I admit, I’m behind on news this week- That Guy is in DFW for work while I’m at home in Florida with Willow the Wonder Horker who is not taking his absence well. She’s either barking at the upstairs neighbors or something outside, defending me to the outside world, or, well, let’s say pining for her missing human. So when tweets started popping up on my feed about one author suing another, I missed the first part and had to play catch up.
I saw the tweets about no original ideas, about whether or not to even try and read a series or just not read anything by an author at all- by the time I was seeing the tweets,, everyone had started writing in vague terms and no names were mentioned. I searched around for a bit, thinking OK, maybe it’s a small thing, and didn’t really see much but wasn’t really putting a whole lot into it as evidently we were being invaded by not only the rugby team and a horde of banshees from above (never again first floor apartment) but evil landscapers.
It wasn’t until last night that I figured out what was going on- a clash of Greek panathon versus the Angel realm. If you haven’t seen it, Sherrilyn Kenyon, author of The Dark Hunter series and all it’s spinoffs and The Chronicles of Nick young adult series, has filed suit in Tennessee against Cassandra Clare, author of The Shadowhunter series because they allege that Clare knowingly and willingly took ideas, ideology, and symbology from the Dark Hunter pantheon, and infringes multiple copyright issues, among other things.
And I was like, huh. OK. I’ve read numerous books with people hunting demons, and going through portals, and dressing goth. I’ve read books with them all together. I’ve just finished one with a girl portaling around a world in what is actually sentient beings setting them free, and being called a demon (Spinning Starlight). I’ve seen TV shows with them all together (um, Buffy, Supernatural, Constantine). So this morning I looked a little deeper to get a better idea.
DISCLAIMER: WHAT FOLLOWS BELOW IS COMPLETELY MY OPINION AS A BOOK LOVER
I have met both authors at various times at American Library Association conventions. I have many of their books in my apartment, albeit packed as all of my personal library is packed until we move into our house in June/July. I’ve read a lot of Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series, and the first few of The Chronicles of Nick series. I haven’t read past Bad Moon Rising, so I may have missed some important changes in the series (Bad Moon Rising was released in 2010). Never got into the Brotherhood of the Sword series.
I’ve read Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, The Infernal Devices series, and The Iron Trial. I haven’t read The Shadowhunter Academy series. I have put both The Chronicles of Nick and The Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices in my teen collections, and I’ve cross-recommended them to readers interested in those genres.
I never put the two together as being even in the same realm, nor did I have anyone in my library confusing the two. I did have avid readers of Kenyon that dove into the Chonicles of Nick series, and then would look for others, and would love Clare’s, but they never mentioned to me similarities.
So when I was reading the news stories and tweets, I was all, riiiiiiiiiight. Clare’s Shadowhunter series is based on angels and comparative religious names and ideas; That Guy and I have had many a long discussion talking about the names of the swords, the angels, and the history behind them as his father was and his brother is a priest. The Shadowhunter continuum spans the ages of time, uses what my teens know as Christian symbols, and their typical paranormal as vampires and weres. It’s definitely teen level violence, romance, and appeal. The Dark Hunter series starts with the Greek mythos and pantheon and moves from there, spanning centuries of time, and is based solidly in adult fantasy paranormal romantic fiction. It goes from Greek to Roman to other ancient cultures, and uses that symbology. Based in New Orleans and spanning out from there, it’s steeped in the culture and history. The romance, sex, violence, and themes in the Dark Hunter series are definitely adult, while The Chronicles of Nick (first released in 2010) are definitely young adult. There is no way that I would give a teen a Dark Hunter book unless I knew they were already reading adult material.
The two worlds were completely different to me, and I couldn’t imagine them being confused. The Dark Hunters are warriors who died horrible deaths and then are put to work defeating demons by the goddess Artemis, who owns their soul. The way to get their mortality back is to find the one person who can stand the pain involved in the process of putting the soul back- their one true love. If their love fails, the warrior ends up a shade, and having been betrayed by others, they’re not the most trusting. The powers that they’re given by Artemis to battle the demons (vampiric soul suckers) make it so they can’t be in close proximity to each other for long, making them more solitary. Their order of squires are trusted humans who know who and what they are, and have sworn their lives to assist. As the series progresses, the warriors seem to find their mates, and things get more and more complicated, and then Dream Warriors and Were Hunters are introduced, and then things get more complicated as demons are raging war and trying to invade the world.
The Shadowhunters are descendant from when angels mated with humans in order to battle demons on earth. Using special runes burned into their skins, they can enhance their angelic powers and battle demons to save humanity from being taken over. They delve into the world of vampires, weres, magicians, elves, and demons, have political intrigue and family issues along with typical teen angst. Typically trained from birth, Shadowhunters hope to find their parabati, their fighting soul mate, as it is, the person that they would fight to the death with and trust more than anyone else- but not a romantic love. They are then bound for life- what one feels, the other feels as well. At first they’re battling one of their own gone rogue who wants to create evil Shadowhunters- those bound with both angel and demon blood, but then the world expands beyond that.
