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Lawyer’s suit claims law firm's book 'is a slimmed down, ersatz version' of his treatise

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An Ohio lawyer has filed a lawsuit alleging that the Beasley Allen law firm and one of its partners published a book on whistleblower law that copies information from his own treatise.

Lawyer James Helmer Jr. of Cincinnati alleges that the Beasley Allen book “is a slimmed down, ersatz version” of his treatise first published in 1994 on the False Claims Act. Law360 has coverage of Helmer’s suit for alleged copyright infringement.

The Beasley book “copies the organization, analysis and citations” of Helmer’s treatise, according to the federal suit, filed Feb. 7 in the Southern District of Ohio.

“In fact, one can find—throughout the Beasley book—verbatim copying of original, expressive and protected portions of the Helmer treatise,” the suit says.

Helmer says he thinks Beasley Allen is using the book as a marketing tool. Beasley Allen is a firm representing plaintiffs with offices in Alabama and Georgia.

The Beasley Allen partner named as a defendant in Helmer’s suit, Lance Gould, told the ABA Journal in a statement that the Beasley Allen book “fairly uses small portions” of the treatise and cites it in footnotes. The suit is without merit, Gould said.

Helmer’s suit explains that the False Claims Act was enacted to “deal with cheating by government contractors in the Civil War.” By 1943, congressional amendments had rendered the law ineffective, and there were no successful lawsuits brought under the law from 1943 to 1984, the suit says.

Helmer says he filed a lawsuit under the law in 1984 and testified before Congress about ways to make the law more effective. Congress followed his advice, and Helmer went on to bring whistleblower cases that returned more than $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury, the suit says.

Here is Gould’s full statement to the ABA Journal:

“Our primer on whistleblower law was written and given away as an educational tool. This primer fairly uses small portions of the Helmer legal treatise—a recognized and prominent source on the subject—and cites to Helmer’s treatise in numerous footnotes much in the same way one would cite to sources in a law review article. Scholarly legal writing seldom involves obtaining permission to quote fair portions of legal writings when attributions are provided in a footnote.

“In our opinion, a suit for copyright violations under these circumstances lacks merit, strains judicial resources, and should be vigorously defended.”

Updated Feb. 10 at 4:04 p.m. to include the statement from Lance Gould.

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