Joyce estate warns festival over copyright issues

 

The Joyce estate has warned the organisers of the Bloomsday centenary festival, "ReJoyce Dublin 2004," and the Government that it will sue for any breach of the estate's copyright.

The warnings, which have also been given to the director of the National Library, RTÉ and the Joyce Centre, will prevent certain events from being held during the festival. These include public readings from Ulysses and a proposal by the Abbey to stage Joyce's play Exiles.

The Joyce estate, which is the sole proprietor of all copyright for the works of James Joyce, issued the warning to the Government in a letter to the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, Mr O'Donoghue, in May 2003. In the letter, which is signed by Joyce's grandson Mr Stephen Joyce, it says any failure to clear the use of material under copyright with the estate may "put your Department at risk of becoming liable for copyright infringement".

The threat of legal action by the Joyce estate is being taken extremely seriously by the organisers of the festival, due to several past legal cases involving, among others, The Irish Times. The festival will last from April to September, and is being overseen by a Government-appointed committee, which has received substantial funding.

Records released under the Freedom of Information Act show the Government has sought advice from the Chief State's Solicitor's Office on third-party copyright obligations. All the main festival events will also be vetted by legal counsel. But despite requests from certain groups organising the events, the Government will not indemnify them against any future legal action.

"The Department and the co-ordinating committee totally respect the rights of the James Joyce estate, and would neither condone nor excuse - let alone indemnify - any breach of copyright," said a spokesman for the Department of Arts yesterday.

He also confirmed that neither the Government nor the committee had been involved in negotiations with the estate regarding payment of any copyright fees.

Ms Laura Weldon, national co-ordinator for "ReJoyce Dublin 2004", said the festival committee would respect copyright.

"Anything \ the Government has a hand in organising there will be no infringement," she said. "So much can be done that doesn't require copyright."

However, Ms Weldon said it was unfortunate that there can't be any major public reading of Joyce's work at the 2004 festival.

The documents also show that the James Joyce Centre recently sought legal advice on whether it was complying with the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000. This review found that nothing had changed to affect the centre's position under law.

All of James Joyce's works published in his lifetime had gone out of copyright in Ireland on December 31st, 1991, 50 years after his death.

However, new EU regulations revived copyright in these works from July 1st, 1995, as the rules extended the lifetime of copyright for works to 70 years. The Joyce Centre is able to exploit the works of Joyce because of a clause in the regulations which protect works undertaken in the window between January 1992 and July 1st, 1995, when the original copyright on Joyce lapsed.

The "ReJoyce Dublin 2004" festival is not covered by this particular clause because work had not begun during the window period.

The Joyce estate is well known for vigorously defending the copyright of the author. It has taken a number of legal actions against firms such as the Cork University Press and The Irish Times.

In 1998, the Joyce estate objected to readings of Ulysses live over the Internet, which was facilitated by Ireland.com. The case was settled out of court.

The festival will commemorate the centenary of Bloomsday, June 16th, 1904.