The Great GatsbyJust when will some philanthropist Get It? The Great Gatsby, perhaps the American novel of the 20th century, needs to be on the Net for U.S. students to read for free.

Washington Bono-ized Gatsby out of the current public domain here in the States, but I still keep hoping that a public-spirited business type will understand the possibilities here. I’m talking about fair payment to the Fitzgerald heirs. Bill Gates owns several copies of the paper edition and has called Gatsby his favorite book. Maybe he can read Sheila O’Malley‘s birthday tribute to Fitzgerald and understand why for years I’ve been saying that Gatsby should be online for free in the States. The “in the” is important. Gatsby is free in Australia via the Gutenberg-related site there. As interpreted by Gutenberg, Australian law still regards Gatsby as in the public domain, despite a recent lengthening of Aussie copyright terms. Here’s to the glories of “grandfathering” or equivalents!

Speaking of the past: Check out the NYT’s take on New Orleans books and other literature.

Left arm update: It still aches. Rx: muscle relaxant. I still can’t post as often as I’d like.

(Via Blogrunner.)


  1. There is irony in your suggestion that Bill Gates should buy the copyright for The Great Gatsby so it can be available free on the net. Bill never lets anyone own the rights to his software. For each version of the his software you wish to install, you must pay for the licence.

  2. “I’m talking about fair payment to the Fitzgerald heirs.”

    What exactly is fair recompense for an artistic work that one had no hand in creating? My personal opinion would put it somewhere around the region of absolutely nothing.

  3. Judy: Hey, I can at least suggest that Bill Gates buy the rights for free Web use. Doesn’t mean he’ll listen. But maybe another millionaire will.

    Alex: I think Bono overdoes it, but I see nothing wrong with heirs of the writers collecting compensation. Hey, rights are property indeed. It’s just that they aren’t property in the same way tht real estate is. Unlike books, real estate can’t be shared and your exclusive ownership doesn’t interfere with the creation of further wealth. Bottom line: Pay the heirs, but keep terms within bounds.


  4. Alex, that value to the heirs is indeed nothing, but one could argue that the value to current-day authors and would-be authors is greater. As long as the promise is upheld that heirs will still receive income from published works after the author’s death, that promise may inspire others to create.

    A little bit far-fetched, perhaps. I am sure most creation would still continue, even if there were no such rule.

    David, have you asked Bill Gates?

  5. Yes, Branko, Bill Gates knew of the suggestion. I was in touch with his e-book director. Furthermore, billg visited the TeleRead site at the time I was raising the Gatsby question.

    To address the broader issues, I do agree that copyright laws need to be loosened. The present strictness does not provide additional creative incentive and actually harms literature. Were it not for Bono, young authors could be reading Gatsby for free and benefitting from exposure to Fitzgerald’s style at its best.

    As for the DMCA, it has encouraged rotten “protection” technology that deprives readers of a chance to own e-books for real.

    So, while I’m pro-copyright, I think that the present laws are a disaster.


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