Thursday, September 13, 2012

Useful as a good bad example

That appears to be the argument in a new book;
Who composed "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Don't Fence Me In," "Night and Day," "Begin the Beguine," "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," "White Christmas" and "How Are Things in Glocca Morra"?
According to Ira B. Arnstein, he did, and for more than three decades he persistently sued the likes of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, their publishers and their rights organizations for plagiarizing his own ditties. In truth, Arnstein contributed less to the Great American Songbook than he did to "copyright law and lore," as Gary A. Rosen explains in his entertaining and instructive book, "Unfair to Genius: The Strange and Litigious Career of Ira B. Arnstein."
Arnstein, Mr. Rosen writes, was "a crank, a noodnik, and a loser." He was briefly committed to a mental hospital and certified a lunatic. Even Arnstein himself once confessed in court: "Reading my testimony, anyone would get an idea that the person testifying is of a disordered mind." Though he never won a case, Mr. Rosen argues that Arnstein's quixotic claims "engaged some of the finest legal minds of his era, forcing them to refine and sharpen their doctrines."
Those minds included noted jurists Jerome Frank and Learned Hand. Frank went so far as to invoke Jonathan Swift and Friedrich Nietzsche in warning against creating a bad precedent "merely because we may think Arnstein is nutty."

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