via Copyfight, June 15, 2006:
Joyce vs Joyceans
by Alan Wexelblat
There's a brouhaha going on over the works of James Joyce, and the attempts by the author's grandson (and sole surviving heir) to control the use and publication of the author's novels, letters, and other output.
D. T. Max has a piece in the mid-June New Yorker chronicaling some of the antics of Joyce’s grandson, Stephen Joyce as we approach the 102nd Bloomsday. Max describes the current state of the relationship between Stephen Joyce and the community of scholars as "dysfunctional" and notes that the heir has acted to suppress publications he doesn't like, and may well have destroyed correspondence of interest to scholars.
These and other actions have led the Stanford Center for Internet and Society's Fair Use Project to file a lawsuit against Stephen Joyce, as noted in Lessig's blog. That entry links to the PDF of the complaint itself, and commenters there have linked to some of their own writings on the various legal contests that have occurred in the past few years.
via The NewYorker:
Issue of 2006-06-19
Posted 2006-06-12 [excerpts]
THE INJUSTICE COLLECTOR
Is James Joyce’s grandson suppressing scholarship?
by D. T. MAX
[...] Stephen is Joyce's only living descendant, and since the mid-nineteen-eighties he has effectively controlled the Joyce estate. Scholars must ask his permission to quote sizable passages or to reproduce manuscript pages from those works of Joyce's that remain under copyright—including "Ulysses" and "Finnegans Wake"—as well as from more than three thousand letters and several dozen unpublished manuscript fragments.
Sometimes, Stephen has declined an invitation to a gathering but then appeared anyway; more than once, he has insisted that the assembled scholars make room for him on their program. The aim of his presentations has been to question the value of academic criticism. "If my grandfather was here, he would have died laughing," he likes to say. At a 1986 gathering of Joyceans in Copenhagen, he explained that "Dubliners" and "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" can be "picked up, read, and enjoyed by virtually anybody without scholarly guides, theories, and intricate explanations, as can 'Ulysses,' if you forget about all the hue and cry."
Stephen is a handsome man of seventy-four, with a gray beard, sloping forehead, and deep-blue eyes—he looks the way Joyce might have looked if he had not smoked and drunk himself to death, at fifty-eight, in 1941. Stephen sometimes walks with an ashplant, just as his grandfather did. At academic conferences, he is combative and sardonic. "I am a Joyce, not a Joycean, and there is more than a nuance to that fact," he often says. And he insists on being addressed as Stephen James Joyce, his full given name.
Over the years, the relationship between Stephen Joyce and the Joyceans has gone from awkwardly symbiotic to plainly dysfunctional. In 1988, he took offense at the epilogue to Brenda Maddox's "Nora," a biography of Joyce's wife, which described the decades that Joyce's schizophrenic daughter, Lucia, spent in a mental asylum. Although the book had already been printed in galleys, Maddox, fearing a legal battle, offered to delete the section; the agreement she signed with Stephen also enjoined her descendants from publishing the material. Shortly afterward, at a Bloomsday symposium in Venice, Stephen announced that he had destroyed all the letters that his aunt Lucia had written to him and his wife. He added that he had done the same with postcards and a telegram sent to Lucia by Samuel Beckett, with whom she had pursued a relationship in the late nineteen-twenties.
"I have not destroyed any papers or letters in my grandfather's hand, yet," Stephen wrote at the time. But in the early nineties he persuaded the National Library of Ireland to give him some Joyce family correspondence that was scheduled to be unsealed. Scholars worry that these documents, too, have been destroyed. He has blocked or discouraged countless public readings of "Ulysses," and once tried unsuccessfully to halt a Web audiocast of the book. In 1997, he sued the Irish scholar Danis Rose, who was trying to publish a newly edited version of "Ulysses," calling it "one of the literary hoaxes of the century." (Around the same time, Stephen expressed his intention to obstruct a proposed new edition by the American scholar John Kidd; he told the chairman of Kidd's publisher, W. W. Norton, that he was "implacably opposed" to the project, which was never completed.) According to Hans E. Jahnke, Stephen's stepbrother, who once had a stake in the Joyce estate, the suit against Rose, which lasted five years, cost the estate roughly a hundred thousand dollars. The estate won the case. In 2004, the centenary of Bloomsday, Stephen threatened the Irish government with a lawsuit if it staged any Bloomsday readings; the readings were cancelled. He warned the National Library of Ireland that a planned display of his grandfather's manuscripts violated his copyright. (The Irish Senate passed an emergency amendment to thwart him.) His antagonism led the Abbey Theatre to cancel a production of Joyce's play "Exiles," and he told Adam Harvey, a performance artist who had simply memorized a portion of "Finnegans Wake" in expectation of reciting it onstage, that he had likely "already infringed" on the estate’s copyright. Harvey later discovered that, under British law, Joyce did not have the right to stop his performance.
Stephen has also attempted to impede the publication of dozens of scholarly works on James Joyce. He rejects nearly every request to quote from unpublished letters. Last year, he told a prominent Joyce scholar that he was no longer granting permissions to quote from any of Joyce's writings. (The scholar, fearing retribution, declined to be named in this article.) Stephen's primary motive has been to put a halt to work that, in his view, either violates his family's privacy or exceeds the bounds of reputable scholarship. The two-decade-long effort has also been an exercise in power—an attempt to establish his own centrality in regard to anything involving his grandfather. If you want to write about James Joyce and plan to quote more than a few short passages, you need Stephen's consent.
