Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Small pre-Bloomsday Sigh

I'm a fan of copyright. Big fan of copyright, actually. I'm also in favour of copyright continuing after an author's death -- as Mark Twain said, before Congress, back when it didn't, I like that extension of copyright life to the author's life and fifty years afterward. I think that would satisfy any reasonable author, because it would take care of his children. Let the grand-children take care of themselves. That would take care of my daughters, and after that I am not particular. I shall then have long been out of this struggle, independent of it, indifferent to it. (The whole of the speech is pretty cool actually.) And I don't actually mind, given the extra 20 years that the Bern Convention added, that my copyrights will, with luck, help feed my grandchildren too.

But then I see, via kitabkhana something like this, and I just sigh:

One of the biggest events in the literary calendar - the centenary celebration of Bloomsday, 16 June, the day on which the events of James Joyce's Ulysses take place - has been seriously marred by a bitter struggle over copyright.

Stephen Joyce, the grandson and last surviving relative of the writer, has caused consternation by declaring that any public reading of what is regarded as the most influential novel of the 20th century will be a breach of copyright and cannot go ahead without permission and payment. Readings in both London and Dublin to launch the first ever unabridged audio CD of the book - the 22 discs last 27 hours - have been cancelled because of fears of litigation.

So, for whatever it's worth, and for the record, and as long as it's not-for-profit, people can always do readings of my stuff, if they want to, in public, in private, in school, in front of small invited audiences of marsupials, or even in Dublin. No permission or payment will ever be required. And my unborn grandchildren will just have to learn to live with it.