Ozymandias Lessons for Copyright

Deven Desai

Deven Desai is an associate professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also the first, and to date, only Academic Research Counsel at Google, Inc., and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and the Yale Law School. Professor Desai’s scholarship examines how business interests, new technology, and economic theories shape privacy and intellectual property law and where those arguments explain productivity or where they fail to capture society’s interest in the free flow of information and development. His work has appeared in leading law reviews and journals including the Georgetown Law Journal, Minnesota Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, and U.C. Davis Law Review.

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8 Responses

  1. Matthew Reid Krell says:

    I wish Mr. Zukofsky much luck in prosecuting his extreme views on copyright. If he expects his views on fair use to be respected, his views on fair use should be consistent with, you know, the law on fair use.

    Although, should universities be expected to indemnify their graduate students from these types of suits? If not, Zukofsky could simply SLAPP his way to his preferred regime.

  2. Bruce Boyden says:

    Are heirs more likely to be litigation-happy? I’m not sure. E.g., J.D. Salinger, Bridgeport Music, Prince, Perfect 10.

  3. Dave says:

    We can ask Bruce’s question along another axis: how are the Zukofsky heir’s views different than those of any other selfish owner playing hardball? My sense of many of the owners (heirs or otherwise) who take unusually aggressive approaches to copyright are doing so (at least ostensibly) out of a sense of offense at the other party’s use. Here, Zukofsky Jr. is simply saying that he wants money, and will go to any lengths to get it. This makes him avaricious, but that’s something he shares with many other overprivileged scions of fortune, whether the asset owned by the estate is IP or traditional property.

  4. Deven says:

    Sorry for the confusion. I am not saying that heirs are anymore litigation happy. I think they bring extra views that further hinder what could be a more open copyright system.

    As to Dave’s point, I think my answer is yes. What I mean is that the copyright system in general sets up rent seeking that flows from being “overprivileged scions of fortune.” Copyright is different than real property to me, because of the way it ties up material that might be seen as a type of infrastructure. In that sense, I am less pleased with the current duration.

    I tried to keep the post short, but Mr. Zukofsky also argued that copyright was used here to provide for children. I find that argument untenable for a host of reasons that don’t fit well into this forum. But I if desired, I can say more on that front.

  5. A humorous observation says:

    Interestingly, Mr. Zukofsky’s letter quotes e.e. cummings’s “i sing of Olaf glad and big.” That poem was published in 1931, and the copyright looks to have been renewed (at least based on the copyright notice in George J. Firmage’s compilation titled E. E. Cummings: Complete Poems, 1904-1962).

    I wonder if he sought permission, or paid a fee.

  6. A.J. Sutter says:

    The back-page column in the 2009/11/13 issue of TLS opens with the Paul Zukofsky letter; as they note, “No boom has sounded in Zukofsy studies, and none will do so in the near future, if the poet’s son has his way.” Another PZ quote: “‘I can perhaps understand your misguided interest in literature … but one line you may never cross, ie [sic], never never tell me that your work is to be valued by me because it promotes my father. Doing that will earn my life-long permanent enmity'” — to which TLS adds, “You wouldn’t want that.” Given this and some other comments in PZ’s letter, I wonder how much his letter is intended to advance his economic interests (which he is clearly undercutting), and how much is really about some Freudian mishugas. Sounds like a topic for someone’s Ph.D. dissertation …

  7. Deven says:

    Thanks for the quote catch.

    And yes some “Freudian mishugas” for an ironic PhD study is probably at work here.

  8. Zefrey Love says:

    I was trying to find information on this old book I have ,Poets and Poetry of 1931 by Jenia Boudine,It is a Poets Guild Publishers Hollywood 1932,printed at The Gutenberg Press 833 west third st. Los Angeles Ca. I can’t seem to find anything about it.