Saturday, February 17, 2007

What became of all that scholars and collectors and writers and intellectual property stuff, which a few of you may have been reading this blog for

I don't know if it's a sign of the times or what, but the four collectors and the six researcher/scholars who took the time to write to me all made it pretty clear that they didn't want to get involved in anything like a public debate or discussion. (The writers, on the other hand, uniformly wanted to be out in public right away. This tells us something about writers, ne?)

The final, revised version of the Letter of Understanding appears below. This is what I'm asking whoever wins a bid in any of the auctions of my foul papers to agree to. The most interesting thing about it is that it is now much shorter and less complex than it was originally, for a very simple reason: no collector expressed any anxiety about scholarly access – they were all happy to provide it if they win the bid, for a really simple reason, which is that they know that having the materials in the collection written about in the academic/critical press will make the collection more famous and thus cause it to appreciate in value.

On the other side, the scholars uniformly had one anxiety – not about being allowed access, but about accidentally damaging some collector's prized copy of a manuscript.

It looks to me like the articulate members of both communities are pretty good human beings, and I'd rather facilitate good relations among good human beings as the rule, and deal with jerkiness as the exception.

The one completely new feature is the buyback option; members of both communities suggested I needed a way to enforce this, so now the deal is this – if the collector won't let scholars look at it under reasonable conditions, I can refund the collector's money, take the collection back, and auction it again to someone who will. Obviously this is a very slow to load and slow to fire gun behind the door, but now there's at least some teeth in the thing, which weren't there before.

Ultimately, we all share an interest here. Scholars need access to the foul papers; it's how they can study artists (and yes, I include writers, even me, among artists), and write and publish about them. Collectors need the kind of publicity scholars produce, because over the long run of decades, it's the scholars and the aficionados who decide what will last (because they decide what will be taught. You've all heard of Ernest Hemingway; some of you have heard of Philip Wylie; probably relatively few have heard of James Street. All three were very popular, prolific writers of short stories in about the same era, but Hemingway is taught everywhere, Wylie is part of the history of science fiction which has a pretty strong amateur/hobby research press in its niche – and Street was just a guy with some good stories. I want to at least be Wylie!)

So here, then is the Letter of Understanding, in its current form, which will apply at least to the Century Next Door materials auction now underway. If anyone spots anything they REALLY think I ought to know about, whether it be typo, logic error, loophole, or gross offensiveness, email me muy pronto because I'm going to be putting up a lot more auctions in the next few days.

And thanks for picking through this!


1. For purposes of these rules, the "owner" is the person who has purchased the collectible materials from John Barnes, or who has purchased the materials from a previous owner. A "scholar" is anyone who is working on any work documenting or studying John Barnes's work; this includes university, museum, and institute faculty, but also hobbyists and students.
a. No requirement is made that the scholar be professional or previously published.
b. No requirement is made that the scholar's work be intended for publication; study for the purpose of finding a project is explicitly allowed as a scholarly purpose
c. No requirement is made for publication or intended publication in hard copy or in scholarly media. Preparation of speeches, slide shows, web pages, IM discussions, etc. are all explicitly endorsed as possible projects qualifying the person as a scholar.
2. The owner acquires the listed objects under the condition that access will be granted to reasonable requests for scholarly study. To this end:
a. The owner will permit scholars to examine the objects for sufficient time and under reasonably comfortable conditions for the scholars to complete the work necessary to their research.
b. The owner mayrequire all costs to be borne by the scholar, including but not limited to reasonable insurance and special shipping, but may not charge purely for access.
c. The owner will permit all non-damaging, non-destructive forms of copying, with copies not to be sold for profit or distributed in greater than Fair Use quantities.
d. The owner may prohibit any form of copying which unduly risks physical damage to the collections..
e. The owner must make copies of the letter of provenance received with the collection freely available, including answering reasonable questions about its content, providing copies (for which expenses may be charged), and so forth. As long as there is a copy of the letter of provenance on the web, along with contact information for the collector, this will completely fulfill this obligation.
f. John Barnes undertakes to maintain a copy of the letter of provenance on the web and to keep in touch with the owner, but if he becomes unwilling or unable to do so the owner must then arrange for similar access.
3. Scholars are explicitly granted permission to quote extensively from all these materials, but commercial distribution is prohibited without specific written permission of John Barnes.
4. Because some drafts and notes are printed on the backs of other materials, some of which may be proprietary, if the letter of provenance does not list the material on the back, it may not be quoted, unless otherwise specified in the letter of provenance. This restriction does not apply to, e.g., notes continuing on the back from the front of a page.
5. Until John Barnes's death all intellectual property rights in the collectible materials, including publication for profit, remain solely the property of John Barnes, and commercial publication (except as discussed above) will require his permission. Following John Barnes's death, intellectual property rights to all the collectible materials may be licensed by the owner non-exclusively.
a. Two thirds of any money received from licensing publication of collectible materials shall be kept by the owner, with the other one third being given to John Barnes's estate.
b. Such licensing must in no way impair the scholarly access rules described above.
c. If such licensing should interfere with rights already licensed by John Barnes or his estate to publishers, the publishers' rights will take precedence.
6. The owner will not re-sell these collectible materials, or any part of them, without imposing all of these conditions contractually and in full upon the next owner.
7. If any of these conditions are violated, John Barnes may at his sole discretion buy back the collectible materials at their purchase price.

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