Two Terrifying (And True) Things I found in Dracul, the Horror Genre Book by Stoker and Barker
The first occurs before the novel begins. It’s in the front matter on the copyright page:
“Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free expression, and creates a vibrant culture.” (1)
I had to read this twice to believe what I was reading.
First I couldn’t get over the tone, which I found to be exaggerated and patronizing, as though Penguin knows what is best for society and for promoting the ideal sorts of creative practices in that society.
Copyright is a matter of economic protection, not idea protection. As an intellectual property lawyer once told me, you can copyright the form of an idea but not the idea itself. For example, we have two families who hate each other and one kid from each family falls in love. Are we talking about Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story? In my view copyright does not fuel the ideas or creativity, in fact the opposite. Students I’ve taught feel copyright actually hinders their creativity. They want to sample as commonly found in satire, in hip hop music, in writing, in forms of visual art, and in EDM music for example, but they are so worried by copyright laws that they start doubting their options. I recently heard about a small town art center requiring its artists to sign a form stating any visual work created was from the artist’s own photograph. And now we have that ridiculous Article 13 in the UK, that those against it say will kill memes or worse be used to censor any unwanted content. Check out #SaveYourInternet found here: https://saveyourinternet.eu for more information on this subject. Those against Article 13 are clear, and I agree, “Due to the collateral damage created by the vague and overly broad wording of Article 17 [ex Art. 13], only big platforms and powerful rightholders will benefit from its adoption, to the detriment of all other stakeholders.” (2)
I also don’t see how copyright encourages diverse voices. Diversity in art is a larger layered picture. Art is normally diverse, irregardless of copyright laws or any laws for that matter. People everywhere create in alignment with or against current laws. Peoples’ creative practices are not dependent upon economic protection via copyright or lack thereof. Finally that copyright creates, yes the word is creates, a vibrant culture is so hyperbolic with respect to something as ill defined as ‘vibrant culture’ as not to warrant a response.
In 2011, Christian Handke published the results of research in a paper titled Economic Effects of Copyright: The Empirical Evidence So Far. (3) While he stated that benefits in the short run gave greater revenue to rights holders, and greater incentives in the long run to supply copyright works for rights holders, the costs were evident in terms of access to users, costs in administration and transactions of trading rights, and he found that user innovation was obstructed by the costs of compliance. He admists that research on copyright has not produced conclusive evidence one way or the other, but notes the literature is unbalanced. He writes, “Most empirical research deals with rights holder revenues. User interests and copyright industry adaptation have received much less attention. Second, data limitations have made it hard to produce definitive empirical assessments regarding the economic effects of unauthorized copying and copyright.” For example, he writes, “it is still debated whether file sharing substantially diminished demand for authorized copies of musical sound recordings in the US or elsewhere (even though the majority of studies on this specific topic find a significant effect).”
I’m of two minds here. First I seriously doubt that unauthorized copies make much difference to the market. If I could have a photocopy of a book or the real book, I’d take the real book, even if I had to pay for it. Sure open access may hurt bottom line but I think copyright is mostly about squeezing every penny out of the consumers for the product in any form. For example, the student market for texts is huge, why would anyone want to lose that cut of the market? The extreme monetization of scholarly papers by journal clearinghouses and digital libraries denies the accessibility of knowledge to independent scholars or others who are not connected to an institution. Kudos for Europe demanding in some arenas that published papers and exegeses be open access. An article titled Extended Copyright Stifles Creativity in the New York Times is behind a paywall, so I can’t use it. (More evidence of exactly what the monetization of knowledge gets us). So I’ll go to an article titled Has copyright killed creativity? in the ICAEW in which Dr. Jonathan Wheeldon, author of the book Patrons, Curators, Inventors & Thieves: The Storytelling Contest of the Cultural Industries in the Digital Age (Palgrave 2014) argues that we need to entirely reframe the problem and reform copyright. He writes, “Make ‘no copyright’ the starting point, and build alternatives from scratch. This proposition sounds radically anti-copyright. It is not. Far from destroying the creative industries, laws that resonate more intuitively with the creative and social practices of the 21st century could strengthen public respect and compliance, and make enforcement more focused and effective.” (4)
Copyright is normally about about the collection and retention of power and money. Copyright sets up a system in which the most rewards go to the biggest players and the little ones have little recourse even if their work is infringed upon. Economically disadvantaged people globally also lose out as they are denied access to knowledge and culture by the economic system behind copyright law, as opposed to open source models.
