Have been caught in the spider’s web of permissions limbo where I remain trying to figure out what’s real. Who owns Romaine Brooks intellectual property? We have contending parties to deal with. In 1974 Meryle Secrest attributed Romaine’s lawyer nephew as the heir and copyrights holder. Every American author since has followed this protocol including myself.
Lately a new contender has surfaced and he claims that he bought the copyright from the person who the Surrealist French painter E. MacAvoy allegedly left it to. The problem is that we cannot establish if MacAvoy ever had the copyright to Romaine’s intellectual property rights OR had the right to pass it on to anyone. Sums of money are involved so naturally it gets complex.
Where I come into this mess is in wanting to simply publish a fresh view of Romaine for her many admirers (myself included). But the alleged new copyright holder refuses to allow the Smithsonian in DC which is in possession of several paintings that were gifted by the artist to them (this settled in a case brought in an American court in 1991) to use this wording in any publication.
As you may imagine this presents me with very few alternatives as I have not to date been able to make contact with a surviving heir of the Brooks family. This appears to be a dead end although I have hired a French lawyer at my own expense to try and ferret out the legality of said claims. Failing in this I am up against a situation that breaks down as follows–Either eliminate the Smithsonian illustrations because I cannot credit them as the museum demands–or eliminate the alleged copyright’s holders references. These would also include any direct quotes even though the unpublished Brooks manuscripts are logged in at the American archives and available and have been quoted for years. This means an entire rewrite of my book. Daunting and without the needed illustrations to make my points and interpretations.
What would you do? It’s like the riddle of the Lady and the Tiger!