Ah, another fascinating view into the bizarre workings of the fanfic mind from a writer/reader of Potter porn:
To be perfectly clear: I don’t give two shits about minors having access to sexually explicit material on the internet. This may well be a byproduct of my own hypersexualized childhood (I started reading romance novels at age 8 and my barbies were doing some very nasty kinds of nasty shortly thereafter), but I don’t buy that reading about sex or
seeing images of sex is going to warp kids’ fragile little minds. Which is why "Won’t someone please think of the children?" is one of my chief sarcastic lines. "The children" don’t need half the protection we insist on giving them, and I wish prudes would just admit that it’s not
"the children" they’re safeguarding when they’re arguing for censorship
— it’s their own delicate sensibilities.
But anyway. I do give several large, steamy, well-textured shits about respecting
artists and creators. That was part of my oh-so-eloquent and
not-wanky-at-all OUTRAGE over fanfic plagiarism.
[…]Even though I can’t point to anything Morally Wrong about
copyright-infringing fanfic, even though I’m a pomo slut, even though I
would cry if there was never another Blackcest dub-con femslash fic
waiting for me on my flist, part of me still wants to concede to
artists the right to disallow derivative works that they don’t like.
It’s their sandbox, and all the justifications about "just playing with
their toys" don’t change that. And so: guilt. Not enough guilt to keep
me from reading and (if I ever get my lazy ass past the outlining
stage) writing adult-rated HP fanfic. But enough to make me feel dirty.
Not in the good hatesex-on-the-Hogwarts-Express kinda way, either.
Let me get this straight — exposing kids to kiddie porn is okay, copyright infringement is okay, but she is OUTRAGED by fanfic plagiarism. Uh-huh. She feels a slight tinge of guilt about violating an author’s wishes regarding their works, but not enough to actually stop writing or reading the crap. But fanfic plagiarism — that’s INTOLERABLE (she even wrote this howler: "In short, fanfic matters, so plagiarism in fanfic matters.") Interesting set of principles she has.
98 thoughts on “The Fanfic Mind”
Kathleen David, wife of Peter, had this to say about it at her blog, No Strings Attached:
“Apparently JK Rowling’s lawyers are sniffing around the internet and warning those who do Potter Porn to either knock it off or hide it. The defense that really burned my goat was the one that said that all their slash Potter Porn happened after the characters were of the age of adulthood according to Rowling’s Wizard world which is 16 I believe. The owner of the characters has asked you not to do something or at least not in public forums and you come back with why it shouldn’t matter? Here’s a clue by four upside the head which might knock a clue lose. When I was reading fanfic I can tell you all the Doctor Who stuff that was even suggestive was put in a private area of the internet with a couple of passwords on it to keep the Beeb from shutting it down. To the list owners who allow Potter Porn, lock it down and get it out of sight or you might find yourself on the wrong end of a cease and desist order. Remember she is published in just about every country on Earth and therefore has access to lawyers just about anywhere. Fanfic is only alive because of the good graces of the owners. Don’t make them regret it.”
Seems like sound advice to me.
Yawn. This is all a typical internet tempest in a thimble. I’v never read any fanfic, sexually explicit or not. I wouldn’t even know where to look for it. I’ve never been bothered by a banner ad or popup or seen a Google ad for any.
No one in their right mind would mistake fanfiction from the author’s actual products. You can’t walk into a bookstore and find a copycat fanfic Harry Potter knockoff shelved alongside the real novel. If any fanficcers are making significant money from an author’s copyrighted work or the author can show actual damages or lost income, let them sue.
Otherwise, it’s not worth bothering with.
Seriously, Lee, for the sanity of the whole world, stop. Nobody cares. You’re a laughing stock.
I almost bought one of your books one time before I remembered what an asshat you are.
BTW, you can’t really copyright a character.
Just Shut Up Please!
A question on ethics, Mr Goldberg:
You yourself are clearly of the opinion that this girl’s fanfiction is not to be condoned, and yet you, whose blog is popular, and within a wider sphere than just those who are familiar with fanfiction, link directly to the blog where she houses them, thereby making it more widely accessible both coming directly from your blog, and because of the added “Google juice” of having linked her.
I have to wonder if *you* are really inclined to “think of the children”, Mr Goldberg, or whether it’s really the same old vendetta against fanfiction in all forms as before which fuels this particular post.
Lee: You’re right to keep us up to date on the illegal activities of the fanficcers – particularly those whose sexually explicit work can be accessed by children.
Karmyn: I’m sure Lee really misses you as a reader. And you most certainly can copyright a character – by creating that character and then writing about him or her. End of story.
Peter: You’re right – fanfic is easily distinguishable from the real author’s work. However, an 11 year old Harry Potter fan searching online for information about her favourite character may stumble across this stuff, and that’s problem – particularly with the ‘don’s care’ attitude of the fanficcer in Lee’s original post.
Lara: it’s a fair point: does writing to warn of sexually explicit fan fiction result in upping its popularity. However, on balance, I’d rather someone tell me which sites to add to my son’s restricted sites list than leave it to chance.
“However, an 11 year old Harry Potter fan searching online for information about her favourite character may stumble across this stuff”
I find the idea that an 11 year old Harry Potter fan would be wandering around on the internet without adult supervision a lot more terrifying than the publication of explicit Snarry fic. There are things and people on-line that are a lot more dangerous than fanfic. I wouldn’t assume _any_ internet site was safe for a child that age without checking it out myself first.
Then how is Lee writing about characters he didn’t create? Or Max Allan Collins? Or Kevin J. Anderson?
“Then how is Lee writing about characters he didn’t create?”
Because Lee is getting paid to do so *by the folks who own the copyrights*. With their express contract-bound permission. Period.
I repeat my question of the previous debate:
Lee, or anyone else inclined to answer, questions of artistic merit and copyright infringement specifically set aside (these are not points of ethics) why is “Wide Sargasso Sea” ethically acceptable and fanfiction not?
Two words: Public Domain. End of discussion.
It behooves people entering this debate to know what copyright law does and what it protects. Some of the comments above make me wince. The government’s copyright office provides clear and lucid explanations. Go to http://www.copyright.gov/
What about “The Wind Done Gone,” which told “Gone With The Wind” from the point of view of the slaves? The Mitchell estate brough the matter to court – but as paraody, “Wind Done Gone” was legally okayed.
Chadwick, I said, “copyright infringement specifically set aside”, and therefore your answer isn’t an answer to the question.
“Two words: Public Domain. End of discussion.”
That’s not really an answer, Mr Cavenaugh. Why does the public domain exist? If copyright law is all about the author’s right to control the use of their work, then no one should be able to use it once the author has died. Jean Rhys certainly didn’t get Charlotte Brontë’s permission to write The Wide Sargasso Sea. You might argue that Brontë is dead and has no rights, but then Margaret Mitchell has been dead for fifty-seven years and her estate still tries to keep iron control over the use of Gone with the Wind. They didn’t have anything to do with it’s writing-why do they get a say?
They get a say because society has decided that the ability to leave an estate to your heirs is as much of an incentive as the ability to profit from the work yourself. At the risk of repeating myself (yet again!) copyright has little to do with the author’s right to control their ideas or preserving respect for the author’s characters, and everything to do with the author’s right to profit. Money, people, not “the sanctity of the creative process.” (Mr. Cavenaugh, 8-15-06, comment on “Is Fanfic Legal?”)
The Congress shall have power …_To_promote_the_progress_of_science_and_useful_arts_, by securing _for_limited_times_ to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.
United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8.
AKA The Intellectual Property clause.
Mr Saxelid, you do nobody any favours by responding with triumphant, one line, non-sequitors. “Public Domain” might suffice as an answer were we doing a crossword puzzle, but the question P.M. Rommel posed very cafrefully makes it clear that that is not what is being asked of you.
The question was one of *ethics*. Perhaps for you ethics and legality are synonymous, and “because it’s the law” is your sole moral decider, but most thinking people would consider that the ethics behind the wish to uphold a law is a seperate and valid question.
To reiterate what P M Rommel already very clearly asked, *disregarding* matters of legality and personal artistic taste (because these areas can be dealt with seperately and will only obfuscate the point and derail the thread here) we would like to know about the reasoning behind the *ethical* and *moral* outrage at fanfiction so often expressed in this blog by both Mr Goldberg and those who agree with him, and how that differs in the case of works in a similar vein which are not viewed with outrage.
But that IS the answer. There is a rather sizable difference between the use of copyrighted material in the public circle and the use of material that is in the public domain. Ignoring that difference (or refusing to acknowledge it) doesn’t make it go away. It’s the ten ton elephant in the room.
I also think that there are clear differences between Patische, Homage, and Fanfic. Yet many use Patisches and Homages as an apologetic tool for Fanfic. To me it is comparing apples and oranges. One does not make the other.
Just my opinion on the matter.
As to the risk that an 11-year-old searching for infon Harry Potter may stumble across sexally explicit fanfic, my answer is: big deal.
I find it paradoxical that as we have progressively eliminated the actual physical threats to children, such as dangerous childhood diseases and reduced the risk of other bodily harm with adoption of bicycle helmets, car seats, etc.
We have become obsessed with exaggerating the illusory and unproven threats to children of an occasional exposure to erotic material. Reading someone’s sexy fanfic about Harry Potter isn’t suddenly going to throw a switch in a child’s brain that sends them on the path to becoming the next Jeffrey Dahmer or Aileen Wuornos. It’s an hysterical, unwarranted fear that is perpetuated by the media and also by the culture warriors on the right.
While it might be hysterical, unwarranted, when someone asks you to close the curtain when doing the nasty, closing it is the polite thing to do.
On another note, while tooling around town on errands (yes, I do have a life :D) I was mulling over this “moral” and “ethic” arguement versus the “legal” one. So I looked up the definitions.
Moral: Conforming to stand of right behavior.
Ethic(al): Conforming to accepted standards.
Then there is
Legal: Conforming to or permitted by law.
Now, this is how I see the arguement made by those who seek to remove the legal issue.
“Taking public safety out of the issue, why can’t I drive my car as fast I as want, when I want, and where I want?”
To me, the standard by which I measure/argue the central issue as been removed. It also, from my perspective, removes the ground upon which the issue can be argued. From my viewpoint the arguement now is just twirling in the air, never to be resolved.
So that’s where I’m coming from. Others are free to disagree, which is the beauty of living in a relatively free country.
“Then how is Lee writing about characters he didn’t create? Or Max Allan Collins? Or Kevin J. Anderson?”
Because they are hired to do so idiot. I w on’t be so rude normally, but since you actually asked that question out loud it seemed right.
The character of Buffy reaches out and touches many viewers, but Joss created her. Joss knows her and knows where she is going. When Amber Benson refused to come back in the final season because she felt that would hurt her fans – she was wrong. Whedon was going to use her as an evil element and then bring her back to be with Willow. He had a plan for that character and her influence was missed in the overall story. An actor owns their performance, but they don’t completely know the character as the writer does. To claim otherwise is BS and I don’t care what an actor says. They do contribute greatly to a character and they do develope a character, but a strong writer/creator knows that character in no way anyone else can. Too many people dismiss the writer and underestimate that because the pretty pictures the director shoots or the neato lighting effects. The words are the skeleton that all else hangs on.
Which comes to my point – fan-fics on a whole have a sense of entitlement or ownership of the characters that they don’t deserve and that was never theirs to claim. Harry Potter is Rowlings and she has made it clear they need to stop. She will write the characters the way she plans and go where she will.
Hugh Laurie said he had blind trust in the creators where his character will go. The playgrounds we create are our playgrounds. Build your own if you are so damn creative. Don’t dilute mine.
On the other hand, spec monkys are fan-fics who have the approval of our field to do what we do. The difference is that we are seeking work. The vast majority of ALL of the fields do not approve of fan-fics and this can not get you work.
