By MATT REYNOLDS LOS ANGELES (CN) - A mobster turned snitch claims in court that Simon & Schuster stole rights to his 2009 autobiography by registering the copyright under his co-author's and former publisher's name.
Kenny "Kenji" Gallo, who claims to be a former member of the Colombo Crime Family, says Simon & Schuster in 2010 registered the copyright to "Breakshot: A Life in the 21st Century American Mafia," by Gallo and Matthew Randazzo.
Randazzo wrote the book with Gallo after reading the reformed mobster's blog Hollywoodmafia, written while Gallo was in the witness protection program.
The Japanese-Italian-American says he already had a first draft of the book and 1,000 blog posts to draw upon by the time Randazzo entered the picture.
Gallo sued the book's first publisher, Phoenix Books, claiming it released the book without paying him and then sold reprint rights to Simon & Schuster for $10,000. They settled that one, according to the new complaint.
Randazzo assigned his copyright in the work to Gallo in November 2010, but Simon & Schuster's paperback credits Randazzo and Phoenix as copyright holders, according to the lawsuit.
He accuses the publisher of trading on his "celebrity status and notoriety as a former high-ranking mobster."
A blurb on the back cover calls the book "The explosive true story of one of the most controversial, violent and unlikely gangsters in American history ... and how he flipped to help the FBI bring the mob down."
Gallo estimates that Simon & Schuster has sold thousands of copies of the paperback through its division Pocket Star. He claims the publisher blew off his complaints that he owns rights to the book.
"To date, Gallo has absolutely no control over the paperback book sales of his autobiography (which took him four years to write) or any way to earn money from said sales - or even any way to profit from the paperback edition's rights - because Simon & Schuster refuses to communicate with him," the lawsuit states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
Gallo claims that Hollywood won't touch a screenplay he wrote based on his life story because of uncertainty over who owns the copyright.
"Because of this 'limbo' status, Gallo is also unable to seek republication of the paperback with other publishers, much less for a sequel based on the book, despite expressed interest to that end. Nor is he willing to risk self-publishing the book through Amazon.com or though his own popular blog website until those matters are formally resolved," the lawsuit states.
He seeks an injunction and damages for copyright infringement.
Gallo is represented by Abraham Labbad of Pasadena.