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TOPIC: Copyright Purgatory

Copyright Purgatory 4 years 4 months ago #6794

  • Paul W. Collins
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Addition to the online list of my narrated versions of Shakespeare’s plays must await action by the United States Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. Of those “presentations” of the canon’s 37 plays, two have not yet been certified as registered by that office (although the other 35 have been).

Payment was made to the Register of Copyrights on Dec. 7, 2010, for registration of my novelization of Henry IV, Part 1, and on July 26, 2011, for my telling of The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Earlier this year I wrote to one Copyright Office official, then to another, pleading for help with my applications — even offering to drop them and give up the $50 fee for each, so I could file anew through the Library’s eCO (Electronic Copyright Office) system. But I saw no result—not so much as a reply.

My third letter to the Copyright Office, sent June 8 to its Associate Register for Registration Policy and Practice, said: “In the absence of any response I must conclude that your office, in undertaking such grandiose new efforts as the Twitter project, has decided as a matter of policy to abdicate responsibility for performing basic work for which it has been paid, and which is offered by no other U.S. agency.”

I also said, “At this point I must demand that you act immediately on my applications or refund my fees—with interest.”

Now, I know it seems futile to issue a “demand” to a functionary in a federal-level bureaucracy that doesn’t deign to respond to mail; but I felt compelled to express, at least, the concern, frustration, and exasperation—lately sheer anger—I’ve felt, having checked the Copyright Office’s Web site after each of about 500 workdays, only to find nothing on the two filings, now both long overdue.

I asked my cousin Morrie, who attended two semesters of law school (and completed one of them), about taking court action; he said you must obtain the U.S. government’s permission before you can sue any of its agencies.

But the celerity of Justice’s civil-service lawyers advised by outside counsel Lethem, Waite and Howell (affiliated with the private-sector barristers Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe) will be probably be similar to the Copyright Office’s.

I’ve had no reply from the Associate Register. I’m considering — seriously — turning to our steadfast friend and ally to the north, and its Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), for registration of the copyrights.

For now, I’ll withhold my Henry IV, Part 2 (which, submitted with Part 1, was registered in 2010) until I can offer the first part.

The other 34 pieces are available, free for Play Shakespeare members, in the Library.

My Web site — Shakespeare Right Now! — offers the novelized plays free of charge: as e-books in the EPUB, MOBI, PDB, and LRF formats; in HTML (hypertext markup language) for online reading; and for download as document files, in the DOC (Microsoft Word), PDF (portable document), and RTF (rich-text) formats.

No registration is required.

New at Shakespeare Right Now! are added pages: “About Everything,” with the essay "Within You, Without You;" and “Our Ad,” featuring (surprise!) our ad.
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Copyright Purgatory 4 years 4 months ago #6813

  • Ron Severdia
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That's a pretty sad situation, Paul. I hope they wake up at some point. Considering the lack of efficiency and competence of the US government (look at the current state of the VA), count yourself lucky you got 35 out of 37 sorted out already.

There may be a free law service in your area (or even outside your area) where a paralegal or attorney who may know someone and be willing to nudge that person to get things unstuck. Stick to it!
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