Ethical Consideration on Harper Lee’sPublication
Ethical considerations presumptively surroundevery aspect of our lives. We are faced with many situations where wehave to make hard decisions on the choices we have to make in orderto uphold humanity at the expense of personal gain or vice versa.These decisions, ultimately, affect the status quo because in thelong run one path will be chosen. As Badaracco argues, these are theright-right situations where both decisions are right depending onthe different viewpoints we choose to adopt. The story of Miss HarperLee is a genuine representation of such an ethical dilemma.
Miss Harper is the acclaimed author of the bestworld selling novel, mocking bird, published in the mid 1950s. Afterover 58 years her lawyer, Tonja Carter, found manuscripts of herto-be second novel in some of her documents (Tucker 1). All alongMiss Lee had refused any further publication of any of her othernovels and preferred to keep it that way, as disclosed by herfriends. Unfortunately, she suffered a stroke in 2007 and therefore,could not see or hear. Carter was a newly hired lawyer of Harper Leeafter the death of Lee’s sister who had occupied the capacity ofthe attorney (Tucker 1). Carter in her own self-interests argued thather client, Miss Lee, had given her authority to publish themanuscripts into a second novel before she suffered the stroke.
For sure, this novel had received over 2million pre-orders even before publication. Many publishing firmswere in competition to have the opportunity to publish the novel,which would definitely be a blockbuster, selling many copiesworldwide. The main reasons why this would be the greatest novelever, irrespective of the content put forward by the author, wherethe popularity of its predecessor novel mockingbird and the long timethe novel had taken to be published, to be exact 58 years.
The predecessor novel had received a lot ofpopularity and acclamation in those heyday years and this new novelwould receive the same. Many people would buy a copy irrespective ofwhat the author had put on paper. Carter had accidentally stumbled onthe manuscripts of Harper Lee’s second novel and wanted to make afortune from it. This was partly supported by the fact that HarperLee had no dependents and she was suffering from stroke and could notmake any rational decisions for herself.
If I was the publisher approached to publishthis second novel, I would be faced with one of the hardest ethicaldilemmas. I would, however, choose not to publish the novel. Thereason would be the plain facts of the case. The author had takenover 58 years without publishing a book. It would be a plain likethat before her stroke she had had a change of heart and decided tohave the book published. Doing that would be very wrong. She wouldhave announced publicly that she intended to publish a novel earlierand also there is no way she would have known she was to suffer astroke there after. It is therefore a hoax on the Carters part toput forth such allegations.
Another reason to refuse this publication isthe fact that the work is the author’s own intelligent property. Itwould be ethically wrong to publish a book which the owner hadrefused to publish herself when she was in good health. Intellectualproperty is protected by law and it would be a breach of the law if Ipublished a disputed manuscript. Given the income that the book wouldbring on board, carter felt she needed a share of the wealth.
Declining such a profitable opportunity wouldbring with it a number of discomforts from various stakeholders. Themain stakeholders would be the lawyer, Carter, the mastermind behindthe idea the publishing firm and its shareholders the customers whointended to buy the book and the author of the book, Miss Lee. TonjaCarter would lose a lot from such denial. Being the initiator and thebrains behind the need of publishing the discovered manuscript, shewould lose a lot of money in terms of proceeds from the book. Shewould have lost her job too, if her dubious plan came to thelimelight.
The publishing firm would lose a lot of incomefrom the sales of the book. The book had over 2 million orders, evenbefore publication. You can imagine how much the book would havegarnered when it hit the shelves. This would be reflected on thefirm’s earned income too. The management and the shareholders wouldbe frustrated by this decision. On the brighter side the firm’sreputation would be maintained since many authors would retain trustwith the firm in terms of intellectual property protection. Thecustomers would be frustrated because they would have loved to read abook from their favorite writer who had decided to hide a manuscriptfor many years without publishing it for them to read. They wouldultimately, demand for their money. The author, if in good health,could also be furious if I decided to publish her book without herconsent and will.
Badaracco put forward the four frameworks ofethical decision making (Badaracco 4).The first framework entail theconsideration of the best interests of both parties in question inorder to take a decision. In other words the best net. In this casethe best net/net would be consideration of the author who hasintellectual mandate on her work. The publication of the manuscriptwould fall short of the vested interests of the author anddisadvantage her decision not to publish any other work after herfirst book. It is my responsibility to make this a reality and hencechoose not to publish the book.
The publication of the book would contravenethe second factor on the rights of the author (Badaracco 6). Theintellectual property of Harper need to be respected and madeparamount. She had made it clear that she wanted no more publicationsand therefore, to respect her right and aspirations would be prudent.Third factor to consider is to make decision as per the world statusquo (Badaracco 10). Changing Carters stand on publication would befutile and impractical, but abiding to my stand of not publishing thebook would counteract her stand. I would close up all avenues thatshe can explore since I would have the entire mandate to block anypublisher into giving in to her demands.
Through my staunch stand of declining topublish the manuscript, my character would be well known to the worldand to other authors (Badaracco 11). They would see me as a publisherwho can protect their good will and work. I believe through this Iwill prove my decision was worthwhile and necessary. I would standwith my decision to the end.
Badaracco, Joseph. "DefiningMoments: A Framework for Moral Decisions."Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing Class Lecture, 2003.Electronic
Tucker Neely. Toshill a mockingbird: How a manuscript’s discovery became HarperLee’s ‘new’ novel. TheWashington Post February 2016. Electronic.