Mark O’Connell has a very interesting piece in the New Yorker’s “The Book Bench” about the new public domain status of much of James Joyce’s work. A lot of people have been waiting many years for this day, but the piece makes the important point that the Joyce Estate is not out of the picture entirely. The most widely used edition of Ulysses (up until now, anyway), the Gabler Edition, is still protected by copyright. Finnegans Wake is still protected in the United States. And then there are the works like Stephen Hero that were published after his death, and then there are the letters, published and unpublished. Sean Latham, the editor of the James Joyce Quarterly, has some tantalizing things to say about editions of heretofore-unpublished letters that are in the works! We will stay tuned.
If you want an exhaustive, if somewhat headache-inducing, guide to Joyce works and copyright, check out this FAQ from the International James Joyce Foundation. Short Version: There is no short version. But if you read the section on unpublished works, you can see where there’s a surprising bit of daylight that may explain why there are editions of unpublished letters in the works.