Flat Stanley Sells Out! Save the Flat Stanley Project!

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Flat Stanley makes a splash on the red carpet

Children's book character Flat Stanley has become a symbol of world peace, promoting international relations and literacy across the globe. Sadly, the Trust of late author Jeff Brown is in danger of ruining Flat Stanley's reputation in the name of a quick buck.

In 1995 Dale Hubert, a schoolteacher in Ontario, Canada started the Flat Stanley Project, for which he received the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence in 2001. The project involves children making a paper cut-out of Flat Stanley and mailing him around the world. Flat Stanley's hosts keep a diary of his activities, photograph him around town, and return him to his classroom a week later.

Author Jeff Brown encouraged teacher Hubert to continue with the project, crediting it with renewed book sales, and publisher Harper-Collins encouraged Hubert to purchase the URL www.flatstanley.com. Unfortunately, due to the goodwill involved, no one put anything in writing. Now the late author's Trust is promoting a musical version of the book and plans to publish additional Flat Stanley books penned by another author. According to Dale Hubert, the Trust has contacted him regarding The Flat Stanley Project website with what sounds suspiciously like scare tactics.

It is not just a simple case of cease and desist. The website for The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley has lifted images from Hubert's website without permission from either Hubert or the photographers (who still retain the copyrights) and slapped their own copyright on the bottom of the webpage.

The Trust plans to trademark the name "Flat Stanley", after which, Hubert says, "their position is they'll be able to own or take anything that uses that name" including pursuing an administrative transfer of his domain name www.flatstanley.com. A retroactive trademark? They want to annex a URL? According to Hubert, "They'll still 'allow' me to carry on the Flat Stanley Project at flatstanleyproject.com but they will take the domain flatstanley.com and they will use the site and the traffic I've generated to promote the musical, advertise merchandise and to sell books."

Hubert has never sought compensation for the Flat Stanley Project and runs the site out of his own pocket. For many years, as a courtesy, Hubert advertised Flat Stanley books and recently even promoted the musical on his site. The Trust refuses to come to an agreement where they will support the Flat Stanley Project in any way.

Says Hubert, "As a Grade 3 teacher, I'm used to sorting out squabbles on the playground and arriving at win-win solutions. I feel in this case a mutually beneficial agreement could be easily reached if both parties were intent on achieving one. For 13 years I've conducted the Flat Stanley Project as a labor of love, but in light of recent events, when I look at it objectively, I find that a labor of love without the emotion is only a labor. With the Trust planning on taking my domain, I'm beginning to wonder why I should continue. But the Flatlands are a place for hope, and I'm hopeful that the best interests of the kids will be considered and I will be able to continue my Flat Stanley Project without obstruction."

What can you do?

Mommy bloggers, literary bloggers, news outlets, and all -- get the word out! Dale Hubert is available for interviews. He can be reached at dalehubert@rogers.com.

I have an Attribution-only Creative Commons license on the following Flat Stanley photographs. You have my permission to use these photographs and the others that are linked to in any LAist Flat Stanley photo essay for "commercial use" limited to news stories regarding this situation, attribution to Elise Thompson. If you need larger files, contact me at elisethompson@hotmail.com.

If you are involved in PR, advertising, law (particularly copyright and patent or Internet law) and would like to volunteer your services, please contact Dale Hubert at dalehubert@rogers.com.

Also, visit the website and chime in with words of support.