Northwestern settles copyright infringement lawsuit with former employee over Leopold-Loeb book

Tyler Pager, Campus Editor

Northwestern intends to jointly publish a book about the 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder trial with a former employee after dismissing a copyright infringement lawsuit against her.

The University announced Tuesday it settled and dismissed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Nina Barrett (Medill ’87) who the University initially claimed illegally refused to return her manuscript and research materials. The upcoming book draws heavily on NU’s materials in the Leopold and Loeb collection.

In the original lawsuit, which was filed in July, NU said it commissioned Barrett to write the book after she curated a successful exhibit about the two University of Chicago law students who killed a 14-year-old boy in Chicago. She began working at NU in 2006 as a writer in the library’s public relations department.

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

However, the lawsuit alleged Barrett left NU in December 2013 without returning any of the research materials. An examination of her University-issued computer found she transferred files related to the project to a USB drive. The lawsuit claimed Barrett tried to prevent NU from obtaining the files.

The lawsuit said Barrett’s acts were “willful, intentional, and purposeful,” and caused the University both monetary damages and “irreparable harm.”

Charles Valente, Barrett’s lawyer, told The Daily in July his client had 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 formally denied the allegations in September, saying NU’s copyright policy gives “copyright ownership and creative control” to the creator of the work. She did admit to restricting access to personal files on NU’s servers.

Barrett now owns local bookstore Bookends & Beginnings, 1712 Sherman Ave.

Valente and University spokesman Al Cubbage declined to comment further on the matter.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @tylerpager