A matter of double standards
- Nov 3, 2009 Expand MessagesView SourceBottom of Form
To start with the very end of Philipp’s letter:
>I encourage Helge to join this list and discuss the matter here, so hecan defend himself properly.
Philipp, Philipp -- I have _always_ been on this list! The list-owner’s
pieces over the years have often been priceless, and I wouldn’t miss
them for the world. I remember eagerly opening each new mail from
Elfling-d, expecting a great laugh, and I was rarely disappointed. Your
own outpourings don’t quite measure up, I’m afraid.
You will, however, forgive me that I hesitate (to say the least) to
actively _contribute_ to a list which by the obvious intention of its
founder exists only to criticize David Salo and myself. But this time I
will actually make one single posting of my own. You see, I have reason
to be somewhat grateful to you! Let me get back to that.
As “Bill” (Welden?) wrote, the copyright debate is old news indeed.
Every conceivable argument has been debated ad nauseam long ago,
presumably when you were still a kid (as suggested by the fact that even
now, you sometimes have trouble presenting “ur thought’s” in something
like standard English spelling). As for the alleged “flames” you omitted
from my private letter to you, I asked you to properly identify yourself
with your full name and address. Since you are not man enough to do
this, you would seem to lack the courage of your oh-so-bold convictions,
meaning that you are not really worthy of more of my time, either.
Nevertheless, let me have a look at the points you raised, and then I
will leave you and the list-owner to make whatever noises you must. I
believe you deserve one another.
Whether you could call a newly-invented car “Aragorn” is quite
irrelevant (we are not discussing trademarks here, but simply words as
such). You could most definitely call your SON Aragorn; there are
already lots of people named after LotR characters. (Almost
unbelievably, several Swedish couples have even named their son
“Sauron”!) And if even proper names cannot be protected (simply as
NAMES, not as trademarks), what do you think the chances are of
“copyrighting” common nouns, verbs, prepositions and the like?
An even better example than “robot” would be the very word “hobbit”:
Notice the ease with which the word was adapted by international media
as a popular name of the small humans whose remains were found on the
island of Flores. The lawyers of the Tolkien Estate could probably jump
up and down until their faces turned blue; they would be quite powerless
to stop such real-world use of a word Tolkien coined.
Quenya, or Neo-Quenya if you insist, does to some extent exist as a
literary language. If anybody wants to call a tree an “alda” or a house
a “coa”, and even writes out a wordlist presenting words he happens to
know, I think it would take a very bold “Estate” of any description to
try to reassert exclusive ownership over a nebulous mass of unconnected
> Since Helge is apparently afraid of presenting his thoughts andstandpoints on this list, he rather chooses to attack me via e-mail.
Remind me again…which one of us turned up in a public forum and started
insisting that the other had broken the law and acted immorally? And who
simply wrote to the other, in private, and asked the real attacker to
properly identify himself? (Tellingly, that is pretty much all Philipp
has omitted from my letter, except for a final paragraph where I once
again addressed his claim that I am supposedly quite uninterested in
Tolkien’s early material: I pointed out to him that I worked out a
complete English-Gnomish dictionary long ago, based on material that is
as early as it gets, but I haven’t made it public since the likes of
Philipp and his obvious role-models would then make a lot of noise about
that as well.)
Philipp’s impression of the Átaremma affair is just as inaccurate and
biased as it has to be, given his stated sources (including “Elfling-d”
and “comments by Carl Hostetter”, indeed!) Even when that story was
actually unfolding, I was struck by how inadequately informed members of
Editorial Team seemed to be, as if the quality of their communication
with the Tolkien Estate left much to be desired. (Conversely, the Estate
did not always seem clearly informed about what the Editorial Team was
planning, either. It was possibly _I_ who first told the central Estate
attorney that the Team intended to publish the Átaremma text in the next
issue of Vinyar Tengwar: At least I got the impression from her next
letter that it had been necessary for her to make sure that this was
really the case!)
The notion that I in any sense “threatened (even with a lawyer) the
Estate and Christopher Tolkien” is so far removed from reality as to
warrant no comment. It was in any case the other party that first
brought in lawyers, yet you don’t see me whining about how the Estate
supposedly “threatened” me.
That tiny piece that was already floating around (not by my doing), the
Átaremma, was indeed a “text”, brief though it was. Surely it was
technically “copyrighted”, just like your grocery list is technically
copyrighted -- so the real question is whether my use of it counts as
fair use. As my attorney pointed out to the Estate, this text was 1)
simply the translation of a public-domain text, not something Tolkien
had actually authored; 2) it was only part of a larger cycle of versions
which the Estate would publish as a whole (as they informed us in their
very first letter), 3) it was a work of calligraphy, but I did not
include a facsimile in my article and so omitted that aspect of the
work. (Indeed, I first approached the Estate to ask their permission to
include the calligraphy, and I fully respected their refusal.)
