A few weeks ago John Mitzel, proprietor of Calamus Books in Boston, was surprised to open his mail and discover he’d been named in a lawsuit filed by an author. The suit, filed by Larry Townsend’s attorney for copyright infringement, stems from a dispute over unpaid fees allegedly owed the author by his distributor, the Oklahoma-based Nazca Plains Corp. Nonetheless, the suit charges that Mitzel, along with over 40 other booksellers (including Amazon and Barnes & Noble), infringed on Townsend’s copyright by selling the author’s books in his store.
But the Los Angeles-based Valerie F. Horn, Townsend’s attorney, said that although the claim is rooted in an issue with Nazca (which is, for all intents and purposes, an individual named Herbert R. Moseley), the bookstores are legally entangled. According to Horn, Nazca, aka Moseley, copied Townsend’s works without permission and then distributed the books to the booksellers. This, she said, results in “liability to all those within the chain of distribution.” Horn also added that whether the booksellers named knowingly or unknowingly sold ripped-off books is irrelevant, as per the copyright statute.