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JEAN SHEPHERD–in the public domain

C. public domain

A major question in the world of Jean Shepherd’s radio broadcasts (in NYC 1955-4/1/1977 plus a couple of years before that in Cincinnati and Philadelphia) is whether they have a copyright–whether they are in the public domain.  If they are in the public domain, anyone can sell the audios without fear, and anyone can transcribe the audios (as I do) and publish them without fear of legal problems. Although people have been distributing Shep’s audios since before he died, the tricky and subtle issue had never been resolved beyond some peoples’ doubts as far as I know.

Library of Congress

“What Is Not Protected by Copyright? Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others: • works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)”

[I believe that what’s important here is “improvisational

speeches or performances”]

Here’s what the Stanford University Library website declares

(http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/public-domain/welcome):

Welcome to the Public Domain

The term “public domain” refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it. An important wrinkle to understand about public domain material is that, while each work belongs to the public, collections of public domain works may be protected by copyright. If, for example, someone has collected public domain images in a book or on a website, the collection as a whole may be protectible even though individual images are not. You are free to copy and use individual images but copying and distributing the complete collection may infringe what is known as the “collective works” copyright. Collections of public domain material will be protected if the person who created it has used creativity in the choices and organization of the public domain material. This usually involves some unique selection process, for example, a poetry scholar compiling a book — The Greatest Poems of e.e. cummings.

This would apply to those who sell audios of Shep’s radio programs (as does Max Schmid: http://www.sheptapes.com), my extensive transcript excerpts in my EYF!,  and my own recent manuscripts consisting of my edited transcripts and commentaries on Shep’s Army stories, my transcripts of his travel narratives, and much more. Max good photo

SHEP'S.ARMY.Cover_Final

Without these uses of Shepherd’s broadcasts, I’d fear that his main claim to creative immortality would be gone with the wind into the ether. (Shep is acknowledged four times at the beginning of A Christmas Story but almost nobody reads opening film titles.)

♦  ♦  

The above was preface.

Below is a condensed narrative regarding my current adventures.

For years I’ve been searching for the answer as to whether Shepherd’s improvised broadcasts are (and can be proven to be) in the public domain. All evidence–the U. S. Copyright website, the lack of legal action against their use, massive commercial sales of thousands of his radio audios (and many other old time radio audios)–all indicate that they are being sold without legal hassle and are thus probably in the public domain.

Publishers of my Shep’s Army wanted a definitive answer to prevent possible legal problems. Through the help of Nick Mantis (Creator of the documentary-in-progress on Shep’s life) I requested an answer from a copyright lawyer. I got a good but not 100% definitive response–so my publisher took part of my royalty rate to secure safety from possible lawsuit.

On the colophon page of Shep’s Army, it states:

“Published by arrangement with the Estate of Jean Shepherd, Irwin Zwilling, Executor.”

public domain artwork

A couple of years ago I completed another manuscript of Shep’s stories but my publisher has not responded to my questioning: ya gonna publish or not publish? To avoid the inevitable hassles of the entire  process from query letters to editorial and accounting conflicts, I’d nearly decided not to attempt more efforts to get my Jean Shepherd Kid Stories published.kid stories cover 1

Photo of kids courtesy of

Steve Glazer and Bill Ek.

I ‘d decided to simply publish them on this blog as I’ve done with Shep’s travel narratives.

(Exchanging publication-stress for pure blog-bliss.)

Allison, my wife, suggested that I give print publication one more try (I’d indicated to her that a book one can hold in one’s hand is what both Shep and I would have preferred.) As I have no agent (I tried and couldn’t get one years ago for my EYF!–ain’t that a drag? But then, remember how Leigh had to act as agent herself and hunt for a publisher for Jean’s The Ferrari in the Bedroom.).

I knew I’d have to deal with the public domain question again before I could get a contract for the kid stories, I emailed Irwin Zwilling, Shep’s friend/accountant, who was willed all his creative rights. Mr. Zwilling responded that he’d tried to resolve this issue for years and responded:

“Yes, it is our understanding that his radio shows are

public domain.”

OH, LIFE CAN BE SWEET!

