Mark Twain's nutty 1906 plan to extend copyright


12 Responses to “Mark Twain's nutty 1906 plan to extend copyright”

  1. Krisjohn says:

    Isn’t this a good thing? Rather than pervert the law, he actually intended to add value to his IP to encourage repurchase. This sort of innovation is what we would have gotten if copyrights weren’t effectively forever.

  2. Teresa Nielsen Hayden/Moderator says:

    Concerning perpetual copyright.

  3. Dossy Shiobara says:

    Of course, Mark Twain never anticipated the arrival of things like eBay, where the originally superseded works might end up being worth more than the subsequent editions, and where he would see none of the proceeds of such after-market sale.

  4. Mike says:

    As I recall, throughout his life, Twain was concerned with getting as much money as possible from his work. This sounds consistent with his general practice.

  5. Narual says:

    I’m with Krisjohn. Twain’s plan seems perfectly reasonable. It wouldn’t prevent the expiration of copyright on the original work, simply make it potentially less desirable.

    Translated to the modern world, as soon as the book was off copyright you could download it off the ‘net, record audio books of it, etc, printers could print new editions of it if they wished, but the “author’s preferred edition” would still probably sell plenty, keeping money flowing to the author.

  6. Matthew Miller says:

    To the first commenter: trademarking “Mark Twain” seems perfectly reasonable, as of course it wasn’t actually his name but rather something he used as, well, a trademark.

  7. Jack Bross says:

    This reminds me of Igor Stravinsky’s trouble with copyright issues. International copyright law didn’t protect The Firebird (a huge potential money-maker), and he put out a revised version of the Firebird Suite in 1945 largely to get a version under copyright. He had similar trouble with Petroushka, with the added twist that he had quoted music he heard street musicians playing which of course turned out to be the intellectual property of other composers (he was quoting popular songs and the songwriters weren’t anonymous).

  8. jphilby says:

    Some people don’t like to share with the other children.

  9. Eli says:

    Uh, you guys are missing the point. Reread the title of this post: Twain is arguing for the Copyright *Extension* Bill. (The author of this article is saying we should take him seriously since he already has this nutty scheme to work around the limits as they affect his books).

    Twain argued that ownership over writing and ideas, as in real estate, should never expire.

  10. Flying Squid says:

    Twain also trademarked his name. On the other hand, the guy invented a shirt with a drawstring at the bottom that he thought would replace suspenders. Why a belt wasn’t sufficient, I couldn’t say.

  11. Glenn Fleishman says:

    Twain had gone through bankruptcy a few years before, and although he had paid creditors and clawed his way back to solvency by 1906, it’s clear that he was highly concerned about his children living in penury. He eventually lost three of his four children during his life.

  12. bensheldon says:

    You can read about Mark Twain’s subsequent testifying before Congress here:

    With the full transcript here:

    Copyright during the 19th century and into the early 20th was an fascinating affair. The pirates (the term originated from Rudyard Kipling’s “Rhyme of the Three Captains”) in this sense were actually large book publishers (strange in this day of effortless digital copying) like Harper Brothers. You can read about it here:

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