Nobel Prize Winning Author Sued

Posted on August 27, 2007

Canadian author Shahir Shahidsaless is suing Nobel Prize winner and Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi for failure to follow through on co-authoring a book. Shahidsaless is seeking $1.3 million in the lawsuit. Shahidsaless says she spent 18 months working on the project after Ebadi agreed to a co-written book.

According to the lawsuit, Shahidsaless spent 18 months working on the book, A Useful Enemy. Shahidsaless says Ebadi suggested in a November 2004 telephone call that they co-write a book in response to Samuel Huntington's clash of civilizations theory, which some have used to argue that Islamic and Western societies are culturally incompatible.

The lawsuit says Ebadi specified themes and chapters for the book, and that Shahidsaless and Ebadi regularly spoke about the book's content and style. Shahidsaless says Ebadi told him of her contract with Random for Iran Awakening in January 2006 and that the two agreed that Ebadi would approach Random and ask them to publish the co-written book for a $1-million advance.

But in July 2006, says Shahidsaless, Ebadi e-mailed Shahidsaless saying her agent, Wendy Strothman, and Random had recommended she not publish the book because it would damage sales of her future books, the lawsuit said. In a later e-mail, Ebadi referred to self-interested political motivations, according to the lawsuit, as her reason for breaching the agreement with Shahidsaless to publish the book as a coauthor.

Shahidsaless wants damages of $1 million because the book was never published and he didn't become famous. He also wants another $300,000 in research expenses. The moral of this story is this: be wary of co-authoring agreements. Before you write one word, you need to have a written agreement spelling out all the rights and obligations of both parties. Of course, starving authors never do this, which is why the more successful author always gets sued.