Paul Heald, professor at the University of Illinois researched what happens to the availability and price of books when they moved from copyright to the public domain in South Africa; he’d done a similar study in the USA and he found the results about the same. He found that there appeared to be “a dramatic increase in the availability of public domain books, in contrast to some in-copyright titles; despite a steady downwards trend of availability as books age.” (5) He then turned his attention to the effects of copyright on book pricing and found, a difference in prices, public domain books were lower, and most dramatically he found ebooks retained a high prices which he said appeared to be “evidence of monopoly pricing.” His view is this, “in keeping with a position that authors themselves may be better stewards of their work than publishers, who may only be incentivised to make available the most popular or profitable titles, to the detriment of book diversity.” (5)
I’m a writer. I’d prefer that publishers publish all sorts of things, not just those they look at with dollar signs in their eyes. I’d prefer to have readers everywhere, and lots of them, whether I make money from their reading my works or not.
It may be, as Stephen Carlisle says in his article Copyright Stifles Innovation And Creativity! (Says The Internet): It Doesn’t; And Here’s Why that people exaggerate the effects of copyright law and they “merge the protections afforded patents with those afforded copyrights.” But on the other hand I disagree about the clarity of language Carlisle presents from the United States Supreme Court that sees copyright infringement clearly in “instances where the copier merely ‘uses [the material] to get attention or avoid the drudgery in working up something fresh.” It’s not so clear at all. I’m thinking of the meta and provocative work of Richard Prince and Sherie Levine, for example, whose art has often consisted of exact reproductions of the art of others. In the world of creative practices, and I’d suggest in science (think of Thomas Kuhn’s mop up work in his discussion of Einstein) that the line is more unclear than it seems with a superficial glance. Wheeldon points out, relying on Bernard of Chartres’ and then Newton’s idea of standing on the shoulders of giants, “surely creativity and innovation thrive on shared, borrowed or plagiarised ideas? Mozart is unimaginable without Bach and Haydn, and Shakespeare may have been ruined had he faced current levels of infringement litigation. Complexity, diversity and vested corporate interests mean that policy reform based on objectively generated empirical evidence doesn’t stand a chance. It will always be about the most powerful narratives and rhetoric.” (4)
So this little disclaimer by the huge corporation named Penguin, which I see as mixing apples, (intellectual property rights) with oranges (creative diversity and impulse) is something I find entirely disingenuous. In my view as an educator, writer, and artist, copyright law, in and of itself, does not encourage diverse voices, does not promote free expression nor does it create a vibrant culture. What I read as the patronizing tone of that copyright sentence is something I really find off-putting. Further what terrifies me is that someone actually wrote that sentence and just might believe what it says.
Cultural Artifacts in Private Custody Should be a Front Row Ethical Problem
On page 492 of Dracul, the authors write, “In March of 2017, Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, invited us to view the original Dracula: The Un-Dead manuscript, which he purchased at auction some time ago. This rare opportunity allowed us to verify many of our findings. Although we were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements prohibiting us from discussing much of what we saw….” (1) As a point of note, the hand written manuscript I saw on line had the title simply as The Un-Dead.
From what I could see of the article titled Microsoft Billionaire Paul Allen’s Most Over-The-Top Toys (Most of the article behind a paywall, expectedly because it was in Business News), it seems a version of Stoker’s manuscript 529 pages of typescript may or may not have been found in a Pennsylvania barn, with information about this in the Wall Street Journal (Entire article behind a paywall, expectedly because it was in the WSJ) and it may or may not have a different ending than the book. Knowledge capitalism doesn’t really help us figure things out does it. Maybe that’s the goal?
According to a debate on the behind the front page Talk section of the Wikipedia entry for Bram Stoker, a contributor cites apparently the Sunday-Gazette-Mail, May 26, 2002, and maybe in turn cites The Orange County Register (n.d.) (it’s unclear as to the source) John McLaughlin who owned a Dracula manuscript tried to sell it on or around April 17th, 2002 through Christie’s Auction House. The auction house estimated a sale of about 2 million but at auction the manuscript didn’t receive a single bid or had bids that failed to meet the reserve price (depending what article/debate you find online). According to, a spokeswoman, apparently (for Christie’s? Again the article is unclear here) someone later bought the document for $941,000. Lila Shapiro at Vulture wrote, “Allen bought the original typescript for Dracula at a private auction about a decade ago.”(7) So maybe this is the someone referred to, I’ve no idea. Shapiro goes on, “They [Stoker and Barker] were able to confirm some basic facts — that the manuscript is, indeed, missing the first 102 pages.”
According to the article Dracula manuscript auction fails to come to life, (no author listed), “The document reveals that Stoker planned a different ending, a graphic description of the destruction of Castle Dracula in a volcanic eruption.” (8)
Leslie Klinger, who put out The New Annotated Dracula in 2008, in an article on UCLA Newsroom wrote, “The second great resource is locked up, so I was lucky to get access. It’s Stoker’s manuscript of ‘Dracula,’ a 500-page typescript owned by billionaire Paul Allen and never on public display.” (9) According to Klinger, Dracula was originally named Count Wampyr. This is interesting, but I’m still stuck on “I was lucky to get access.”
