Past historic 4: Would you like to sin with Elinor Glyn?

The fourth item in the little bundle of photocopied articles on IP history which this Kat researched and wrote back in the 1980s, when he was still a full-time academic, addresses a curious episode in early twentieth-century copyright history -- the attempt of British novelist Elinor Glyn to enforce copyright in a short novel, Three Weeks, against the makers of a film, unauthorised by her, which savagely caricatured it.

The background to this litigation is as fascinating as the case itself: the trial was conducted in the middle of the First World War, at a time when the old order and Victorian social mores were beginning to disintegrate but sexual emancipation had not yet found a firm footing.

There is no doubt, as this article explains, that Elinor Glyn was capable of shocking and scandalising contemporary British society.  This is reflected in a rhyme which, occasionally cited even today, is more often read than any of her novels:
Would you like to sin
with Elinor Glyn on a tiger skin?
Or would you prefer
to err with her
on some other fur?
But would the author's notoriety, and the theme of Three Weeks itself, bar Glyn from enforcing her copyright on grounds of public policy?

This article was published as "Elinor Glyn and the 'Three Weeks' Litigation" [1982] 12 European Intellectual Property Review 336-340.  You can read it in full here.
Past historic 4: Would you like to sin with Elinor Glyn? Past historic 4: Would you like to sin with Elinor Glyn? Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, November 17, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. Splendid! The world just keeps getting better.

    I was reading Glyn v Weston Feature Co only last week, so imagine how pleasant it is to be given a copy of your article on it.

  2. The article made an interesting lunchtime read.

    Re footnote 71, the Disney cartoon depicting Clarabelle Cow reading "Three Weeks " was "The Shindig" (1930), but she was reclining (naked!) on a bed of straw in her byre, not in a field: perhaps that was why she was banned. A frame from the cartoon depicting the event can be seen here:

    The prudish attitude then prevailing meant that, like many Disney characters, she later acquired clothes, although they got away with drawing the "Three Little Pigs" wearing jackets, but no trousers!

  3. Post Script:

    "The Shindig " can be viewed here

    Clarabelle is indeed reading it in bed in a state of undress. She hides it under the straw when her boyfriend arrives, puts on her skirt [which simply covers her udders] and then goes out to meet him. Shocking!

  4. Thanks for the finely-detailed review of one of my favourite cases. It puzzles me that judges do not use the decision to eject disreputable claimants from court - it would have been a more elegant solution for Judge Birss in the tortuous ACS litigation.


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