2012 is a special year for these Joyceans. The 71st since Joyce’s death, it marks the first — across the EU at any rate — that his work may be shared freely among them, without needing permission — for public readings, performances, or re-interpretations — from his estate. This is no small matter: since inheriting the estate in 1982, Joyce’s grandson Stephen Joyce has gained a reputation as the most controlling literary executor in history.
Copyright’s recent history is exclusively one of concessions granted to copyright holders — who are increasingly multinational corporations such as TimeWarner and EMI and wealthy estates — either extensions in the scope of copyright’s protection or the length of its term, or streamlined mechanisms for its enforcement.
The public are the losers in these deals, yet they have rarely been moved to join the chorus of academics and archivists and their persistent protest that we are moving ever further from the view of copyright established by the framers of the Constitution: a necessary, temporary, evil to promote the health of a knowledge base that is ultimately shared. Indeed, our journey towards a corporate vision of perpetual knowledge assets exploited for profit seems unstoppable.