RARA-AVIS: Legal, but is it ethical?

From: George Tuttle ( noirfiction@whoever.com)
Date: 22 Apr 2006

A question for all: It maybe legal, but is it ethical?

BlackMask.com reprints public domain editions (they don't pay the author or surviving family for the rights to publish) of classic noir fiction writers like Elliot Chaze, Day Keene, Wade Miller, John McPartland, Lionel White, Charles Williams, Charles Willeford, and Jim Thompson. It's probably legal (Authors are often not good about doing the paperwork required to extend copyright protection). But is it ethical? Shouldn't the families get something? They may not be owed anything, but wouldn't it be nice?

It was one thing when BlackMask.com was reprinting old pulp magazines. It seemed more victimless. But this new wave of reprints does not seem right. The authors of Black Wings Has My Angel, My Flesh Is Sweet, and the various Gold Medal and Lion Book originals maybe gone, but their families are still here. Mary Chaze, Elliot's wife, is still alive. There were several kids. I met some of them when I work at the public library in Hattiesburg, MS. I assume Al James, Day Keene's son is still out there. Jim Thompson has two kids: Michael and Sharon. Bruno Fischer also has two: Adam Fischer and Nora Ernst. John McPartland had two wives: the one he was married to when he died and the one he forgot to divorce. I think Ida was the name of the later and the estate heir. I think there was also a daughter. Charles Williams has a daughter Alison. Lionel White has a daughter, January.

And then there is Wade Miller(the writing team of Bill Miller and Bob Wade). Bill Miller died many years ago, but isn't Bob Wade still alive?

Publishers like Hard Case Crime and Stark House Press give us an opportunity to say thanks to the authors of these books. It may be too late to thank them while they were living, but we can thank their kids, in a token way, when we buy a Hard Case or Stark House edition. I don't think anyone is getting rich reprinting old paperback originals. I don't think Charles Ardai of Hard Case or Greg Shepard of Stark House is getting rich. I doubt if BlackMask.com is getting rich. We are dealing with principles here, and I don't understand the principle that BlackMask.com is advocating for. I think they are on the wrong side of this issue. I know David Moynahan of BlackMask.com has posted on this site before I would welcome his point of view on this issue or for him to correct any misconceptions I have. I also welcome others for feedback on this issue.

Thanks to all for indulging me and letting me vent.

George the Librarian

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 22 Apr 2006 EDT