Former Northwestern employee denies copyright infringement

Tyler Pager, Breaking News Editor

Former Northwestern employee Nina Barrett on Monday denied allegations that she infringed upon the University’s copyright by refusing to return her unfinished manuscript for a book about the 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder trial.

In July, Northwestern filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Barrett, whom the University commissioned to write a book about the notorious murder trial. The lawsuit alleged Barrett’s acts were “willful, intentional, and purposeful,” and as a result, the University has suffered both monetary damages and “irreparable harm.”

Barrett (Medill ’87), who began working at NU in 2006 as a writer in University Library’s public relations department, was asked to write the book in 2009 after curating a successful exhibit on the trial for the library, according to the lawsuit. The 1924 trial found two University of Chicago students guilty of killing a 14-year-old boy in Chicago.

Barrett’s supervisor told her the book would be an official part of her job as a library employee, the lawsuit stated.

In 2012, Barrett was awarded the Kaplan Institute’s Library Fellowship to complete the book. The lawsuit states the contract for the publication of the book would be between Northwestern University Press and Northwestern University Library.

However, the suit alleged that Barrett did not return any of the research materials for the book when she resigned from NU in December 2013.

A forensic examination that NU conducted on the laptop Barrett was issued suggested that she transferred files related to the project to a USB drive, and restricted access to other files on NU’s servers, according to the suit. The University alleged that Barrett wanted to prevent NU from accessing the files.

In Barrett’s response to the lawsuit, she admitted to restricting access to personal files on NU’s servers but denied the other allegations.

In the response to the lawsuit, Barrett also said the Kaplan Institute fellowship terms only required her to produce a paper and workshop for the other Institute fellows. In addition, she stated NU’s copyright policy gives “copyright ownership and creative control” to the creator of the work.

Charles Valente, Barrett’s lawyer, said NU has never seen a copy of her work. He told The Daily in July that his client has no liability.

“The University is trying to bully a previously published author who received the library’s Kaplan Fellowship and seize her work product in violation of her rights under the fellowship,” Valente said.

Barrett now owns Bookends & Beginnings at 1712 Sherman Ave., a bookstore that recently opened in the former location of Bookman’s Alley.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @tylerpager