It isn’t fair to me after working my ass off to beat the odds and get my book published/show on the air and to have my characters co-opted is just plain wrong – ignoring the laws. I do the heavy lifting and they take my rewards – pfheh.
I’m no great lover of fanfic, but if Chadwick thinks dictionary defintions will allow him to conflate the moral and ethical on the one hand, and the legal on the other, then we can safely assume that Chadwick would be in favor of segregation if that continued to be the law of the land, would be in favor of slavery if that continued to be the law of the land, etc.
Indeed, were a law passed that compelled people with the rather silly given name of “Chadwick” to report to the town square for a stoning, then we can be sure that at least one Chadwick would voluntarily show up for his public execution.
Chadwick writes: “Taking public safety out of the issue, why can’t I drive my car as fast I as want, when I want, and where I want?”
I’m not sure this argument works but I’m pretty sure it’s still not a reply to the question I posed.
I don’t know about in the States, but in the UK if you’re lucky enough to own (or have access to) a large wide strip of private land on which to drive your car (such as a deserted airstrip) my understanding is that you can drive the vehicle as fast as you like, and in the middle of the night if you so choose, provided you remain on that land. What you can’t do is drive it like that on a public highway.
Fanfic authors know that they cannot profit from their work. The right to profit from a work is entirely that of the original author and anyone to whom they have sold subsequent rights (like the publisher or those with film rights), and I’ve never seen a fanfic author claim otherwise.
John Carlucci wrote: “fan-fics on a whole have a sense of entitlement or ownership of the characters that they don’t deserve and that was never theirs to claim.”
Again, I’ve never seen a fanfic author claim that they are entitled to the work – every piece I’ve seen has a disclaimer which specifically states that they do not.
John Carlucci again: “Harry Potter is Rowlings and she has made it clear they need to stop. She will write the characters the way she plans and go where she will.”
To be fair, Rowling through her solicitor, has made it clear that she does not care to have adult fanfiction where children can find it easily and would prefer that it was not published at all. She has also made it clear, through the same solicitors’ letter, that she does not mind fanfiction which is not adult.
Nobody, in publishing fanfiction is in any way claiming that their work is somehow more valid than hers, or even as valid as hers, and nobody is or can suggest to her how she should proceed in any way that might have any effect on her at all. Or, not that I can see.
John Carlucci: “Build your own if you are so damn creative. Don’t dilute mine.” ” I do the heavy lifting and they take my rewards”
I’m not following this argument – can you explain how fanfiction ‘dilutes’ the source text? Surely the source text remains unchanged however much fanfiction is written about it? And given that one cannot sell fanfiction, in what way are fanfiction writers taking ‘rewards’ which are due to the original writer when the original writer is credited on every piece?
“I’m not sure this argument works but I’m pretty sure it’s still not a reply to the question I posed.”
I think it is. The private road comparison seems to be a poor one to me, because the Internet/Information Super Highway isn’t a private road. Currently there is the illusion that it is private, but it is a very public forum. If you wish the private road comparison to work, then Fanfic authors can write all they want in their private arena. Which means not posting it in the public arena of the Internet. And yes, I am fairly certain that certain areas of the US have private roads.
Once again, it’s the private versus public issue. There is material in the public domain, free and open to everyone’s use, and then there is private property in the the public square, which isn’t. Two very different issues.
“Ethic(al): Conforming to accepted standards.”
Actually, this should be:
Ethic(al): (conforming to ) a set of moral standards, esp. ones relating to or affirming a specified group, field, or form of conduct. (Oxford American Dictionaries; parenthetical added by me)
I’m not just restating this to prove I have a different dictionary than you – the word “accepted” actually changes the definition. Whether those standards are “accepted” depends on the person or group you are referring to. For example, I don’t personally accept the standards of conduct espoused by the Branch Davidians. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t have standards-just that they were ones that most people find weird, offensive and generally unacceptable.
You have argued (quoted below) that you can’t remove the law from the argument, and yet the only standards you’ve specified in relationship to copyright law, such as an author’s “ownership” of her work, “the sanctity of the creative process” and your personal aesthetic standards, have no basis in US law, and would seem therefore to be irrelevant.
Now, this is how I see the arguement made by those who seek to remove the legal issue.
“Taking public safety out of the issue, why can’t I drive my car as fast I as want, when I want, and where I want?”
I realize you are not the first to use it, but your analogy is specious. There is no risk to public safety involved in copyright infringement, and I personally find the analogy between public safety and personal or corporate profits more than a little unconvincing (even offensive) if for no other reason that while the risk to public safety cannot be separated from speeding vehicles, profit can be separated from writing. The risk that an author may possibly receive less profit from their work as a result of fanfic, though possibly real, can’t be weighed against someone else’s actual life.
“To me, the standard by which I measure/argue the central issue as been removed. It also, from my perspective, removes the ground upon which the issue can be argued. From my viewpoint the arguement now is just twirling in the air, never to be resolved.”
The only thing you’ve been asked to do is to evaluate a code of behavior the law is based on without reference to the specific present day formulation of the law. You seem to be saying that the law exists because it is the law, and therefore we should obey it. You refuse to defend or argue from the basis of that law (protecting author’s profits), and as a result have no basis from which to argue with those who say that the law itself is wrong.
Personally, I think the current law is ridiculously over-protective of corporate rights. I don’t understand how anyone can argue that copyright which extends 70 years beyond the life of the author is protecting the author’s rights. Not with a straight face anyway.
Appologies to everyone-the above unsigned comment was me posting without entering my info.
My point, and poorly argued as it might be to you, is that there is a difference between public and private. There is public domain and there is private property. Whether the law is right or not is meaningless. My point was that there needs to be a certain standard upon which to make a moral or ethical judgement. If the legal copyright issue is removed, what is left to measure morals or ethics?
Nothing, as far as I can tell. P.M.’s question then becomes a rhetorical one.
As far as the road laws go. When you are out in public, there are methods of behavior that are regulated by law and the social morals of the society at large. You may not agree with the Branch-Davidians, but if you were at their compound then you would be expected to respect their code of conduct while there. If not, then you would be asked to leave. Ditto a restaurant, this blog, or anywhere else in the public arena.
As far as the permission thing goes. I’ll just go back to my opinion that, if you give someone an inch, then they will take a mile. People, with their owning/gathering nature, will eventually abuse the generosity of those willing to share and a few bad apples with no doubt spoil it for all. I might be a libertarian, but I have a very dim view of humankind, obviously. 😀
I’ll just agree to disagree and move on, again. I enjoyed the debate and learned more about the opposing point of view, which is appreciated. But I remain unconvinced. I also think that the Fanfic discussion is one akin to that of two people arguing which is correct: theism or atheism, or evolution or creationism. Arguments that will be ongoing long after this blog, the people who contribute to it, and even the Fanfic in question have all gone the way of all flesh.
Thanks for keeping it civil, but I think I’ll just go back the lurking on this issue.
“Which comes to my point – fan-fics on a whole have a sense of entitlement or ownership of the characters that they don’t deserve and that was never theirs to claim. Harry Potter is Rowlings and she has made it clear they need to stop.”
Fanfic writers don’t own Harry Potter but, and I hate to disillusion you, in the United States neither does Ms. Rowling. She can’t own an idea, and a character is an idea. What she owns is the exclusive right to publish and profit from the books she wrote and any derivative works based on them. In the United States that right is granted to her by Congress and hypothetically they could limit it however they wanted to – say to a maximum of fourteen years after the book’s initial publication on the condition that she registered it with the copyright office (which were the original limits placed on copyright).
Or if you prefer literary theory over law – the text has an existence independent of the author or the author’s intentions. An author/creator’s intentions are irrelevant to my interpretation or experience of the text.
“It isn’t fair to me after working my ass off to beat the odds and get my book published/show on the air and to have my characters co-opted is just plain wrong – ignoring the laws. I do the heavy lifting and they take my rewards – pfheh.”
I don’t know what rewards you think they are taking from you. They aren’t trying to profit from what they do, and the law wouldn’t allow it if they did. They aren’t preventing you from profiting, and the law provides a number of remedies if you think that they are. If someone writes something based on your work, it doesn’t change what you wrote one iota.
Since you’ve decided to leave the argument, I won’t respond to what you said in your last post, but thank you for providing such a lively debate-it has certainly helped me to refine my own thoughts on the matter.
I have seen several professional novels that include incorrect information. The X-Files novel “Skin” comes to mind. There were several things incorrect in that novel and fans complained loudly. I’ve seen professional novels that were very poorly written and very out of character. Again, fans complained. If a fanfic writer does these things, I’m not out anything except a little time. When it happens in a professional novel, I’m out money. I don’t have much money to spend on anything, much less books and when I spend up to 20 dollars or more on a novel about a favorite TV show I expect the writer to get the canon and characters right.
I have answered your question a hundred times elsewhere on this blog (as I have the difference between licensed tie-ins and fanfic). Rather than do it again, from all the way over here in Germany, I’ve lifted this comment from an anonymous poster (not me, by the way, I always sign my posts) elsewhere on the blog, which pretty much sums up most of my views on your oft-repeated question:
“One difference is that with most derivative work, copywrite has been lost (this isn’t true for all, just some — which is why the woman who wrote The Wind Done Gone was sued by Margaret Mitchell’s estate, but won on the basis of satire and parody, as I recall, or something very similar) and so it is free game. Derivative work also is typically for more respectful of the source material — this isn’t a question of writing talent, of which in fan fiction I see very little (perhaps because writers with real talent prefer not to write Babylon 5 fan fiction) and write more in the tradition of the work than in the tradition they wish of the work. The Great Gatsby may well be Great Expectations fan fiction, as might Empire Falls by Richard Russo. Shoot, John Iriving admits that A Prayer For Owen Meany is directly inspired by Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business and Richard Ford says that The Sportswriter was inspired by Walker Piercy’s The Moviegoer. The difference is that each writer created their worlds, fresh and new, and didn’t do it by aping the style of the writer who inspired them or to whom the work is derived from.”
I also agree with what Chadwick has posted here on the subject.
I’m sorry to disagree, but I don’t think you have answered the question I posed. The quote you posted answered the question where the issue of copyright has expired – as I understand it, and if you agree with the poster, you accept that where copyright has expired fanwriters (and others) can have at it.
That issue was quite deliberately not posed in my question, which was (to rephrase), why is it ethically acceptable to write fanfiction on something on which the copyright has expired, but not where it has not.
It’s not a legal question, I think we’ve hammered out the legal issue and I think you may well be right. If a fanfiction author was taken to court by the copyright holder for copyright infringement, the chances are they would lose. FWIW, I may well be unusual among fanfiction authors on this point…but as the question has never been tested in court, it’s just an opinion, and I don’t let it keep me awake nights or stop me writing fanfic.
For an example, let’s take Rudyard Kipling. If my maths is correct, Kipling’s work entered the public sphere on January 19 2006 (he died on January 18 1936). What ethical point was different on 00:01 on 01/19/2006 compared with 23:59 on 01/18/2006? I reiterate, this is an ethical, not a legal question.
Fan fiction “authors” should obviously use their energy to create original characters, instead of surfing in the wake of copyright infringement. But maybe it’s a form of mental instability or chemical imbalance–an obsessive/compulsive disorder that should be treated with those medications that Tom Cruise doesn’t want them to know about. Or maybe their mothers didn’t breast feed them long enough. Whatever, they’re sad, sick little copycats.
Richard, before you next post, I’ve some advice from therebelution.com:
“Nothing more quickly degenerates a discussion than when people start attacking those making the arguments rather than refuting the arguments themselves. […] The character, circumstances, or political ideology of the person has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of the proposition being defended.”
