Writer’s Rights… 19th Century Style
It’s hard to believe, but at the start of the 20th Century, it was commonly held that publishing your stories in a periodical put them into the public domain… and you lost your rights to them entirely.
On the other hand, it’s not hard to believe at all. At the opening of the 21st Century, similar controversies swirled around digital rights, and the dawn of the “magazine age” 100 years prior was really not so different. When the “weeklies” and “monthlies” began to circulate, they were entirely new beasts, and there was no precedent for determining who held the rights of the material published, and how. And when novelists began publishing their works serially (sometimes after the book had been published, sometimes before, as with Tarkington’s debut novel The Gentleman from Indiana), the waters just got murky. The kind of murky that entrepreneurs have always taken advantage of. (Napster, anyone?)
Booth Tarkington found himself at the center of resolving this issue in the fashion handed down to us today. As reported by the Long Beach Post’s historian Claudine Burnett, Tarkington contemporary Jack London found his novel The Sea Wolf pirated by film producing company Balboa the summer of 1913.
The League later divided into what are now the Dramatists Guild and the Authors Guild. The League’s Bulletin was published regularly, and volumes 5 and 6 are available online. In 1917, Tarkington was a member of the “Council” and an honorary Vice-President.
Leave a Reply