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The Nazgul, A Derivative Work of the Intellectual Property of Edgar Allan Poe, by Alanyst
Monday, September 20 2004 @ 08:24 PM EDT

Groklaw member Alanyst left a comment, a humorous take-off of Edgar Allan Poe's the Raven, and it was so clever and well done, I decided, with his permission, to place it as an article, knowing as I do that many busy people do not have time to read all the comments to every article and might have missed it. I enjoyed it very much, and I hope you do too. It's meant in fun, just a bit of creative fun.

And if you enjoy it, stop and think of this: If Edgar Allen Poe was alive and thought like SCO, you couldn't write this without the risk of being sued by the venerable Mr. Poe, because he might say, like SCO, if he shared their concept, that we had "stolen" his plot line. Just think of how much creativity the world would lose if such ideas about copyright were to be adopted. Without a doubt the world would be the poorer for it. Happily, The Raven is in the public domain, which means we can be as creative as we like with Mr. Poe's original work, with delightful results.

If you own the rights to Mickey Mouse, of course, you might not care about creativity on the part of others. In fact, you might wish to stamp it out whenever it rears its pretty little head, because it is in your corporate interest that there be no competition to your Mouse, so people will go on buying the same old, boring Mickey Mouse watches and lunchboxes and all the derivatives of your long-ago creativity. Actually, Disney's Mickey Mouse was himself a derivative of someone else's intellectual property. As you can see from the Big Cartoon Database's page on "Steamboat Willie", they say it was "a loose parody of Buster Keaton's movie Steamboat Bill", and the lead character later became Mickey Mouse. Creatively building on the work of others is what creative people do.

Nowadays, they do it at the risk of being sued. Today, with aggressive copyright enforcement we find situations where a children's party performer, who appeared in a documentary, reportedly was sent a cease and desist letter [reg reqd] by Disney for twisting balloons into the shape of the Genie in Aladdin. Do we really want a world like that? Where popular culture is privately owned, and no one new is permitted to be creative unless they have money to pay lawyers and licensing fees to buy the rights to twist balloons at a kid's birthday party? As you can see by this poem, you never know where creativity might turn up. It doesn't always happen inside a corporate structure, so if we only allow them to be creative, obviously the popular culture is being impoverished.

By the way, in the course of researching this article, I came across something I think you might enjoy, an eyewitness account of the Eldred arguments before the Supreme Court, which also recounts remarks by Larry Lessig prior to the event. I think it will put into some perspective Darl McBride's Open Letter that talked about that case. Enjoy.


The Nazgul - A Derivative Work of the Intellectual Property of Edgar Allan Poe
~ by Alanyst

Once upon a midnight dreary, as I worked at SCO/Caldera,
Searching many quaint and curious printouts of forgotten source --
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my office door.
"Tis some co-worker," I muttered, "tapping at my office door --
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the sere September,
And each fragmentary member of my UNIX code lay on the floor.
Nervously I feared the morrow; -- vainly I had sought to borrow
From old code surcease of sorrow--sorrow for the sinking score --
For the sinking, dwindling, stinking ticker telling our stock's score --
Profitless for evermore.

And my silly sad devotion to each frivolous court motion
Stalked me -- mocked me with forebodings heretofore I oft ignored;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
"Tis some co-worker discussing business at my office door --
Some late-staying co-worker loitering around my door;
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Stowell," said I, "or Sontag, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my office door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"--here I opened wide the door --
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep inside that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no CEO e'er dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was "Kevin?" quavered 'cross the floor.
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back to reach my door --
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the office turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely I know something's at my office window;
I will therefore let it in, though Custodial just cleaned my floor --
Let my heart be still a bit and let it in despite the floor --
'Tis a raven; nothing more."

Here I pushed the pane aside, when, with a quick and quiet glide,
In there stepped an awful Nazgul straight from Cravath, Swain & Moore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,
But, with mien to frighten Hades, perched above my office door --
Perched upon a bust of Bill Gates just above my office door --
Perched and sat, and nothing more.

Then the ebony wraith beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the stern and solid stack of legal filings that it bore,
"Though thy manner be so regal, thou," I said, "art sure no eagle,
Ghastly grim and ghoulish Nazgul wandering from the Federal Court --
Tell me of thy client's case to argue there before the Court!"
Quoth the Nazgul, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled, musing mainly, to hear lawyer speech so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning -- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was cursed with seeing wraith above his office door --
Wraith or ghoul upon the molded bust above his office door --
Speak such judgment: "Nevermore."

But the Nazgul, sitting lonely on that sculpted bust, spoke only
That one word, as if its soul in that one word he did outpour
Nothing farther then he uttered; not a paper then he fluttered --
Till I scarcely more than muttered: "Others settled suits before --
On the morrow he will leave me, as my stock has soared before."
Quoth the Nazgul, "Nevermore."

Startled by the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy client who by some corporate giant
Was rendered docile and compliant by threatened barratry and torts --
Till the dirges of his revenue that baleful burden bore
Of "Never -- nevermore."

But the Nazgul still defying all my blathering and lying,
Straight I wheeled my cushy chair in front of wraith and bust and door;
Then, upon the leather sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous lawyer--
What this black, benighted, brooding being, ominous lawyer--
Meant in hissing, "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the shadow's silent figure burned into my greedy core;
This and more I sat divining, thinking of my public whining,
Tales of billion-dollar fining of the fiends of open source --
Recompense for the declining of our once-demanded source--
Monetizable no more.

Then, methought, the air grew heavy as I dwelt upon the bevy
Of our legal contradictions Groklaw dragged into the fore.
"Wraith," cried I, "thy client sent thee -- with these documents hath sent thee
Here to settle now, and by new contracts end this costly war!
Seal, oh seal this poisoned pact and settle now this costly war!"
Quoth the Nazgul, "Nevermore."

"Counsel!" said I, "thing of Linux! -- robber then of long-lost Unix! --
Whether Torvalds sent, or Red Hat be with whom you have rapport,
FUD destroyers, still undaunted, seeing SCOSource still unwanted --
Of our IP by us vaunted -- tell me truly, I implore --
Is there -- is there SCO in Linux?--tell me--tell me, I implore!
Quoth the Nazgul, "Nevermore."

"Counsel!" said I, "thing of Linux!--robber then of long-lost Unix!--
By that law that bends before us -- by that cash we both adore --
Tell this litigation lover if, before the case is over,
We shall be able to discover rights in reams of code galore --
In forty million man-hours find our rights in code galore."
Quoth the Nazgul, "Nevermore."

"Be that our sign of parting, hippie fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting --
"Get thee back into the distant darkness of Armonk, New York!
Leave no subpoena as a token of the lie thy soul hast spoken!
Leave my pump-and-dump unbroken! -- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy sword from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Nazgul, "Nevermore."

And the Nazgul, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid pasty bust of Bill above my office door;
And in gloom I sit defeated, crushed by lies that I repeated,
And the innocence I pleaded has been laughed down to the floor;
And the bankruptcy attorney lurking round my cellblock door
Shall release me -- nevermore!

This poem is released under a Creative Commons license.

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