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View Full Version : Victor Hugo's Heir Unable to Stop Sequel to Les Miserables



AnneMarble
02-01-2007, 06:15 PM
This fight has been going on in French courts for six years!
http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2002475,00.html (http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2002475,00.html)

The suit was brought by Victor Hugo's great-grandson against a seqeul to Les Miserables. (The book, that is, which came out in 1862 and is in the public domain.) He had also sued over the musical version of Les Miserables, claiming it "violated the 'respect of the integrity'" of the original. Other descendants were furious with this sequel, too.

Adaptations are something any writer can end up doing, even if they don't do a full-fledged adaptation, so this sort of story can affect us all. I don't know what French copyright laws are like, so I don't know if they had a leg to stand on. It would certainly set bad precedent. Could Shakespeare's descendants stop adaptations such as "West Side Story"? Could Dicken's descendants stop adaptations of "A Christmas Carol"? (OK, sure, it would mean fewer bad sitcom versions of it, but that's not worth the cost. :D) Besides, there was already a sort of sequel called "Colette," and the story doesn't say if they sued over that one.

But Hugo claims he has no problems with adaptations. "I don't mind adaptations and many are very good but this book is not an adaptation. I have read it and it is not badly written but the publishers used Victor Hugo's name and the title Les MisÚrables as a commercial operation ... It was nothing to do with literature, they were just trying to make money."

Aargh! If you judged adaptations by whether the producers wanted to make money, you'd have very few adaptations left. And who gets to decide whether they care about the literature? Sheesh.

Kate Thornton
02-01-2007, 07:01 PM
Why should descendants of someone who created something have any say about it once it's in the public domain?

This sounds like publicity-grabbing by someone with a famous name and nothing more.

maestrowork
02-01-2007, 07:05 PM
It's in public domain. So what's all the fuss about?

Kate Thornton
02-01-2007, 07:12 PM
Okay, maybe the laws in France are different. But six years in French courts? I think they should have thrown the suit out in six months.

Susan Gable
02-01-2007, 07:12 PM
It's in public domain. So what's all the fuss about?

Money, of course, Ray.

Susan G.

scarletpeaches
02-01-2007, 07:17 PM
Adaptations, yes. Sequels, no.

It seems to me a very lazy way of writing, for the same reasons I am against fanfic. Invent your own characters, dammit! Stop building your own writing career on the back of someone else's success!

IF this story is any good, why not write it as an original? Why spend all that time, effort and sweat-of-the-brow writing a book which should only have been written by Victor Hugo, if he'd ever so chosen?

Yes, it's in the public domain and there's nothing to be done about that. But there seems something dishonest about writing sequels to classic literature. They don't need sequels. And if anyone was going to write one, it should be the original author - only they knew what their original vision was.

Legally, we have the write to compose sequels to the classics, but morally, do we? Are they necessary? Isn't it incredibly arrogant to suppose we know what happens to characters another author invented?

For the same reason I'm angry Scarlett was ever written, or Perfect Happiness, or Heathcliff. If the original writer didn't see the need for (or live long enough to write) a sequel, leave it be.

Write your own characters instead of stealing someone else's.

maestrowork
02-01-2007, 07:50 PM
People have been doing that for ages, though. Maybe not in books, but certainly in movies -- Tarzan, Frankenstein, Dracula, James Bond... and the list goes on and on and on. Like Susan said, it's all about money. I think Hugo's objection is that the publisher is using Victor Hugo's name, when this "sequel" has nothing to do with Victor Hugo, except for the characters he created over 100 years ago. The Hammer Dracula films didn't say "Bram Stoker's Dracula" for a reason.

Shadow_Ferret
02-01-2007, 08:37 PM
I don't like fanfic either. I can see where the Hugos are coming from. :)

scarletpeaches
02-01-2007, 08:39 PM
See, Maestro? See? SF agrees with me. That means you have to do a forfeit!

It may involve poles, thongs and loud music.

Oh, and plenty of alcohol.

AnneMarble
02-01-2007, 09:03 PM
Money, of course, Ray.
The same thing he accused the people he sued of being after. :D Also, while Victor Hugo is now acknowledged as one of France's great writers, that (ahem) does not mean he was not interested in the commercial possibilities of his novels. I seem to remember a famous anecdote where he wanted to know how his latest novel was doing, so he sent a letter consisiting of only ? to his publisher. The publisher responded with: !

