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The battle over literary rights

Literary estate battles are hot, it seems, with a new battle about the Steinbeck estate and an even hotter one in which the heirs of James Joyce are under assault from the information-wants-to-be-free crowd: The New Yorker: Fact. What I find striking is that Lawrence Lessig is a tenured professor, not a writer who needs to make a living from his work. It must be so easy to talk about a Creative Commons from that position.

“Over the years, the relationship between Stephen Joyce and the Joyceans has gone from awkwardly symbiotic to plainly dysfunctional,” says the New Yorker. I’m actually sympathetic to the people who want to quote from Joyce, after my experience with the T. S. Eliot estate and what seems an excessive interest in controlling what was written about him. But I worry about the way scholars seem to think that what they do is as important as the original creative effort–which is is not. Maybe the real problem is that people promoting the Creative Commons don’t understand the significance and value of literary creativity.

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