The point of all this is that we’ve allowed the super rich to buy and sequester away items having broad cultural significance, interest, and value. I have often asked students, what if someone buys one of DaVinci’s notebooks and decides, now that they own it, they will destroy it? What if the Vatican decides to scrape off the Sistine Chapel ceiling and repaint it? These questions raise concern for students about cultural property, a supposed tacit covenant for responsibility and preservation, ethical accessibility and availability, proper care and storage, and ongoing provenance. Untimely we see that knowledge capitalism trumps an ethics of public ownership, which I find concerning.
The fact that the artifact may eventually be donated to an appropriate public collection doesn’t mitigate the issues that exist while the artifact is in the private domain. Noah Charney in the article, Lost Art: when works disappear into private collections writes, “This has always struck me as odd. Think of all those works disappearing into private hands during next week’s frenzy of auctions in New York. These are more ‘lost’ in terms of access than ‘extant’. Perhaps a third term should be created to mean ‘extant but inaccessible?’ Because while there is a moral pressure on buyers to keep works of art theoretically accessible at least to well-intentioned scholars, if not for the occasional loan to public exhibitions, there is no legal obligation to maintain the work’s visibility, or indeed to keep it in good condition — even not to destroy it.” (10) This is exactly the dilemma. In my view, artifacts that are elevated to scholarly and public interest, at a minimum, should remain accessible to the public. To allow the works to be extant but generally inaccessible is a failure of cultural ethics. I give the authors of Dracul a bit of respect in hinting at this issue but fault them for not being stronger on a critique of their access, (that approach probably wouldn’t have passed the marketing plan of the publisher) and I find the whole issue of a non-disclosure agreement to be downright creepy.
If you want to read my review of the novel Dracul, titled Bloodsucking Drudgery aka The Gunk, Junk, and Clunk of the Pulmonary Trunk: A review of Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker, it’s found here: https://medium.com/@christopherwillardauthor/bloodsucking-drudgery-aka-the-gunk-junk-and-clunk-of-the-pulmonary-trunk-a-review-of-dracul-by-ced7ae4275d9
(1.) Stoker, D. and Barker, J.D., (2018). Dracul. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons is an imprint of Penguin Random House).
(2.) #SaveYourInternet, Landing page. Retrieved online at: https://saveyourinternet.eu
(3.) Handke, C. (2011). Economic Effects of Copyright: The Empirical Evidence So Far. Commissioned paper prepared for The Committee on the Impact of Copyright Policy on Innovation in the Digital Era and the National Academies of Sciences. Retrieved online at https://sites.nationalacademies.org/cs/groups/pgasite/documents/webpage/pga_063399.pdf
(4.) Wheeldon, J. (June 3, 2015). Has copyright killed creativity? Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). Retrieved online at: https://economia.icaew.com/features/june-2015/has-copyright-killed-creativity
(5.) Thomas, A. (April 4, 2019). Report: Seminar by Prof. Paul Heald on‘The Effect of Copyright on Book Markets in South Africa (with application to other life-plus regimes). UK Copyright and Creative Economy Centre (CREATe) in Glasgow. Retrieved online at: https://www.create.ac.uk/blog/2019/04/04/report-seminar-by-prof-paul-heald-on-the-effect-of-copyright-on-book-markets-in-south-africa-with-application-to-other-life-plus-regimes/
(6.) Carlisle, S. (June 16, 2014).Copyright Stifles Innovation And Creativity! (Says The Internet): It Doesn’t; And Here’s Why. Nova Southeastern University website. Retrieved online at: http://copyright.nova.edu/copyright-does-not-stifle-innovation-creativity/
(7.) Shapiro, L. (October 13, 2018). Dracul Sets Out to Prove That Count Dracula Really Lived. Vulture. Retrived online at: https://www.vulture.com/2018/10/dracul-dacre-stoker-dracula-prequel.html
(8.) breakingNEWS. (April 17, 2002). Dracula manuscript auction fails to come to life. Retrived online at: https://www.breakingnews.ie/showbiz/dracula-manuscript-auction-fails-to-come-to-life-46859.html
(9) Hewitt, A. (October 28, 2011). 10 Questions: Dracula expert Leslie Klinger. UCLA Newsroom. Retrieved online at: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/10-questions-for-dracula-expert-218133
(10) Charney, N. (November 8, 2018). Lost Art: when works disappear into private collections. The Art Newspaper. Retrieved online at: https://www.theartnewspaper.com/feature/lost-art-when-works-disappear-into-private-collections