Lawsuit Over Joyce Papers May Clarify Copyright's Fair-Use Exemption for Scholars

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A James Joyce scholar is suing the Irish author's estate, claiming that it is abusing copyright law to prevent her from disseminating research findings that the estate wants to cover up. The case may clarify how much control copyright holders can exert over scholars seeking to take advantage of the law's fair-use exemption.

Researchers in several disciplines rely on the exemption, which permits scholars and students to use copyrighted material for scholarly and educational purposes without seeking permission from the copyright holders. But lawyers for colleges and publishers are sometimes reluctant to test it in court battles with copyright holders.

The scholar, Carol Loeb Shloss, is an acting professor of English at Stanford University. She has been feuding with Joyce's estate since 2002, when her book about the author's daughter, Lucia, was about to be published. In the book -- Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003) -- Ms. Shloss theorizes that Lucia, who was committed to an asylum, greatly influenced Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake. A character in the novel, Issy, is portrayed as a schizophrenic.

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