14:53, September 15 319 0 law.com

2017-09-15 14:53:05
Author of 'The Art of Fielding' Accused of Pilfering Plot Points

The author of the award-winning novel “The Art of Fielding” is accused of pilfering substantial elements of an unpublished novel by a former Division III college baseball player, according to a copyright infringement suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Charles Green claims that a film script first developed in the mid-1990s that evolved into a novel, “Bucky’s 9th,” that was circulated widely to publishers in the early 2000s bears “striking similarities” to Chard Harbach’s acclaimed novel published in 2011.

According to Green, the two works bear particular “uncanny parallelism” in the final act of the story. Green, who played baseball at Swarthmore College in the mid-1980s, argues that the “substantial similarity … could occur only as a result of Harbach’s access to a version (or versions) of ‘Bucky’s’ and his large-scale misappropriation of Green’s creative efforts.” Green previously obtained a copyright registration number for “Bucky’s” which was a completed work as of 2007, with numerous previous drafts produced stretching back a decade.

Green points to Harbach’s publicly reported struggles with the early drafts of “The Art of Fielding,” especially as chronicled by former New York magazine book critic and current Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism professor Keith Gessen, a personal friend of Harbach’s.

In a 2011 Vanity Fair article, Gessen remarks on the near-miraculous transformation of Harbach’s draft of his future novel, which the Harvard University graduate had labored over unsuccessfully in practical destitution.

“How had he done this,” Gessen asks in the article, “I don’t know: I’d sat in the next room or at the next table, I’d been there the whole time, and I still don’t know.”

According to Green, the “magic wand” was Harbach’s discovery of “Bucky’s,” and incorporation of key elements into his own manuscript. Green points to Gessen’s article for circumstantial proof: a literary magazine, which Harbach co-founded and worked at since the mid-2000s, employed a co-editor who also worked at a publishing house where Green had submitted “Bucky’s” for publication.

Green acknowledges that the basic elements of both works contain “certain conventions” common to sports narratives. However, according to Green, overlaps in specific elements of the stories’ “unconventional premise and setting” are too many—namely, the Division III school setting, many of the specific characteristics of the main character, plot lines involving a romance with a school administrator, and the protagonist’s father character, both of whom are former quarterbacks who commit suicide in their respective stories.

It is in the final act that Green alleges the “starkly and startlingly evident” shared elements of the plot “move forward in virtual lockstep.” In particular, the climactic scene is highlighted by Green. In it, he alleges both “Bucky’s” and “The Art of Fielding” run in parallel: the baseball prodigy of both works is beaned in the head on a no-balls-and-two-strike count, with a runner on first, and the team down by a run in the first-ever baseball championship “for a perennial Division III college loser.”

At an even more granular level, Green alleges Harbach went so far as to copy the construction of the scene, changing the point of view from the protagonist at the plate to the pitcher on the mound who, despite good baseball sense, decides to throw high and inside on that particular count.

“It would strain credulity to attribute the high level of similarity in the third act described above to mere coincidence,” Green states in the complaint. “What should be a unique, never-seen-before culmination of the hero’s journey in the vast canon of great American baseball stories instead is seen twice in the same era, in the same specialized setting.”

Attempts to reach representatives at Harbach’s publisher, Little, Brown’s parent company Hachette Book Group, as well as his agent, The Gernert Company’s Chris Parris-Lamb, for comment were unsuccessful.

Private attorney Pieter Van Tol represents Green.

Green, seeking a jury trial, seeks unspecified damages for copyright infringement and an injunction to stop any further development of a film version of “The Art of Fielding.”