As the debate will no doubt rage (or stomp its feet) on the subject of copyright review in the coming year, one subject that will assuredly be on the table will be the terms of copyright (i.e. how long ownership can last). There is a persistent assumption that these terms are somehow the exclusive privilege of large corporations. As Robert Levine will point out, of course, right now “copyright terms last about ten minutes” because that’s how long it takes for work to be poached on the Internet, but it should also be understood that families and other legacy rights holders have played an important role in preserving the integrity, purpose, and continuity of works for the benefit of generations born long after the creators are gone. One body of work that has remained relevant and popular are the musicals of Oscar Hammerstein II.
William is the grandson of Oscar II, who gave us some of the most famous musicals in the world, including Show Boat, Oklahoma, South Pacific, and The Sound of Music. The most renowned of these were of course produced with long-time partner, composer Richard Rogers. Today, Will Hammerstein is an environmental lawyer, who sees a link between the stewardship of natural treasures and artistic ones. Will is also the Executive Director of the Oscar Hammerstein’s Highland Farm, which is a project to turn the home where Oscar wrote most of his work into a museum about the man and the medium.
Will spoke to me via Skype from his home in New York City. Listen to Part II here.