You’re kind of stupid, huh?
lost erizo writes: “Fanfic writers don’t own Harry Potter but, and I hate to disillusion you, in the United States neither does Ms. Rowling. She can’t own an idea, and a character is an idea.”
Oh please. So an “idea”, like a way to build a light bulb, can’t be owned? What about an “idea” for a piece of music, like “Stairway to Heaven”? Can’t own that? And a character? So no one “owns” Superman, Monk, or Bugs Bunny?
If I paint a picture, I OWN it, it’s mine. If I write a song, I OWN it. If I write a story, I own that, too, and if I write a character, I own him. He is not yours just because you like him; you didn’t invent him, you didn’t think of him first. I made him. If I want to sell him, use him again, change him around, kill him off, turn him into a baby-eating homosexual, or give him away when I die, I can do that, because I own him. You cannot do anything with him. Make your own damn character. If you want, make your own powerful hero, twitchy detective, or cartoon bunny, but you cannot have someone else’s, because they OWN it, until they sell it, give it up, or it otherwise legally passes from their ownership.
Characters do not exist until they are created. They are not some undiscovered autonomous souls waiting to be revealed to the world. They are built, line by line, just as a car is built. When I build a car, you cannot say “Well, now that you’ve built it, and I’ve seen it, I like it, so it’s mine too now. You can’t own it; I have as much right to it as you do.” Copyright laws aside, it’s just common sense; if I create it, I own it. You have no ‘right’ to it; you can try and steal it from me, but that’s what it would be, STEALING PROPERTY.
What kind of incentive does anyone have to come up with any ideas, characters, anything, if the minute they share them, they become public property for everyone to claim as theirs? Fanfic which acknowledges the author and knows its place is harmless play in comparison to this attitude that fans and anyone else have as much “ownership” of the character as the creator does; that the CREATOR does not OWN his creation.
And, further, if I OWN a character, and I want to hire some guy to write a bunch of knock-off novels or TV scripts about him, then I can do that too. And then it’s not fanfic, it’s subcontracting.
Wikipedia has a lucid discussion of copyright law. Here is an example it provides about how a copyrighted character is protected:
For example, the copyright which subsists in relation to a Mickey Mouse cartoon prohibits unauthorized parties from distributing copies of the cartoon or creating derivative works which copy or mimic Disney’s particular anthropomorphic mouse, but does not prohibit the creation of artistic works about anthropomorphic mice in general, so long as they are sufficiently different to not be imitative of the original. Other laws may impose legal restrictions on reproduction or use where copyright does not – such as trademarks and patents.
There are excellent sources for laypeople. Go to Google and start looking.
Me again, one last time. (I promise. ;D)
Okay, an ethical question:
Joe Dude walks home from work each day. He finds that if he cuts through a yard he shaves five or so minutes off his walk, so he takes to cutting through this yard. He is never hassled by the owner, in fact it appears that the owner knows of Joe’s walks, but never engages him in a conversation.
One day Joe walks home with a friend. When he starts to cut through the yard, his friend refuses to follow, telling Joe that he doesn’t feel comfortable intruding. Joe tells his friend that it’s okay, that the owner doesn’t seem to mind. Joe’s friend states that he would still rather remain on the public sidewalk.
Now, to the future. The owner of the house has died and the property is given over the public and turned into a park. Joe has his friend over for dinner and they both walk through the park to Joe’s house.
Now let’s remove all the legal issues, such as public property vs private, right of passage, etc. Of the two, who behaved ethically on both trips? Joe, or his friend? Both? Neither?
I am of the opinion that Joe’s friend did and Joe did not.
Couldn’t help noticing something on the list of Hugo Award winners that just came out: categories for best Fanzine, Fan Writer, and Fan Artist.
You know, this discussion seems pointless to me. Fanfic writers are hobbyists, and fanfic writing is done for fun and practice. They don’t intend for their works to ever be published professionally (aside from some of the loonies). There’s no market for the stuff that gets written anyway – do you think people would actually *pay* to read amateur erotica and wish-fulfillment fantasies?
As long as the fans are not passing their stuff off as official product, and have all the disclaimers and precautions in place, it’s not worth the effort to get huffy about it.
“Oh please. So an “idea”, like a way to build a light bulb, can’t be owned? What about an “idea” for a piece of music, like “Stairway to Heaven”? Can’t own that? And a character? So no one “owns” Superman, Monk, or Bugs Bunny?”
Actually, no they don’t – various people own the right to reproduce, license, profit from and control the use of that idea or character for a limited amount of time, but not the ideas themselves. In other words, they own the copyright (or patent). US law is actually quite clear on that point.
“If I paint a picture, I OWN it, it’s mine. If I write a song, I OWN it. If I write a story, I own that, too, and if I write a character, I own him. … You cannot do anything with him. Make your own damn character.”
A painting is a physical object – you can own the object itself. But when it comes to reproductions of that painting, you can only own the copyright. But a character is not real property. If you write about a character, you certainly own the manuscript, but you only own the copyright on that character. I can do whatever the hell I want with him. Seriously – try and stop me. The law only controls whether I’m allowed to publish, disseminate or profit from what I wrote. You can’t control what I do with it because you can’t control an idea. Eventually it becomes part of the public domain and anyone who wants to can do whatever they want with him, including earn a profit. That used to happen after fourteen years from publication, but now it’s been extended to 70 years beyond the death of the author. Both time limits are arbitrarily set by society. And their purpose is to allow people to profit from their work so that they’ll be encouraged to produce more.
That places work which doesn’t profit, and doesn’t affect your ability to profit in a unique ethical position. The law doesn’t recognize the difference between for profit and non-profit, but I think you’ll find a lot of people who think that the law is wrong on that point and should be changed. Especially now that Congress has removed the registration and labeling requirements of copyright and it’s unclear if it’s possible to cede one’s copyright to the public domain even if one wants to.
“if I create it, I own it. You have no ‘right’ to it; you can try and steal it from me, but that’s what it would be, STEALING PROPERTY.”
Err, no. I’m sorry, but you don’t. If you decide not to share it with anyone and keep it inside your head, then yes. But once you publish a work it has a life of it’s own. And if a piece of fanfic doesn’t profit from your work or affect your ability to profit from it or create more, I really don’t see why it should affect you at all. See what I wrote above (and in the other threads) for the difference between Intellectual Property and Real Property. They really aren’t the same thing either philosophically or under the law.
“What kind of incentive does anyone have to come up with any ideas, characters, anything, if the minute they share them, they become public property for everyone to claim as theirs? Fanfic which acknowledges the author and knows its place is harmless play in comparison to this attitude that fans and anyone else have as much “ownership” of the character as the creator does; that the CREATOR does not OWN his creation.”
Strangely enough, you are the first person on the anti-fanfic side of this argument to admit that copyright exists as an economic incentive. But an incentive is not ownership. I don’t know what fans you’ve run across that think that they own the characters – certainly not me (I’m not a fan writer in any case) and every piece of fanfic that I’ve read has an explicit statement attached that the characters and universe are the creation of the original author. I just think that this places fanfic in a unique ethical position because of its non-profit status.
I don’t think your analogy (trespassing) works because a piece of land is real property. It has a physical existence and can’t be reproduced. If I walk across it I am affecting it – I’m treading on the grass, leaving footprints on the stones. Even if I’m careful not to cause damage, I’m leaving my mark because I was physically there.
If I use one of your characters in a piece of fiction, it doesn’t change anything that you wrote. The text you created, the thoughts you put on paper, are unchanged. However, if I profit from what I write before your work enters the public domain, then I’ve taken profits that the law says belong to you, and that is stealing. But it’s the profit that’s yours, not the ideas.
But in your example, you’re right, Joe’s friend acted more properly. I just don’t think it’s relevant to copyright.
Are you sure you’re dropping out? Because I’d be happy to respond to what you wrote before when you said it was your last post 🙂
Here’s a really smart comment someone left on the blog Lee quoted from:
“The level of hypocricy I see in the arguments over this issue is seriously disgusting. The argument you should ask permission of fans but not pros because Jane Fanwriter is more likely to respond to your letter of inquiry than is Sally Prowriter is just arm waving and smoke blowing IMO. The moral issue is the same, whether or not Sally answers her e-mail regularly. And does that mean that if you want to write a sequel to a fic written five years ago, something sitting in an archive, whose writer isn’t even in fandom anymore and hasn’t checked her fanwriter-pseudonym hotmail account in years, I can, just because she isn’t checking that e-mail address anymore and I don’t have her current one? Heck, in a case like that you’re more likely to get a personal answer from Rowling than you are from that fan writer — and what does that prove?
Of the folks saying that “we” are fans and “they” are pros, and we should be polite to each other because we’re all the same group but it’s OK to be rude to the pros because they’re not “us,” I seriously wonder if they make such distinctions between other groups they are and aren’t members of. Is it OK to be polite to their own racial group but rude to others? Is it OK to be polite to people of their own sexual orientation but rude to others? And if they say no, then why is there any difference? The idea that we should all be forced to be polite and nice to “us” while we’re all free to be rude and nasty to “them” is just pernicious and I can’t believe people are actually using that as an argument. :(”
All right, sure, I can’t stop you from writing your Snape/Harry slash, simply because I can’t be everywhere, reading your notebooks and checking your hard disk. Although if you “publish” it anywhere, even on your own webpage, I can make you take it down, whether you’re making a profit on it or not. That’s part of the ‘disseminate and publish’ thing you mention. I CAN stop you in that regard, the only problem is it’s so difficult to enforce. Doesn’t mean it’s not true. And yes, given that I don’t actually have a physical living boy called Harry Potter to hold and protect, the “copyright” is the best we can do. It’s still ownership. It’s really all semantics. And, as you illustrate, it’s under attack.
But, face it, you will never be able to say “Harry Potter is mine; I own him as much as Rowling does” and be anything other than a delusional fanboy who can’t create his own characters. The kind of fan I’ve met who says things like “Rowling messed up the canon when she made Harry love Ginny instead of Hermione!” and “Everyone knows the writers of Monk don’t really care about the show, it’s us FANS that matter, and because we care, we have more right to write Monk stories than some hack-for-hire!”
Everyone knows a fanficcer did NOTHING to have any kind of claim on the character; no work, no thought, nothing other than reading someone else’s work and boldly and blatantly STEALING their ideas wholesale. The more thoroughly stolen, the more “canon” it is, isn’t that right? I can Xerox the Mona Lisa, too, and it doesn’t make me an artist, and it doesn’t make me Leonardo’s equal, even if I use my own crayons to color it in. And if I ran around showing it to people and saying, “This is mine, all mine, I own it and what it is too” then I’d expect the same thing fanficcers get, which is mockery.
I actually don’t care about fanfic that knows its place; that credits its sources and knows it’s ripping people off and admits it, makes no profit, and the author has agreed to turn a tolerant eye on the people playing with the characters that she OWNS. It’s like kids pretending to be Superman; fine, play your little games; it would be petty to tell you “no”.
It’s when people start saying “Well, the fans are the ones who REALLY own Harry because they’re the ones who love him best and they should get to decide what is done with him; there should be no restrictions on us at all, and Harry Potter should go into the public domain because I want to write about him rather than make my own characters” and “We fans are better at writing Monk than Monk writers are!” that I start to see red… from anger, and from fear.
Especially when there are people like yourself implying that copyright law is wrong, and should be changed, so that authors lose even what tenuous hold they have on their livelihood, their hard work, to let it be sucked away by parasitic leeches who are too stupid or too lazy to do their own homework.
For every good working author there are thousands of screaming, starving fans, many of whom are even now testing the laws, fighting them, overwhelming them with sheer mass, in order to steal their author’s creations and livelihoods because, “Something so good should belong to everyone, not just the mean greedy author!” They are rabid, these fans, and they outnumber us, and they are getting bolder every day.
