Tuesday, March 25, 2008

tales of the back catalogue

William Kowalski nominated F. Scott Fitzgerald's, The Great Gatsby, in the Globe and Mail's ongoing search for the 50 Greatest Books. Gatsby would be high on any list I would compile, so Kowalski gets no argument from me about the importance of this novel. I have long thought of it as a near to perfect novel.

What I didn't know was that this near to perfect novel had near to perfectly awful initial sales, and that its author would be dead a full decade before the American culture it so perfectly portrayed actually started to pay attention. As Kowalski writes:

"When Fitzgerald died, in 1940, most of the copies from the tiny second run sat unsold in a warehouse. It was not until the 1950s that The Great Gatsby entered the popular consciousness. By 1960, after the Beat Generation had risen to notoriety, but before the great disillusionment of Vietnam, it was Scribner's top seller.

It was its placement in history, just as the last, pathetic layers of the United States' facade were collapsing, that determined the book's fate, for it resonated with those who had finally caught up to Fitzgerald's desire to expose the myth of U.S. greatness."

So, here is another example of the logic behind extending copyright on a creative work past the death of the work's author. The full economic effect of The Great Gatsby, like its full cultural effect, was delayed. Because Fitzgerald's rights to his own work extended some years past his death, he would have been able to leave those rights to a beneficiary who, presumably, benefited. Furthermore, those limited rights to the work had no negative effect on the culture, as The Great Gatsby is still a standard text on high school reading lists, and it continues to inspire "future creators" with its brilliance.

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."


Infringer said...

"So, here is another example of the logic behind extending copyright on a creative work past the death of the work's author. The full economic effect of The Great Gatsby, like its full cultural effect, was delayed."

John you could use this "logic" to justify extending copyright indefinitely. Who knows when the full economic effect of any work will be realized. I'm sure there are warehouses bursting at the seems right now with dusty old copies something that is just waiting to reach its own zenith.

Any way. I agree with you. At least I do if the author has died within an arbitrary fixed amount of time from the date of publication.

That arbitrary time is what copyright term should be. It should be set from the date of creation (or maybe publication) and be for a fixed period, possibly renewable upon registration.

Basing the term of copyright on the date of death of the author and not requiring registration are two of the dumbest things we ever did with copyright.

John said...

I've got an idea. I'll write something substantial about copyright. Then you pull out a quote from what I've written, apply your own meaning to it, and use it to make an irrelevant, unsubstantiated point.

Over and over again.

Infringer said...

No John, you'll just follow your traditional method of attacking the messenger instead of the message.

Over and over again.

John said...

Was there a message delivered?

Infringer said...

People only see what they are prepared to see.

John said...

Yeah... I'm still waiting.

Do you have a point from my actual posting you want to argue, or are you on this blog just to embarrass yourself?

So far you've disagreed with the idea of extending copyright indefinitely -- an idea I did not suggest -- and expressed opinions about death of the author and registration that have no actual bearing on what I wrote in my posting.

I don't care that you think copyright terms based on the death of the author are dumb. Does knowing I don't care about this opinion of yours help you to understand why it is I don't feel the need to argue with you about it?

Please try to stay on topic.

Infringer said...

Umm John, I think I am on topic. The topic is "the logic behind extending copyright on a creative work past the death of the work's author." You set the topic topic not me. Those are your words.

That I "think copyright terms based on the death of the author are dumb." and the fact that you don't care about this opinion or the need to argue it, only shows that you are unwilling or unable to appreciate perspectives that differ significantly from your own.

The specific argument I was trying to make was not against perpetual copyright, or to suggest that you support it. I was arguing against the logic you were employing by saying that the same logic could be used to justify perpetual copyright. Really I was hoping for one of two responses from you. Either that you supported perpetual copyright, in which case we could argue the merits of such a system, or a clarification from you regarding how you would determine an appropriate term of copyright beyond death. In which case we could continue the conversation based on that. Or maybe even some argument about my logic being flawed.

Unfortunatly and disappoitingly, but alas not unexpectedly, you launch into personal attacks instead.

Honestly John, so many of your posts are really no better then the drivel often posted in the facebook group because they disintegrate into veiled personal attacks.

I would enjoy having an intelligent conversation about the merits of many aspects of copyright with you, but that wont happen unless you can find some way to respect my opinions and not simply write them off.

I think these comment treads reflect more poorly on you then on me.

John said...

You think you're on topic, and you think these "treads" reflect poorly on me.

Come back when you know something.

I have no obligation to provide argumentative distraction to those who choose not to read my postings carefully, and certainly no obligation to respect an opinion simply because someone makes a weak attempt to express it.

And please stop whining about personal attacks. I didn't drag you to this blog against your will. Can you defend your ridiculous behaviour in the copyright debate or not?

Infringer said...

Wow John, you absolutely blow me away. I do a very good job of defending my position and challenging yours.

You never make any attempt to argue against me or for your own position. You simply attack me, and declare my argument as completely unworthy of consideration.

