• Here’s a curious but very modern dilemma

    A few years ago, my good friend Rick leant me a copy of his Poetry London 1946 hardback of American poet Witter Bynner’s translation of The Way of Life by Laotzu, commonly known as the Tau.  I now have my own precious hardback volume of the same date. It’s one of my favourite books. Bynner seemed to imbue the text with a sympathetic poetic understanding which transcended the perhaps more literal and more academically accurate translations of the Tau. I love it. Now that we are about to launch publishing at The Word Machine CIC, I would like to put out an ebook of Bynner’s text. I would like to pay the estate of Witter Bynner a fair royalty, the same royalty we will be paying all our authors. I have contacted people connected with his estate, who have passed the buck to the last American publisher who put out a physical version of the text, who of course, in the manner of all modern corporate organisations, have repeatedly ignored my requests to establish a rights position. I’m not even interested in the money: I just think that this version of the Tau is very important, and would bring joy to people all over the world if they could access it on their ereaders, so I’d like to get it out there. There is currently no ebook version of the text. I don’t even mind if the muppet American corporate publishers put out a version, as long as it’s out there. But no-one will talk to me. This is one tiny story about withheld rights in the modern era, and I wonder how many other blocked passages exist in the publishing esophagus? Anyway, sod it: life’s too short. I think people should be able to read this, so I’m going to put it out. I will set aside any royalties that the version creates, put those royalties in an escrow account, and hopefully pay them out at some point to one of Witter Bynner’s descendants. Would have been nice to do it with a bit more, you know, encouragement though…