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The Suit Done Settled

The protectors of Margaret Mitchell's “Gone With the Wind” have dropped their yearlong battle to stop publication of Alice Randall's “The Wind Done Gone,” agreeing to an out-of-court settlement.

Under the terms of the settlement, Randall's publisher, Houghton Mifflin, agreed to make an unspecified contribution to Morehouse College, a historically black school in Atlanta. In return, lawyers for Mitchell's estate agreed to stop trying to block sales of Randall's book, which tells the “GWTW” story from a slave's point of view.

An Atlanta judge had blocked publication of “The Wind Done Gone” in April 2001, ruling that it violated the copyright of Mitchell's 1936 classic about the Civil War. A month later, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that the injunction was an “extraordinary and drastic remedy” that “amounts to unlawful prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment.”

The book was published in June 2001 and was on best-seller lists for weeks.

Even though the book was already available, lawyers for the Mitchell estate had said they would continue the lawsuit in hopes of getting damages.

Lawyers for the Mitchell trust argued that Randall appropriated characters, scene, setting, plot and even some passages straight from “Gone With the Wind.”

Houghton Mifflin and Randall argued that “The Wind Done Gone” was a parody protected by the First Amendment. They also maintained that, by imagining what Scarlett O'Hara's slaves thought and felt, the book offered a new perspective on Mitchell's story.

Under the settlement, Randall retains rights to any movie adaptation of her book.

“We're glad that it is all behind us,” said her husband, David Ewing. “(The book) will now forever be in the hands of readers, librarians and book stores.”

Martin Garbus, a lawyer for the Mitchell estate, said Thursday he was prohibited from talking about the settlement.

The Mitchell family has long-standing ties to Morehouse. In the 1940s, Mitchell paid for dozens of scholarships for students under a secret arrangement with the school's president. This year, Mitchell's nephew gave the college $1.5 million to endow a humanities chair in her name.

The publishing industry closely watched the lawsuit, which could have affected how extensively parodies can borrow from a copyrighted works.

A similar battle had been waged over the novel “Lo's Diary,” an irreverent retelling of the late Vladimir Nabokov's “Lolita” from the young girl's point of view. The two sides eventually reached a deal to share royalties.