Kalami - April 2001

Pirated Book Copies Cause Scandal in the US

The Lonely Path of Integrity
Spyridon, Archbishop of America

NEW YORK.- The illegal printing and circulation of the authorized biography of Spyridon, former Archbishop of America, written by Justine Frangouli (I Monaxia Enos Asymvivastou - The Lonely Path of Integrity) and published by the well known Greek publishing house Exandas in December 2000, are acquiring scandalous proportions in the Greek American community.

Purchasers of the book, first in sales among Greek publications in the US, have alleged that thousands of pirated copies are being sold in various US cities, mainly by bookseller and publisher Sam Chekwas, the owner of a bookstore in Astoria, New York. Stefania and Harry Nikolaou recently purchased 100 copies of I Monaxia Enos Asymvivastou and were shocked when they opened the boxes and found that they had purchased pirated copies, a fact they reported to the Greek publisher and the NY District Attorney.

Many US purchasers who fell victim to these pirated copies have made similar reports to Exandas Publishers. Such reports urged Exandas publisher Magda Kotzia to make an official denouncement of this fact to the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Publishers-Booksellers, the Association of Athenian Publishers-Booksellers, the Organization of Collegial Administration of Works of Word (OSDEL), the Publishers' Association of Scientific Books, the Publishers' Association of Books and the Book's National Center.

The text of her denouncement is as follows:

«Exandas Publishers denounces the vast fraud, and the theft of intellectual ownership protected by international laws. However, it refrains at present from taking any legal measures in its effort not to compromise in any manner the prestige of the former Archbishop of America, given that the matter pertains to his authorized biography.

»Exandas denounces the fact that Sam Chekwas sells and resells pirated copies of the book I Monaxia Enos Asymvivastou (The Lonely Path of Integrity) in large quantities. This fact constitutes a danger for Greek literature, given that the said publisher has remained the sole distributor and promoter of Greek books in the United States, while he is also preparing a Greek book fair with the participation of Greek publishers.

»Exandas also denounces said pirated copy for the low quality of its duplication, which is an insult to its aesthetic value and the quality of our publications generally, as well as to the readers themselves.

»Therefore we call upon all readers who have fallen victim to this fraud to return the pirated copies to Sam Chekwas or any other source of their purchase, and demand the immediate return of their money.

»We also call upon Greek publishers to denounce the act of Sam Chekwas through public communications in the Greek and American Press and to take all proper measures in order to stop the illegal circulation of pirated copies of our book in the United States.»

It should be noted that this fraud has acquired dimensions of a dangerous phenomenon, not only because thousands of illegal books have been sold, but also because Sam Chekwas, the main trader of said pirated copies, is presented as a promoter of Greek Letters in the United States. Said individual has a record of debts to a large American Publishing House, and charges of theft of intellectual property are otherwise pending against him.

Voices of reaction

His grave concern over the marketing of pirated copies of Spyridon's biography (The Lonely Path of Integrity) within the Greek-American community has been expressed in a statement to the Athens News Agency by Vassilis Alexakis, a distinguished Greek writer: "It is totally inadmissible that pirated books should be marketed in America, where Greek literature should arrive and be promoted intact among the great Greek-American community, given that Greek literature is one of the pivots of support for the cultural survival of Hellenism in the Diaspora. It is particularly saddening that The Lonely Path of Integrity which deals with such a significant part of the history of the Greek American community, should be made the object of intellectual theft by some who, it would seem, have no respect for history or for the Greek-American community itself, in spite of the fact that they pass themselves off as ambassadors of Greek letters. I have never encountered such a case in France, where my books are sold. I am surprised that this should occur in America, where laws on the protection of intellectual property are particularly strict."

Magda Kotzia, head of Exandas Publishers, is particularly outspoken about this scandal regarding the theft of intellectual property through the illegal printing and marketing of Justine Frangouli's book The Lonely Path of Integrity in America. Ms Kotzia directly accused the official importer of the book, Sam Chekwas, of marketing the pirated book in bulk and said that many readers have complained of the affair to Exandas Publishers. "It is a disgrace, she said, that pirated copies of a biography of such an important figure should be marketed by those who obviously don't respect either intellectual rights or the dignity of a publication. I realize that this is not the first time that such misdeeds have been committed and it is for this reason that we denounce this piracy refusing to allow the image of Greek literature to be counterfeited in a highly sensitive area such as the Greek-American community."

Meanwhile, there have been strong reactions to the printing and illegal circulation of the biography in the Greek American community itself. Business magnate Michael Cantonis, a former executive member of the Archdiocesan Council of the Archdiocese of America, had to say: "This is a crime not only against the rule of law but also against morality. The district attorney should intervene immediately to punish in an exemplary manner the person or persons guilty of this intellectual embezzlement that damages the prestige of the Greek publishing house and of an established author. The fraud should stop here and there should be no repetitions injuring the lawful interests of Greek publishers in America. Such illegal acts may easily become an obstacle to future importation of Greek literature into a country with such a large Greek community."

John Catsimatidis, a Greek-American businessman and publisher of The Hellenic Times newspaper, described himself as "staggered by this fraud; those responsible, not only for the marketing but for the reprinting Spyridon's biography, should be prosecuted."

Chris Stratakis, a distinguished jurist and former chair of the Legal Committee of the Archdiocesan Council, offered the following comments: "I condemn any attempt at theft of intellectual property, which, according to American law, is subject to penal sanctions. In this case the value of intellectual property is the product of the author's psyche and her experiences. I am, therefore, particularly sensitive to the issue of book piracy and consider that legal measures should be taken immediately to protect the property of the Greek publishing house and the intellectual product of an author who has offered the Greek-American community a historical biography."

[ Translated from Greek ]

[ ΚΑΛΑΜΙ - - April 2001 ]