Friday, March 30, 2007

Joyce Estate settles with Carol Shloss

Stanford Professor of English, Carol Shloss, has finally won the right to publish her book on James Joyce's daughter, Lucia. Shloss had been denied the right to quote from Joyce's work by the Joyce estate controlled by his litigious grandson, Stephen. In 2004, for example, Stephen threatened to put a spanner in the works of the centenary celebrations of Joyce's Ulysses by claiming a display of Joyce's works (acquired by the Irish government for £12.6 million) at the National Library's James Joyce and Ulysses exhibition would infringe the estate's copyright. The government had to bring in emergency legislation to avoid a copyright suit from Stephen but even so his threats did scupper plans for public readings of Ulysses and even a plan to stage Joyce's play, Exiles, at the Abbey theatre.

In the Shloss case, though, it looks as though fair use has won through:

"Shloss suffered more than ten years of threats and intimidation by Stephen James Joyce, who purported to prohibit her from quoting from anything that James or Lucia Joyce ever wrote for any purpose. As a result of these threats, significant portions of source material were deleted from Shloss's book, Lucia Joyce: To Dance In The Wake.

In the lawsuits we filed against the Estate and against Stephen Joyce individually, we asked the Court to remove the threat of liability by declaring Shloss's right to publish those deleted materials on a website designed to supplement the book. After the trying to have the case dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the Estate gave up the fight. Joyce and the Estate have now entered into a settlement agreement enforceable by the Court that prohibits them from enforcing any of their copyrights against Shloss in connection with the publication of the supplement, whether in electronic or printed form. (The Settlement Agreement is posted here.)

This is a remarkable victory given the Estate's past aggression. But more are needed in order to make clear and concrete the protections that Fair Use is intended to protect in theory. We hope this is the first in a string of many cases that vindicate the rights of not only scholars and academics, but creators of all manner."

The CIS press release is available here. The importance of this case is hard to overstate. It is only by reigning in overzealous, over-reaching, litigious, well-resourced copyright 'enforcers' that the boundaries of fair dealing and fair use can be protected. Congratulations to Professor Shloss and the CIS team.

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