RARA-AVIS: Yes, Whisper When you Say That

From: Keith Alan Deutsch ( keithdeutsch@earthlink.net)
Date: 14 Apr 2000

Dear James Rogers,

I enjoyed your response to the Red Harvest Opera(!?) post, and to my rambling Intellectual Property jag response. And in many ways I think your amusing attitude is right.

But the issue of intellectual property rights, particularly on the web and emerging digital technologies, is no laughing matter---at least not to the mad hatters who have spent a long time and a great deal of effort putting the pieces of rights back together again. Of those old periodical properties from which so much great art and fiction, and popular entertainment genres originated.

For instance, on Black Mask, I acquired the copyrights to the title (and the the logo) from Fred Dannay--the plotting half of Ellery Queen who kept the magazine alive after Popular Publications dropped it in 1951. Dannay was a friend and champion of Hammett, and during the red scare 50's kept Hammett's Black Mask stories alive in a series of Dell Continental Op collections--when no one else would touch Hammett. Because Dannay felt there should be a place for darker, more gritty fiction in his amazingly successful, but somewhat sedate Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, he acquired just the rights to the title and included Black Mask Magazine within EQ Magazine in order to have a frame to present stories by Woolrich and Hammett and noire friends.

I acquired the those rights from him for Adrian Lopez in 1973 for our 1974 newsstand edition of the magazine. At that time the new owners of Popular Publications owned all the rights to the art and fiction.
(Henry Steeger still alive and well at the time, had sold Argosy and his pulp holdings--but was always available to reminisce about the old days.) Then the Filipacci Group came to America to revive Life Magazine as a weekly with two different editions, and in their acquisitive madness bought Popular Publications, primarily for Argosy, Camera 35, and Railroad Magazine.

Joel Frieman, now owner of Argosy Communications--and the proprietor of book rights to many of Popular's pulps (Dime Detective) and i joined forces and negotiated the acquisition of the rights to the Popular holdings during a confusing time for the French Filipacci Group who were scurrying to sell off holdings and get out of America to lick their wounds. I did consulting for Filipacci, handled rights, helped sell Railroad Magazine, and worked on a European detective fiction radio show for one of their executives. In return for services, and other consideration, I acquired my additional rights to Black Mask, and the magazine, periodical and serial rights to almost all of Popular's pulps.

Joel and I had a bit of wrangling on our contractual divvying up of the rights from Popular; I had to go back to Adrian Lopez and acquire the rights to Black Mask that I had negotiated with Dannay--I did the original acquisition, but Adrian (who owned a slew of magazines at the time) paid the check. So there was a bit of wrangling with Adrian, but in 1981 I closed my deal with him, with Filipacci, with Joel (mostly).

And then I had to sue Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in Federal court because they came out with a trade paperback "New" Black Mask Magazine using my logo. They acknowledged my ownership, I granted them a retroactive license which they published in issue 8, we settled out of court in the middle of litigation. And then they stopped publishing.

Around the same time, before i could clear my head, Hearst brought out a fine book, The Boys From Black Mask, in which my history publishing the magazine was referenced. BUT THEY DECIDED NOT ONLY TO USE MY BLACK MASK LOGO, BUT ALSO A NEWSSTAND WITH NOTHING BUT BLACK MASK MAGAZINES DISPLAYED FOR SALE ON THE BOOK'S COVER.

I had copy written the hand drawn logo and the magazine cover art. I was back in Federal court. Ironically Richard Dannay, Fred Dannay's son was one of the lawyers representing Hearst. Again we settled out of court in the middle of litigation. Richard was kind enough to tell me after the case was finished that he remembered when his father sold me the, they had discussed my 1974 edition of Black Mask, which I of course sent along to Dannay, and well...Richard was very ice about the we thing and was happy I won the case, regretted he and his dad had not kept more copies of the original Black Masks, and so on.

Now this long story may have bored you even more than my intellectual ramblings to Sean, but at minimum I hope it reveals why estates, and people like me and Joel can be pretty touchy about infringement.

I still think a courtesy call to Jane Gelfman, agent for Hammett's estate, is appropriate for Sean.

By the way, Richard Greene of Crippen & Landru Publishers, at the suggestion of Richard, published a tribute collection to Ellery Queen, The Tragedy of Errors, which features the complete scenario for an Ellery Queen novel written by Fred Dannay, but never novelized by his cousin,Manfred B. Lee (as was their operating procedure on every novel they wrote together) because of Lee's early death.

Keith keithdeutsch@earthlink.net

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