Thus, the audios are available. And my editing of them and using them in my two so-far-unpublished books of transcripts–kid stories and travel narratives–are protected for me according to the Stanford U. description: “Collections of public domain material will be protected if the person who created it has used creativity in the choices and organization of the public domain material. This usually involves some unique selection process,…” (My editing for smoothness, continuity, and organization–retaining the feel of Shepherd talking–and especially in the kid stories, to form a “novel-like” whole.)

I await the next stage of the process.

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JEAN SHEPHERD–Gene B.’s Rant. Part 2

Because of all the foregoing [in Gene B. Rant. Part 1.], I’d decided to take my transcripts of that “sure-to-be-a-hit other manuscript of Shepherd material” and soon I was gonna start posting it on this blog too. (Hey, publishers and agents, why not take a look?) Just as the army stories joined into what I like to think of as a “coming of age novel,” I believe the same can be said of the gathering and organizing of my third book of Shepherd transcripts, tentatively titled:

JEAN SHEPHERD KID STORIES

kid book cover

Photo of kids courtesy of Steve Glazer and Bill Ek.

A book of

never-before-in-print

Jean Shepherd

kid stories

that read in sequence

as a coming-of-age novel.

WOW!

From kindergarten through grammar school,

ham radio,

high school dating,

the steel mill,

and two college-age

extra-curricular

epiphanies.

I love epiphanies, don’t you?

→ ? ←

ge-ideas-are-scary-commercial

GE TV ad:”Ideas are scary”

?

1) My kid stories book would increase interest in: the movie ACS; the straight play of ACS; the musical of ACS; all the statuettes and leg lamps and costume sales and board games and Christmas tree ornaments associated with ACS; and the sales of all of Shepherd’s previously published books still in print.
2) My Shep’s Army book has a little note on the colophon page: “Published by Arrangement with the Estate of Jean Shepherd.” (Has anyone who has picked up the book noticed that?) That note, my publisher tells me, represents the deal they made that gives a chunk of my royalties for that arrangement.
3) Beyond all those legalities and financial ditherings, my Jean Shepherd Kid Stories book would become part of Shep’s permanent, published creative works–and, I believe, further enhance his critical and popular reputation. IS THIS NOT “WORTH” SOMETHING IN OUR WORLD OF COMMERCE and our weak and undernourished world of ART?
GE idea 1

?

 I can’t fight it any longer
and still remain the sweet, all-loving, wise and wonderful person that I am.
(Please note the irony here, folks.)

?

I will no longer attempt to get these kid stories printed.

I will begin posting them on this blog.

Should something change,

and a publishing opportunity fall into my lap,

I’ll go for it.

Otherwise

JEAN SHEPHERD KID STORIES

may never be published other

than on this blog.

GE idea in box“Don’t cry for me, all you Shep fans–

the truth is I never left you.”

[A line from “Shep,” the (someday) great, operatic musical film

co-starring me as Antonio Banderas.]

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

“I’m one of the great underground performers.

In spite of the fact I have millions of fans,” he proclaims,

“I can’t imagine why [someone] wouldn’t know about me . . .

I’ve had three best-sellers, I’ve published forty-eight stories in Playboy.

[By my count, 23 stories, one humorous article, and The Beatles interview.]

Critics have done papers on me. I’ve influenced more kids.

I’ve done thousands of shows at colleges. I’ve been

on the Carson show many times and on the Merv Griffin show.

I’ve had my own television series for years on PBS.

And yet [some people] never heard of me.

Now you’re understanding the nature of twentieth-century fame.”

–Jean Shepherd quoted in Maralyn Lois Polak’s

The Writer as Celebrity.

? 

“…sure enough, he was found in the morning frozen to death but

nevertheless he had there next to him the sign that read

enigmatically, ‘Excelsior.’

And this is the story of all mankind’.”

Jean Shepherd, 1958.

“Never give up!”--Gene B. 2015.

?

Hey, gang, this all sorta sounds like the kind of justified complaints that Shepherd engaged in from time to time over the decades. Maybe all of the above is nothing but my parody of Shep’s complaints? Maybe. But then, maybe not. 

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Stay tuned.

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