And the sad thing is, if they’d just sit down and do the work and MAKE THEIR OWN CHARACTERS, there would be so many more good stories for everyone to enjoy, and we’d be a much richer, happier culture all around.
That was brilliant. I wish I’d said it myself.
Apart from the intelligent discourse between lost_erizo and Saxelid, I just seem to be reading the same arguments over and over again: “Fanfic writers are scum because they STEAL”, “Fanfic writers are PROFITING from the result of my own blood, sweat and tears”, “people who write fanfic are unoriginal and sad, and should get a life”…
I understand why looking at the discussion on the referenced journal about plagiarism of fanfic is like looking at another world – though I’m in the same fandom, it feels almost the same way. But could you stop tarring everyone in a fandom with the same brush? The parts are not representative of the whole, for crying out loud – if JKR were to say that she couldn’t stand fanfic anymore, there’s a good portion of people who would take down their stuff. I still don’t understand why it’s such a hot button issue that a bunch of people are writing derivative works of something someone else owns – yes, it can hurt, having your ideas and characters led in directions you definitely wouldn’t have chosen, but isn’t that more of an emotional thing than a legal thing? If this argument is truly about the legal ramifications of such a thing, then the original authors should technically have less of a problem with it – for the most part, no one is selling fanfic or passing themselves off as the original author, and except for the occasional weird case (e.g. that person that tried to sell her Star Wars fanfic on Amazon), no one is trying to.
So you don’t like the idea of fanfiction. So you think it’s lazy, unimaginative and a waste of time for the writers involved. So what? That’s just your opinion, which you’re backing up with comments about copyright law, where the issue of fanfiction is (guess what) STILL a gray area. Face it, some writers chose to satisfy their impulse to write by writing in another universe, and they are happy that way. They don’t need you to validate them by telling them you think writing fanfiction is a good use of their time, because it is their own personal happiness and personal opinion that matters most. There’s always going to be someone who thinks differently from you on the subject, and until someone dies and makes you dictator, they’re going to do what they think is right. That someone thinks differently or acts differently than you do does not mean their thoughts and acts are wrong, and if fan writers feel happy or fulfilled by writing fanfic, it is their affair.
I’m not telling you to shut up, or that your opinions and points are invalid or whatever. All I’m saying is that there’s another frigging side to this issue than the tired one of ‘but it’s ILLEGAL…or should be’, or ‘why can’t all these sad, sad people see that they are WRONG and PATHETIC to do this?’.
Nothosonomia wrote: “For every good working author there are thousands of screaming, starving fans, many of whom are even now testing the laws, fighting them, overwhelming them with sheer mass, in order to steal their author’s creations and livelihoods”
There are? Where is this happening – can you cite examples of this in action? Because I’m in fandom – have been an active, creative fan for 25 years – and I’ve honestly not seen this as a general attitude among fans.
I’ve seen odd examples of people who seem to have some kind of an entitlement issue over characters they’ve created and who seem unable to see the dissonance between “I can borrow what I like from ‘famous author X’, but if you use my Mary-Sue you’re an evil plagiarist”, and I think I can recall two who really didn’t understand the meaning of the word ‘copyright’. But in 25 years, that’s been it.
I’m not seeing hordes of fan writers attempting to get their words published for profit where ‘hordes’ has a meaning of ‘more than five in a 25 year period’; I’m not seeing hordes of fan writers forgetting to ut disclaimers on their work, where ‘hordes’ has a meaning of ‘more than ten over the last ten years’.
I’d be interested to see if Nothosonomia (or Lee) have any data to disprove that.
And I think, Nothosonomia, that in your first post you’re conflating patent (which has a very specific legal meaning) with copyright (another specific and different legal meaning) with trademark (yet another different and specific legal meaning) with the French and Berne Convention idea of ‘droit d’auteur’.
I think you’re also conflating all of those with the idea of the lonely author, labouring away in a garret on the Left Bank in Paris to eventually produce something with the perfect originality of a dewy rose on a June morning.
Modern writing, IMO, particularly in genre and TV, bears more resemblance to the production of widgets or furniture and should be seen in the same way.
“If I use one of your characters in a piece of fiction, it doesn’t change anything that you wrote.”
Of course it does. Addition of information is alteration.
“And yes, given that I don’t actually have a physical living boy called Harry Potter to hold and protect, the “copyright” is the best we can do. It’s still ownership. It’s really all semantics. And, as you illustrate, it’s under attack.”
It’s not just semantics – it’s this patently wrong assertion that someone can somehow own an idea that leads to misunderstandings not only about what copyright protects, but what an author’s rights are. You can’t defend something very effectively if you’re defending the wrong thing. If you’re worried about copyright being under attack, then I don’t understand why you think you will get farther in defending it by asserting ownership which doesn’t exist than you will by arguing for why it should take the form that it does today. Why does asserting something that someone else can easily show is simply not true help your case? It doesn’t help you, it just makes you look rabid and delusional.
(By the way, I don’t think that you are either rabid or delusional. I think you’re upset. But neither am I the only pro-fanfic person reading this blog.)
“Everyone knows a fanficcer did NOTHING to have any kind of claim on the character; no work, no thought, nothing other than reading someone else’s work and boldly and blatantly STEALING their ideas wholesale. The more thoroughly stolen, the more “canon” it is, isn’t that right?”
Everyone knows nothing of the sort. If that were true, dozens of websites, literary magazines and books which discuss the role, merits and legalities/illegalities of derivative fiction and fan writing, would not exist. In fact, if that were true, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
“I actually don’t care about fanfic that knows its place; that credits its sources and knows it’s ripping people off and admits it, makes no profit, and the author has agreed to turn a tolerant eye on the people playing with the characters that she OWNS.”
And yet, you seem to be very upset that anyone would chose to defend those “fanfic[s] that know [their] place.” And by posting in this particular blog on the anti-fanfic side of the argument, you would appear to be supporting those who say that fan writers are hypocrites for even discussing these issues and trying (admittedly futilely) to self police their own communities. Is ignorance better somehow? Should we try to stop all discussion of this within fan communities because it’s somehow better for them not to know what the actual issues are?
“It’s when people start saying “Well, the fans are the ones who REALLY own Harry because they’re the ones who love him best and they should get to decide what is done with him; there should be no restrictions on us at all, and Harry Potter should go into the public domain because I want to write about him rather than make my own characters” and “We fans are better at writing Monk than Monk writers are!” that I start to see red… from anger, and from fear.”
To quote veejane from her comments on John Scalzi’s blog “Unfortunately, fandom is full of crazy people and poorly-informed people, because fandom is full of people.”
I would submit that the same is true of the anti-fanfic faction.
“Especially when there are people like yourself implying that copyright law is wrong, and should be changed, so that authors lose even what tenuous hold they have on their livelihood, their hard work, to let it be sucked away by parasitic leeches who are too stupid or too lazy to do their own homework.”
Please explain to me how something that prevents your work from being copied seventy years after you’re dead is protecting your livelihood. You won’t have a livelihood – you’ll be dead! If you want to make an argument that fan fiction is hurting your ability to profit from your work then make it. But please don’t make assertions about ownership of ideas or the aesthetic value of an entire class work, much of which you’ve never read, that are blatantly unsupportable.
I don’t think that the concept of copyright is wrong, but nor do I buy into the illusion that it’s primarily intended to protect authors anymore. It’s protecting the profits of Disney, of software companies, and of publishing houses. It’s protecting the profits of the heirs of great writers who’ve never created anything themselves. I think changes were made thirty years ago to the way that copyright is conferred that are not consistent with the goal of encouraging creativity and productivity, or even scholarship, and instead do the opposite. Perhaps the publishing companies would be encouraged to take on more original writers and publish new fiction if they weren’t still making profits off their exclusive rights to the work of authors that should have entered the public domain thirty or more years ago.
And if you actually want to defend copyright, perhaps you should begin by trying to make sure that it’s application doesn’t appear so blatantly biased, unfair and against it’s own stated goals that others feel justified in violating it.
“If I use one of your characters in a piece of fiction, it doesn’t change anything that you wrote.”
And Keith responded:
“Of course it does. Addition of information is alteration.”
Could you elaborate? Because it seems to me that if I add information to your actual text and reprint it with those alterations, then yes, I’m altering it. But if I produce a separate document which draws on your text, and credits your text, but doesn’t actually use your words, I not changing what you wrote. Four hundred years of commentary on and performances of Shakespeare’s work haven’t changed anything that he wrote, and anyone who wants to write new commentary still needs to go back to the original texts. The existence of Tom Stoppard’s play _Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead_ doesn’t change the text of _Hamlet_. It may inform my reading of _Hamlet_, but then so could a scholarly analysis, or a review, or a parody, all of which are perfectly allowable on copyrighted texts as well.
“It may inform my reading of _Hamlet_”
You’ve done all the elaborating I could have. Your reading of Hamlet is changed.
I’m not debating the morality of fanfic; it’s simply that your statement was not entirely true. While the text on the shelf has not been altered by someone’s use of the same characters, “what the author wrote” can legitimately be seen to have been changed.
“Informed by” cannot mean anything but “changed by.”
I think the comparison of genre fiction to widget manufacturing is stunningly inapt and undercuts the fanfic argument. If creating compelling stories told entertainingly was simply a matter of caluculating tensile strengths and tolerances, I would be treated to far less crapitudinous (sp?) fiction and TV and movies than I am. A great story that inspires legions of fans is a special, timely alchemy. Fanficcers must recognize this, or why give a damn about their favorite characters?
Anthropological and psychological research into this very subject is ongoing, but we already know stories provide a far different human function than objects like a chair for example, and when was the last time you thought “What a fantastic sit that was!” anyway? Unless, of course you’re sitting in an Eames chair which as it happens is covered by a raft of intellectual protections.
Too, I found it strange that someone who wouldn’t argue that a widget factory ought to be able to be passed from founder to heirs thinks that an author’s heirs deserve less claim to their own inheritances, thus the argument that copyrights extending beyond the author’s death aren’t protective. They clearly are, especially if you want to keep an enthusiastic stranger from looting your grandkids’ hard-earned college funds after you’re gone.
Those two nitpicks aside, what’s oddest to me as an author and a big fan of several genres is the disconnect between the lauded values of the stories genre fans love and their approach toward fan fiction.
Confession: In junior high, my friend got me to write Battlestar Galactica fanfic with her, but it had no name then and we understood it to be slightly shameful as the product of her immoderate crush on Richard Hatch.
Most sci-fi, fantasy, and crime fiction is strongly (small l) libertarian. The individual is almost always acknowledged to have a right to his own life and liberty, to his own safety and the choice of his own destiny. The transgression or subjugation of this is portrayed as evil, oppression, or personal sacrifice and is therefore laden with moral and ethical assumptions. In this kind of fiction, individuals matter and must often take significant action in the face of massive opposition. This is seen as heroic when done for the “right reasons.” It remains a conundrum to me that readers with such a strong affection for these kinds of stories celebrating individual effort feel so comfy about denigrating and subjugating the uniqueness and primacy of the original creator’s contribution. Moreover, I marvel that they’d feel morally superior calling for the bending of that individual’s will for his own work to the louder shouts of the crowd. Not even when the mob are adoring fans will I understand or agree with readers demanding that.
My reading is also informed by the fact that I was raised Catholic in Philadelphia and I’m 33 years old – but none of those things change the text.
But even assuming that only those things which are explicitly based on the text are relevant to someone’s reading of it, commentary on and parody of a text doesn’t change the text itself – only what one brings to the table in interpreting it. The author never has control over that. I don’t agree that “informed by” is equivalent to “changed by” because one is referring to my reaction and the other implies that my reaction somehow changes the ideas the author set on paper. My reaction to Shakespeare can’t change Shakespeare’s ideas-he’s been dead for four hundred years and isn’t going to change is mind now. It also doesn’t change his text – somone who reads _Hamlet_ tomorrow will have their own reaction to it, but the actual text they’re reading is the same one that I read 17 years ago and other people have been reading for centuries.
