A Stainless Steel Rip-Off?

by

“The world’s changed. Society’s all concrete and stainless steel. It really takes a smart rat to survive the new conditions.”

Sound familiar? It’s a line being used on FaceBook to promote a play called Stainless Steel Rat which is being staged from 28th June 2011 at the York Theatre, Seymour Centre, in Sydney, Australia.

But don’t get excited, the play has nothing to do with Harry Harrison’s book The Stainless Steel Rat. It is actually an ‘artistic interpretation’ of the activities of WikiLeaks spokesperson and editor-in-chief Julian Assange. Assange is believed to have used the names ‘Stainless Steel Rat’ and ‘Harry Harrison’ as aliases online, hence the connection.


Julian Assange has received a number of accolades for his journalism and campaigning for more open and accountable government; his place in the spotlight has also meant that his own private life has become a matter of investigation and speculation.

Swedish authorities are currently seeking to extradite Assange from Britain to question him about an alleged sexual assault. Assange is appealing against extradition, on the grounds that the allegations are ‘without basis,’ and in the belief that an extradition to Sweden will then be followed by extradition to the United States. The British appeal hearing is due to take place on 12th July 2011.

Assange is known for taking things which don’t belong to him and making them freely available. The authors of the ‘wikiplay’ Stainless Steel Rat seem to have taken a similar approach, but they’re using Harry Harrison’s creations for their own profit. Shame.

[Note: Any opinions expressed here are my own, and not those of Harry Harrison. The above image is taken from the theatre website and is used without their permission... :)]

A brief update, with Harry’s comments on this:

These guys are ripoff artists. I’d have them in jail if I could.

I’m trying.

Harry

24 Responses to “A Stainless Steel Rip-Off?”

  1. Burin Bache Says:

    While I like…LOVE anything “steelrat’ish” this is just disappointing. While I won’t blame anybody for using at least the nick ‘Stainless Steel Rat’ (cos its just darn cool and we all know it! :D).
    The author of this play clearly went too far tho. If it would be just a fan-work and sort of a tribute…okay. But he is making money with it, right? And using a famous name and title and a catch line for his own work and to promote it does not just show a major lack of creativity but also no faith that a title of his own could get as much attention. Shame indeed.
    In this guy’s case I would not hope for him that Angelina never gets him into her hands :P
    Inskipp, there’s a copycat to catch!

  2. Burin Bache Says:

    Okay, could not help but to ‘google’ a bit on this guy. If it is really this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Elisha he should know alot better. He’s old enough, well educated enough (at least that’s what I’d think from a doctor) and an experienced writer.
    Heck, and he calls his work “black comedy”! => http://www.medicalobserver.com.au/news/gp-playwright-takes-on-wikileaks Makes me wonder if he copied more than just what we already know.
    By the way looks like they do gonna make money with all that:
    http://whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/events/10552-stainless-steel-rat
    Ticket prices Adults $59! How any SSR-books you can get for that.

  3. Relican Says:

    So wait a minute, did they actually take something from the books? I have not seen the play but merely using the name of one of Harry’s books is hardly so evil as you make it sound, the play has probably nothing to do with Harry’s work, he is clearly referring to Assange. Seems you are overreacting ….

  4. Shockwave Plasma Says:

    Seems the play is rubbish as well.

    http://noh8er.tumblr.com/reviews

  5. Lani Says:

    I wrote to the theatre expressing my disgust. After a month they replied with the following:

    Hi (Disappointed Harry Harrison Fan),

    I hope you can come to the show.

    From the producer:

    The Harry Harrison/SSR reference derives from a dating website said to have been favoured by Assange. The source is attributed in the play and Harrison is acknowledged. Nothing in the official marketing of the play suggests we are trading off of Harrison’s character or his science fiction. If anything, the play advertises HH and his work vividly.

    The show is going to be extremely topical and fun and should be a great night out.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers

    Tim Jones

    Artistic Director and General Manager

    Seymour Centre

  6. John Smith Says:

    This play (I saw it) was vile and libellous, involving pedophilia and sodomy (together) without explanation or any connection to the subject. The verbatim lifting of the title of a very popular sci-fi work by Harry Harrison, regardless of whether the Assange character read it or used it as a nickname in his distant past, is clear breach of copyright, and has high potential to damage Harrison’s reputation as an author in any number of ways, especially given the terrible reception the play has had, as well as its amateurish, disgusting content. The review by noh8er on his/her blog sums it up admirably, as does the one by the Sydney Morning Herald reviewer, linked to there. The unauthorised use of this title, especially given that it does, in fact, ultimately refer to the Harrison work, so he’s using Harrison’s actual title, not merely coming up with the same title independently and unrelatedly – not to mention the rush to ‘be the first’ to make a (smear-) play about the single biggest news item in recent history – show Elisha to be unscrupulously opportunistic, single-mindedly wanting to cash in and get attention on the back of Harrison and Assange’s hard-won fame. He should be sued and jailed into oblivion, immediately.

