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Friday, December 30, 2005

An experiment in copyright infringement or the boundaries thereof

Or: David Foster Wallace, how doth thou likest them apples?1

My dad bought me a great book by David Foster Wallace called Consider the Lobster And Other Essays. I nearly finished it on two airplane flights, one carrying me from Oakland into Houston and the other carrying me back.

After wrapping up the title essay at home the other night, I turned toward the front of the book, to the back of the title page. This page, toward the bottom, lists the original venue of publication for each essay, usually a magazine or newspaper. My eye strayed toward the top of the page, noting the text "First edition: December 2005," and then, further up, at the tip top of the back of title page, "Copyright2 2006 by David Foster Wallace."

So it seems Mr. Foster Wallace3 released a book in December 2005 but for some reason has declared copyright effective one month later. The only possible reason I can conceive for doing this is to ensure the copyright expires one year later than it otherwise might, thus ensuring a heftier inheritance for all the little4 Foster Wallaces5 and their descendants.

What David Foster Wallace did not count on, it seems, was the likes of me, who has noticed his little copyright sleight-of-hand in time to do at least a very slight6. bit of damage. Seeing as how somewhere in the neighborhood of 36 hours remains before commencement of David Foster Wallace's copyright on Consider the Lobster And Other Essays, I hereby will endeavor to enjoy and exploit this narrowest of windows afforded by, essentially, Mr. DFW's own greed7.

Trouble is, 99.8 percent8 of the book was published elsewhere first, meaning an earlier-dated copyright is all but certainly held by either the publication in question, Mr. DFW, or both. The sole exception is a relatively brief comment, apparently by9 Mr. DFW on aforemention back-of-title page, reproduced here on an apparently exclusive10 basis for the next roughly-36 hours, at which point I will truncate it to a short excerpt compatible with "fair use" doctrine and thus Mr. DFW's then-valid copyright:

The following pieces were originally published in edited, heavily edited, or (in at least one instance) bowdlerized form in the following books and periodicals. N.B.: In those cases where the fact that the author was writing for a particular organ is important to the essay itself -- i.e., where the commissioning magazine's name keeps popping up in ways that can't now be changed without screwing up the whole piece -- the entry is marked with an asterisk. A single case in which the essay was written to be delivered as a speech, plus another one where the original article appeared bipseudonymously and now for odd and hard-to-explain reasons doesn't quite work if the "we" and "your correspondents" things gets singularized, are further tagged with what I think are called daggers. To wit:

Then follows a list of essays, some preceded by one or more glyphs as outlined in Mr. DFW's11 text above. I have declined to reproduce it here as it is likely exempt from copyright by some sort of allowance for library card catalogs and bibliographies and thus generally no fun to reproduce here in this experiment.

Another note: it would appear Mr. DFW himself has invented the word "bipseudonymously."

Thank you for your time, and this concludes my experiment12.

1 With apologies to McSweeny's*
        * And a nod to footnote 48 in the to-be-mentioned subject of this post, Consider the Lobster And Other Essays.

2 Herein followed one of those little copyright symbols where a letter "c" is encircled. I have omitted it here* because I do not care to look up the appropriate HTML entity.
        *There, really.

3Or Mr. Wallace. Whatever. This is a weblog post. No time for fact checking, at least not of my own facts.

4Assuming some exist or are generated, which may not be the case, but this is not a weblog post about Mr. Foster Wallace's4a sex life or lack thereof4b.
        4aOr Mr. Wallace's.
        4b Although considering that, as mentioned previously, I am not checking my facts given the fluid and casual and generally non-footnoted (present textual location notwithstanding) nature of a weblog post, it might be more rewarding for both publisher (me) and reader (you) if the topic of this weblog post were the sex life of what's-his-name.

5Or Wallaces. Again, whatever.

6Odd juxtaposition of homonyms "sleight" and "slight" noted but neither intended nor particularly meaningful.

7Albeit "greed" on behalf of, in all likelihood, his own descendants, or at least on behalf of maximizing the admittedly likely limited income of a switch-hitting fiction/nonfiction writer who has probably exhausted his now-eight-year-old MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" of $230,000. In other words, I in no way mean to throw rocks at Mr. DFW by use of the word "greed," except insofar I would do so toward myself, accompanied by a jocular and good-natured little laugh/chuckle whose meaning is/would be along the lines of "aren't I a bit silly and greedy and, let's face it, all too human in my jockeying for just one more morsel of sweet, tasty cash, even though what I am doing is, on metaphysical balance, 'OK.'"

8Really. I did a little, if rough, calculation just now.

9And most certainly copyrighted* by Mr. DFW, thus falling under Mr. DFW's not-yet-begun copyright and preserving my little experiment as a going concern.

10 Exclusive in the sense of exclusively "free-as-in-beer."

11 Please, tender reader, understand that the use of the possessive here does not, at least for the next near-36 hours, imply a concession of copyright to Mr. DFW.

12Hopefully. Mr. DFW suing me for roughly-36 hours copyright infringement could produce an alternate, unexpected conclusion.

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