MARK TWAIN TURN INTO A CORPORATION
The Pen Name Is Incorporated to Save Daughters from Literary Pirates.
FAMILY HOLDS THE STOCK
With the Expiration of His Copyrights the New Company Will Control All His Works.
For the purpose of allowing his two daughters Clara L. and Jean L. Clemens, to receive the financial benefits of his works for the greatest possible length of time, Samuel L. Clemens, America's greatest humorist and man of letters, has incorporated his pen name of Mark Twain.
The plan had been under discussion by Mr. Clemens, Ralph W. Ashcroft, his literary agent, and R. A. Mansfield Hobbs, his legal adviser, for more than a year. So greatly interested has Mr. Clemens become in the idea and so anxious has he become to keep the financial benefit of his long and arduous life's work within his own family instead of allowing it to be filched away by strangers, that Mr. Ashcroft has spent every week-end with him at Redding, Conn., where the Clemens family have been living since last June.
As a result of these consultations it was decided that the surest way to keep the earnings of Mr. Clemens's books continually in the family, even after the copyright on the books themselves expires, was to incorporate the "Mark Twain" name itself.
The Mark Twain Company of New York has accordingly been formed, the purpose of which is to secure to the author and to his family all rights in the nom de plume. Mr. Clemens himself is President of the company, Mr. Ashcroft Secretary and Treasurer, Mr. Clemens's two daughters and his secretary, Miss Isabelle V. Lyon, are the Directors. Mr. Hobbs, the attorney, forwarded the articles of incorporation to the Secretary of State on Monday, and they were formally placed on file yesterday.
The Mark Twain Company is capitalized for the nominal sum of $5,000. All the stock is held in Mr. Clemens's own name at present, but it is understood that at his death the shares will be divided equally between the two Misses Clemens, his sole heirs.
Mr. Clemens could not be reached at Redding last night. Ralph W. Ashcroft, at his home in Brooklyn, gave this explanation of the incorporation:
"The knowledge that the copyright of his works would soon expire and that strangers instead of his own kin would reap the financial benefit from his literary works has troubled Mr. Clemens for a year. He has been in consultation with Mr. Hobbs and myself practically every week. We finally hit on the plan of incorporating the Mark Twain name itself. We believe that when this name is the property of a perpetual corporation Mr. Clemens's heirs will be in a position to enjoin perpetually the publication of all of the Mark Twain books not authorized by the Mark Twain Company, even after the twenty-year first copyright and ten-year secondary copyright have expired."
Mr. Ashcroft was not prepared to say at present whether the incorporation of the Mark Twain name would prevent any publisher, after the expiration of copyrights on the books from printing the books under the name of Samuel L. Clemens. He said that this was a matter for the courts to decide, and that the incorporation of the Mark Twain name at least put Mr. Clemens's daughter in a position in which they could make a legal fight for their rights.
Gilbert Ray Hawes, the lawyer who defended Frau Wagner's copyright to "Parsival" five years ago, was one of a number of copyright specialists who expressed interest in Mr. Clemens's plan. Mr. Hawes pointed out a method by means of which, he said, he believed that the Misses Clemens could keep all unauthorized publishers from ever publishing their father's works, even if the unauthorized editions were put out under the name of Samuel L. Clemens.
"If, after the copyrights on Mr. Clemens's works expire, a perpetual title is held to the name Mark Twain, and if the life of the original copyrights of the works has been expanded by the addition of new chapters or new material, I believe that Mr. Clemens's heirs could enjoin the publication by other publishers of the original works even if these works were published under the name of Samuel L. Clemens," said Mr. Hawes.
"The Misses Clemens could assert that the reprint of the original unamended works under a different name to that under which they were originally published was not the publication of the genuine book, and that it was interfering with the publication of the genuine book. An injunction, at least, could be issued on these grounds.
"Mr. Clemens has already announced that he intends to extend the length of his copyrights by the addition of chapters from time to time.
information on Twain's involvment with Ralph Ashcroft is available in Karen
Lystra's DANGEROUS INTIMACY
(University of California Press, 2004).
available from amazon.com
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