Greek/Roman/other religious pantheon versus angels. Adult/young adult prequel versus young adult. Seems simple, right?
It may not be.
The suit says (in paraphrasing) that because of Clare’s actions (yes, I read the entire complaint as found here):
- Kenyon’s brand is losing and will continue to loose money and opportunities due to Clare’s and her publishers and entities actions
- The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie infringe copyright and hurt Kenyon’s brand and hurts opportunities for expanding the Dark Hunter world into movies
- The Shadowhunters TV show on Freeform infringes on Kenyon’s brand and copyright, and hurts Kenyon’s opportunities for expanding the Dark Hunter worlds into television
- The rebranding of Clare’s works into the Shadowhunters series and the Shadowhunters world, along with marks that are too close to images used in Kenyon’s world, violate copyright and the use of them in books, websites, and authorized merchandise hurts Kenyon’s brand and livelihood.
- The use of Shadowhunters on the Mortal Instruments:City of Bones merchandising and advertising, along with other issues, violate trademarks held by Kenyon
- The Shadowhunters TV show and website violates Kenyon’s trademarks
- The entire Mortal Instruments (movie, novels, merchandise, tv show, etc.) is actually false advertising and unfair competition because they’re using symbols based upon or so similar to Kenyon’s as to cause people to mistake Clare’s works as belonging to Kenyon’s world and was done on purpose, and there has been a substantial portion of the consumer base that has been confused
- Kenyon created symbols, logos, book cover designs, and trade dress (ways to ID the books, basically) distinctive to the Dark Hunter series, and Clare used it to mislead the public and cause unfair competition and deception.
According to the lawsuit:
The Dark-Hunter Series and the Shadowhunter Series are so similar that CLARE’S own publisher mistakenly printed 100,000 copies of a Shadowhunter Book referencing the DarkHunter Mark on the cover. Upon written demand by PLAINTIFF, CLARE’s publisher destroyed tens of thousands of the Shadowhunter Book that contained PLAINTIFF’s Dark-Hunter Mark on its cover. Despite the destruction of tens of thousands of copies of this Shadowhunter Book,
thousands of Shadowhunter Books including the Dark Hunter Marks on the cover have now been sold and substantial commercial confusion has resulted
I’m not sure which book they’re referring to, but now I’m curious. I haven’t been able to find it online yet, but I’m sure someone will find it.
The lawsuit has a picture of the Shadowhunter rune symbol (of which I own a set of earrings) put next to what they say is the Darkhunter symbol. It’s on page 6 of the suit, but the basic images look like this:
Then there’s the libraries. According to the lawsuit:
The confusion between dark-hunters and shadowhunters is so pervasive that many online library catalogs use PLAINTIFF’S Dark-Hunter Marks within their description of CLARE’s Shadowhunter Series. The Brentwood, Tennessee Library, The Williamson County Public Library, Portland Community College, King County Library System, Ames Public Library, McKinney Public Library, Clarkston Independence District Library, and the Burlington County Library System, among many other libraries in the Middle District of Tennessee and elsewhere, describe “City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare as follows:
Suddenly able to see demons and the Darkhunters who are dedicated to returning them to their own dimension, fifteen-year-old Clary Fray is drawn into this bizarre world when her mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a monster.
This description of “City of Bones”, which conflates the words Shadowhunters and Darkhunters, has even found its way into the book 101 Great, Ready-to-Use Book Lists for Teens by Nancy J. Keane, Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, Copyright 2012. Ms. Keane’s guide is ranked #69 by Amazon.com in the category of Academic Library books.
Um, oops. Bad misuse of a trademarked name.
It’s going to be really interesting to see how this turns out. I wouldn’t the worlds anywhere near each other, but if Kenyon really did contact Clare and can prove it, and then can prove that things snowballed, there may be a problem. The documents online didn’t include the exhibits, so I’m not sure if she still has the communications- however, the fact that the publisher destroyed the books is a definite indication of a problem.
To be honest, I think that what pushed things over the edge was the TV show. Clare has been writing her books since 2007, it’s now 2016. Nine years. The movie came out in 2013, and really, it was bad. That was three years ago. There has been two other series since then; Kenyon launched The Chronicles of Nick six years ago. A lot of little things, add in etsy shops and merchandising, and publishing cover issues, and I can see it all adding up. And then the TV show launches and it uses the name that you’ve asked them over and over and over not to use, with the symbol all over it? I really think that’s what tipped it; YOMV.
Do I think that the Dark Hunter world and the Shadowhunter world are so entwined as the lawsuit alleges? No, not really. I pointed out above that I never put the worlds together, and I’ve read both of them and re-read them. Some of the comparisons are really stretching it- comparing Magnus to Eric is insane, same as Apollodorus to Max. Comparing Ash to Jace is over the top. Some of the others, there’s more room to be concerned, especially some of the secondary characters. Some of the other points, such as the general public getting the series confused, and the use of the name and symbols? It’ll be interesting to see.
What do you think? Do you think Clare took things too far? Do you think Kenyon is overreacting? Are you going to be watching to see how this plays out?