Copyright and Joyce Studies by jjqblog
January 12, 2012, 1:47 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

The end of copyright protection on Joyce’s work in the EU has has been the subject of some commentary in the press as journalists wonder what this might mean for the future of Joyce studies.  Three articles of note include:


  • the cleverly titled “An End to Bad Heir Days” by Gordon Bowker in the Irish Independent;
  • a somewhat shorter piece, “The Blagger’s Guide To…James Joyce,” also from the Independent, about new performances and adaptations taking shape around Joyce’s work, including a song by Kate Bush, a staging of the play Gibraltar, a new production of Exiles, and RTE readings of Ulysses;
  • a lengthy post on The New Yorker‘s Book Bench blog, “Has James Joyce Been Set Free,”  that includes my own comments on the change;
  • and a review of Gibraltar at Dublin’s New Theatre that has appeared in the Irish Times.

JJQ is attempting to compile a list of new works being made possible by the expiration of copyright protection, so please feel free to email us with news or simply respond in the comments section of the blog.

As I say in the New Yorker piece, the expiration of copyright is unquestionably a good thing for scholars and artists alike.  The continuing differences between US and EU law, however, put us all in a very strange situation.  In many ways, Joyce has always been an international, even global writer  and his works, like his readers, shuttle between as well as beyond national boundaries.  Now, however, books like Ulysses and Finnegans Wake will be read, cited, edited, and transformed in ways largely defined by somewhat narrower national contexts.

Yes, the copyrights on the major published texts have expired in the EU, but the unpublished works are still protected and other things–such as the materials in the James Joyce Archive, Stephen Hero, and Giacomo Joyce–are either still protected or in an uncertain space.  Conversely, in the United States the unpublished works are now in the public domain, making it at last possible to publish letters and some maunscripts, but Ulysses, the Wake, Stephen Hero, and Giacomo Joyce are all still copyright.  This means, for example, that although the unpublished letters can now appear, they cannot be easily integrated with the existing volumes and they cannot be legally sold or distributed outside the US.  Similarly, the newly edited and annotated editions of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake being prepared in Dublin and elsewhere can’t make it (legally) to scholars and students here.

More significant than these scholarly concerns, I think, are the consequences for artists and performers who might want to adapt Joyce’s texts or use them for other purposes.  Such innovative work will be done primarily in the EU but not in the United States.  In an age of global information networks and digital editions these differences might be less imposing than they once were.  Nonetheless, Joyce scholars and journals alike will have to work particularly hard to overcome these gaps so Joyce studies more generally can retain their distinctly international character.


Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: