Kickstarter Kicks Off Fight Over Shakespeare And Lovecraft

POSTERWEBRecently, Bleeding Cool ran a piece on a Kickstarter for a comic book Prospero’s Price.

It has now been suspended by Kickstarter pending a copyright claim from author DR O’Brien, which reads,

Description of copyrighted material: Shakespeare v Lovecraft, a horror comedy novel, was originally published in 2012 by Amazon. It featured prominently on many genre sites, including Daily Dead and Dread Central: There are many, many other sites that have featured and / or reviewed my work, including prominent industry website Famous Monsters of Filmland. A quick search on Google of the words “Shakespeare” and “Lovecraft” combined will reveal hundreds of websites (if not thousands) referencing my work. I note that on Goodreads there are currently over 2,135 people who have marked the book as “to read”. I note that there is also a graphic novel spin-off (please see Deviant art link) which again has been featured on many websites since 2012 and further evidence of this can be provided if required. I have clearly established goodwill and ownership of this IPR and the related story and I am frankly astonished at the ill judged and ill advised nature of the above project. I would ask that this project be removed immediately as it is clearly attempting to appropriate a story and situations which are protected under international copyright law.

Description of infringing material: I quote from the project page: In our story, Prospero discovers there is a price to be paid for cracking open the forbidden tomes and riling the anger of Gods no mortal should ever know… There is a price: For awakening and using the powers of cosmic, unknowable creatures… For breaching magic for selfish, dark intent… For enslaving the son of a God. How does Prospero survive the chaos he has created? How will Prospero’s seemingly bootless daughter rise up from her protective shell and discover her prowess as she navigates the perilous paths left there by her own misguided father. What will the spirits Ariel and Caliban have come to after their emancipation from servitude and how will they unknowingly pull the web ever tighter over their old master. I quote now to you my Shakespeare v Lovecraft’s summary on its Amazon Page: “Prospero, driven dangerously insane by prolonged exposure to the dread Necronomicon, makes a terrible pact with the titanic alien beast known only as Cthulhu. Now only his enchantress daughter Miranda and a handful of history’s greatest heroes are all that stand between humanity and blasphemous eternal subjugation.” I note that the opening paragraph of my novel which is freely available on Amazon (and has been since 2012) also prominently features the key characters of Prospero and Miranda, with Prospero as antagonist and Miranda as protagonist. Out of ALL of the (many thousands of) characters of Shakespeare, and plays by Shakespeare, the infringing creators have specifically chosen the EXACT SAME characters and the EXACT SAME play (i.e.”The Tempest”) that I based Shakespeare v Lovecraft on. Also in the opening chapter to my novel the creatures the Deep Ones are prominently featured. I note with some alarm that those same Deep Ones are referenced in the project page, along with Cthulhu, who is clearly a key part of my story. Again, out of ALL of the creatures in Lovecraft’s many works the individuals behind this project have selected the EXACT same ones featured in my work. My specific and unique use and integration into MY storyline of these characters is clearly protected under international copyright law: the scenario outlined is my scenario and storyline, created by myself alone. The persons running this project ought to at the very least have contacted me to ask whether or not I would consider a licence to my IPR. I may have considered this at the time as I am a reasonable man but given the flagrant breach of international copyright law I am afraid that this is something that I am (as I am sure you will appreciate) no longer willing to consider. I am therefore astonished that the infringing material has not even attempted to alter some of the aspects of my storyline, but has actually kept the same very core elements of that storyline. Indeed, the image provided features Prospero standing atop a ridge with an immense storm brewing: EXACTLY how my story opens, in the freely available opening chapter. I note with further alarm the references made to Ariel and Caliban, again characters that feature prominently in my story. Indeed, a summary of my novel from a prominent Shakespeare site that has been used frequently includes the following text: Macbeth, King Henry V and more clash with some of Lovecraft’s most memorable monstrosities including Dagon, The Colour Out Of Space, Night-Gaunts, Ghouls, a Shoggoth and, of course, the Great Priest himself. And which sides will the Dream-God Oberon, the monstrous Caliban and ethereal Ariel favour in this savage clash of worlds? That same wording can also be found on NetGalley: I trust that you will look into this project as a matter of immediate urgency.

You can’t copyright an idea but you can copyright an execution. But in this case, it seems, even with all the evidence cited, it would be very difficult to do. Especially considering both are using public domain characters, along the lines of how both properties tell their tales, mashing up the crossover.  Games writer John Tynes writes,

Aron Tarbuck and J Kovach are Kickstarting an original comic book mashing up Shakespeare’s The Tempest with the Cthulhu Mythos. They are now the subject of a DMCA takedown request by D.R. O’Brien, a young writer who self-published a comedic novel that likewise combined The Tempest and the Cthulhu Mythos.

It’s obvious how these two projects could happen independently. The Tempest is by far Shakespeare’s most occult play, with magic, spirits, a sorcerer, a monstrous slave, etc.

D.R. O’Brien is incapable of imagining that anyone would think to combine The Tempest and Cthulhu and indeed, he claims to own all intellectual property rights to that idea, which is a farcical notion.

His takedown notice breathlessly points out that Aron & J’s project uses main characters from the Tempest, and that indeed the cover to their comic book depicts a storm, which his book also prominently features!

Of course, the fucking play is called THE TEMPEST and is about a storm. But in D.R. O’Brien’s world, that is part of his IP and is evidence that Aron and J read his book and ripped it off.

Over the years Lovecraft has been mashed up with Sherlock Holmes, P.G. Wodehouse, Jack the Ripper, the Ghostbusters, the Salem Witch Trials, various superheroes, cyberpunk, Where the Wild Things Are, Dungeons & Dragons, and just about anything else you can name. The idea that D.R. O’Brien could possibly own the mashup of Cthulhu and The Tempest, or that no one but him could possibly conceive of watching Shakespeare’s most arcane play and imagine giving it a Lovecraft twist, is deeply ridiculous.

Amateur writers often believe that their ideas are theirs alone, and that no one in all of human history has ever thought them before. The reality is that similar ideas occur to writers all the time.

Kickstarter should refute this DMCA takedown notice and restore Aron & J’s project to its course.

Yup.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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