Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Bloomsday tomorrow, Ireland passes special legislation to allow public display of Ulysses.

For fans of James Joyce's hefty Ulysses, tommorow is a big day, it's the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday. Bloomsday is so named for the main character of the book, Leopold Bloom. The book is a step-by-step account of Bloom's activities on June 16th, 1904 in Dublin, Ireland. Ulysses was published in 1922 and was subsequently banned in Ireland and the US for sometime, in part because it was considered pornographic. it finally became available in the US in 1934 after a landmark decision.

The biggest Bloomsday celebrations occur in Dublin, where visitors mob the city and retrace Bloom's every step through the city and his every act (which includes eating a gorganzola sandwich and a grilled kidney by the way, ugh). The Bloomsday celebrations also typically involve readings from Ulysses, which is of course, a public performance of the work. Public performance is a right reserved to the copyright holder.

Enter Stephen Joyce, ultralitigious greedy copyright fiend (I'm all for strongly enforcing copyrights, but this is a special case). Stephen is James' grandson and has seeminly made a living enforcing his copyrights in James Joyce's works.

He is the man literary Ireland fears most. Stephen Joyce, the highly litigious grandson of Ireland's greatest writer, James Joyce, has devoted his life to fiercely protecting his grandfather's copyright, setting his lawyers on those foolhardy enough to take the Joyce name in vain or to reproduce Joyce's words without consent.

Few are spared. He has targeted publishing houses, internet readings and even an Irish composer who requested permission to quote 18 words of Finnegans Wake and received a letter saying: "To put it politely, my wife and I don't like your music."

But now, fearful for this month's mammoth celebrations of Joyce's masterpiece, Ulysses, Irish MPs yesterday rushed through emergency legislation which will prevent Mr Joyce from suing the government and the National Library over an exhibition which displays 500 pages of Joyce manuscripts bought for €12.6m in 2002.
From article here.

Stephen has forced the official celebration to forgo doing readings from Ulysses and from performing one of James Joyce's plays by threatening to sue.

Senator David Norris, a Joycean scholar, told colleagues in the Irish Senate: "It is an astonishing irony that a man such as James Joyce, who fought for freedom of expression . . . and committed himself so totally against censorship, should now find his works being . . . removed from public gaze by his own estate."

That's really sad. I'm glad to see that Ireland is smacking Stephen a bit. Can you imagine legislation like this going through in the US? I know that the copyright in the famous Kennedy assasination video was stripped because it was considered to be too important to the US to allow one person to control its viewing.

More on Ulysses and Bloomsday here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.


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