Notebook: The Writer of the Future

In 1996, I was working in my off hours as a secretary for the poet Joseph Brodsky when he died of a heart attack at the age of fifty-five, leaving me as his literary executor. The great rush to read previously forbidden books was still strong in his native Russia, which had only recently begun to publish his poems after his twenty-plus years of exile. Many of Brodsky’s readers were appalled that some person in America was deciding how their beloved poet’s works appeared; they saw it as another form of censorship. No, I argued, copyright is an instrument of freedom: It allows the writer (or creative person) to benefit from their work and dictate how it reaches the public. Without copyright the creative person is serving another master—a patron, a “writers’ union,” a boss.

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