AnneMarble
02-01-2007, 09:19 PM
Adaptations, yes. Sequels, no.

It seems to me a very lazy way of writing, for the same reasons I am against fanfic. Invent your own characters, dammit! Stop building your own writing career on the back of someone else's success!
It depends on how it's done, though. A really good sequel requires you to know the work backwards and forwards. That's not easy. It takes research, just like researching an original concept. If the book takes place in the past, you have to research the history as well or end up with characters who are Just Wrong in their behaviors. (Just look at the attitudes of Jane Austen fans to most of the sequels, and you can see how easy it is to get a sequel wrong. Very few, if any, get good reviews from the fans at sites such as Pemberly.)


IF this story is any good, why not write it as an original? Why spend all that time, effort and sweat-of-the-brow writing a book which should only have been written by Victor Hugo, if he'd ever so chosen?
The problem comes when you get connected to a particular character and really want to write about that character -- whether a sequel or a prequel -- but no other character would do. For example, Susan Kay's book Phantom, a sort of prequel to The Phantom of the Opera. How could she write a new story about a character that much like the Phantom without being accused of ripping it off? (And a lot of people love what she did with the book by the way.)

I'd give authors like Susan Kay more credit than yet another sitcom writer doing yet another "Christmas Carol" rip-off. From what I have read about the novel, it was clearly done with a lot of concern and love for the characters.

roach
02-01-2007, 09:56 PM
France has, IIRC, a concept of droit moral (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droit_moral) which is seperate but entangled with copyright law. Basically it gives greater control of works to the artist. This is probably the springboard for Hugo's descendant's claim. Where is Jaws when we need him? (*drops chum overboard*)

maestrowork
02-01-2007, 10:09 PM
What does Hugo's Boss have to say about all this? ;)

Elodie-Caroline
02-01-2007, 11:25 PM
I suppose Victor Hugo's descendants feel they have more right to say about 'Les miserables' than what anyone else does; after all, the people writing sequels are only after making money off of someone else's original work.
Here's Luc Besson't stance on people who send him sequels to his great film 'Leon/The professional'. I've got to say, I agree with him, there again, he's still alive.
http://www.filmwad.com/luc-besson-talks-leon-sequel-679-p.html


Elodie.

C.bronco
02-01-2007, 11:45 PM
My brother went to see Les Miserables on broadway. I asked him what it was about, and he said "It was about a bunch of people who were miserable."

Pamster
02-02-2007, 12:20 AM
I suppose Victor Hugo's descendants feel they have more right to say about 'Les miserables' than what anyone else does; after all, the people writing sequels are only after making money off of someone else's original work.
Here's Luc Besson't stance on people who send him sequels to his great film 'Leon/The professional'. I've got to say, I agree with him, there again, he's still alive.
http://www.filmwad.com/luc-besson-talks-leon-sequel-679-p.html


Elodie.

I thank you for posting this Elodie, I went to read it and it's true, just how I feel too. It's not love, it's stealing. Fanfiction might be a little different, mainly because there is no money to be made from fanficiton and this OP is about an established story in public domain and whether or not it's right to do/try to do a sequel for it. I say no, get your own characters and write your own stories. Leave Les Miserables alone.

Kate Thornton
02-02-2007, 01:08 AM
Leaving French law aside for a moment, I want to talk about the concept of public domain.

Every time we see a re-write or a visual remake of Helen of Troy, are we doing fanfic of Homer's Illiad? Is it wrong to do West Side Story or Carmen Jones? How about all the Inferno epics? You might draw the line at classic literature, but clearly Victor Hugo's descendants are not.

I think it's okay to draw from public domain works - there's a whole series of Jane Austen mysteries, as well as sequels to Pride & Predjudice. There are sequels to Gone With the Wind and nearly all of the Bronte's stories.

My point is that if the characters and settings and stories are in the public domain, and you want to write or re-write how things turned out in your mind, then why not? And why not be commercially successful as well, if your writing is good enough and your continuation catches the public imagination?

Maybe I'd be interested in a sequel to or adaptation of a favorite old book.

I think it would take a great deal of imagination, craft and thought to produce a sequel to a beloved classic and have it become successful.

I would love to see contemporary sequels to some classic books.

