The parties to this copyright lawsuit have a long personal history.
The Plaintiff, Fitzgerald, was the executor of the estate of Frithjof Schuon (“Schuon”), a Swiss metaphysician and author, who died in Bloomington, Indiana in May 1998.
The Defendant, Murray, was a close friend of Schuon and his wife until 1992. From 1992-1995, Murray allegedly made aggressive communications, including threatening letters, to Schuon. Murray repeatedly violated a Protective Order, leading to her incarceration. Murray then filed four lawsuits against the Schuons, two of which were dismissed and two which were settled via a Settlement Agreement that included a confidentiality provision.
After Schuon died in 1998, his wife inherited his right of publicity and copyrights. Those rights were subsequently assigned to Plaintiff World Wisdom, Inc. (“World Wisdom”) in 2003. Mrs. Schuon’s rights under the Settlement Agreement were assigned to Fitzgerald and World Wisdom in 2021. World Wisdom also was assigned rights in Mrs. Schuon’s own right of publicity and copyrights.
In April 2018, Murray published a website that contained many criticisms of Schuon. The website allegedly infringes some of Mrs. Schuon’s copyrighted works and violates the confidentiality provision of the earlier Settlement Agreement. Further, in 2021, Murray published a book, Third Wife of the Muslim Shaykh Frithjof Schuon, that allegedly infringes numerous copyrighted works of Mrs. Schuon. Murray’s publisher, Defendant Beacon Books and Media, discontinued print publication of the book in March 2021 but electronic versions remain available. The Defendants have apparently intimidated that further print versions of the book are forthcoming.
In addition to copyright and breach of contract claims, the Complaint (below) also includes a claim for a RICO violation based on alleged racketeering activity by the Defendants.
Given the long history between the parties and the seemingly contrary position of the Defendants, the Answer should be an interesting read. Stay tuned for updates.
Fitzgerald et al. v. Murray et al.
Case Number: 1:21-cv-01822-TWP-TAB
File Date: Friday, June 18, 2021
Plaintiff: Michael Fitzgerald, World Wisdom, Inc.
Plaintiff Counsel: Louis T. Perry, Jason M. Rauch, Elizabeth A. Charles of Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP
Defendant: Maude Murray, Beacon Books and Media, LTD
Cause: Civil RICO, Copyright Infringement, Right of Publicity, Breach of Contract, Intentional Interference with Contractual Relations
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: Tanya Walton Pratt
Referred To: Tim A. Baker