Lethem vs. commodification?

The NYTimes is reporting on an odd deal that the novelist Jonathan Lethem has going on his Web site. His new novel, You Don’t Love Me Yet, is to be published on March 13, and on his Web site he says he is willing to give away the option to make the novel into a film.

Check out the offer on his site here: http://jonathanlethem.com/freelove.html

Here is what he says:

Lately I’ve become fitful about some of the typical ways art is commodified. Despite making my living (mostly) by licensing my own copyrights, I found myself questioning some of the particular ways such rights are transacted, and even some of the premises underlying what’s called intellectual property. I read a lot of Lawrence Lessig and Siva Vaidhyanathan, who convinced me that technological progress – and globalization – made this a particularly contemporary issue. I also read Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, which persuaded me, paradoxically, that these issues are eternal ones, deeply embedded in the impulse to make any kind of art in the first place. I came away with the sense that artists ought to engage these questions directly, rather than leaving it entirely for corporations (on one side) and public advocates (on the other) to hash out. I also realized that sometimes giving things away – things that are usually seen to have an important and intrinsic ‘value’, like a film option – already felt like a meaningful part of what I do. I wanted to do more of it.


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