Cosmic Debris Sues Creators of Rosamond the Strange

Cosmic Debris, Etc., purveyors of Emily the Strange, has sued author Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and illustrator Marc Simont, asking a judge to declare that Emily the Strange doesn’t infringe on their copyright to the 1978 book Nate the Great and the Lost List.

The suit is a premature and somewhat perplexing strike on the part of Cosmic Debris. The company is attacking Ms. Sharmat and Mr. Simont for legally creating Rosamond years before the appearance of the highly similar Emily.

rosamond-and-emily

The above images appeared in a November 2008 post on You thought we wouldn’t notice…, a site dedicated to pointing out instances of possible copyright infringement. Anyone may register and post on the site. The post in question was submitted by Rhode Island School of Design illustration student Chelsea McAlarney.

Ms. McAlarney reports the “Rosamond” image is a page from 1978’s Nate the Great Goes Undercover, while the “Emily” image is from an early 1990s bumper sticker. It easy to see why McAlarney was alarmed.

And lest we think it’s a one time coincidence, CoffeeGhost.net has some more pictures of undeniable similarities between the two properties. Doctor Popular of Laughing Squid also posted about the issue. In fact, he went further than that and alerted illustrator Marc Simont to the obvious problem.

So what does Rob Reger, “creator” of Emily the Strange, have to say? In a comment cross-posted to multiple blogs, Mr. Reger first passes the buck, then admits-but-doesn’t-admit wrongdoing, then makes excuse after excuse as to why Cosmic Debris continues to knowingly use stolen intellectual property.

Dear Emily the Strange Friends and Foes,

I’ve been made aware of this blog and some similar ones with inquiries regarding the origination and creation of the Emily the Strange character. As you may be aware by what has been noted in many interviews and on Wikipedia, Nathan Carrico first conceived of and used Emily as a character for a skateboard design back in 1991. After seeing a sticker of the design, I thought the quirky “looks strange” design was in line with other tees Cosmic Debris was doing, and that it might resonate well with the crew I was selling to. I asked and received permission to use the design from Nathan. We then began creating Emily’s gothic, nonconformist, dark world by using a variety of original expressions (”I want you to leave me alone”, “Teacher’s Pest”, “Emily doesn’t search to belong…” etc.) and unique Emily designs on our t-shirts and other products. Several years thereafter, the character of Rosamond from the children’s book series Nate the Great was brought to my attention for the first time.

Although the designs and worlds of Rosamond and Emily are different and readily distinguishable, and although we never received any complaints from the author, the artist, or the publisher, we phased out the original skateboard design upon learning of the Rosamond character, and worked with the creative team to further distinguish Emily and her universe. Regarding copyright law, there is legally nothing wrong with sharing or implementing a unique variation on a concept. I have never drawn inspiration from the Nate the Great series or Rosamond. In fact, we at Cosmic Debris have always moved to individualize the idea of Emily the Strange and her universe, which are original to Cosmic Debris.

Today Cosmic Debris prides itself on what it has become over the years: the creative design house that is responsible for providing consumers with strong messages about feminism, empowerment and individualism. Through years of development, Emily the Strange has grown from simple graphics into a concept that reaches far beyond design. Through our fan forum, I have learned that Emily has comforted the suicidal, helped people accept their sexuality, and get through very taxing personal situations. This is all in addition to making everyone know it is okay, and even better, to be different. I am very proud of this, because that was and is my goal: to make the world feel more comfortable in its own skin.

We applaud your interest and hope you continue to stand up for what you believe— that’s what Emily would do.

Sincerely,
Rob Reger

Emily the Strange appears on various merchandise, including a comic series from Dark Horse. This Year’s Free Comic Book Day sampler from the company featured a four-page story of Emily the Strange and her cats. A movie, produced by Dark Horse’s Mike Richardson, is planned for a 2010 release.

Theaterworks/USA recently toured a musical adaptation of Nate the Great — including Rosamond — for elementary school audiences.

There ‘s no question about it: things are getting ugly. The initial similarities between the properties, Mr. Reger’s reprehensible self-justification and the odd lawsuit lead me to believe that Cosmic Debris knowingly stole Ms. Sharmat’s and Mr. Simont’s intellectual property and now expects to get away with it.

I can only hope the legal system exposes Cosmic Debris and Reger and orders them to make restitution for their crimes.

Related: Doctor Popular’s elephant in the room.

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About James A Woods
Freelance Writer, Constant Learner, Family Man

3 Responses to Cosmic Debris Sues Creators of Rosamond the Strange

  1. Marjorie Weinman Sharmat says:

    Dear Doctor Popular,

    At last, hello! So glad to be finally checking in. Thanks so much for your letter of inquiry about the Rosamond/Emily case. It is weird tht someone who has copied my work and Marc Simont’s work is bringing a case against us based on the consequences of his having done so. In terms of the assistance you kindly offered , we would welcome any examples that people find of copying.( Nate the Great loves to collect specific clues! ) So if anyone finds any material, please post it on your blog. The more information collected, the better, including items that are offered for sale, where, when, etc.

    Cheers and thanks, Doctor Popular,

    Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

    • adamtree says:

      I’m not Doctor Popular (of course), and I assume this comment was cross-posted to multiple blogs. I approved it because I want readers of this blog to know about Ms. Sharmat’s search for examples of copying.

  2. Marjorie Weinman Sharmat says:

    Oops! Hi Adamtree and thanks so much for your thoughtfuly response. I guess I wandered into your teritory, but it’s nice territory. Doctor Popular had made a specific request regarding participation of Nate fans, as explained above, and it struck me as particularly fitting.

    (I don’t know anything about cross blogging, although I’m of course so pleased and touched to see the huge outpouring of support all across the internet.

    Marjorie

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