked into a land mine, on purpose!

  9. David Oakes Says:

    I find it hilarious that the Google ad for this thread – and the site in general – comes up “Emily the Strange Soda”.

  10. you thought we wouldn’t notice » Blog Archive » Emily the Strange Sues Possible Inspiration Source Says:

    [...] taken from comicsworthreading.com Emily the Strange has a movie in development for 2010. Often, when that happens, filmmakers want [...]

  11. Intellectual Property - where the Goth Girl goes mainstream Says:

    [...] Comics Worth Reading has the follow up. [...]

  12. “Emily the Strange” strange copyright dispute « Collection Developments @ Sno-Isle Says:

    [...] on the copyright from the Nate books published in the 70s and 80s (School Library Journal & Comics worth Reading).  Cosmic Debris is asking a judge to declare that the goth girl doesn’t infringe on the [...]

  13. mariconne Says:

    i dont care emily rocks…

  14. Emily the Strange Lawsuit Update » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] response to a lawsuit from the owners of Emily the Strange, Nate the Great creators Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Marc Simont have sued Cosmic Debris (Emily [...]

  15. Kimi ni Todoke Book 1 » Manga Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Her look is classic, not particularly scary, at least to my eyes. (Heck, some people have built companies based on it.) Even when she’s supposed to be drawn in a menacing fashion, it doesn’t [...]

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