James Joyce Estate Agrees To Pay Legal Fees To Professor It Sought To Stifle

from the good-news dept

We wrote in the past about how the estate of author James Joyce tried to use copyright law to prevent a professor from quoting any works from James Joyce or his daughter Lucia Joyce in a biography of Lucia Joyce she was working on. This was, of course, ridiculous, and after many years in court, the estate didn’t just lose, but was ordered to pay attorneys’ fees as well, totaling more than $326,000. The estate then appealed that as well, but has now agreed to settle, and pay $240,000 in attorneys’ fees to the professor, Carol Shloss. While the end result was good, the fact that she had to go through this whole process just to write a biography in the first place is still quite problematic. Abusing copyright law to stifle free speech is always a problem.

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Comments on “James Joyce Estate Agrees To Pay Legal Fees To Professor It Sought To Stifle”

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BillH says:

Re: Yeah, Right

Copyright in the Constitution was not a clearly defined right or law. The first copyright law didn’t appear until 3 yrs later, in 1790. Constitutionally, it was just one of the powers given to Congress, allowing them to enact laws establishing a system of copyright if they chose to at a later date. The Bill of Rights were added later (1791) but they had been promised during contentious debate in 1788. I don’t think there was more support for copyright than freedom of speech as you contend. Certainly copyright had its supporters, but so did speech & other rights & the debate for the BoR generated a lot more contention & interest & had the potential of derailing the new nation, while copyright did not.

Also remember that copyright of 1790 was a very limited version of what we get today. Some of us would contend that currently it doesn’t resemble original intent at all (Oh Scalia, where are you when you’re really needed?)

TheStupidOne says:

Re: Re: Yeah, Right

My understanding is that all of the founding fathers understood that there would be freedom of speech and just didn’t include it in the constitution. The constitution focused on government powers. However after a bit of an outcry they decided they needed the bill of rights to make the people happy even if all of those rights were understood to exist. I for one am happy they put it in the constitution but I do not think they valued copyright more than free speech.

phil says:


Hey A. C.
Apparently you are ignorant of anything that took place before you were born.
In 1999, Modern Library (Random House) published a ranking of the 100 greatest English language novels of the 20th Century. James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ was ranked #1 on that list.
BTW, ‘Ulysses’ was patterned after the ‘Odyssey’ written by Homer. Ever heard of him?

Call me Al says:

Re: Ignorance

Ulysses is one of the most pretentious and tedious books ever written. The writing itself is stunningly constructed but the narrative is aweful. However, because of its pretension, its been heralded as one of the great pieces of literature. It is the same a looking at a really ugly building but saying that the nails used in its construction are lovingly crafted. Ulysses regularly finds its place high up on the lists but very few people actually read it because it is boring.

Back to the topic at hand though, I’m glad this has rebounded on the Joyce estate. I wonder if they also argue against books of notes on his works on the same grounds. It is a severe limit on free speech and legitimate criticism and reflects very badly on their contempt for their audience.

phil says:

Re: Re: Ignorance

Excellent idea.
Seeing has how it’s been 2800 years and all, every living Greek is probably descended from Homer. I’ll bet there’s some sort of national culture IP that could be claimed. (remember the ‘invented’ NZ tribal dances)
What claim might work best?… the ‘invention’ of epic poetry? … or a ‘trademark’ on Greek national heritage perhaps? I suspect ‘copyright’ might be a problem given that 2800 year thing.

Not only is there cash to be raised to clear up that budget deficit in Greece, but I bet safeguarding cultural IP would incentivize more innovative literature.

Remember, it’s never too late to sue, although sometimes it’s too late to win.

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