Every statement I made on the topic of copyright is reasonable and supportable. Outside of the RIAA et al. I don't think I've ever seen anyone who was more closed minded on the subject than you are.

Even with my last post where I made clear exactly what my argument was, you refrain from addressing the argument and instead attack me.

I try to be gracious by intentionally saying I 'think' to give you a chance to clarify what YOU think the argument is and you respond with petty juvenile attacks on the qualifiers rather than on any of the substance of my argument. Well John, was I wrong about what I 'think' or not? If so please clarify rather than resorting to cheap immature pot shots. If not, then how about addressing my point.

And oh yes John, I DO think these threads reflect poorly on you. We've been at this for a while now and you have yet to actually engage in any debate.

What I still have not figured out is if your resorts to ad hominem attacks are due to a true inability to understand mine, Chris's, Russell's and others' similar perspectives or if it is simply to compensate for a genuine inability to mount a reasonable argument of your own. Perhaps a bit of both eh?

John said...

Okay, this is my final attempt.

Here's how our "arguments" go:

I write "I like peanuts. Peanuts have all sorts of excellent nutrients and antioxidants, and have been linked to reduced cholesterol, Alzheimers and colon cancer prevention. I think, where possible, people should eat peanuts."

You respond "John Degen thinks everyone should be forced to eat peanuts all the time whether they're hungry or not. He wants to force peanuts down the throats of our culture. Isn't he aware some people have deadly allergies to these nuts? How dare he speak for all of humanity on the subject of peanuts. What about the other nuts? What about soy?"

I then say "I think you've either misunderstood what I wrote or you're intentionally overstating my opinion. Either way, you should start over and try to respond to what I actually wrote."

At which point we get this from you "John Degen is avoiding the critical issue of peanut allergies and refuses to argue with me. Furthermore he suggests I can't read. He is attacking me personally. Ad hominem! Ad hominem!"

So, as long as this kind of discussion is your standard, I'll just be ignoring you from now on.

Infringer said...

Peanuts eh? I'm trying hard to get the analogy between peanuts and "the logic behind extending copyright on a creative work past the death of the work's author". That is the analogy isn't it John? It certainly is the statement your blog was attempting to support.

Well let's see then, I think you would have to look at this analogy a little more like this:

You are writing about peanuts, and you are saying they are oh so good, yada yada yada. So good in fact that you write about this Gatsby fellow you know who benefited greatly from peanuts, and you want to encourage others to enjoy these peanuts too, and you think I'm saying what? that you want to assault people with peanuts and that you are irresponsibly neglecting people who have been harmed by peanuts?

Actually in this analogy I think that I am telling people that in fact we are all harmed by peanuts. At least the peanuts you are talking about. They will even cause much sickness for anyone who consumes them, and in fact the only reason you or this Gatsby fellow enjoy peanuts so much is because you're selling them. You actually have a vested financial interest in others consuming peanuts.

Well, I guess you can see how this analogy is flawed, and we'd all be served much better if you simply gave up on analogies and answer the question. WHAT IS the logic behind extending copyright on a creative work past the death of the work's author? I tried to show how your logic here is flawed as well, but 10 posts later and you are still ignoring my original point. Too intent I suppose on selling your snake oil, err sorry peanuts, rather than actually discussing whether there is any clear "logic behind extending copyright on a creative work past the death of the work's author."

I say your logic is faulty, and you say... have a peanut.

good retort.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think John was posting more of a meta-analogy, which was aimed at characterizing the dialogue generally, rather than addressing the Gatsby question specifically. I don't think he intended to make Gatsby eat peanuts at all--though surely Gatsby would enjoy a good peanut butter sandwich now and again.

Infringer, are you being funny, or did you really think John was using the peanut analogy with respect to the Gatsby question? Your response strikes me as off the mark. Also, I enjoy peanuts--but that's beside the point.

Infringer said...

Sigh, more with the analogies.

Of course he didn't want Gatsby eating peanuts. That would sort of make the peanut analogy not an analogy anymore wouldn't it. Now I think you're trying to be funny.

Sure, he is using an analogy to try to characterize the discussion. Alas, as anonymous seems to concur, the analogy as presented had no bearing on the subject matter at all, (you did say it "was aimed at characterizing the dialogue generally, rather than addressing the Gatsby question") making it a poor analogy and horribly flawed as was his original logic in his post. My correction of his analogy both more accurately reflects the characteristics of the dialogue as well as the subject matter involved, making it on the whole a much better analogy over all.

Really, it would be so much better if we got off this tangent of analogies all together don't you think?

Wouldn't you much rather discuss whether there is any "logic behind extending copyright on a creative work past the death of the work's author."? I know I would. John? You brought the subject up. Do you have anything more you would like to add to support the logic for this position, or do you think this one example is sufficient to support it? I've already stated why I think the logic is wrong. Perhaps you will address that point instead.

Anonymous said...

I think John has been clear about why he isn't engaged in the conversation at this point. The peanut post kind of says it all, no?

Infringer said...

No, it was a rather poor analogy.