99.9 percent of fan fiction SUCKS DEAD DONKEY DICK.
Fan fiction authors are IMMATURE PYCHOPATHIC PUNK THIEVES with no consciences, and it’s a waste of time to argue with them because they are definitely OCD (and not in a good way, like Monk.)
I’ve read everyone’s posts here, and the conclusion is that fan fic authors *think* it’s okay to steal intellectual material BECAUSE THEY WANT TO. Nothing short of a lawsuit will stop them.
I vote to sue the totally baked fucktards. And then beat them up in the alley. Yes, that would be satisfying.
” I don’t agree that “informed by” is equivalent to “changed by” because one is referring to my reaction and the other implies that my reaction somehow changes the ideas the author set on paper.”
Of course it does. That’s what reading is: The reader interpreting the author’s words and internalizing them as ideas. The reader’s ideas are never precisely identical to the author’s, so each reader’s impression of the text is slightly different; however, despite this, there is such thing as a wrong interpretation.
Reading is a collaborative process. It’s not passive reception of “the author’s ideas.” Separating the text from its interpretation is disingenuous.
“Informed by” means “changed by.” If no change occurred, “inform” would mean nothing.
I think I’ll have to agree to disagree on this point, because while I think you have a good argument when it comes to reading being a collaborative process between the reader and the text, I also believe the text has an existence separate from my reading of it, since my reading doesn’t necessarily inform the reading of the next person to come along.
Regardless, I don’t think it’s particularly relevant to issues of copyright since the author never has any control over reader’s interpretations, wrong or right.
I’m responding to your post because while I agree with you on the ineptness of the widget comparison, I took the following to be a direct response to my comments on the problems I have with copyright law:
“Too, I found it strange that someone who wouldn’t argue that a widget factory ought [not] to be able to be passed from founder to heirs thinks that an author’s heirs deserve less claim to their own inheritances, thus the argument that copyrights extending beyond the author’s death aren’t protective. They clearly are, especially if you want to keep an enthusiastic stranger from looting your grandkids’ hard-earned college funds after you’re gone.”
I can’t speak for everyone in this discussion, but I don’t have a philosophical problem with extending copyright beyond the death of the author. I don’t have a problem with an author leaving the proceeds of their work to their heirs. I do think that those who want to argue that copyright is all about respecting an author’s wishes don’t have a leg to stand on when the owner of the copyright has never even met the author.
I also think that protection 70 years after the death of the author is ridiculous and undermines the economic incentive that is at the heart of copyright law – ie. to encourage creativity and productivity for the betterment of society. The repeated extensions of the length of copyright protection and the removal of the registration and labeling requirements in the current law not only have had a chilling effect on scholarship and creativity by ensuring that almost nothing becomes part of the public domain, but have encouraged this myth that authors can own an idea. That myth is at the heart of much of the discussion in this (and the previous) thread.
Copyright is an economic incentive. Almost no one in this or the previous two threads has made any sort of argument that fan writing is having any sort of actual effect an author’s earnings from their work. Each time that I’ve brought it up, I’ve gotten various (mostly outraged) arguments about fan attitudes, the quality of fanfic, whether fan writers “deserve” praise from their fellow fans for what they’ve produced, the “sanctity of the creative process”, an author’s ownership of her ideas (see above re: myths), and that work for hire is somehow more “creative” than someone’s hobby. Not one has presented an argument for how fanfic is actually threatening anyone’s earnings. I can only conclude that’s because it isn’t.
“It remains a conundrum to me that readers with such a strong affection for these kinds of stories celebrating individual effort feel so comfy about denigrating and subjugating the uniqueness and primacy of the original creator’s contribution.”
I don’t think that that’s an accurate characterization of how fans feel about or treat the source material they’re working from. There are certainly some who feel that way, and while they might be the loudest and most obnoxious of the bunch, I don’t think they are in the majority. I also don’t think that those who jump up and screech “Hypocrites!” every time some fen speak up and try to encourage their peers to develop a culture of respect and deference towards the original author’s wishes are really helping to change those attitudes.
I don’t have anything to add to the excellent points “lost_erizo” makes about copyright and the uses it serves and to which it’s being put, we’ll take my points on that as being read.
Henway wrote: “A great story that inspires legions of fans is a special, timely alchemy. Fanficcers must recognize this, or why give a damn about their favorite characters?”
Is it? Or is it produced (as very many TV shows seem to be) on what is basically a production line with an idea in the head of the TV executives, put there by marketing pundits, of ‘what will sell’ to the punters fastest?
Given what I’ve seen of recent TV, I’m afraid that seems to be in the ascendant – I’ve glimpsed some appalling trash and not just ‘Big Brother’.
Henway: “Too, I found it strange that someone who wouldn’t argue that a widget factory ought to be able to be passed from founder to heirs”
Well, I have to admit in my case you’ve probably picked on the wrong person – I don’t entirely agree with private ownership of the means of production let alone accept that it should be passed down.
You’re assuming we’re starting from a shared attitude which, in fact, isn’t. I therefore think that any further exploration of that issue would be profitless as we’re coming from completely different ends of the political spectrum. It would only serve to derail the discussion.
Henway: “Most sci-fi, fantasy, and crime fiction is strongly (small l) libertarian.”
Some of it is. There is also, I’d argue, a large proportion which is not: Terry Nation’s “Blake’s 7”, for example (I reckoned it semi-socialist) or Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” (which it seemed to me espoused more of a monarchical-feudal ideology something which surely a libertarian would run from in tight shoes). I’m sure there are more examples – indeed, as far as I recall in Ursula le Guin’s writing she moves all over the political landscape.
Henway: “It remains a conundrum to me that readers with such a strong affection for these kinds of stories celebrating individual effort feel so comfy about denigrating and subjugating the uniqueness and primacy of the original creator’s contribution.”
I would see fan fiction more as a part of a fan writers attempt to build up a personal dialogue with the source text: clearly there are some tropes, some stories, which the source text is not telling (and is not designed to tell) which the fans want to hear.
While fanfic writers continue to acknowledge the original creator(s) as the holder of the copyright on the original text – which remains unchanged – I’m not sure why you would wish to prevent or stop this happening. A dialogue with the source text seems entirely healthy to me, whatever form it takes, indicating a “connection” with the ideas the original writer put forward, with the source text.
Perhaps it could be said that some kinds of critical connection – literary criticism for example – is legitimate, but fanfiction not. It seems to me, however, that it is not ‘in the gift’ of the author or original creator to make the decision about how readers or viewers connect with the text. Well, you can try, but it won’t work in the long term.
Not allowing various forms of interaction around a source, it seems to me, is tantamount to treating the audience as an unthinking mass and refusing to allow those who want it that critical connection. Attempting control over thought like that is as anti-libertarian as anything I can imagine. Trendy leftie as I am, even I wouldn’t go that far.
” the author never has any control over reader’s interpretations, wrong or right.”
But that’s not true either.
The author never has absolute control, but if the author had *no* control, we might as well type the word “aardvark” 70,000 times, call it a novel, and sell it.
The author has a degree of control. It’s a large degree; the greater part of the collaboration if the reader is not insane.
Oh, and I realize I am a pseudo-intellectual whacko with shite for brains, but I enjoy clogging up everyone’s blog comments with my blather anyway.
“The author never has absolute control, but if the author had *no* control, we might as well type the word “aardvark” 70,000 times, call it a novel, and sell it.
The author has a degree of control. It’s a large degree; the greater part of the collaboration if the reader is not insane.”
That’s true, but only to the extent to which the author makes their thoughts and intentions a part of the text. If the author intended something that is not explicit in text, or which is unclear, or which could have an alternate interpretation, then they haven’t communicated it effectively and it’s irrelevant to my understanding of the text. The text itself takes on it’s own existence as soon as the author stops revising and publishes it.
The fans I speak of, who want to see copyright lengths reduced, are sparse but vocal; I am not going to hunt the references down because I don’t like to wade through piles of fandom wank to find them. And besides, some of them are personal friends and fans of mine and I don’t want to drag them into this mess. The “We fans have more right to Monk than Lee does” group were actually posting on Lee’s blog in a previous discussion. Most of the fans don’t have time to fight legal battles; but every time someone says, “Oh, fanfic is harmless”, then someone tries to sell their own version of a Star Wars story on Amazon, then someone ruins Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel by a fanfic lawsuit, then authors are spending their own money and going broke trying to defend their copyrights, then someone says, “Well, there’s fanfic everywhere, no one can stop it, let’s just let everyone do whatever they want”… then yes, the livelihood of authors IS threatened, and it’s only going to get worse.
It’s “give them an inch”; first you allow fanfic, then you allow people to sell printed fanfics “just to defray printing costs” and then it’s “A respectable fanzine! It won a Fan Award! So of course it’s just as valid as the original work!” and fanficcers saying “We’re REAL writers, so we should get to determine canon!” and “It’s a Professional Fanzine! Of course I can sell it for money!” and you have 40,000 people writing slash versus one author writing seven books, and before you know it, people are saying “Oh, Harry Potter… that’s the thing about little boys having sex, isn’t it?” And, who knows, maybe Rowling won’t be able to make any more money because people prefer reading about boy-love instead of wizardly adventures. Capitalism at its finest? Maybe, but you can see why authors object to it, I think. Yes, most fans are well-meaning, but there are also plenty of loonies, and the mass accumulation of ‘precedent’ is what’s very dangerous.
The best example I can think of is you yourself, erizo. You scare me, because I know there are a lot of people like you, who want to believe that fanfic and other theft is OK, because they enjoy it so much. They’ll come up with any desperate concept to try to justify stealing someone else’s work, because deep down, they know it’s wrong, but it’s just So Much FUN!
Saying that “ownership of an idea is a myth” and “ideas belong to everyone!” and “the moment you share an idea, it has a ‘life of its own’, and becomes free for everyone to use however they want”… Copyright law, intellectual property law, semantics, yes, you can argue definitions of what “idea” means and what “stealing” is and what “own” means, and say that if no actual money is changing hands, it’s all kosher; it seems like a pile of B.S. to me, but then, I’m not a lawyer, I’m just an author, someone who actually WORKS to make the ideas you want to steal. Have you actually created anything new yourself? Real original ideas and characters and stories? Maybe once you’ve had a child of your own, you’ll see that baby-raping isn’t such a fun and harmless pastime.
It is self-evident to me that an idea does have a creator; someone who did the work, built and refined that idea, and created something new where there was nothing there before, and that creator should be rewarded for his efforts, and should have a right to own what they have created. Apparently you feel differently.
You seem to think that “you can’t own an idea, because an idea is this nebulous, simple, fluffy thing! it’s not a physical object so it’s not real! Owning an idea? How ridiculous!” Sure, I’ll say you can’t own the idea of “A little boy has adventures”. That’s an ‘idea’. But Harry Potter is a fully-developed character, which is a much more specific and complicated thing. He is instantly recognizable. Millions of people know who he is. He is worth millions of dollars. He is almost more complex than the novels he inhabits, and while anyone could have come up with a little boy who has adventures, the unique creation that is Harry Potter was created by the hard work and art and craft of one person, J.K. Rowling. No one else did it; no one else could have. He is hers.
Harry Potter didn’t exist until Rowling created him. What possible right do a bunch of strangers have to say that THEY own Harry, just because they read the books? Or that they SHOULD own Harry in seventeen, seventy, or a hundred years? What arbitrary distinction do you make to suddenly say, “Ooh, Harry belongs to everyone now!” Time? Popularity? The fact that Rowling has so much money and fans don’t? The fact that there are loony people out there who believe Harry & friends are REAL and Rowling is just transcribing? Will Rowling’s death suddenly mean that Harry was there all along as a universal concept which anyone could use?
