Copyright Conundrum

One of the most popular sections of PlanetMike is my Jokes collection (which I have about two years of updates to add to it!). A few of the items listed in there aren’t actually jokes, but are inspirational tales, notes, or poems. One of these was titled “Christmas List.” I received it in my email on Monday, December 22, 1997, at 12:35:57 Eastern time. I don’t know who sent it to me though. It was credited as “Author Unknown.”

Last July, I received an email from Shelby Hairston Pilkington who claimed to be the author. I wrote her back:

Thanks for writing in, I added in a your name as author. Do you have any proof that you wrote this? I’m not contesting it, but I know that these types of claims can get nasty. I remember the author of “Footprints in the Sand” is highly contested, as 3 different people claim to be the author. Best wishes, Michael

She responded that she had letters to 35 friends and relatives from December 1996 showing she was the author.

Then earlier this week I received an anonymous comment on my blog (errors and typos in the original comment not corrected):

please take christmas list {poem} by shelby hairston pilkington off your web site unless you give credit to the real author of this poem Helen Steiner Rice. written in 1949 it is in a book published by random house christmas blessings and also available by the helen steiner rice foundation in ohio. shelby hairaton whoever is a fake and thief without honor, This is how history changes.

I contacted The Helen Steiner Rice Foundation and asked them if the late Ms. Rice was the original author of the poem. Their response:

Mrs. Rice is indeed the author of the Christmas poem. She wrote it as her personal Christmas Card in 1949. Others on the Internet are taking credit for this poem, and our legal team is aware of the problem.

From Googling, I see that the author is listed as unknown, as Ms. Pilkington, or as Ms. Rice. I surely don’t wish to get caught in the middle of this mess, so I have removed the poem from my web site, except for the line quoted above.

One Comment

  1. Greetings:
    I sympathize with you in respect to copyrights. When you visit my sites you will see that I have had a relationship of significance for many years with the Helen Steiner Rice Foundation. Helen was very prolific as a poet and wrote hundreds of thousands of poems….believe it or not.

    Her great inspiring poetry still is very very popular today after nearly 60 years in the marketplace via greeting cards and books etc.

    I produce and narrate an inspirational Christian 5 minute radio program…as you can see on the site MMI. I have thought of INTERNET PODCASTING but really…I am not too privy to the methods. I admire your Christmas music efforts. It is too bad that you have to “GIVE UP” when things as good as you were doing are needed.



Comments are closed.