Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Goodbye Sunday Poem

I once had the unpleasant experience of becoming involved in an expensive lawsuit that could have had severe consequences. The extent of my involvement was determined by the legal concept (whose name I forget) of half-conscious but willful disregard. In the back of the mind one knows that such and such is wrong; since such and such is in the back of the mind, one does nothing to correct the wrong. On the other hand, since it is in one's mind, one is culpable. Fortunately, I was found to be not culpable.

In a gentle way The English Teacher has brought to my attention that I have been violating the law by posting poems that are copyrighted. I've poked around various sites regarding copyright issues as they relate to poems, and see that it's okay to use a poem of no more than 250 words, but not okay to post the poem on the internet. This is because one doesn't have control over the poem's use after the posting. I've been half-consciously and willfully ignoring these strictures.

One criterion that determines fair use is intentions. Mine were good. I thought that providing another venue for poetry would serve poetry. I believed that alternating the work of a not-so-well-known poet with a well-known poet would provide the lesser known with a wider audience. But, the Sunday Poem was really for me (as is this blog). I read and reread poems that I hadn't looked at for years. Reading poems became part of my week. And I sought out new poets with chapbooks or collections from small presses.

In the back of my mind I was concerned about copyright issues, for I posted the source of a poem, its copyright date, and the small © to indicate the poem was protected. The law might say I profited from the Sunday Poem, and so I did. My profit was attracting viewers interested in John Ashbery, David Edelman, James Merrill. Anne Bradstreet, whose poems I can freely post, would have appreciated these complexities.

Au revoir Sunday Poem. We may meet again if fair use relaxes its restrictions. Until then, I'll read poems in the privacy of my library, keeping them packed, away from public view.

1 comment:

The English Teacher said...

I liked your discussion with yourself.

You know--you could do a Sunday public-domain poem. Think of the possibilities: early American poets, George Herbert, John Donne . . .