Fair Use Copyright Advocates Go One Up On Joyce Estate Copyright Thugs

For all of you who are rooting for a more flexible and practical copyright law, this should be hailed as a significant victory, as reported by Andrew Albanese in Publishers Weekly:

In what Fair Use advocates this week hailed as a vindication for the rights of scholars to use copyrighted materials for critical works, the literary estate of James Joyce has agreed to pay $240,000 in legal fees to settle a copyright lawsuit sparked by what attorneys called “threats and intimidation” by Stephen James Joyce, in his efforts to deter author Carol Shloss from quoting Joyce family documents or works in her book and in a subsequent Web-based supplement. The settlement, attorneys say, suggests a rather novel concept: sometimes the best fair use defense is a good offense. “This case shows there are solutions to the problem Carol Shloss faced other than simple capitulation,” said Stanford Fair Use Project executive director Anthony Falzone, whose organization represented Schloss. “The playing field can be leveled and the tables can be turned.”

For Shloss, a consulting professor of English at Stanford University, the battle began nearly a decade ago when she claims the Joyce estate compelled her to remove content from her book under threat of a copyright infringement suit. The “redacted” book was eventually published in 2003 by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux with Joyce’s material excised. In 2004, however, Schloss sought to publish a supplemental work, including some of the excised material on a companion Web site, and enlisted the help of the Stanford University Fair Use Project to go on the offensive. She sued the Joyce estate to establish her fair use rights to quote from Joyce’s work and documents on the site. A year later, the Joyce estate settled on terms that would allow Shloss to use the material in question. Shloss, however, pressed the case further, alleging “copyright misuse” on the part of the Joyce estate, and demanding payment of legal fees. Last May, a federal court ordered the estate to pay more than $326,000 in attorneys’ fees. After filing an appeal, the estate agreed to pay $240,000 to resolve the matter once and for all.

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