Monday, August 23, 2010

DMCA Notice: A Colleague's Project on Brave New World

Not So Brave A New World
Location: First-Day-of-Class Blahs

Classes began today, and with them came a warning from Attorney Jonathan Kirsch that Miranda, a project that my colleague Beeble Baxter (in SL) had used with several classes violated copyrights held by the Huxley Estate. A DMCA notice would soon follow. With some regret I pulled down many dozens of hours of work by my colleague and his student assistants.

Our understanding, when Miranda went live, was that Huxley's survivors had permitted copyright for the novel to expire. We were wrong, and now a great educational project has vanished. In time we hope to negotiate with the holders under the Fair-Use provisions of the law, so a portion of Huxley's text will again appear as a hypertext. I expect other sites with full-text copies of Brave New World to be forced to take down their copies as well.

Personally, I tend to make derivative works of what is clearly in the public domain, such as Poe's fiction. But given the state of copyright now, and given the limited resources of educators and their employees, it's easy to see how fuzzy the rules can seem for older works. It's also a bit sad to see how easily cowed educators can be by a professional with good letterhead, an insistent message delivered in an amiable way, and excellent communications skills.

DMCA warnings have gone into virtual worlds, such as the Estate of Frank Herbert forcing Second Life roleplayers to remove all references to the Dune novels from their simulations.

Pity, really, but there's not a thing to be done except obey. The Alphas, after all, wrote the laws and gentlemen like Mr. Kirsch are there to protect their interests. One wonders what Huxley would have made of all this.


Lalo Telling said...

Not to mention SL's reputation for "orgy porgy"...

Somehow, though, I'm not surprised, given the problems not long ago with the estate of Orwell and the sudden yanking of electronic copies of 1984, from the Literature Project as well as from e-readers.

Iggy O said...

Yes, Lalo. I expect other online copies of BNW will vanish soon, too. I won't name them, just to let Mr. Kirsch have some more work to do. Billable hours and all that.

Stryder Lee said...

I think the ten World Controllers write the rules and the Alphas only enforce them. Huxley tells us much about Alpha capacity in the first scene of BNW as they furiously scribble down every word from the Director of Hatcheries without much curiosity or questioning - not what we would consider critical thinking!

Iggy O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Iggy O said...

Corrected-grammar edition of deleted post: do we get to be among the lucky 10? Then we can set copyright law.

Lack of critical thinking: that's the problem as we groom good corporate citizens to enforce the will of those who pull our strings.

A British colleague wrote to me, laughing about the DMCA. If the hypertext had been hosted and owned by citizens of another nation, this would be a moot point.