The naked words I analyzed in my article were therefore only a part of a
much larger whole, and my attorney pointed out to the Estate that
American copyright legislation does not necessarily rule out making
limited use of parts of a work in the context of scholarly analysis,
even if the work as a whole was previously unpublished.
That, Philipp, is what we “were thinking”. My attorney indeed suggested
that I should go ahead and publish right away. As it happened, I
_voluntarily_ delayed publication so that my work for all intents and
purposes appeared simultaneously with the “official” publication in
If I had not done what I did, I am tolerably sure that these texts would
still be unpublished almost a decade later. If we had been able to exert
a little healthy pressure on the Estate and/or the Team more often, it
may be suspected the “official” publication process would progress
rather more speedily, unlike the current situation when not a single
iota of new material has appeared for 2.5 years. Notice that when these
religious texts were published in Vinyar Tengwar, the editor actually
managed to produce all of _two_ issues in one year, a feat he has never
managed to repeat without an external incentive like the one I provided.
The Tolkien Estate did nothing when I finally did publish. If you are so
deeply unhappy about this, Philipp, maybe you should write to _them_ and
try to convince them that they should belatedly be suing me?
Indeed, according to you, all of Ardalambion exists solely at the mercy
of the Tolkien Estate. Yet they did not bring up the issue of my website
even when _I_ contacted _them_! Is it not time for you to write to the
Estate and tell them how wonderfully clear-cut all the legal issues
really are? After all, Philipp, you have been able to acquire certain
supreme judicial insights from a highly qualified source that must
surely be far superior to the mere attorney I talked to (“I want to
indicate that Carl Hostetter has pointed out in detail the copyright
issues on elvish.org as well on this list” -- asking about Mr.
Hostetter’s legal qualifications would of course be impolite).
Well, Philipp, you are arguing (basically rightly) that texts are
copyrighted. There is, one must be forgiven for pointing out, a slight
irony involved here: You do so in the context of a letter where you
publish a full 327 words of completely original text written by _me_ (as
opposed to some public-domain text I had merely translated). Thus you
failed to ask my permission to publish a text almost five times longer
than the Átaremma.
Unlike my treatment of the latter, what you published was not a
_limited_ portion of a much larger cycle of texts including many
variants, drafts, calligraphy etc. You reproduced quite exactly _half_
of the amount of original text in my letter. Furthermore, I hardly
insult anyone by pointing out that your own interspersed comments cannot
well be counted as textual scholarship. Thus, if we are to go by your
very own supposed principles, I should now be crying to heaven about how
my “intellectual property” has been violated and my “intellectual work”
Since this in itself gives away that you are not thinking terribly
clearly, I am not going to spend more time on a (likely quite young)
person who needs to sit down and think through his principles anyway.
You will not give me your full name and address, and rest assured that I
don’t consider it worthwhile to have my attorney trace you via your
e-mail. If I change my mind it will be because of your slander and
assaults on my character, not your (don’t make me laugh) “copyright
Anyway, I shall have to take into account that I actually owe you one,
Philipp. You see, there is another person involved here as well.
Perhaps -- I suspect for natural reasons -- you can’t be expected to
know what went on in the field way back in 1996. In the autumn of that
year, David Salo included a rather harmless 24-word quote from one of
Carl F. Hostetter’s e-mails in one of his TolkLang posts. This promptly
made our current list-owner insist (in TolkLang message 21.09) that
David had “unquestionably violated copyright laws by publishing my
private e-mail to him without my permission”!
And of course, Hostetter has later had _very much_ to say about how
authors (and/or their descendants) should have complete control over
In our current case, Philipp, I have deliberately waited for more than a
week: I wanted to see whether the founder of this list would now
reprimand you for publicly quoting long excerpts from a private letter
without the permission of its author. You did, after all, reproduce more
than _thirteen_ times as much text as David’s 24-word quote that once
made our list-owner go ballistic about how copyright laws had
“unquestionably” been violated. Indeed, based on his seemingly clear
statements in the past, one would expect him to promptly delete your
entire post from the Elfling-d archive.
Obviously, no such action has been taken:
So as I go back to lurking, Philipp, allow me to congratulate you: You
deserve full credit for exposing the utter hypocrisy and obvious double
standards of Carl F. Hostetter! THANK YOU!
Helge K. Fauskanger
Webmaster of Ardalambion
Compiler and Maintainer of Quettaparma Quenyallo and Quettaparma Quenyanna
P.S. No, Carl dearest -- Philipp and I actually were NOT working
together the whole time, with this outcome in mind! It just looks that
way to a suspicious person.