David Duncan, author of "The River Why," had sued a husband and wife, and their film companies, and Sierra Club Books, claiming Sierra resold movie rights to his book, without his permission and without paying him, after an initial option expired.
Duncan, author of the critically acclaimed "River Why" and "The Brothers K," sued Thomas Cohen dba Hammermark Productions, and Cohen's wife, Kristi Denton Cohen dba Peloton Productions, in Federal Court.
Duncan says Denton Cohen, who makes corporate training films, claims to have acquired rights to his book from her husband, a Marin County attorney. "This right, however, was not Cohen's to give," Duncan says.
Duncan claims the Cohens and Sierra Club Books perpetrated "a fraudulent scheme," in which Sierra, purporting to act as his agent, sold Hammermark film rights to the book. But Hammermark never exercised the option, Duncan says.
The complaint continues: "SCB, in violation of its fiduciary duty owed to Duncan, revived Hammermark's expired option without any consideration after Hammermark purportedly assigned the rights to Cohen and Cohen offered SCB an opportunity to invest on its own account in the film production. Even in the absence of this fraudulent conduct, Duncan terminated Hammermark's right to prepare a film derivative work in 1993 because Hammermark failed to fulfill its obligations within a reasonable time. ... Duncan has gone to great lengths in an effort to resolve the impasse created by Denton Cohen's insistence that she owns the film rights to the book and SCB's faithless conduct. Denton Cohen is not qualified to produce the film, and Duncan never would have agreed to grant her the rights. All else seemingly has failed, and Duncan now seeks herein by way of a lawsuit to finally put a stop to Denton Cohen's infringement of the right to prepare derivative works of his book 'The River Why.'"