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Charles Dickens Fights for Copyright in the Wild West

Yesterday, at The eBook Test, Mike Cane reminded us that Charles Dickens was an outspoken advocate for writers’ intellectual property rights, and that he took his crusade to the United States, where pirated editions of his novels once flowed freely. This put us in mind of a great episode of Bonanza we stumbled onto one lazy Sunday afternoon years ago, in which Dickens—played by Jonathan Harris of Lost in Space fame—arrives in Virginia City to read from Oliver Twist and is angered to discover that they are already familiar with the scene…

So, what happens is that the local newspaper is serializing Dickens without his permission, and when the publisher’s office is destroyed… oh, heck, the whole episode is on YouTube if you want to take a look. We’ll just point out one more scene where Dickens has a poignant conversation with Hoss Cartwright in which he compares his literary output to the Ponderosa by way of explaining why he’s willing to defend his work against unauthorized publication…


According to one episode guide, Harris said of his experience on the show, “You know, the one true artist of the bunch was Dan Blocker.”

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