Sherrilyn Kenyon sues Cassandra Clare

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Sherrilyn Kenyon, author of the Dark-Hunter series, is suing The Mortal Instruments author Cassandra Clare.  Kenyon is also suing 50 “John Does,” consisting of the writers who helped script the 2013 motion picture based on the first book in Clare’s Mortal Instruments series.

The Mortal Instruments series follows Clary Fray as she falls into the world of the Shadowhunters, a group of warriors determined to rid the world of demons.

Night Pleasures, the first in Kenyon’s adult paranormal romance series, follows Kyrian after he wakes up chained to an accountant named Amanda, who is being hunted by a vampire.

The timing of the case aligns with the success of the new Freeform (formerly ABC Family) show “Shadowhunters” based on Clare’s series.

Former IP lawyer and author Courtney Milan uploaded the lawsuit to her website. According to the main court document, Kenyon’s relationship with Clare began in 2006, when fans of Kenyon’s noted that Clare used the phrase “darkhunter” in her stories. At the demand of Kenyon, Clare replaced the term with “Shadowhunters” and removed the phrase from her title. Kenyon alleges that Clare and Simon & Schuster, Clare’s publisher, promised to not expand their use of Shadowhunters, alleging that the series is now “confusingly similar to [Kenyon’s] Dark Hunter series;” however, no formal agreement was made.

Kenyon never accuses Clare of plagiarizing her words; instead, Kenyon alleges that Clare stole various ideas from her. In Exhibit 3, part of the full complaint that compares all the aspects of Kenyon’s novels to Clare’s, the complaint lists the following as ideas that Clare “stole” from Kenyon:

  • a line of warriors who protect the normal world from demons
  • a high tech world that is hidden from everyday mortals
  • mortal  or  normal  objects … imbued with  magical  properties  to  help  battle   evil  and  protect  mankind” “enchanted swords that are divinely forged
  • “regular humans” who are oblivious to the supernatural world
  • demon “glamour”

The complaint also breaks each character down in comparison to Kenyon’s series, which include some character points in Kenyon’s series that might predate Kenyon’s books, depending on the revelation and the publication date. Kenyon also compares the marketing and logos used for Clare’s Shadowhunters series – things not technically created by Clare – as part of her lawsuit in Exhibit 4 and Exhibit 5.

The main court document goes on to say:

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 Dark-Hunter 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.

The document goes on to cite several other examples of when the Shadowhunter phrase and Dark-Hutner phrases are confused. However, the main complaint states that “the Shadowhunters symbol used by CLARE on book covers and promotional materials is essentially a simplified version of PLAINTIFF’s Dark-Hunter symbol” – despite that symbol not being the Dark-Hunter symbol (which is two bows overlaying, as seen on Kenyon’s website),  but a symbol belonging to a minor character named Jaden (again, according to Kenyon’s website).

Other exhibits include the full list of books that Kenyon alleges Clare plagiarized and the copyright dates of Kenyon’s books.

Both Kenyon and Clare’s work pulls from tropes and inspiration often used by others; many of the tropes have their own Wikipedia pages and can be found in books like Courtney Moulton’s Angelfire, Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely, Julie Kagawa’s The Iron King – and those are merely some YA examples among many, many others.

Since Kenyon never cites writing directly plagiarized by Clare, Milan suggested on Twitter that the suit is likely to be thrown out. However, Jane from Dear Author suggests that “judges are more likely to allows cases to go forward due to overworked dockets and the genuine desire to let the litigants have their day in court. My prediction is that this case is either settled or tried to a verdict.

Many will use this as an opportunity to bring up Clare’s history of plagiarism in the fandom world. Over ten years ago, Clare began her authorial life as a fanfiction writer. Among other accusations, many accused Clare of plagiarizing in her fanfiction, citing paragraphs and sentences directly lifted from published material that could be found in her fanfiction. Though the issue will be brought up, her history in fandom has nothing to do with the case, hence why it is not mentioned in the court documents.

Kenyon seeks a court order to stop Clare from infringing on “Dark-Hunter” trademarks, as well as damages and lost profits. Clare or her publishers (in the U.K. or U.S.) have yet to comment.

[EDIT] The Guardian, among other press outlets, received a statement from Cassandra Clare’s lawyer John Cahill, who pointed out what what we have: Kenyon accuses Clare only of copying ideas and themes, not actually plagiarizing words, and gets some details of Clare’s books factually incorrect.

“Tellingly, the lawsuit failed to identify a single instance of actual copying or plagiarism by Cassie,” wrote Cahill. “There is little chance of anyone confusing Cassie’s young adult themes and orientation with the sometimes very adult storylines in Ms Kenyon’s books. Indeed, we expect that all of Ms Kenyon’s claims will be dismissed.”

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Nicole Brinkley

Nicole is the editor of YA Interrobang. She has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. Follow her on Twitter at @nebrinkley or Tumblr at nebrinkley. Like her work? Leave her a tip.

6 Comments

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  2. Interestingly Kenyon is suing over the two works being so close as to be easily confused by readers thus depriving kenyon of revenue when people pick up the wrong one – but clare is going but i never stole from kenyon
    i wonder if pamela dean will reappear but I don’t know if the disputed passages (which are in the original fanfic word for word the same) are in the published novel.

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