Dear Mr.Smelzer:I'm glad the essay is getting mileage, and I respect the author's and press' right to make a buck (or just under nine, as it's priced on Amazon). But, really. Has Frankfurt never quoted another author in his scholarly work? Or does his work--or any other academic's--spring fully formed from his skull, independent of previous writings and publicly shared thought? My understanding of copyright is that the founders created it to balance the rights of authors to make a living with the need of society to make cultural products available so others can build on and improve them.That's why the law allows for "fair use" in general and selected quotation in particular.
It has come to my attention that you have placed a copy of my essay "On Bullshit" on your website. I appreciate the compliment. As you may know, however, the essay has recently been published as a book by the Princeton University Press. The management of the Press and I are concernedthat your use of my essay may interfere with sales of the book. In any case, it constitutes a clear infringement of my copyright. I must ask you, therefore, to remove the essay from your websiteas soon as possible.
But I'm no expert, so I asked NYU's Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of Copyrights and Copywrongs, among others, to weigh in. Succinctly put, "He's full of Bullshit." According to both the 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style and Sec. 107 of USC Title 17, says Siva, my excerpt is fair use and, therefore, fair game.
But beyond that: won't the minimal publicity I've given the essay actually help Frankfurt gain a few more cents in royalties? And if it doesn't, how bad of a dent could I put in his precious profits, considering my site gets, literally, 50-some hits a day. And, finally, isn't this kind of petty letter a web meme in the making, a way to draw attention away from his scholarship and toward his apparent moneygrubbing? I have no beef with Frankfurt--except for his misspelling of my name (where's my grading pen?)--but I'm curious what his reply to me will be.