    • Paul Tomlinson Says:

      I think the fact that the play is reported to be rubbish is actually a good thing — hopefully it will sink back into the slime and people will soon forget about it.

      The fact that the playwright ‘stole’ Harry’s title is a difficult one. As he actually used only the title, he didn’t technically infringe upon copyright, as a title on its own is not subject to copyright. If the writer had used the character of the Stainless Steel Rat, then that would have been a different matter.

      The final straw for me, and others in this thread, was that they — either the writer, the theatre or their publicist — used a paraphrase from HH’s novel to promote the play on FaceBook. That kind of lack of originality is unforgivable — creative people may pay homage, but they shouldn’t rip-off the work of others.

      As ever, I make no apologies for ‘over-reacting’ when it comes to defending Harry — when I was a kid he was my hero, and now he’s my friend: I make no claims to impartiality.

  7. John Smith Says:

    “Stainless Steel Rat” is Harrison’s title, not Elisha’s. If I decided to write a play and call it “Superman” or “Return of the Jedi” or “Judge Dredd” or “The Lord of the Rings”, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t get away with it. And neither should Elisha.

    • Bored Astronaut Says:

      @John Smith:

      Titles cannot be copyrighted.

      The play is obviously a parody and has some protections on that level. Being sent to jail? That’s completely absurd.

  8. Alex Cox Says:

    I don’t think these guys mean any harm.
    Assange is clearly a fan of Harry, to the extent of calling
    himself ‘Harry Harrison’ as a way of attracting girls!
    And it appears that he may have been influenced by Harry’s
    brilliant writing in his actions — perhaps to the extent of
    emulating The Rat.
    Shouldn’t we applaud Harry for inspiring Assange,
    and Assange for being inspired by Harry?
    And how about another sequel?

    • Paul Tomlinson Says:

      If Assange is a fan of Harry’s, then that’s cool — I have no problem with Assange. I’m just not sure the playwright of the (fake) ‘Stainless Steel Rat’ has any respect for Assange or for Harry.

      And who knows what problem the Hollywood suits will have with a genuine adaptation of Harry’s book if they discover this association. Allegedly Soylent Green was renamed because someone in La-La Land made a connection between Make Room! Make Room! and some old tv thing called Make Room for Daddy.

      I must sign off now and get back to work on my new play, Bill, the Galactic Hero which is about how Bill Clinton saves the universe while trying to save a princess in a stained dress… :)

    • John Smith Says:

      Paul’s right – the playwright had zero respect for Assange or Harrison, which is why he wrote an ignorant, trashy play riding on the fame of the former whilst using an established and widely known title associated exclusively in the public mind with the latter, who invented it.

      Assange’s prior adoption of it as an online nickname is certainly a form of homage, clearly he was impressed by Harrison’s work as a art in order to adopt the title as a nickname on a private basis in the past. Elisha’s use of it is anything but, to either man – I doubt he’d ever heard of Harrison before reading (hurriedly) about Assange, and his use of the verbatim title is not homage but likely a combination of sheer creative bankruptcy, stupidity, negligence, laziness, and, again, parasitic motivations – it’s a catchy, easily-recognized title and Harrison’s established audience would hardly not notice it. It’s a great title – it’s just not his.

  9. Titanium Aardvark Says:

    A title can’t be copyrighted so far as I understand it, but I believe there can be legal issues if it can be confused with the original. Personally, I find the appropriation of the title extremely offensive, and would be delighted if someone would bring legal action – certainly the original SSR would do precisely that, if only for the pleasure of it.

  10. Carlos Angelo Says:

    Seems to be the same problem as here:

    “Fahrenheit 451″ author wants title back
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5324876/

  11. John Smith Says:

    Really? Titles can’t be copyrighted? COOL! I might have to write a play called STAR WARS and another called THE LORD OF THE RINGS and another called HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE then, and fill them with depravity! Fame and fortune await! O glorious day! :D

  12. Alex Cox Says:

    This isn’t the first time Harry’s name has been borrowed
    as a nom-de-guerre by the spook world. Check out the
    ‘novel’ of David Atlee Phillips, who some believe was Lee
    Harvey Oswald’s case officer. The prtgagonist of the book
    - Atlee’s character – is called HAROLD HARRISON.

    http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=12974

  13. Daz Says:

    Never heard of Harold harrison or anything about a stainless steel rat. Get over yourself if you think these ppl are profiting from that aspect. I saw it for the events that were potrayed. Harry seems like a bitter. Embrace it

    • John Smith Says:

