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Barbara Chase-Riboud

Barbara Chase-Riboud is the author of Echo of Lions, a book which she claimed was illegally appropriated by the writers of the motion picture Amistad.
Chase-Riboud is a sculptor, poet, and author of historical fiction. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1949, Ms. Chase-Riboud is an African-American expatriate -- she lives in Paris, France, and Rome, Italy. Chase-Riboud earned a master's in fine arts from the Yale School of Art and Architecture. In 1979, her first novel, Sally Hemings, won the Kafka Award for the best novel written by an American woman. Sally Hemings was the story of Thomas Jefferson's slave and sometimes mistress, who allegedly bore him a daughter. Her second historical novel, Valide: A Novel of the Harem, focused on the slavery-like conditions of the harem in the Ottoman Empire. The first two novels were essentially non-fiction portrayals of historical periods. Her third novel, Echo of Lions, represented a greater foray into story-making and story-telling, as Ms. Chase-Riboud began using fictionalized characters and incidents to meld the events of the Amistad incident into a cohesive drama.
In 1988, her book of poetry, Portrait of a Nude Woman as Cleopatra, won the Carl Sandburg Prize. In 1994, she returned to the story of the Hemings family. The main character of The President's Daughter is Harriet Hemings, the daughter that Sally Hemings bore, allegedly fathered by President Thomas Jefferson. It follows Sally Hemings through most of the 19th century, during which she crosses paths with the great figures and great events of that tumultuous period. She has written book reviews for the Washington Post. Chase-Ribound is no stranger to copyright infringement litigation, and she has been successful in the past. Several years ago, she proved that the play "Dusky Sally" by Granville Burgess infringed the copyrights to her historical novel Sally Hemmings.

Although Amistad debuted in the United States in early December 1997, it was not scheduled to debut in most European countries until February. Dreamworks plans to debut the film in France on February 25, 1998. Ms. Chase-Riboud lost her bid for a preliminary injunction in the United States, but this ruling, made under U.S. copyright law, has no formal effect in France. Accordingly, Ms. Chase-Riboud is suing to enjoin the French release of the film. France takes a starkly different view of intellectual property rights than the United States. French copyright law is grounded in the notion of "moral rights," and generally gives original authors significantly more protection than U.S. law. On Monday, January 26, Ms. Chase-Riboud's French lawyer said that they would wait until later in the week to formally file suit. He said he was waiting to see if settlement talks between Chase-Riboud and Dreamworks in the U.S. bore fruit.