I'd had some intellectual property absconded with. There was no way around it. What to do? I was a poor artist. I couldn't afford a lawyer. Someone suggested to me that I get in touch with The California Lawyers for the Arts; a coalition of lawyers who were there for just such a purpose: to protect artists whose work had been--ah, let's not use the word "stolen", shall we not? It's such a harsh word. Let's use borrowed, as in, unethically, immorally and perhaps illegally borrowed. And certainly not purchased.
I was put in contact with a counselor over the phone. I forget his name and what firm he worked for; but let me tell ya, he had one authoritative voice. Like, authoritative in the bedroom kinda voice. It was all I could do to concentrate on what he was saying; I felt like I was on a mid-90's phone sex line again, imagining him really being there. Fantasizing Peter Onorati, in an Armani pin-stripe suit, man-spread, katty-corner on his desk. Loosening his tie. Imagining--
Oh, where was I? Anyways, he was telling me that the BIG ENTERTAINMENT CONGLOMERATE that I had sent a script to (their "Young Writers Mentorship Program" program, no less) was well known in show business for borrowing whatever work they wanted with impunity. "Impunity" means doing something wrong with no fear of being caught or punished or having to pay fines. So that's why there was a form stating that I wouldn't pursue legal action if I felt they'd borrowed my work! Sign and have notarized please. "Even if nearly every word was word for word," he said, "if you can't show they had access to your script, you have zero chance of winning." "I have a rejection letter!" (I didn't though, I'd balled it in frustration and tossed it (the only time I ever did that, right?). "But you signed that agreement and had it notarized, yes?" "Yes." So, in other words, forget it. "What are you wearing?" I asked him. Click.
And it happened again. This time, Lawyers for the Arts put me through to an "IP" lawyer in Los Angeles. This one involved my first novel. This guy worked for a hoity-toity law firm in Los Angeles and he was interested in taking on my case, he told me, in a phone call from Denver International. He was between flights. He was also clearly tanked and kept me on the phone for an hour, rambling and slurring his words. This three-plus martini lunch call did not instill confidence. When he asked for a $30,000.00 retainer I told him I'd have to think it over. Although, if I had a layover at Denver International I'd get drunk too. That place is friggin' scary.
And then it happened again. This time a big novel from a big publishing house with all the PR behind it that not even Stephen King could muster. I mean, I was either paranoid or deluded or both; but I was certain that my book had been the inspiration for the author's borrowing of my lead character. In fact, it was as though she had kidnapped him and forced him to narrate her book. So, I needed another lawyer, right? One that specialized in Intellectual Property (IP). I did some research on the web and found a firm in New York. Horwitz and Feinberg. I called and spoke with the receptionist. "Why yes," she assured me, "one of the Misters Horwitz would be happy to speak with you about possible representation..." "How many are there?" I asked. "Three," she said, "and of course Mr. Feinberg; however, he's indisposed at the moment--" In the background I heard sounds, like renovations or something were going on. "Could you call back at three please?"
"Sure," I said, wondering why her "please" came out "puh-lee-uhz."
To be continued...