      Daz, I think we can safely say none of us would ever have heard of Ron Elisha either had he not rushed to be the first person to drum up a sloppy play about the most famous man in the world, one of whose online nicknames in the past was adopted in homage to Harrison’s character – which, despite your ignorance of the genre, does in fact happen to be extremely well known amongst fans of the genre (hence Assange’s use of Harrison’s character’s name as an online nickname to start with!). But it doesn’t matter if you’ve heard of Harry Harrison or not – Ron Elisha has ripped off the title of Harry Harrison’s work verbatim, a long-established item in the publishing world, and brazenly used it as the title for his own play without so much as asking permission as a matter of courtesy from one author to another, let alone the creative bankruptcy it displays. Apart from showing disrespect to Harrison, it’s contempt of the audience of Harrison’s work. There are now as a result of this two plays entitled Stainless Steel Rat – one by the author whose original work the title is (Harry Harrison), and another by Ron Elisha, both referring to Harrison’s character concept, but only one in an authorised way. Elisha simply stole it in order to profit from 1. the coolness of Harrison’s concept and his title (“Stainless Steel Rat” as a character concept admired by Assange is still Harrison’s, not Elisha’s, to publish); and 2. the dog’s breakfast rushed to stage by Elisha under the identical name, referring explicitly to Harrison’s character, therefore drawing explicitly, if indirectly (through Assange’s character) upon the selfsame creative original by Harrison. To confuse matters even more, the producer of Elisha’s is Wayne Harrison.

  14. Hawaiian Brian Says:

    Harry came up with the name, had the idea, wrote the books etc. That requires imagination and talent. The play’s creators don’t allude to the original work, as Michael Moore did with Fahrenheit 9/11, they just stole the title! Not much imagination or talent there. Not much respect either. Not surprised Harry’s a bit brassed off!

  15. Swampy Says:

    Wow…it’s just a title. Calm down. It doesn’t say ‘Stainless Steel Rat’ by Harry Harrison or the like, who BTW, I’d never heard of before all this so may have to check him out – a good result for Mr. Harrison wouldn’t you think? And to re-iterate: titles can’t be copyrighted and it is only a problem if one is trying to pass itself off as the other. Check around – there are lots of films, novels, books, plays, paintings with the same title. ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ comes to mind as one. You’d have to be pretty stupid to think that something billed as ‘Stainless Steel Rat – a Wikiplay by Ron Elisha’ is in any way going to be confused with Mr. Harrison’s work.

  16. Swampy Says:

    Oh, and apropos ‘Hawaiian Brian’ above and others – I have actually seen the play (I’m assuming you haven’t) and even if you had you would have seen that the play’s creator’s DO allude to the original work within the play itself. Great care is taken within the drama to explain where the title comes from and why Julian Assange used it as a nom de plume. Harry Harrison is completely and clearly identified and acknowledged as the originator during the play itself. It is all made very clear and no one ever tries to persuade anyone else that it is anything other than Harry Harrison’s invention. The play is about Julian Assange. Julian Assange called himself ‘Stainless Steel Rat’ and ‘Harry Harrison’ at various times. The play’s title comes from that and is very apt. FYI, I have no vested interest in the production. I’m not connected to it professionally in any way.

  17. Lani Says:

    No I’m still annoyed with it. My friends and I as soon as we heard there was a Stainless Steel Rat play were all excited and went to find out about tickets. Then we find it’s just someone using the name. Elisha knew who Harry Harrison was, in the email the Seymour Theatre sent they acknowledged that.

    It’s a ploy to get attention and hopefully sell more tickets. It’s a way to try to ride on the coat tails of some work more famous (and rightly so) than your own work for your own publicity and self good.

  18. Zeb Says:

    It kinda sad it has nothing to do with the Stainless Steel Rat stories what so ever and in this day and age isn’t it easy to at least try to contact the Author for permissions etc.
    The whole wiki leaks thing is a dark cloud that looks like its some convoluted plot made up by intelligence officer types that like byzantine logic and deep conspiracies most of which seams stupid in the extreme it seams to be of no substance and most thing everyone already knows or assumes – which doesnt make any of it true but I digress – As to the egoist mr Assange? hmm it seams all smoke an mirrors
    Anyway if they wanted to do a homage that would be nice then they should acknowledge that otherwise its kinda wrong imho

  19. John Smith Says:

    Zeb, who is paying you? lol. Wikileaks is the best thing to have happened to the planet in 100 years. It is actually very easy to get in contact with Mr. Harrisson and any proffessional, or their lawyers, seeking permission to use his intellectual property, could easily have done so. It is idiotic to call Assange an “egoist” when he is the victim of media hype that he never wanted. His focus is on his work, the media’s focus is on his person. Don’t blame the victim.

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