If you strip away the differences between Jordan Scott's "The Nocturne" and Stephenie Meyer's "Breaking Dawn," what you have left is a heap of similarities that could not possibly be a coincidence. At least that's what Scott's attorney thinks, which is why he filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against Meyer and her publisher, Hachette Book Group, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Wednesday.
The suit alleges that Meyer plagiarized "The Nocturne," which was written by Scott when she was 15 years old and released one chapter at a time on the author/singer/actresses' Web site and available through some online booksellers, but which was never distributed widely to traditional bookstores.
"We've laid out in the complaint what the similarities are and obviously we're going to disagree [with Hachette] about that, but that's what makes it a horse race," said Scott's attorney, Craig Williams, on Thursday. Though Scott's book is set in 15th-century France and details a love affair between a young sorcerer and a teenage girl and Meyer's book chronicles a doomed teenage love triangle between a human, a vampire and a werewolf set in modern times, Williams said the plot lines and some developments — detailed in more than a dozen examples in the suit — match too closely to be a coincidence.
"One way of undertaking copyright analysis is the subtractive method," explained Williams, author of the book "How To Get Sued."
"If you take away everything but the similarities and see if they match up ... if you take away the differences in this case, the similarities are very similar," he said. "Stephenie Meyer has taken ideas from Jordan's book, though they both go in different directions." He did not argue with Hachette's claim that "Forever Dawn" was copyrighted in 2004, but noted that "Breaking Dawn" has been pre-registered for copyright, but has not yet been copyrighted.
As a published author, he said his experience is that a copyright request is typically submitted along with a manuscript, well before the book's publication. "She didn't copyright ['Breaking Dawn'] because she can't copyright it," he said. "Because it's too similar to Jordan's book." (" 'Breaking Dawn' is copyrighted, and any suggestion otherwise is false," said a spokesperson for Hachette.)
After dismissing the initial cease-and-desist letter, Meyer's publisher, Hachette Book Group, vehemently denied the claims in a statement released on Thursday, saying they were "completely without merit" and calling the action "a publicity stunt to further Ms. Scott's career." The publisher said the alleged similarities between Meyer's book and Scott's "online story" were "wholly lacking in substance" and went on to say that it was indisputable that "Breaking Dawn" was based on the original "Twilight" sequel "Forever Dawn," which was written in 2003 and registered with the U.S. Copyright Office in January 2004.
That would mean it was registered two years before Scott claims to have posted portions of her first novel online, according to the Hachette statement, and five years before Scott applied for a copyright for "The Nocturne" in September 2008. "We look forward to vigorously defending against this meritless claim, and fully expect that the court will recognize it as frivolous and throw it out," Hachette said in the statement.
Williams said Scott is looking for recognition for her work and a removal of "Breaking Dawn" from bookshelves. "She's 21 and at the beginning of her career," he said of Scott. "What if Jordan's book had gotten to Hachette before Stephenie Meyer's? Would she be Meyer, with 70 million books sold?"