PRODUCTIVITY: Copyrights hinder wisdom

A Clash of Camelots

Within months of J.F.K.’s death, the president’s widow asked William Manchester to write the authorized account of the assassination. He felt he couldn’t refuse her. Two years later, nearly broken by the task, Manchester found himself fighting a bitter, headline-making battle with Jackie and Bobby Kennedy over the finished book. The author chronicles the toll Manchester’s 1967 best-seller, The Death of a President, exacted—physically, emotionally, and financially—before it all but disappeared.

By Sam Kashner

October 2009

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By virtue of their original agreement with Harper & Row, the Kennedys continue to control the fate of The Death of a President. Even now, after William Manchester’s original manuscript has come home to Wesleyan, where it is held under a kind of house arrest—heavily censored, and subject to extremely restricted use—the Kennedy family has allowed the book to go out of print, according to John Manchester. Sitting in the bar at the Four Seasons Hotel in sight of Boston Common, where his father had first met Kennedy, when both men were newly home from the war, he says, “The Death of a President helped build that library, but if you go there today, there’s no mention of it or him anywhere. He was written out of their history.”

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Interesting. Copyright law was intended to allow ideas to spread. Shouldn’t books that are “out of print” go into the public domain? With vendors like Lulu Print On Demand, there should NEVER be a reason for books to go “out of print”!

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