Several of Malcolm X’s family members are reported to have filed a lawsuit last Friday to block publication by Chicago-based Third World Press of a diary the civil rights leader wrote in the last year of his life. The reproduction of a private diary kept as he travelled to the Middle East and Africa immediately before his assassination was scheduled for publication this week and lists daughter Ilyasah Shabazz as one of the book’s co-editors.
The lawsuit, obtained by the NY Post and other publications and apparently filed in “Manhattan federal court” (but not yet listed on any federal docket) asserts Third World Press has no right to publish the diary. Rather, Legacy X, a entity created by Malcolm X’s surviving heirs, “has exclusive rights to publish, reproduce and distribute the diaries worldwide” and they assert that “Third World Press is snubbing the exclusive copyrights.”
They add: “Legacy X has made repeated efforts to communicate to TWP that its publications of these works is improper…These efforts have fallen on deaf ears; TWP continues to act if it is entitled to exploit intellectual property which it does not own. Without this court’s immediate assistance, the value of these timeless writings will be lost forever.”
Third World Press executive Bennett Johnson says the company has a signed contract with Ilyasah Shabazz. But the complaint says that she signed over her rights (along with four of her siblings) to Malcolm X’s intellectual property in 2011, arguing that makes her agreement with Third World Press “unlawful.” Legacy X further stated they planned publication of Malcolm X’s diaries in 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of his assassination.
Late Friday Hachette spokesperson Sophie Cottrell clarified their position in the ongoing litigation with the estate of Richard Ben Cramer that we reported on. Hachette re-filed their claim, Cottrell explained, “with the cooperation of and prior discussion with the attorney for Cramer’s estate” and, moreover, is “attempting to work with the estate to resolve this matter without further need for litigation.” Cottrell reiterated that the initial lawsuit “was a means of last recourse by Hachette for repayment” of Cramer’s outstanding advance. (Lawyers for Cramer’s estate had still not responded to our request for comment.)