The Silmarillion, or the absurdity of eternal copyright /img/illuminated-silmarillion.jpg

John Tolkien started to write the Silmarillion one hundred (one HUNDRED!) years ago and continued to work on it until he died, 41 years ago.

Forty years later, an Illustration and Graphic Design student worked all by himself, for about one year, to produce a wonderful deluxe, hand-illuminated edition of the Silmarillion.

But he can’t publish it. Because other people, who are NOT those who wrote those texts, haven’t given permission (synthesis from the interview):

Q: Are you planning to put this book into publication, did you contact a publisher yet?

A: No. The rights are with the Tolkien Estate, and I would gladly work for them, but they didn´t answer my requests until now. I will keep on writing to them, until I can afford a travel to Great Britain and just put the book on their table.

Q: Did you have permission from the Tolkien Estate to make this book?

A: I made requests via the Tolkien Estate homepage, but didn´t receive any answer… But it is just a personal artistic work and I do not make any money with it.

The last answer, if I understand copyright law correctly, could be rephrased as:

Q: Do you know that what you have made, e.g. an unauthorized copy, may be illegal? I mean, theoretically, at least in some jurisdictions, you may get a Court order to destroy it and/or be fined.

A: Yes. I just hope they won’t sue my ass.

I DO know that we only have the Silmarillion in its current form because Tolkien’s son worked a lot to reorder and edit his father’s writings. But that, too, was almost forty ago.

I find really absurd, and harmful for both culture and the economy, that to reuse work by somebody who died decades ago one must ask for permission to somebody else. It’s ridiculous, really. This goes in the same league as: