Monday, April 21, 2008

How to react to fan material

There are many reasons I like Leonard Cohen. Primarily his words and music, of course. But here's another.

In 1995, a Finn called Jarkko Arjatsalo launched a fan site called, based, as you can guess, on Cohen's work: extensive commentaries, lyrics, and so on, entirely unauthorised. In 1997, Cohen found out about it, and contacted the author... and proceeded to send him much unpublished material (lyrics, poems, drawings, and so on). A couple of years later, he invited Arjatsalo and family for a visit to California. (Source: a recent article in The Toronto Star.)

Contrast with -- for example -- J. K. Rowling.


Space Bar said...

I really don't know what she's making a song and dance about, weeping in court and everything. She's made her millions, hasn't she? And she is going to bring out her own encyclopedia which millions of idiots will buy. What's her problem if the guy makes a few bucks?

km said...

Outstanding. (Perhaps Cohen is also well aware of how his biggest success really came about through other artists' interpretation of his songs? I mean Buckley et al...)

SB: JKR's defense is that the guy "plundered her prose" when, in fact, she wanted to publish a similar "encyclopedia" and donate all profits from the book to charity. Just for that reason, I want her to win. Or maybe she could let this dweeb ghost-write the book under her name and it's win-win for everyone?

Rahul Siddharthan said...

sb - Agree. One of my pet peeves, JKR isn't the only one.

km - I'm unconvinced. And she knew about this guy's website and even encouraged him -- if she had wanted to go into partnership with him, she could have long ago. Perhaps she's being pushed by her publishing company.

Another Cohen/borrowing story: apparently Cohen's publishers sued someone for allegedly borrowing the tune of "Famous blue raincoat", then Cohen said as far as he knows that tune is in the public domain and he can trace it as far back as Schubert... too lazy to dig for links at the moment.

km said...

A website and a book are quite different ventures. Regardless of that fact, I too think she's toeing the company line. A small price she has to pay for being the richest author around, I suppose.

//I believe Leo Sayer ("When I need you") was sued for lifting the melody from "Famous Blue Raincoat".