Kerouac curator invents copyright laws to keep photographers away

The scroll of paper on which Jack Kerouac wrote the original draft of his magnificent novel On The Road is on tour, but the person running the tour has prohibited photography of this important document, citing copyright.

Thomas Hawk has written a great open letter to Myra Borshoff Cook, Tour Organizer for the book in which he spells out why her excuses for restricting the liberty of people who shoot the manuscript are bogus.

It's possible that shooting this with a flash might have long-term negative effects (though we're not talking about the Constitution here, and besides, it's under glass, so you won't get anything but glare if you use your flash), but that's a reason to ban flashes, not photography. The manuscript is a palimpsest of Kerouac's thought processes and revisions and it photographs beautifully.

Ms. Borshoff Cook, you have been entrusted with running a tour of one of the great pieces of literature of the written English language. Even more significantly *how* it is written is of great historical import. This document deserves to be shared beyond the confines of a small room in a basement of the San Francisco library. This document deserves to be shared with everyone online. They deserve to see the time worn type and corrections that Jack made to his document to get a sense of the historical uniqueness of it. Rather than allow the public an opportunity to share in this experience, you position weak copyright objections which don't hold up. Are not most books and documents in the San Francisco Public library copyrighted? In fact is not their own copy of the book "On the Road" back in their shelves copyrighted? And yet I see no sign there prohibiting me from taking photos of the actual book, or any other book in the San Francisco Public Library.

If I were in San Francisco, I'd follow Thomas's example and shoot the scroll — maybe put it up on Flickr under a tag like "ontheroadscroll".


(Thanks, Thomas!)

Update: Michael's created a Flickr group for your Kerouac scroll piccies!