Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I, for one, didn’t give a single thought to actress/party-girl Lindsay Lohan when I first saw the E-Trade commercial that originally aired during the Super Bowl. And now, thanks to her $100 million lawsuit alleging E-Trade illegally used her name, she’s forever attached to this commercial.

Does anyone else smell a publicity hoax? It’s an absurd lawsuit that has succeeded at getting her name in the news and E-Trade’s commercial shown again and again on television. And this is just the kind of crap the media laps up. Lindsay has already been labeled as a lesbian, a lunatic and a lime-light-loving narcissist. Why should she be phased by being called a “milka-holic?” If anything, that’s the kindest thing she’s been called.

If she owns a copyright on the name “Lindsay,” or has any supplemental rights to its use, why isn’t she suing the hundreds of thousands of parents who’ve opted to give their children this name?

Two years ago I was in a copyright dispute over use of the word BUNCO (or BUNKO), which we wanted to use in the title of my second novel (ultimately called It’s Not Your Mother’s Bridge Club). Prior to publication, my publisher contacted the World Bunco Association, located in southern California, announcing the title (The Bunco Chronicles), which was a story about a group of women who play the popular dice game. He hoped to generate an association with this organization and promote book sales to this target audience. Instead the response he received was to “cease and desist” in the name of copyright infringement.

Leslie Crouch, association president, claimed to hold all rights to the use of this word for many things, including book titles. In spite of my publisher’s and his attorney’s rejection of this claim, we met with her and attempted to negotiate a deal. Turns out she wanted fifty percent of the royalties, which most would agree was almost as absurd as Lindsay Lohan’s price tag. Considering most copyright deals fall between three and ten percent, it all felt like a great big bunco operation.

We soon learned the World Bunco Association only had “supplemental” rights to the word and according to our research (which included conversations with ten different attorneys) Crouch wasn’t entitled to have exclusive use of the word. This doesn’t mean she didn’t have the right to sue if we did use it. And although we believed she wouldn’t win the case, we’d spend far too much in legal fees defending our right to use the word bunco (even if we spelled it with a K). No one but the lawyers would have made a dime off my little bunko novel.

It could have been a win-win situation for the book and the association but everything about the ordeal ended up feeling wrong. So, we changed the name of the book.

Reviews were good but sales were modest at best. My small publisher doesn’t have a big publicity department and I, unfortunately, am not as narcissistic and lime-light-loving as Lindsay Lohan. I haven’t pounded the publicity pavement as much as I should have if I wanted the novel to be a true success.

Damn! Why didn’t I give my alcoholic character (Tara) the name Lindsay? Maybe Lindsay Lohan would have sued me for $100 million (or fifty percent of the profits) and my book would have been all over the news.

Live and learn.

1 comment:

Ann Elle Altman said...

That's really interesting. I wonder if I will have any issues with the book titles I've created.