I guess when you say “You can’t own an idea” then we’re going to have to agree to disagree, because this concept hits a wall in my head, as though you were saying “The earth is flat because God says so.” Legal semantics aside; I’ve already said that. But I firmly believe that if anyone owns a character, it’s the person who created it; nothing else makes sense. His copyright is long expired, his work is firmly in the public domain, but I will still say that Shakespeare owns Hamlet. He created him; without Shakespeare, we’d have no Hamlet. You can have Mel Gibson and Tom Stoppard and their fanfic versions, but they wouldn’t exist if Shakespeare hadn’t done all the work first. In the end, Hamlet is Shakespeare’s creation and thus is HIS, forever. And I would no more rip off Hamlet and call myself an original author than I would write Harry/Snape and think I was doing anything other than stealing.
I also strongly disagree that copyright has “a chilling effect on scholarship and creativity by ensuring that almost nothing becomes part of the public domain, but have encouraged this myth that authors can own an idea.” First, you cannot call regurgitating someone else’s work “creativity”; Scholarship, yes of course. 😉
Second, If there were no copyright law, why would anyone try to make anything new? The moment you do the work, it becomes free for everyone to use; why do the work then? Why not do it the easy way, and steal someone else’s idea? If I could make a living writing Harry Potter fanic, I’d sit down and churn out effortless adolescent crap and take my paycheck, and when I wrote real creative work, my own work, for the sheer artistic joy of it… I wouldn’t share it with anyone, ever, because it would just get stolen and corrupted. And people like you would take my ideas and tell me “You don’t own this. It’s not yours. All that work you put into it? Means nothing. It’s just an “idea”, not a physical object, so it has nothing to do with you and you can’t have it. It’s a myth to think that you had anything to do with this ‘idea’… that nevertheless no one would know about without your efforts… and which wouldn’t exist without your creating it… and was built under your own unique mind… and with your own hard work…” (hello? Are you grasping at all how ridiculous that sounds?)
And if I’d do it, everyone would do it. Everyone would recycle old ideas if there was no incentive to come up with new ones. Pretty soon the entire sum of literature being produced would be Harry Potter fanfic. Do you call that creative? Is that the kind of world you’d like to live in?
I’ll tell you already that this discussion makes me want to quit publishing novels because there are ungrateful jerks like you telling me I can’t own what I create and that, therefore, I don’t deserve to get any credit or payment for my hard work. So where will you fanficcers be then, without authors like me to feed you ‘ideas’ that, nebulous and ‘free’ as they are, you seem unable to make for yourselves? Yeah, I thought so.
Nothosonomia, you rock. Email me, and I’ll buy one of your books. The problem with fan fiction will be solved when the publishers form an alliance like the software publishers did, and sue the shit out of the property thieves. Hmmm, that’s a good idea–any copyright lawyers out there with an affinity for the publishing business? Let’s start a coalition! I remember those cool posters the software watchdogs produced: “Here’s some hardware to accompany your stolen software: a pair of handcuffs.”
The reason why I used the small l- libertarian, and perhaps should have used some other description entirely, was to point out the tendency of genre fiction to highlight a specific individual’s independent worth and unique impact even against oppressive odds. Occasionally such actions are even taken in futility except for the effect upon his own self-concept. This is the singular opposite of the hive-mind of parallel productivity engagements across a new collective paradigm… Tolkien’s small Hobbits who make great differences are exactly the kind of heroes I meant.
For Lost Erizo: Copyright is, of course, not merely a financial issue. It’s an issue of control. On paper, land might be worth more after a big fire burns down the ramshackle house, but that doesn’t mean the homeowner wants someone to torch it. Decisions to hold back a literary creation from purchase for film adaptation are so common that I’m surprised anyone thinks the issue is purely about grasping the biggest payday.
As to my argument that a great, successful story is an alchemy, PM Rommel comments “Is it? Or is it produced (as very many TV shows seem to be) on what is basically a production line with an idea in the head of the TV executives, put there by marketing pundits, of ‘what will sell’ to the punters fastest?”
I think PMR tremendously overestimates the ability to forecast the punters, or perhaps doesn’t realize that the vast majority of books, albums, movies, television shows, theatre productions, art shows, and even many ad campaigns could be considered commercial failures. If it were foolproof, no one would pay successful directors/writers/actors/musicians big money to generate an otherwise plentiful commodity. Blockbusters are rare, cannot be engineered with certainty, and I stick with the notion that they’re a combination of talent, access, timing, and luck.
Any writer will develop material that isn’t used. Scenes that don’t finally work or get saved for later, personality quirks, relationships, backstory. These often remain hidden secrets than inform the writing but are never read by the public. At the risk of offending, I think this means the author knows those characters better even than someone who’s read every book. Twice.
If PMR’s disagreeing with “private ownership of the means of production” extends to the author’s brain cells, I find that a fairly virulent notion which probably does define a chasm we can’t cross. But we do have existing law to define a common standard with which we don’t need to agree, merely adhere, but which we transgress with consequences.
And last, zigzagging to Lost Erizo’s point: “The repeated extensions of the length of copyright protection and the removal of the registration and labeling requirements in the current law not only have had a chilling effect on scholarship and creativity by ensuring that almost nothing becomes part of the public domain…”
Well, I don’t recall all of it, mind you, but I believe the last half-century has brought America (of whose laws we speak) at least: routine jet travel, artifical knees and pacemakers, the virtual elimination of whooping cough and polio and TB, cell phones, cable and satellite TV, diet soda and vitamin water, car airbags and anti-lock brakes, breakdancing, overnight shipping, 30-minute pizza delivery, digital watches and recording and photography, Spandex and Tencell, Air Jordans and extreme sports, Segway scooters, ATMs, chat rooms, video games from Pong up to to Halo, microwaves, GPS, Mork from Ork and Must-See TV and every CSI, tooth whitening kiosks and chemotherapy, YouTube and blogging and search engines, Grunge and Rap, “reality” TV whether you love it or don’t, this crazy personal computer doohickey I’m pounding upon, and just last year the largest sheer number of unique books ever published. Considering that evolving “scholarship” now includes several college courses on the Philosophy of The Simpsons, I cannot perceive the chill you’re citing.
” If the author intended something that is not explicit in text, or which is unclear, or which could have an alternate interpretation, then they haven’t communicated it effectively and it’s irrelevant to my understanding of the text. ”
Pretty to think so, and I understand it, but fiction is not merely a collection of explicit, unambiguous statements of intention. The excellent novelist plants the right seeds in the reader’s mind; the reader then grows the kind of tree the novelist intended.
Explicit, unambiguous statement of the type you’re describing is what bad fiction writers do. It’s called “telling instead of showing” and does not evoke setting, character, or mood. It’s a recipe for failure.
Fiction is not an instruction manual.
“Copyright is, of course, not merely a financial issue. It’s an issue of control. … Decisions to hold back a literary creation from purchase for film adaptation are so common that I’m surprised anyone thinks the issue is purely about grasping the biggest payday.”
Finally! An actually relevant argument! Although I’d have to argue that your example is very much a financial one, and is in fact very specifically about the creator’s earnings, which is what I’ve been arguing all along. I’d appreciate it if you’d share any examples of this happening that you know about.
“Well, I don’t recall all of it, mind you, but I believe the last half-century has brought America…”
I’ve edited your list for the sake of brevity, but I want to point out that with the exceptions of the software and three or four TV shows almost everything you listed is not actually covered by a copyright but by patent, which is a completely different area of Intellectual Property law. Just a few ways that it is different from copyright is that it has to be registered and it’s usually limited to 20 years from time it is granted, regardless of the life of the inventor. In other words, it’s much more limited than Copyright as it’s currently written. And yet those limits seem not to have limited innovation, as you pointed out. I would argue that software should really be covered under patent law, not copyright, but that isn’t the case at the moment.
“Pretty to think so, and I understand it, but fiction is not merely a collection of explicit, unambiguous statements of intention. The excellent novelist plants the right seeds in the reader’s mind; the reader then grows the kind of tree the novelist intended.”
You’re right of course, a novel isn’t a list of unambiguous statements, but if the novelist doesn’t plant those seeds _in_the_text_, then I have no way of knowing what they were getting at and their intentions are irrelevant. If different readers can reasonably have different readings of the same text, then the text is ambiguous.
What I was trying to get at is that even if the author makes their interpretation or intentions known in another venue (say in an interview or a sequel) that doesn’t invalidate my original reading of the text. It only means that the author either left it ambiguous or didn’t communicate their intentions effectively in the original text. It’s also concievable that the reader (me) is just stupid and incapable of understanding what the author was getting at, but I’ve also never been a fan of the type of outré writing that is deliberately impenetrable – call it a character flaw.
“If different readers can reasonably have different readings of the same text, then the text is ambiguous.”
Ambiguity is a basic tool in fiction.
I write: “A cat ran across the yard.”
No two readers will have exactly the same image in their minds. No two identical cats, no two identical yards, no two identical runs. But the story purpose has been served.
One seed, three trees. They’re all the same species of tree, but none is a clone of the one in my head. The reader creates the tree within the constraint of my choice of seeds.
That is the degree of control the author has over the reader’s interpretations. You may have pictured a white cat, or an orange cat; and it may have been loping or speeding; and it may have done so on a suburban front lawn or a tiny urban enclosure–but you didn’t picture a beagle playing fetch in a living room.
The text is explicit where required by the story, and it is ambiguous where the reader is expected to collaborate.
Again: Fiction is not an instruction manual.
I have no problem with any of your examples although you seem to be arguing that ambiguity in the text is always intentional on the part of the author and never a result of lack of skill. I doubt you really mean to advocate either extreme, but it illustrates my point. If the author, through lack of skill, leaves ambiguities in the text, I have no way of knowing that and her original intentions are irrelevant to my reading of it. The text has an existence separate from the authors intentions.
Is there a point you’re trying to make? Or do you just want to argue literary theory? Because I’m happy to do so but I’m not sure this thread is the most appropriate place to do it.
LE: I suppose I’m pleased you recognize the relevance of my point, if disheartened you didn’t grasp it yourself already. But you still misunderstand that desire for copyright control is not purely financial.
Many authors are concerned (fearful, despairing) about the manner in which their literary creations will be portrayed cinematically. The copyright allows them to turn down the option, even if their reasons given are artistic, sentimental, or personal. Authors are even allowed to be petty and silly when deciding such matters. Our laws are structured around the notion that individuals want and ought to make the critical decisions about their own creations.
The first example occurring to me was Dennis Lehane’s repeated refusal to option his books to the movies for aforesaid dread of humiliating association with inferior final product. Apparently, Clint Eastwood met personally with Lehane who became not only convinced that Eastwood really understood the material but had the clout to see it made following that vision.
Perhaps I should’ve restrained my exuberant examples of unchilled innovation to solely the copywriteable, yet my point is surely made that loads of new textual content is also evident not to mention all the associated textual commentary on that new content and technology. It’ll take significant, forehead-slapping examples to persuade me of the creative repression you claim. In fact, I perceive the barriers to entry at an all-time low.
More unique literary content was published formally (and I’d guess informally considering the geometric growth of blogs and desktop publishing and POD) in the last year than any previously. While content overflows, we’re trying to stretch traditional media legalities to cover ever more dynamic and dispersed forums while we’re up to our necks in a tsunami of new dreck. I, for one, will stop contributing to this rivulet.
The levels of pomposity, ill-informed legal opinions, ethics-babble, and misconstrued theories of deconstruction have reached an all-time high in this thread.
It’s time for my nap.
P.S. Fan fiction still bites.
