The Chronicle of Higher Education
Today's News
Monday, March 26, 2007

 

James Joyce Scholar, in Deal With Author's Estate, Wins Right to Use Copyrighted Works

By ANDREA L. FOSTER

 

A James Joyce scholar who sued the renowned Irish author's estate last year over copyrighted material by and about Joyce and his family has won the right to use the documents in her research, both online and in print. The two sides reached an out-of-court settlement, lawyers for the scholar announced last week.

In the lawsuit, the scholar, Carol Loeb Shloss, an acting professor of English at Stanford University, asked a federal court to clarify whether the fair-use exemption of copyright law overrode the estate's efforts to prevent her from quoting the documents in her published work. The exemption, though hazily defined, generally allows scholars and students to use limited amounts of copyrighted material for scholarly and educational purposes without seeking permission from the copyright holders (The Chronicle, June 14, 2006).

Ms. Shloss has written a book about Joyce's daughter, Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Before the book's publication, in 2003, Ms. Shloss battled the Joyce estate over her wish to publish in the book quotations from Joyce's published and unpublished writings. In 2005 she set up a password-protected Web site containing supplementary material, including passages that her publisher had told her to cut from the book so as to avoid a copyright-infringement lawsuit from the Joyce estate.

Ms. Shloss's lawsuit specifically asked the court to declare that the contents of the Web site did not infringe the Joyce estate's copyrights. While the suit was pending, the Web site was not available to the public.

Bernard A. Burk, a lawyer in San Francisco who represents Ms. Shloss, said lawyers for the Joyce estate had agreed to let her open the Web site to public access and to let her use the material in any books or articles she may subsequently publish. The settlement agreement specifies that the Web site should be accessible only in the United States.

Because the lawsuit was resolved in an out-of-court settlement, however, it established no precedent for the extent of the fair-use doctrine.

Still, Lawrence Lessig, a well-known lawyer and scholar of cyberspace issues, said he was pleased by the settlement. He directs the Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, which championed Ms. Shloss's cause.

"This is just the first of a series of cases that will be necessary to establish the reality of creative freedom that the fair-use doctrine is intended to protect in theory," Mr. Lessig said in a written statement. "We will continue to defend academics threatened by overly aggressive copyright holders."

Lawyers for the Joyce estate did not immediately return telephone calls on Friday, but in a written statement on Thursday, one of the lawyers, Maria K. Nelson, said that the estate's trustees were pleased with the agreement.

"From the outset of this dispute, we sought to define what specific material Professor Shloss wanted to publish and the context in which she would publish it, as well as to have the copyrighted material belonging to our clients respected," Ms. Nelson said. "This settlement agreement provides both."

Ms. Shloss's Web site is expected to go live in several days, Mr. Burk said.