The Consequences of Banning a Book

Filed under: Non-fiction Bond on Apr 7, 2008 at 12:13 am

Undoubtedly 2008 is the year of James Bond. There’s so much to celebrate and enjoy. There’s Quantum of Solace coming to the big screen later this year in October/November starring Daniel Craig, there’s Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks, The Moneypenny Diaries: Final Fling by Samantha Weinberg, and By Royal Command by Charlie Higson. That’s just the original content for the year. We’re also getting commemorative stamps, reprints of Fleming’s Bond novels from Casino Royale to Octopussy and The Living Daylights, reprints of Fleming’s non-Bond works (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Diamond Smugglers, and Thrilling Cities), a graphic novel adaptation of SilverFin, Double or Die in the United States, The Moneypenny Diaries in the United States, a video game, a mobile game, a new paperback release of Hurricane Gold, an entire museum devoted to James Bond and Ian Fleming; I could go on and on. This is the year for Bond and Fleming and in the midst of this celebration the Ian Fleming Will Trust made a move that may have been a fairly bad idea. They banned a book due to copyright infringement. Copyright infringement is a very serious problem and I can understand wanting to protect your intellectual property, but it still may have been a bad move for them. Why? Publicity.

Guess what happened when it was reported that The Battle For Bond by Robert Sellers was banned? Interest in the book skyrocketed. Here’s a book that by Tomahawk Press’ own admission was low-profile and would not have gotten a second edition had the Ian Fleming Will Trust not gotten involved like they did.

“It’s hard to fathom what the Fleming estate hoped to gain by these actions. They’ve taken a low-profile book and given it enormous exposure. Sellers was not uncovering a scandal: the courtroom case involving Fleming was major news at the time and has been extensively covered in every biography of the author. For the sake of trashing 300 copies, they have insured that the book will now be highly-sought by readers who might otherwise would have never known it existed.”
Tomahawk Press

Highly sought indeed. Want a copy of the first edition? Try eBay, but you better have a Benjamin on hand now that the asking price is over 3 times the original retail price. You can still get it in stores though, if you’re lucky and if you’re okay with waiting, a second edition will be available soon (May) that really has no less information than the first edition and will be more affordable. When asked why the Ian Fleming Will Trust took this route, their lawyers replied:

The book infringed the Trust’s copyright … and accordingly, the Trust requested that any books containing the copyright works be withdrawn. The Ian Fleming Will Trust takes protection of its copyright seriously, particularly in the Ian Fleming centenary year.
Paul Stevens, Head of Intellectual Property at Olswang

That’s all well and good, but perhaps they should have thought of a different route. First off, The Battle For Bond was published last year in July and although they were in contact with Tomahawk for months prior to the banning they finally took action in 2008. Why would they do that? It almost makes you think they were trying to stir up the controversy a little to create a little more publicity in the year of Fleming’s centenary. Maybe they were? This isn’t news. Not really anyway. It’s fascinating, to me, but this case has been covered numerous times over the years. Though it should be mentioned that no source before this has ever gone into so much detail about the matter. That said, I just can’t imagine the Fleming estate wanting to dredge this old controversy up. It’s not exactly a topic I would think they would want people to remember during this year. I’m curious to know whether it’s even acknowledged at the Imperial War Museum that’s focusing on Fleming opening later this month. I’m actually surprised out of all the Bond ‘factions’ that it was the Fleming Trust that went after the book. This topic was always highly controversial with Eon, MGM, and United Artists. In an interview with CommanderBond.net many publishers backed out originally because of the fear of legal action.

It’s also questionable whether Sellers and Tomahawk Press really didn’t have the right to use the material under section 45, subsection 2 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act of 1988 that states publication of documents occurring within the context of reporting legal proceedings is not copyright infringement. The documents in question were personal correspondence that were used as evidence during Fleming’s Thunderball trial. Regardless, it doesn’t matter. Tomahawk doesn’t have the money to fight a battle in court with the Trust so they just accepted this as a lost. Who can blame them?

Reproducing these documents in any event was not critical to the book, and the documents themselves were of no great significance. So we were surprised at the threats from the Ian Fleming Will Trust, who could have asked for the small payment their use would have incurred or simply an acknowledgment of their ownership in the next edition. Instead, they wanted the book removed from sale – literally banned over this small and insignificant matter. They were unwilling to discuss any other course of action but the banning of the book.
Tomahawk Press

So it goes. The book was banned, and in a James Bond / Ian Fleming media-rich year it hit many different news organizations. Just last week the BBC ran this report complete with an interview of Jack Whittingham’s daughter, Sylvan Mason:


I just find the whole thing bizarre and obviously Tomahawk Press and Robert Sellers are going to capitalize on this new-found demand, issue a second edition and then reap the benefits (whatever that may be). Perhaps there are benefits for the Fleming family as well. Who knows.

Only Thunderball

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