Debora Halbert


The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell remains one of the most controversial books in print, even 50 years after its first publication. The story to be told about its ongoing publication can teach us about the politics of authorship, ownership, publication, copyright assignments, the public domain, and the legacies our printed words leave behind. Later in life Powell regretted publishing the book and wished that it would be removed from publication and circulation but stated that he did not own the copyright and so could not control the book. However, even at his death the book remained in print and readily available on the Internet. This article seeks to answer the question of what rights, if any, do Powell’s heirs have regarding the copyright in The Anarchist Cookbook should they seek to pursue his wishes to remove it from the market. While the law may provide a way to achieve this goal, there are two remaining questions: When a work has entered the zeitgeist of a nation, is it possible to remove it from circulation, and would it even make sense to try?