June 16 is Bloomsday, named for the day on which James Joyce’s novel Ulysses is set. 2006 is the 102nd anniversary of the date in the novel. It is a day for public readings, conferences, and festivals. And as in many previous years it will also be a day for debating the merits of allowing literary estates to fall into the hands of individuals. Stephen James Joyce, the novelist’s grandson is just one example of how this can go wrong. Stephen controls the publication of Joyce’s work; he has even admitted to destroying letters to Joyce and many scholars believe he has destroyed letters by Joyce himself. This article in the New Yorker gives some background to the whole sorry mess.
But after the many lawsuits Stephen has brought against scholars, actors, and even the Irish Government, 2006 looks like being the year for the backlash. Carol Schloss, and English professor at Stanford University is planning to sue the Joyce estate for the right to quote from the published works. She is going to be represented by Lawrence Lessig, founder of the Creative Commons projects, which is attempting to change the copyright environment for the benefit of everyone. Here’s his blog.