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Kenyon vs. Clare: A Copyright Battle

Marissa Secreto ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Plagiarism and copyright infringement have always been taken very seriously in the literary world, and has caused numerous disputes between beloved authors and their works. Many literary giants’ careers have been affected by lawsuits regarding their writings. Now, the fantasy Young Adults (YA) world is being shaken up by a copyright infringement lawsuit. Sherrilyn Kenyon, author of the famous adult fantasy Dark-Hunter series, has sued YA fantasy author of the Shadowhunters series, Cassandra Clare. Kenyon filed her lawsuit on February 5 and plans on taking meditative action in order to ensure that her novels are rightly compensated if they have, indeed, been plagiarized.

Kenyon's Dark-Hunters Series
Image Credit: POP IP LAW

At surface level, Clare’s Shadowhunters do bear a strong resemblance to Kenyon’s Dark-Hunters. Both series center around powerful beings who protect the human world from paranormal, demonic forces. However, this description alone isn’t enough to prove copyright infringement. Kenyon’s claims go further than this. Kenyon’s argument includes similarities in mythical objects, magical elements, and character descriptions. Clare’s Shadowhunters have three mystical objects that help aid their battle to protect mankind. They include a sword, a mirror, and a cup. The Shadowhunters are also branded with magical properties called runes, which appear on the Shadowhunter’s skin like tattoos, and help improve their ability to battle demons. Lastly, Clare’s novels feature a young protagonist who is suddenly thrust into this magical world and is aided by a blonde, sarcastic warrior. All of these, Kenyon claims, are ideas that Clare stole from Kenyon’s series.

While Clare has not come out personally with a statement defending her books, she has posted on her social media in the past where she came up with the ideas for certain elements of her stories. In regards to her magical sword, mirror, and cup, she indicates that she got the idea from Japanese mythology. The Imperial Regalia of Japan—or sacred Japanese relics—include this sword, mirror, and cup. Clare also claims that she came up with the idea of imprinted runes from a tattoo shop in New York City when her friend showed her painted black footprints of employees that were scattered across the ceiling. To Clare, these footprints represented footsteps left behind by magical beings, which then sparked her idea to create angelic runes for her Shadowhunters. There are other elements of her novels that seem to be sparked by ancient mythology and can probably help prove Clare’s innocence in regards to copyright infringement with Kenyon’s novels.

Shadowhunters: The Mortal instruments
Image Credit: Booktrib

In Clare’s defense made by those close to her, Kenyon did not originally create the idea of supernatural beings defending the world from other supernatural forces, nor are Kenyon’s more mature adult themes acutely transcribed in Clare’s young adult narrative. However, Kenyon’s case could be indicative of other copyright issues in the Shadowhunters series. So, if Clare does lose the lawsuit, what does this entail for her novels? Kenyon seeks to receive compensation for lost profits that could have occurred due to Clare’s increased popularity over her series. It may also be possible that the name “Shadowhunters” itself would have to be used more discriminately, as it comes too close to the name of Dark-Hunters in Kenyon’s eyes. Clare’s books have also been transformed into a movie and a television show. In 2013, the film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was released and, while it did not have great success, it still made enough of a profit to have possibly infringed on Kenyon’s own series. This January, the television network Freeform released Shadowhunters, a popular new series based upon Clare’s books. If Clare were to lose the lawsuit, it is possible that the production companies of the film and the television show would have to pay royalties to Kenyon as well to make up for lost profits.

As is the case with lawsuits, one party will be left unsatisfied once the issue has been addressed fully in court. Clare, however, will be hit especially hard if she does lose this battle. Clare has a new novel, Lady Midnight, which is set to be released on March 8 and will be apart of the Dark Artifices series which continues with the Shadowhunter world. Clare also has two other Shadowhunter series, The Last Hours and The Wicked Powers, which will be greatly affected if she loses the lawsuit. Also, with the rising acclaim of the Shadowhunters television show, Clare’s novels may only increase in popularity, thereby continuing to hurt Kenyon and her own profits.

It is unknown yet when the outcome of the lawsuit will be finalized, but its effects will definitely change the literary world in one way or another.

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