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A former Gettysburg park ranger who started a business telling ghost stories to visitors to the Civil War battlefield town has lost a copyright infringement suit he filed against a rival. Judge Sylvia Rambo of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania drove the stake through most of the copyright infringement claims of Mark Nesbitt of Gettysburg, Pa. Nesbitt claimed that 10 of the stories he published in a series of books beginning in 1991 were spirited away by Farnsworth House, a longtime bed and breakfast, for their walking tours of haunted spots in Gettysburg. Farnsworth House claimed that the stories were in the public domain and could not be copyrighted by Nesbitt. The judge dismissed all but one of Nesbitt’s claims, saying that the only significant similarity between his published stories and those performed by the storytellers at the Civil War Mourning Theatre and on the Candlelight Ghost Walk were that they use plots in the public domain. The judge ruled that Nesbitt’s creations were “derivative works,” or adaptations of existing works. She said only his creative elaborations, not the underlying stories, could be copyrighted. She rejected copyright claims on nine of the 10 stories. ‘SARTORIAL SPIRIT’ In the case of “The Sartorial Spirit of Stevens Hall” and the “Blue Boy,” she noted that the version used by Patti O’Day, manager of the theatre, has a mistake identical to one that appears in Nesbitt’s version — a fact that could lead a jury to decide copyright infringement had occurred. The two parties have settled the “Blue Boy” issue, they said. Nesbitt, 52, published the first of his books in 1991, and started a tour of ghostly locales in 1994. When the Farnsworth House Inc. began operating its own evening tours and telling tales of ghostly Civil War corpses, severed limbs and weeping widows three years later, Nesbitt heard from some of his friends that parts of his stories were being used in their tours. Marc J. Farrell, an intellectual property attorney in the Harrisburg, Pa., office of Pittsburgh-based Reed Smith, who represented Farnsworth House, said, “Nesbitt tried to assert copyrights in both material that he obtained from other sources, and in general themes and concepts. “But an author cannot obtain copyrights for material that is not his original creation,” Farrell added. Nesbitt claimed that his suit served its purpose. “They quit using the majority of my stories when the lawsuit was filed,” he said, adding that the judge rejected the defendants’ demands that he pay their legal fees.

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