The stage play of Les Miserables was really magnificent. I have seen it twice, once in New York and once in Los Angeles. I have actually read the original book, in English translation. It was a grand story. The stage play had stirring music, great visuals and was even more fun than the 10 (yes, 10!) filmed versions which have been produced since 1935.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6317941.stm

Here's the link to the story about the French court ruling against Victor Hugo's heirs - and in favor of Francois Ceresa's book, Cosette. Ceresa has since written anothe sequel, Marius.

AnneMarble
02-02-2007, 01:35 AM
My point is that if the characters and settings and stories are in the public domain, and you want to write or re-write how things turned out in your mind, then why not? And why not be commercially successful as well, if your writing is good enough and your continuation catches the public imagination?
And artistically successful as well, too. Jean Rhys' The Wide Sargasso Sea is supposed to be a wonderful book. Technically, you could argue that it's just Jane Eyre fan fiction from the POV of the crazy wife. But it has earned its own critical claim.

I recently learned about a book written from the point of view of Adelle (I think that was her name), the girl Jane Eyre was taking care of. I want to read that and wish I could remember the title and author. It sounds like a great idea for a story.

Also, some authors' estates do allow pastiches (or fan fiction if you prefer). What about those cases? There are lots of authorized Sherlock Holmes stories out there, some great and some dreadful. (This was true even before most of the stories ended up in the public domain.) These were authorized by Sir Arthur's widow, too, not someone many generations away from him. Among these, there's even one where Sherlock Holmes turns out to be a serial killer ;) and one where he turns out to be a time traveller. I wouldn't be surprised if some people became fans of Sherlock Holmes because they first read one of the pastiches and then sought out the originals.

scarletpeaches
02-02-2007, 01:38 AM
As this seems to be the thread for it, I hereby wish to make it known that my characters, ideas and any chance of a sequel I would condone die with me.

Film adaptations, plays and musicals of MY ORIGINAL MATERIAL are allowed but no stealing of intellectual property and forming such into new stories and thence into new media.

Thank you.

Kate Thornton
02-02-2007, 01:48 AM
But Scarlet, when your work passes into the public domain, it is no longer yours. The only way to be sure you work dies with you is to not have it published.

Intellectual property in the public domain belongs to all, and it may be used at will, including new media - and you never know what types of new media the future may hold.

To interfere with copyrighted intellectual property is a crime - one, I might add, for which I condone the most severe of punishment. But public domain writings are up for grabs by anyone who desires to adapt or perform or make pastiche of.

scarletpeaches
02-02-2007, 01:52 AM
Fine.

Anyone abuses my intellectual property, I'll come back to haunt you.

Kate Thornton
02-02-2007, 01:53 AM
Now *that* would be a terrific story!

maestrowork
02-02-2007, 02:16 AM
How about if we abuse your unintellectual properties?

roach
02-02-2007, 02:16 AM
Following scarletpeaches' lead I hereby declare that once I'm dead anyone can do what they want with my intellectual property. I'll be dead, I won't care.

I actually looked into how I could have my work pass into the public domain once I died and the answer was "you can't". Ah well.

scarletpeaches
02-02-2007, 02:19 AM
How about if we abuse your unintellectual properties?

Deal! But I don't have to die first, right? ;)

maestrowork
02-02-2007, 02:35 AM
Deal! But I don't have to die first, right? ;)

What's the point of that, then?

scarletpeaches
02-02-2007, 02:36 AM
I'd be too squelchy. Or maybe you like that. :D

My goodness. Back for a day and already I'm feeling the Maestro-effect.

Elodie-Caroline
02-02-2007, 04:16 AM
You're most welcome Pamster. I suppose my own writings are fanfiction of a kind, I've never used a story of anyone else's for a base of my own though. I just write them with a certain actor in mind in the lead role if they were ever to become films lol :D

For me personally, sequels never seem as good as the first story they're supposed to follow on to? I loved the film 'Gone with the wind', the sequel was absolute yuk in my opinion.
But saying that, I did so love the film of 'The wide Sargasso sea.' I'll have to pick the book up sometime for that one.


Elodie


I thank you for posting this Elodie, I went to read it and it's true, just how I feel too. It's not love, it's stealing. Fanfiction might be a little different, mainly because there is no money to be made from fanficiton and this OP is about an established story in public domain and whether or not it's right to do/try to do a sequel for it. I say no, get your own characters and write your own stories. Leave Les Miserables alone.

benbradley
02-02-2007, 04:46 AM
Leaving French law aside for a moment, I want to talk about the concept of public domain.
...
I think it's okay to draw from public domain works - there's a whole series of Jane Austen mysteries, as well as sequels to Pride & Predjudice. There are sequels to Gone With the Wind and nearly all of the Bronte's stories.

