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Scholar, James Joyce estate settle copyright dispute

By The Associated Press
03.27.07

SAN FRANCISCO — A Stanford University professor who sued James Joyce’s estate for the right to quote excerpts from Finnegans Wake and letters between the author and his daughter will be able to use the material after agreeing to settle the case.

As part of an agreement reached last week, the Joyce estate said it would not sue scholar Carol Shloss for copyright infringement if the books, manuscripts and other documents she wants to cite both in print and on a Web site were made available only in the United States.

“Our client got exactly what she asked for in her complaint, and more,” said Anthony Falzone, who directs the Fair Use Project at Stanford’s Law School.

The dispute centered on Shloss’ research for Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake, a 2003 book in which she suggested that James Joyce’s mentally ill daughter was the muse behind Finnegans Wake. To support her theory, Shloss relied on Lucia Joyce’s medical records, European archives that contained records on her life and Joyce’s papers in university collections.

The estate challenged Shloss’ authority to quote or footnote the material, however, saying she would be infringing on its ownership of Joyce’s image. Before the book came out her publisher cut several supporting citations to avoid a copyright lawsuit.

Shloss, an acting English professor, pursued the matter to answer critics who charged that To Dance in the Wake was interesting, but thin on documentary evidence. In a federal lawsuit filed last year, she accused Joyce’s grandson, Stephen James Joyce, and estate trustee, Sean Sweeney, of destroying papers, improperly withholding access to copyrighted materials and actively intimidating academics to protect the Joyce family name.

“I think we succeeded in showing the Joyce community and other scholars that they have rights and the opportunity to push back against overly aggressive copyright enforcement,” said David Olson, another lawyer who worked on the case.

Maria Nelson, a Los Angeles lawyer who represented the estate, disagreed that Stephen James Joyce jealously guarded his grandfather’s works and reputation. She noted that hundreds of books and articles are written each year with the estate’s cooperation.

“This material in particular, having to do with Lucia Joyce, is certainly a very sensitive area, very emotional for the immediate relatives of James Joyce and Lucia Joyce because of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Lucia Joyce’s illness,” Nelson said. “The point is that certainly one goal of Stephen Joyce was to protect the privacy and the memory of his aunt.”

Once the estate knew specifically which documents Shloss wanted to excerpt and where — information that was not provided in the lawsuit — settling the case with the help of a mediator became much easier, according to Nelson.

Nelson also noted that the estate granted only Shloss permission to quote the materials under limited circumstances, meaning neither she nor other scholars would be permitted to use them outside the scope outlined in the settlement agreement.

Shloss plans to create an appendix to her book both in printed form and by posting the material on a members-only Web site accessible only to users in the United States.

“When we are squeezed between the aggression of literary estates and the apprehensions of publishers, something very important is lost,” Shloss said in a statement. “I fought not just for Lucia and Joyce, whose words had to be taken out of my book, but for the freedom to consider what happened to them and for the freedom of others to respond to my ideas.”


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