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June 23, 2007

Another Lawsuit...

News of another O Gauge related lawsuit is spreading through the O Gauge community.  The good news is that this one doesn't involve manufacturers.  The bad news is that if the allegations are true, an author's reputation could be forever damaged.

The lawsuit has been filed by Paul V. Ambrose against David Doyle and Wisconsin based Krause Publications.  O Gauge collectors will recognize Mr. Ambrose as a prominent Lionel Post War trains collector and one of the partners of Ambrose/Bauer Trains, an auction house specializing in the sale of model trains and accessories.  More importantly, Mr. Ambrose has also authored or co-authored many Greenberg Guides to Post War Lionel trains (trains manufactured by Lionel between 1945 and 1969).  Many O Gauge collectors consider Greenberg's Guides to be the preeminent source of information pertaining to O Gauge Trains, especially those produced by Lionel.

The defendant in the case, David Doyle, has also authored many books including some on Lionel's post war trains. His latest book dealing with post war Lionel trains is entitled the Standard Catalog of Lionel Train Sets 1945-1969.  Can you see where this is headed?  Mr. Ambrose is alleging that Mr. Doyle violated copyright laws by publishing Mr. Ambrose's work in the Standard Catalog of Lionel Train Sets 1945-1969 without prior permission.

Before you roll you eyes on this one, read the following paragraph from the Complaint: 

21. Upon advise from his Original Publisher, Bruce
Greenberg, Ambrose included creative minor and deliberate typos
(errors) in his various works, including the three Subject
Works, in order to protect his Intellectual Property that arose
from the thousands of hours, and hundreds of thousands of
dollars, that Ambrose had devoted to these Subject Works and to
further protect the copyrights that had been taken out on the
Subject Works. The creative minor and deliberate typos were
original to Ambrose and did not exist prior to the time of their
creation by Ambrose in the opinion of any other collectors or
anyone else. However, Advanced Collectors who reviewed Ambrose’s
Subject Work would have easily recognized the deliberate
typographical errors and the reasons why Ambrose included them
in his works.

These deliberate errors and typos are known as "ringers" in the publishing industry (who knew?) and, according to the Complaint, Mr. Doyle's book contains many of these ringers from the Greenberg Guides Mr. Ambrose authored or co-authored.  Note: For an excellent explanation of ringers see Allan M's post on the O Gauge Railroading Magazine forum here

In the Complaint, Mr. Ambrose lists 13 examples (Complaint paragraph 26) of ringers that were part of David Doyle's latest work.  The Complaint also states that Mr. Ambrose found many more additional ringers in Mr. Doyle's book but did not include them in the complaint (Complaint paragraph 27).

Mr. Ambrose also claims that David Doyle's prior works, Standard Catalog of Lionel Trains, 1945-1969 1st and 2nd editions, contain ringers from Mr. Ambrose's Greenberg guides (Complaint paragraphs 32 & 33).

There are always two sides to every story but if any of these allegations are true, and it seems hard to dispute they're not if the ringers are present in the Doyle books, Mr. Doyle and his publishing company's  reputation could be severely damaged.  Not to mention that their wallets would be a bit lighter.  In addition to requesting the court to restrain Krause Publications from selling the books in question and for the publisher to destroy all copies of those works in their or their distributors' inventory, Mr. Ambrose is also looking for $450,000 in damages and for Mr. Doyle and his publisher to pay all of his legal fees incurred as a result of lawsuit (Complaint paragraph 50 parts (A) through (F)).

You can read the entire Complaint for yourself on the Ambrose/Bauer Trains website here.

UPDATE:  See the response from David Doyle's publishing company in the comments section of this post.

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Facts cannot be copyrighted. If I write a historical work stating that my research determined that ice cream was invented by the Romans in 436 AD, when it was actually 435 AD, and someone uses that "fact" in their later book on the subject of "Ice Cream through the Ages" I cannot sue them for plagiarism. Lifting whole paragraphs from non-fiction works would be considered plagiarism, but that does not appear to be what is claimed here.

Sounds like more sour grapes, of which we have more than enough in this hobby.

For balance, here is Krause's response to the complaint:

or immediate release . . . .
Krause Publications Stands Behind Train Catalog Authored by David
Iola, Wis., June 26, 2007. The publication of the Standard Catalog
of Lionel Train Sets, 1945 - 1969, © 2007, by David Doyle has
prompted a challenge by Paul Ambrose, the author of a widely
consulted but now out-of-print work on the same subject. Mr. Ambrose
has alleged that certain material in the Doyle book infringes his
copyrights in the out-of-print work.

Krause Publications' initial efforts to investigate and resolve
these claims without resort to litigation were rebuffed by a lawyer
representing Mr. Ambrose, who filed suit late last week in the
Western District of Pennsylvania.

The crux of the claim by Ambrose is that the Doyle book includes
without permission certain terminology, an approach to identifying
factual material, an organizational system, and information
(including many "invented" facts deliberately seeded by Ambrose in
his work) taken from the Ambrose work. However, it is a longstanding
principle in US copyright law that ideas, systems, terminology, and
facts belong to the public domain and that an author does not gain a
monopoly in information by being the first to report it. Non-fiction
works, by their very nature, are dependent upon all manner of
sources and previously published works thought to be authoritative.
The early work of Mr. Ambrose is a recognized and often consulted
source of information on Lionel trains and, prior to the revelation
that it was deliberately seeded with false information and invented
facts, was widely believed to be authoritative.

Krause Publications stands behind the Doyle train catalog and
supports his right to author a comprehensive, current, and
authoritative work to compete with the out-of-print Ambrose catalog.
That said, we regret that collectors and train enthusiasts have for
years now been misled by certain information "invented" by Mr.
Ambrose and placed in his published work. We will endeavor to find
and correct such mis-information in subsequent editions of the Doyle

We are dismayed also by the efforts of Mr. Ambrose and his lawyer to
use the threat of litigation to stifle publication of a competing
work and to circumvent free speech protections by threatening and
attempting to intimidate retailers. Krause Publications intends to
vigorously defend publication of the Doyle book, the rights of
retailers to be free from intimidation, and the right of customers
to have access to an alternative.

Neil, thanks for the update.

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