“The fans I speak of, who want to see copyright lengths reduced, are sparse but vocal; … The “We fans have more right to Monk than Lee does” group were actually posting on Lee’s blog in a previous discussion. ”
The fans can no more own Mr. Monk than Mr. Goldberg can. But the fact that someone else was spouting off silly and patently untrue spooge doesn’t make your point about owning ideas any more valid.
“Most of the fans don’t have time to fight legal battles; but every time someone says, “Oh, fanfic is harmless”, then someone tries to sell their own version of a Star Wars story on Amazon, then someone ruins Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel by a fanfic lawsuit, then authors are spending their own money and going broke trying to defend their copyrights, then someone says, “Well, there’s fanfic everywhere, no one can stop it, let’s just let everyone do whatever they want”… then yes, the livelihood of authors IS threatened, and it’s only going to get worse.”
Lori Jareo was slapped down immediately and rightly so-she was an arrogant idiot who was apparently delusional about what copyright law allows. Marion Zimmer Bradley invited fans to submit their work to an authorized fanzine and then got herself into legal trouble when one of them submitted something that was too close to something she wanted to write herself. Now I think the fan acted in bad faith and should have taken action to make sure that MZB could publish her book, but MZB asked for those submissions-I don’t think that the fans should be blamed for taking her up on it. Please give examples of authors going broke defending their copyright. As far as I can tell not a single author has needed to go farther than a cease and desist letter. If that is not true I’m sure we’d all like to hear about it – it might actually support your position.
“It’s “give them an inch”; first you allow fanfic, then you allow people to sell printed fanfics “just to defray printing costs” and then it’s “A respectable fanzine! It won a Fan Award! So of course it’s just as valid as the original work!” and fanficcers saying “We’re REAL writers, so we should get to determine canon!” and “It’s a Professional Fanzine! Of course I can sell it for money!” and you have 40,000 people writing slash versus one author writing seven books, and before you know it, people are saying “Oh, Harry Potter… that’s the thing about little boys having sex, isn’t it?” And, who knows, maybe Rowling won’t be able to make any more money because people prefer reading about boy-love instead of wizardly adventures. Capitalism at its finest?”
Ok, so you’re going with a slippery slope argument. I could respect this argument if you can present any evidence that any of this is actually having an effect on the copyright holders. People have been writing Spock/Kirk slash for more than thirty years, and a lot of it has been available on the internet for at least fifteen years. Does Star Trek have the reputation of being all about the buttsex? Has the Roddenberry estate been losing money to all those fanwriters? Are there any examples of someone selling a fanzine for a profit that _didn’t_ get rightfully slapped down?
“Maybe, but you can see why authors object to it, I think. Yes, most fans are well-meaning, but there are also plenty of loonies, and the mass accumulation of ‘precedent’ is what’s very dangerous.”
There are plenty of loonies in all fields of human endeavor. I don’t think that justifies reactionary screeching from the other side. That sort of behavior just goes to prove that there are loonies on both sides.
The only precedent that seems relevant in this case is legal precedent, and there is none that addresses fanfic specifically and plenty that says that in the United States copyright authors have the exclusive right to control their work. There’s increasing precedent for making a special exception for “transformative creative works” under fair use, but it’s not clear yet that this applies to fanfic since it’s not for a scholarly, critical or half a dozen other specified purposes. There’s also plenty of precedent that says that copyright only confers the right to control and profit from the specific expression of an idea for a limited time, not ownership over the idea itself. It’s clearly stated in the Constitution that the intention of the protection is to act as an incentive for progress, not to protect the author’s ownership or moral rights over the work. This is all easily accessible information with a Google search, has been explained by half a dozen posters in this blog, and I don’t recall anyone in any of these threads effectively refuting the facts of it. If you can show that any of this is in fact incorrect, please enlighten me.
“The best example I can think of is you yourself, erizo. You scare me, because I know there are a lot of people like you, who want to believe that fanfic and other theft is OK, because they enjoy it so much. They’ll come up with any desperate concept to try to justify stealing someone else’s work, because deep down, they know it’s wrong, but it’s just So Much FUN!“
Are you under the impression that I came up with postmodern literary theory and the US Constitution all on my own? The Constitution was written in 1787. I was born in 1973. You do the math. By all means pursue your religion, Mr. Nothosonomia, but if you want it to be reflected in the law it’s going to take a constitutional amendment. If you expect to change anyone’s mind you’re going to have to make some actual arguments. Mischaracterizing my position doesn’t make you right, it makes it appear that you don’t have any valid arguments for why I’m wrong.
“… I’m not a lawyer, I’m just an author, someone who actually WORKS to make the ideas you want to steal. Have you actually created anything new yourself? Real original ideas and characters and stories? Maybe once you’ve had a child of your own, you’ll see that baby-raping isn’t such a fun and harmless pastime.”
As an author, I’d think you’d actually want to know what your rights actually are so you can defend them effectively. Operating under a series of erroneous assumptions only means that you have no weapons with which to fight back when someone criticizes your position. I’m sorry if that angers or upsets you, but attacking me personally doesn’t actually make my arguments wrong and if you were arguing from reality you wouldn’t need to resort to ad hominem attacks.
“It is self-evident to me that an idea does have a creator; someone who did the work, built and refined that idea, and created something new where there was nothing there before, and that creator should be rewarded for his efforts, and should have a right to own what they have created. Apparently you feel differently.”
Actually I don’t. I think that writers should be able to profit from their work. That doesn’t mean that I think they can own an idea. Nor does it mean that I think that their heirs should still be profiting from their work after they’ve been planted in the ground for seventy years. If you can give me a reasonable justification for why copyright should be extended for seventy years after the author’s death rather than five, or ten, or twenty, thirty or even fifty years, then I’ll give it the consideration it deserves, but I’m afraid you’re actually going to have to give me a reason before I can either agree or disagree with it.
(Further comments by Nothosonomia snipped for length)
“I’ll tell you already that this discussion makes me want to quit publishing novels because there are ungrateful jerks like you telling me I can’t own what I create and that, therefore, I don’t deserve to get any credit or payment for my hard work.”
Mr. Nothosonomia, I think if you reread what I’ve posted, you’ll find that not once did I say that you didn’t deserve to get paid for your work. Arguing that copyright protection as currently formulated is too restrictive does not equate to “copyright shouldn’t exist” nor to “authors shouldn’t get paid.” In fact, I have said from the very beginning that authorial profit was the main reason that copyright has any justification at all and the primary reason why fan authors need to be careful about what they produce and how they disseminate it. Yet each and every time I’ve expressed that opinion either you, Mr. Goldberg, Mr. Saxelid, or half a dozen other participants in these threads started arguing about the rights of the authors to “own ideas” or other such nonsense. It’s not my fault that you and the other participants in this thread chose an unsupportable argument with which to defend your position. I’ve repeatedly tried to guide the argument towards the one line of argument (protecting author’s profits) that I think actually supports your position and the whole lot of you have refused to go there. I am not on your side – I shouldn’t have to be making your arguments for you.
Quick reply while I consider Henway’s further comments to the person who impersonated me.
It’s been pointed out before in this discussion that in debate, if you descend to personal attacks, you lose.
“Is there a point you’re trying to make?”
There was. Now I’m just responding to things you say that aren’t quite so.
I grasped your point. I don’t happen to agree with it.
It’s clear that the _desire_ for copyright control is motivated by more than profit, and because copyright is extended as an exclusive right the authors/creators are indeed free to make their decisions based on whatever petty desires they wish. The law protects their right to profit, but they aren’t required to. But the desire of the author is not equvalent to the intent of the law. The intent of copyright was to allow authors to reap the benefits of their labor. It does not follow that the law is intended to protect them from people using their work in ways that they don’t like. If that were true, the term of copyright wouldn’t be limited and parody wouldn’t be excluded from the protection. Laws occasionally have unintended effects. Correlation is not causation, to put it another way.
In your example, Mr. Lehane made a decision that had an economic impact on himself, as is his right. No one has the right to profit from his work until his copyright has lapsed, not because he doesn’t want his work sullied, but because he gets to make the decisions that effect his pocket. He’s under no obligation to approve of work that he perceives as substandard. But if a work is unauthorized, then he has no responsibility for it and it ‘s quality doesn’t reflect back on him for good or ill. JRR Tolkein didn’t approve The Harvard Lampoon’s “Bored of the Rings” and he is only associated with it to the extent that it is a commentary on his work, not because he has any need to be embarrassed by it’s quality.
Can you name any examples where fanfiction or other unauthorized derivatives, either in the specific or in general, that caused someone to lose an opportunity for a book, movie or TV deal? I ask because, frankly, that is where I thought you were going with your previous post.
lost_erizo, I bow to you. I’m delighted by your reason, your intellect, your insight. But what really, really amazes me is your patience. Kudos to you!
Had to share this…
I’ve read a bunch of complaints from you about fanfic.
I agree, there is some crap out there, but there indeed is are some stories that are exceptionally good.
First about your actual topic: FanFiction plagiarism.
Set the FanFiction part of the problem aside for just a moment. Let’s say we’re talking here about some freely available original writing that’s posted somewhere on the internet. Now, would plagiarism matter there for you?
If it wouldn’t you should stop writing and complaining about FanFiction right now.
Whatever I, as an author, am writing is my work and I can chose where to put it. Reposting it (on the internet) without my permission and even without leaving my name on the piece or putting a different name on it is plagiarism.
Now, if we put the word of FanFiction into the context again not much is changing. The author has still the right to decide where to put is work and every reproduction without his or her permission is prohibited. The difference between FanFiction and orginal writing is the aspect (in the case of FanFiction) of not being able to sell my work to a publishing house or charging people if they want to read it. In some countries there is even (the acknowledgement of) a law protecting art that is based on copyrighted materials. You still aren’t allowed to make profit but no one else is allowed to “steal” the art.
Now about your antipathy in general:
FanFiction is not all about putting characters into relationships that are non-existent in canon. Some stories are written like actual TV-Episodes of a Series for example. So, and what’s the difference between an author putting up a novel-length FanFiction of “Diagnosis: Murder” or “Monk” that just deals with a storyline that could as well be canon and you, Mr Goldberg? Right. You get paid for your effort and the unknown author from the internet does not.
None of the ff-authors claim the characters are theirs and none of them get any money for writing and publishing their work.
Perhaps that is why you see FanFiction as such a threat and evil – because there is no money whatsoever involved.
FanFiction is to the work it’s based on like Wikipedia is to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
You’re not allowed to copy the exact wording from the EA, but you are allowed to put the idea behind the wording in the EA in your own words and post them on Wikipedia – citing EA as a reference. (And you’re not allowed to copy the exact wording from Wikipedia without citing it as source – even as free as the access to the information is. Just a little hint towards the plagiarism, again.)
There is a long history of FanFiction and some of it got approved. For example some Star Trek episodes were written and sent in by fans, as well as books. They started out as a non-profit project and the author had the courage to stand up and try to knock at TPTB’s doors and hand their work in. It was approved and we don’t call it FanFiction anymore. So much for all FanFiction being evil.
Now for the FanFiction that’s ghosting around the internet:
Of course I do understand that the original author and/or holder of the copyright can be fairly disgusted or frightened as to what the people are making out of their ideas. But they can’t forbid people to think about their work, can they? If someone with at least a little talent at writing writes down their idea and post it on the internet, someone with a similar idea might read it and see their point proven. Just because this process happens hundreds, thousands or millions of times people won’t generally change their behaviour towards the basic work. They can decide what is “real” and what is “fan written”. In the case of a TV-/film- or book-series it might even increase the interest in the basic series. The watcher/reader can identify with it on a more intense level. He or she can compare how similar their fan-idea is to the official idea.