Your mention of Gone With The Wind in the same paragraph as "public domain works" alarmed me (after all, I'm from The South). I looked it up, there appears to be pertinent information under "Sequels" here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_with_the_wind

MightyScribbler
02-02-2007, 05:04 AM
Imagine if you tried to do a STAR WARs sequel. George Lucas would have you shot. I heard there was a film festival where they were playing the STAR WARS triology, the original unaltered triology. But George wanted all to forget about the originals and only view the CGI enhanced re-version. I thought I was particular bout my work.

AnneMarble
02-02-2007, 05:30 AM
I think I found out the name of the novel told from the POV of Jane Eyre's charge, Adele. But sadly, it turns out the reviews are... disappointing to say the least.

Adele: Jane Eyre's Hidden Story (http://www.amazon.com/Adele-Jane-Eyres-Hidden-Story/dp/B000HWYSCM)

Oh, well. One of the dangers of sequels and adaptations and the like is that they often suck. OTOH this may be one of the benefits because they make us appreciate the original so much more. :D

Cat Scratch
02-02-2007, 05:48 AM
Though I know I"ll have no control over it once I die and it passes to public domain...I'm dissapointed with the idea that one day people might tool with my characters and storylines and take them in directions I had completely not intended.

On the other hand, if they did, that means I was a sucess. So there's that.

lfraser
02-02-2007, 06:05 AM
Wow. I followed that link to the Adele book, and noticed all the Pride and Prejudice 'sequels.' Who on earth would dare to take on Jane Austen? I loved the reader reviews, though. They were, for the most part, suitably scathing.

jodiodi
02-02-2007, 08:04 AM
Though I know I"ll have no control over it once I die and it passes to public domain...I'm dissapointed with the idea that one day people might tool with my characters and storylines and take them in directions I had completely not intended.

On the other hand, if they did, that means I was a sucess. So there's that.

I tend to agree. If my work is successful enough that others are inspired to create using it as a basis, then I don't think I'll have anything to really complain about. But as long as I'm alive and kicking, I want my work to stay like I meant it.

Kate Thornton
02-02-2007, 07:05 PM
Your mention of Gone With The Wind in the same paragraph as "public domain works" alarmed me (after all, I'm from The South). I looked it up, there appears to be pertinent information under "Sequels" here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_with_the_wind

Yes, you are right about GWTW - the sequel was authorized and the book is still in copyright.

AnneMarble
02-02-2007, 07:07 PM
Yes, you are right about GWTW - the sequel was authorized and the book is still in copyright.
I think they did that so that the characters would still be protected by copyright, even once the original book lapsed into public domain. Or, uhm, something like that.

*Throws chum into the water to attrack law sharks*

SpookyWriter
02-02-2007, 09:52 PM
Okay, maybe the laws in France are different. But six years in French courts? I think they should have thrown the suit out in six months.The French are notorious for being slow to make a decision that cuts to the head of the matter. Just look how long it took them to send Marie Antoinette to the guillotines.

Kate Thornton
02-02-2007, 10:34 PM
Guillotine! Guillotine! (Kate, knitting a scarf frantically and calling for blood...)

But the food and wine is terrific.

Celia Cyanide
02-03-2007, 12:33 AM
Money, of course, Ray.

You're right, of course. I might not be so inclined to agree with you if he hadn't also gone after the musical. But he did. So, yes, I agree it's just money.

maestrowork
02-03-2007, 12:37 AM
Do you hear the people sue?
Suing the pants off every man?
It is the novel of a people
Who will not write sequels again!
When the beating of your purse
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a suit about to start
When tomorrow comes!

AnneMarble
02-03-2007, 01:08 AM
Do you hear the people sue?
Suing the pants off every man?
...

:Clap:
Here is your Tony Award...
:Trophy:

Kate Thornton
02-03-2007, 01:19 AM
Do you hear the people sue?
Suing the pants off every man?
It is the novel of a people
Who will not write sequels again!
When the beating of your purse
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a suit about to start
When tomorrow comes!


OMG! THAT IS CLASSIC!

