May 28, 1946
Mr. John C. Gall
Washington 5, D.C.
I have always thought that if I ever had to be involved in a big lawsuit with political implications, I would choose you as my champion. Well, here is the case—and if you find that you can handle it for me, I would like very much to have you represent me.
I am enclosing copies of two confidential letters which I received from my agent yesterday, and which will tell you the whole case. WE THE LIVING is my first novel, and was published in Italy by Baldini and Castoldi in 1937. This is the first I have heard about its piracy for the screen by an Italian motion picture company.
As you see, it will probably be a big and difficult case. I gather from Mr. Downes’ letter that the Italian producers, who were Fascists, are now connected with what is probably the “pink” elements in the Allied Commission. I suppose that such a case would have to be handled through American government departments, and that there will be difficulties or obstructions from the “reds” in government positions in Washington. I want, above all, to be able to rely on the political views of my attorney; so I hope very much that you can undertake this case.
I have not consulted anyone about this as yet, and do not quite know what such a case might involve and what I should do about it. It seems to me that I should sue not only for whatever royalties are due me, but also and primarily for the damage to my reputation as a writer, damage caused by the fact that a book of mine was produced as Fascist propaganda. WE THE LIVING is a story laid in Soviet Russia, and it is anti-Soviet but, above all, it is anti-dictatorship. Therefore, it is as much anti-Fascist as anti-Communist, and I resent, more than the financial piracy, the use of my material or the distortion of my message into a pro-Fascist picture.
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It also seems to me that I should claim damages as an American citizen against the Italian producers’ use of my property in war time for the purpose of enemy propaganda and for showing in enemy countries. On the purely financial side, I think I should sue not merely for whatever author’s rights the two pictures have earned, but for the fact that the making and release of these pictures has spoiled the world market of my book or what is known as world motion picture rights, which are bought by American producers only if a property has never been used on the screen anywhere.
There may be other angles involved, and I would like you to tell me just what the proper legal approach to such a case must be, and on how many different counts I must sue these people. As you will see from Mr. Downes’ letter, the financial amount involved will be tremendous, but the case will be very difficult politically, and I would like you to tell me if there are any precautions I must take against the probable opposition of the “reds” in Washington.
If you find that you can not undertake this case, would you recommend someone whom I should choose to represent me and on whom I could depend politically. I do not know whether this has to be handled through the American courts or the Italian courts or both. If, as I gather, the case has to be prosecuted in Italy, do you have representatives there in whom we can have complete confidence in respect to the warning in Mr. Downes’ letter?
Since this case will probably take a long time, could you give me some idea of what it will cost me? Have there been other cases of such a nature, and is there a precedent to go by in their settlement by foreign companies?
I hope very much that you will find yourself able to undertake this for me, as I should be very proud to be represented by you.
With best regards,