If the sales of a “intellectual product” does go down it is hardly to blame on the FanFiction. In most of the cases it is based on let’s say “brave” decisions on the behalf of the offical writer(s). To stick with Harry Potter: The killing of one of the best-liked characters in one of the books.
Someone on this page said that one indeed can own an idea. A character they create is “their own”. I can just repeat that you cannot own an idea but you can own the right to make profit by publishing the idea in any way and form. But that’s not the point I want to make.
What about books or films that are based on real people? Is it allowed to publish work that is based on the actual history of someone, their character, their life? Is it allowed to display a character carrying distinct attributes of a certain person in a defaming situation?
In short: Is it allowed to write FanFiction of a person (and make profit from the written)?
Well, it is.
So, if one is technically allowed to create a character based on a real person, to simplify and distort the picture of this person in your work and publish, what harm is done in putting fictional characters into situations they in perhaps 80% (just my guess) of the cases normally wouldn’t be in?
It is allowed to write about any person one wants to and maybe harm their reputation publicly. Where is the harm using fictional characters and situations that are not mine for a story with a storyline my own, stating that the characters aren’t mine and the story is not officially approved by the author or holder of copyright for the characters? The story is related to the characters of course and the characters are the property of their owner (not the fan-authors) and can be traced back to them. But how can they be defamed by a story that is clearly labled as “no part of the official storyline”?
The characters may look differently to those reading or writing FanFiction, but they most certainly would have non-official ideas about the characters anyway. This personal tinge a character gets, deliberations about its motives and so on by someone who reads the official story or views the movie/series can’t be prevented – only by not publishing it.
One final thing: The authors aren’t bound to accept FanFiction based on their work. One of the largest FanFiction archives prohibits the posting of stories based on works of certain authors and publishers, like Anne Rice for example, who expressed their wishes for this. Also, the publishing of work containing content suitable for mature adults only is prohibited. Anything more explicit than suitable for teenagers of the age of 16 or above must stay out, with it the (Potter) porn.
Authors CAN and DO “own” ideas. It’s called intellectual property.
The fanficion writers vs. ‘real’ writers debate. Ah yes, an interesting debate. Let me try something for people with small minds like Lee. There is a thin line between original and fanfiction. I know, your thinking WHAT!
Let me put it this way, I write a Star Trek fanficiotn story, according to you I’m violating a copyright. Okay, I see that, now I change the people’s names, tweak the universe a bit and presto, now its mine and original. This brings up a question how much does one have to tweak to make it original; can I even make something original anymore? With so many books, movies and TV series out there it’s hard to say anything is original anymore.
Let’s take “Diagnosis Murder”, which I believe the ‘esteemed’ Mr. Goldberg has worked on and written a few ‘books’ for. I take the main character, change the name, maybe the hair, and presto, new character and its mine. Does that mean any more creativity went into the original as the fanfiction story? I could say that “Diagnosis Murder” is a tweak of “Matlock” which is a tweak of “Perry Mason” but I don’t see any reference of the pervious show in the later shows, so is that a form of intellectual copyright by later shows such as “Matlock” and “DM”. Should the creators of “Matlock” and “DM” show some respect or payments to previous shows?
From a certain point of view one could say that “Matlock” is a continuation fanfiction of “Perry Mason”.
Personally I am currently writing three ‘original’ sci-fi stories. If one is published someday, and someone thinks to write a fanfiction story on it, I would be happy with the fact that someone actually read what I wrote and was moved enough to write something about it. I may not agree with it, but as long a they don’t get paid for it, I would be all right with it.
IMHO, Matlock and Perry Mason are not at all alike, except they’re both lawyers who investigate well… All stories are derived from three basic plots–so learning to make distinctions in characterization is a critical skill for writers who wish to be published, don’t you think?
“From a certain point of view one could say that “Matlock” is a continuation fanfiction of “Perry Mason”.”
What a moron.
And “Scap3goat’s” long comment is the most revealing insight yet into twisted logic and rationalization that is the bedrock of, as you put it Lee, “The Fanfic Mind.”
The fanfiction crowd is really their own worst enemy. You have made them show their true colors.
What I find funny about this is that someone puts a thoughtful post and instead of replying with some thought, you insult them?
I am interested in your comments on what GMW said:
“Let me put it this way, I write a Star Trek fanficiotn story, according to you I’m violating a copyright. Okay, I see that, now I change the people’s names, tweak the universe a bit and presto, now its mine and original. This brings up a question how much does one have to tweak to make it original”
How much of thise tweaking is needed for a fan writing a star trek story ?
“The fanfiction crowd is really their own worst enemy. You have made them show their true colors.”
I don’t read fanfiction, stubled upon this though Diagnosis Murder. I have to say that Lee Goldberg’s attitude on fans writing for the fans enjoyment shocked me a bit. From my point of view this discussion has show both sides colors and from what I see, neither side looks real good right now.
Just fyi, Diagnosis Murder WAS a spinoff from Matlock you fucking moron. Further, GMW, I suggest you learn the appropriate use of parentheses before you make yourself look like ‘an ass’ who ‘doesn’t know how to write’ and who ‘clearly needs to get a hobby that doesn’t involve rolling a dice in order to get more power on their sword’
TW, FYI, at least I was trying to give proper respect to a title, unlike you. A title should be underlined or italicized (something you failed to do, even Mr. Lee using the quotations for titles sir). I didn’t see where here I could underline and was too lazy to see if cutting and pasting would work from Word. As for the other ‘words’ are you put it I was mearly making sure a point was made or being sarcastic. I can see it was made, but again people like you show your limited abilities in thinking. You call people names when they cannot answer a question put out to them. Perhaps you didn’t understand the question. Here I’ll write it again for you below.
How much does a fanfiction writer have to change a story to make it an original, people’s names, a bit of the scenery?
I’ve never watched “DM” or “Matlock” so I would NOT KNOW IF IT WAS A SPINNOFF. I also don’t watch much TV anymore, the shows suck.
Secondly I am cuttently trying to write three different original Sci-Fi stories and hoping to get published. I meet with other writers and we talk about everything about writing. Where do I give the impressiong as you put it that I need “to get a hobby that doesn’t involve rolling a dice in order to get more power on their sword”?
If you must know my hobbies are many sports including football, hockey, bowling, I run and lift weights just about every day (wonder if the same could be said for you TW) reading about history, espically WW2,(currently working on creating a game for this as well), ancient history, and writing (I also write poetry).
So if anyone can, please answer the question?
GMW asked, “How much does a fanfiction writer have to change a story to make it an original, people’s names, a bit of the scenery?”
OK, I’ll bite…in my experience, quite often, not a lot.
Names, yes, placenames, yes, backgrounds of characters a very little. If it’s closer to ‘canon’ quite a bit of work is required, but in a some cases, writers of what are called “alternative universe” fanfiction could ‘find and replace’ and send it out to a publisher as stands. I can think of at least three people who fall into that category, but I won’t mention names as I’m sure they would prefer live without the emails that might follow.
There are quite a few real published books out there (*not* self published) which started life as fanfiction for various fandoms – check out anything by Mel Keegan, particularly the early stuff. It would be interesting to see if anyone who didn’t already know they were fanfic at one time can spot the original sources for the stories.
And there are quite a few authors who started out as fanfiction writers – Jacqueline Lichtenberg leaps to mind as one example, but I know there are more.
DIAGNOSIS MURDER was a spin-off of JAKE AND THE FATMAN, not MATLOCK.
Yes. There is only one “fanfic mind.” The fanfic community is not composed of people of all ages, races, tastes and moralities. There are never any disagreements within the community, so it is fair to generalize the attitudes, morals and literacy of thousands of people based on a few comments on one blog.
Perhaps if I stop reading and writing fanfiction, I will one day be as wise as you. I can only hope.
“Death’s Head” by Mel Keegan could be based on “Starsky and Hutch” – it deals with the show’s onetime subject of forced drug use – or on “The Professionals” – NARC being a para-military police force. Am I right, Rommel?
The latest examples of fanfic writers turned pro are Naomi Novik with her “Temeraire” series and Cassandra Claire with her trilogy bound to come out next spring, I believe.
Yes, Kete, AFAIR “Death’s Head” came from “The Professionals”.
Friends have spoken very well of Temeraire, but less said the better about Cassandara Claire, though!
P.M. Rommel, thanks for giving an answer.
So which is it? “Jake and the Fatman” or “Matlock”?
The “Diagnosis Murder” first season DVD boxed set came out this week and includes the pilot episode from “Jake and the Fatman.”
Jesus Christ, Rommel! Have you seen/heard that Peter Jackson has optioned all Temeraire books?!
Although I have to admit I don’t think too much of the books, I’m tickled pink that A FANFICCER’s book series might be made into a movie by PJ!
Ha ha, take that, Lee Goldberg!
Whether Temeraire wrote fanfiction in his past or not is totally irrelevant to Lee’s argument. The books that Peter Jackson bought are not fanfiction. Stay on point.
I don’t think Lee has a problem with you writing fanfiction in the privacy of your home. It’s the publication of it on the world wide web that is wrong.
It’s comparable to masturbation. It’s fun, healthy and okay if you jerk your willy in the privacy of your home…it’s another if you whip your schlong out in a restaurant and start self-loving. Though I suspect that you, Kete, would see nothing wrong with that, either.
Germany has even tougher copyright laws than the United States. Germany’s Urheberrecht gives several “moral” rights to the creator which cannot be sold or given up, for instance the right to just compensation for every copy and the right to veto changes to the work. I would be curious to know how fanfiction of German work is tolerated or not.
Kete: I heard about PJ’s possible films of Naomi Novik’s books – very well done, her! Somewhat of a turnup of the books for those who say fanfic never goes anywhere.
Anonymous wrote, “It’s the publication of it on the world wide web that is wrong.”
Hmmm…but we’ve not yet sorted out why derivative work is moral when the writer’s been dead 70 years, and not before. You recall the question I posed further up the thread. That question.
In fact, it gets even more fun when you find out a bit more about writers like Kipling. His works were covered by the original 50 year rule, so became public domain in 1987. The law changed, and his works stopped being public domain – that would have been in 1996.
What was **morally** different about writing derivative works based on Kipling between 1987 and 1996, and what changes again when he ceases to be copyright? I hammer on that this is an **ethical** question, not a legal one.
Apart from that, fanfiction has been around since the ’30s, and has been around as amateurs writing using media sources (in the form of fanzines) since the 1970s and original Star Trek.
It strikes me that fighting fanfic now is too late…the genie has been out of the bottle now for nearly forty years – long before the web. Any challenge needed to be to fanzines, and in the 1970s.
In those days fanzines were not free. Fanfiction was, always has been in my experience, very strictly non-profit, but fanzine producers aimed to cover reproduction and postage costs by charging. And it’s not as if it has ever been that hidden; I can remember seeing an article on Kirk/Spock fanzines in the UK’s “Sun” newspaper some time in the late 1980s.
Ulrich: I haven’t noticed that fanfiction of German works are treated any differently than fanfiction of the works of British or US authors. Certainly there is German fanfiction on German sources around.
“Whether Temeraire wrote fanfiction in his past or not is totally irrelevant to Lee’s argument.”
Geez, ain’t you stupid, anonymouse of Thursday, September 14?!? Please grow a brain before addressing me again.
“Ulrich: I haven’t noticed that fanfiction of German works are treated any differently than fanfiction of the works of British or US authors. Certainly there is German fanfiction on German sources around.”
Of course there is, Ulrich and Rommel! There’s German fanfiction on German works as well as on works of every other nationality, as well as translations of English fanfic into German and vice versa…. Never heard of any legal disputes in German courts regarding fanfic up to now (which of course doesn’t mean there weren’t any).
Hey, Rommel, did you see THIS:
And again: Take THAT, Lee Goldberg!
I did…a friend of mine on LJ was interviewed for it. Interesting stuff.