Joyceans find it especially galling that the estate representing one of the most censored writers of his day—"Ulysses" was banned in America until 1934—has itself become a censor. A few have been outspoken in their anger. Michael Groden, the Western Ontario professor, recently gave a talk at Cornell about the Joyce estate, during which he projected images from a book called "Take the Bully by the Horns: Stop Unethical, Uncoöperative, or Unpleasant People from Running and Ruining Your Life." Others have tried to befriend Stephen, even knowing that such ententes usually end badly. Sam Slote, the coeditor of the forthcoming book "How Joyce Wrote 'Finnegans Wake,'" who enjoyed Stephen’s patronage for a time, joked, "It's sort of like the moment of death. You know it’s coming. You just don't know when and you don't know why." Some scholars plan to wait until Joyce's unpublished writings enter the public domain, in 2012.
This is a risky strategy, however, because copyright law has proved to be highly elastic. Copyright has its origins in eighteenth-century English law. In America, the idea that authors and inventors, for a time, should exclusively collect profits from their work was embraced by Congress, which initially provided for copyright to extend for a maximum of twenty-eight years after a work's creation. But over time the copyrights for recordings and Hollywood films proved extremely valuable, and American corporations persuaded Congress to lengthen the term of protection again and again. (Writers and their estates were the accidental beneficiaries of this process.) Most recently, in 1998, Congress added twenty years to the term of copyright. As a result, any work created by an individual is now protected for at least seventy years after the creator's death. Had the bill not passed, the burst of American creativity in the nineteen-twenties and thirties—everything from Bugs Bunny to "Rhapsody in Blue"—would have soon passed into the public domain. Disney, for instance, would have lost the rights to Mickey Mouse in 2003. (Critics call the 1998 extension, which Disney lobbied for heavily, the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.)
There is an element in American copyright law that allows people to make "fair use" of protected work: a scholar, critic, journalist, or parodist may reproduce a modest portion without permission. But "fair use" has proved extremely hard to define. How many words can be quoted? From how many works? What about unpublished texts? Moreover, European law does not explicitly recognize "fair use." As a result, Joyceans are often unsure if they are violating the law, and when the estate objects they usually give in.
Yet, for the first time, a Joycean is fighting to free herself from Stephen's control. In 2002, Stephen learned that Carol Loeb Shloss, an English professor at Stanford, was about to publish "Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake," a life of his mentally ill aunt. Stephen wrote to Shloss, implying that he might sue if she quoted from copyrighted material. He pressured her publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which asked Shloss to cut many quotations. An expurgated version of the book was published in December, 2003.
In the midst of her fight with Stephen, Shloss met Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford, who was willing to take on her case pro bono. Lessig had just argued before the Supreme Court against Congress's 1998 extension of copyright. He had lost the case, but he was eager to find another way to show that distended copyright laws were not in the public interest. Shloss gave him the correspondence that Stephen had sent her over the years, and he was excited by what he read. "The letters were extreme," he recalled.
This week, to coincide with Bloomsday celebrations, Lessig plans to file a suit against Stephen Joyce in United States District Court. He believes that it is the first to accuse a literary estate of "copyright misuse"; the charge is usually levelled against corporations in patent disputes. Lessig is a capable lawyer, and at Stanford he has considerable resources; four attorneys work on his staff, and he has free help from law students. "It's in the DNA of lawyers not to be intimidated," he said. In other words, Lessig intends to fight on and on, just as Stephen Joyce does.
Lessig thinks that Shloss's case is more likely to succeed. "Have you seen her?" he said of Shloss. "She's the quintessential academic—quiet, soft-spoken, modest. The idea that copyright law is going to descend on her and turn her life into hell shows that the law has lost touch with its purpose."
In March, 2005, Lessig had suggested that Shloss prepare to post on a Web site material she had deleted from "To Dance in the Wake." He then wrote to Stephen’s lawyers, explaining that the purpose of the Web site would be "to aid scholars and researchers," and that, even though Farrar, Straus had asked Shloss to delete the material, the quotes fell under the doctrine of "fair use." On April 8th, Joyce's solicitors replied, expressing displeasure that Shloss was revisiting the subject of Lucia. Two weeks later, Lessig's office reiterated that the Web site would eventually be going online. (The site has not yet been made accessible to the public.) That May, the estate's lawyers wrote back that "Mr. and Mrs. Joyce have requested we convey their 'astonishment'" at "an unwarranted infringement of the Estate's copyright" and hinted at legal consequences. Lessig—with the help of Robert Spoo, the scholar-turned-lawyer, and David Olson, a Stanford associate—then prepared the suit.
Of the two dozen people I had talked to, Lessig was one of the few who weren't angry at Stephen Joyce. "I don't really blame people who exercise the rights the law appears to give them," Lessig said. "Stephen Joyce is using whatever power he has." But he added that Stephen had strengthened Shloss's case with the threatening letters, the calls to her publisher, the alleged spying and attempts to block her research. As Lessig saw it, the case was simple: Shloss was not trying to profit in an unseemly way off the Joyce legacy; she was an academic who was trying to make a literary argument. It was not at all important whether her argument was correct—only that it was a legitimate effort. To make her case, she needed supporting documents, and Stephen's obstructionism had, perhaps, adversely affected the reception of the book. The Times, for example, had described it as "more like an exercise in wish fulfillment than a biography."
"If a copyright holder misbehaves, we want people to know it's not costless," Lessig added. "It's not just the tone of Stephen's letters. It's who the letters were sent to: researchers, archivists, and librarians, people playing by the rules. It ought to be possible for people to be good."