JeanneTGC
02-06-2007, 10:22 PM
Chiming in...I don't necessarily agree that Hugo's descendent is suing over the money. It sounds like he's suing over artistic integrity. They're using Hugo's name for something that has no connection to Hugo any more, real or implied. It's like they are using Victor Hugo as an endorsement -- if it were my great-plus granddaddy, I'd be upset about it, too.

I'm more on Scarlett Peaches' side to this one -- I find myself truly resenting all the "authorized fanfiction" that makes the bestseller lists. Don't start me on "Wicked"...I can guarantee that Baum did NOT think of any of his beloved characters he created for CHILDREN in the way that Maguire has twisted them. I'm happy for Maguire that he's got this great success. But he's gotten it by twisting someone else's characters into something the original creator never intended and would, frankly, be horrified to see were he still alive.

Public Domain means there's nothing I can do about it. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. (Or buy it.)

RTH
02-07-2007, 07:40 PM
Why shouldn't people write sequels of works in the public domain? Because of the 1st law of sequels: sequels always suck.

With the exception of some examples where the story was originally planned to be a series, and the additional possible exception of Terminator 2, the law is inviolate as far as I know. :)

Regardless of whether it's the original author or someone 350 years later, it's gonna suck. Recapturing the magic is a loser's game.

Sequels (and worse: prequels) are a crime against humanity. :)

maestrowork
02-07-2007, 08:05 PM
Sequels don't always suck. Empire Strikes Back was better than New Hope. The Godfather II was better, arguably, than The Godfather. Aliens was just as good, I think, as Alien.

So I think the whole idea that sequels are going to screw up the artistic integrity of the original is bit of a stretch. It could very well be the truth that this Les Miserables sequel is awful, but I couldn't judge until I've read it.

AnneMarble
02-07-2007, 09:18 PM
Why shouldn't people write sequels of works in the public domain? Because of the 1st law of sequels: sequels always suck.

With the exception of some examples where the story was originally planned to be a series, and the additional possible exception of Terminator 2, the law is inviolate as far as I know. :)
Don't forget Bride of Frankenstein. :D


Regardless of whether it's the original author or someone 350 years later, it's gonna suck. Recapturing the magic is a loser's game.

Sequels (and worse: prequels) are a crime against humanity. :)
The quality of the sequel can depend on the original. Just because a book is old and lots of people still read it, that doesn't mean it was great. Some books sucked, no matter how many people loved them. Some books were products of their time and are best appreciated when keeping that in mind, and some were products of their time that suck no matter how you read them. I'd love to see a modern writers version of the true story of Little Lord Fauntleroy, especially as reading it was often such a pain. :) And while I enjoyed reading a couple of Horatio Alger's books, knowing what I know of Alger's past (hint: it involved little boys), a revisionist take on his stories would be ... hmm, interesting. It would piss off a lot of people. But art often does that. :D

Also, sometimes the sequel of a very old work can bring out things that weren't touched upon in the original, but perhaps lurked behind the lines. In recent years, there have been some wonderful short stories and novels based on classic fairy tales. Many of them are dark and disturbing. But so were the originals. We're so used to the cleaned up versions that we forget that. (The real originals have been lost to us anyway as they were shared through storytelling rather than written down, much like many original versions of myths and legends, so in reality, we could argue that the printed versions of those stories are adaptations of the original.) I like the way a daring modern author can take a story like Sleeping Beauty and make us say "Hmmm. I wonder..." Maybe those are not so much sequels and adaptations as "What if..." stories.

RTH
02-08-2007, 12:36 AM
Sequels don't always suck. Empire Strikes Back was better than New Hope. The Godfather II was better, arguably, than The Godfather. Aliens was just as good, I think, as Alien.

So I think the whole idea that sequels are going to screw up the artistic integrity of the original is bit of a stretch. It could very well be the truth that this Les Miserables sequel is awful, but I couldn't judge until I've read it.

OK, Aliens & Godfather II are additional exceptions, as is Superman II. :) However, I think that when there are exceptions, they tend to prove the rule (yes, Empire Strikes Back was better, but that goes in with the series effect. The real sequel is the new trilogy, which doesn't cut the mustard in my book; only one of those movies is worth watching at all). Star Trek II doesn't count since the first movie was crap and easy to top.

I have no opinion as to whether a sequel will ruin the artistic integrity; that depends on why the author wrote it. Regardless of having full integrity, however, 90% of the time it's not going to be as good.:D