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Malcolm X Heirs Sue Publisher Over Diaries

MANHATTAN (CN) - A Chicago publisher is printing diaries from the last year of Malcolm X's life without authorization, the late civil rights leader's heirs claim in court.

X Legacy, a New York-based LLC, sued Third World Press in Federal Court.

Malcolm X's heirs created the LLC to "protect, consolidate, and enhance the value of the assets and properties relating to the beneficiaries of Dr. Betty Shabazz, and Malcolm X, including the diaries," the complaint states.

Shabazz was Malcolm X's wife.

In January 2003, Malcolm X's family arranged that its collection of his diaries, photographs, letters and other materials would be placed on long-term deposit at the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center in Harlem, according to the lawsuit.

In October this year, Third World Press announced its impending publication of "The Malcolm X Diaries" culled in part from this collection, the complaint states.

The publisher's website features a YouTube video with the book's co-editors: nonparties Herb Boyd, a journalist, and Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm X's third daughter.

About a minute into the video, Shabazz says: "It's really beautiful that we get to see Malcolm in his own voice, without scholars, historians, observers saying what he was thinking, or what he was doing, or what he meant."

The Third World Press website also links to the online fundraising website Indiegogo, seeking money for printing and marketing.

The Indiegogo page states: "Malcolm's children have granted us the opportunity to publish The Diary," but X Legacy claims the publisher is mistaken - that it alone owns exclusive copyrights to the materials.

"Although X Legacy has never transferred or licensed any of those rights to any third party, TWP has released advanced copies of 'The Diary of Malcolm X,' which comprises a majority of the diaries, to which X Legacy owns the exclusive copyrights," the complaint states. "TWP has publicly announced that it intends to publish 'The Diary of Malcolm X' in early November 2013, despite X Legacy's repeated demands that TWP not do so."

X Legacy says it "intends to release and publish the Diaries on or about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, in February 2015."

"In an effort to stop the improper infringement of the works it holds, X Legacy has made repeated efforts to communicate to TWP that its publication of these works is improper," the complaint states. "Those efforts have fallen on deaf ears; TWP continues to act as if it is entitled to exploit intellectual property which it does not own. Without this court's immediate assistance, the value of these timeless writings will be lost forever."

The LLC seeks an injunction and punitive damages for copyright infringement.

It is represented by L. Londell McMillan of Meister Seelig & Fein.

Third World Press did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

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