Spring ‘Trouble Begins’ Lecture Series Continues May 18

Mary Ann Cord, Cook at Quarry Farm.

The spring 2022 The Trouble Begins Lecture Series presented by the Center for Mark Twain Studies (CMTS) resumes at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 18 at Quarry Farm and will continue each Wednesday through May. The lectures are free and open to the public and recordings of the lectures will be posted to the CMTS website. 

The third lecture, “A Copyright Ignored? Mark Twain, Mary Ann Cord, and the Meaning of Authorship” will be presented by Timothy J. McFarlin, an Associate Professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. 

McFarlin’s lecture asks if Mark Twain and the Atlantic, in printing Mary Ann Cord’s personal story, infringed a copyright belonging to her. If so, does that copyright still exist today? Twain wrote down Cord’s astounding and heartrending story of her upbringing including being torn away from her family. Twain wrote and published this story in The Atlantic Monthly as “A True Story, Repeated Word for Word as I Heard It,” for money, under his name alone. But if Cord has a common-law copyright in how she expressed her story then her descendants could still hold that copyright today. 

McFarlin teaches courses relating to property and contract law; he specializes in intellectual property such as copyrights. His scholarship explores how the law intersects and interacts with the creative arts. He has previously written about the life, work, and disputes of artists like Chuck Berry and Orson Welles, mining them for insights into copyright law and the concept of authorship. He was raised in Missouri, like Twain, and practiced law in St. Louis. 

The free Trouble Begins Lecture Series is open to the public. The spring lectures will be in the Barn at Quarry Farm and will continue on Wednesdays throughout May.

The 2022 Spring Trouble Begins Lecture Series Schedule:

  • Wed., May 18: “A Copyright Ignored? Mark Twain, Mary Ann Cord, and the Meaning of Authorship” by Timothy J. McFarlin, Samford University – Cumberland School of Law.
  • Wed., May 25: ‘“Our One Really Effective Weapon’: Mark Twain and Humor as a Social Tool” by Elizabeth Cantalamessa, University of Miami.