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serafina
After quite some time spent staring at — CHAPTER TWO — all alone by itself on ms. page 42 of Joey Lafaye, it becomes more or less obvious that the words just are not coming this afternoon. So, I'm sitting here, munching on a slab of vegan carrot bread from Sevananda (the local co-op), and I was looking at some entries on my LJ friend's list, and a few thoughts that have nothing much to do with Joey Lafaye occurred to me. I'm putting this behind a cut, because it is rather longish:



First, courtesy sclerotic_rings, my attention is drawn to a rather dubious enterprise calling itself the Organization for Transformative Works. Now, when they say "transformative works," what they mean is fanfic, but I suppose it seems somehow more dignified if one uses all those extra syllables. Here's a bit from the OTF website, setting forth the group's poorly written and frequently redundant mission statement:

The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms. We believe that fanworks are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate.

The OTW represents a practice of transformative fanwork historically rooted in a primarily female culture. The OTW will preserve the record of that history as we pursue our mission while encouraging new and non-mainstream expressions of cultural identity within fandom.

During the next two years, the OTW will lay the groundwork for a vibrant and creative organization by:

* Establishing the OTW as an IRS-recognized nonprofit organization.
* Creating infrastructure for OTW by establishing a board and creating committees, soliciting membership and donations, forming alliances, and holding elections.
* Encouraging community interaction and input via the OTW's Web site and across the online and offline spaces where fans congregate.
* Designing, programming, and launching an Archive of Our Own, a Web archive to host transformative fanworks.
* Exploring ways to make fanworks as accessible as possible.
* Establishing a legal defense project and forming alliances to defend fanworks from legal challenge.
* Creating a fan wiki to preserve the history of transformative fanworks and the fandoms from which they have arisen.
* Establishing a refereed academic journal to promote scholarship on fanworks and fan practices.
* Developing a long-term plan for the organization.
* Undertaking additional projects relevant to transformative fandom, such as the preservation of fan history and fanworks, building and maintaining infrastructure for use by fans, and sponsoring academic scholarship on fandom.


On the one hand, as I've said in the past, I don't have any particular beef with fanfic — I've written a bit myself — and I'm generally sympathetic so long as the writers involved understand and respect the legal rights of the original creators and do not somehow try to circumvent those rights. Unlike most of the people out there writing fanfic, most of the original creators must rely upon their writing for income. The last Dragon*Con I attended, in September 2004, I actually wound up on a fanfic panel devoted to legal issues, in part because of Nebari.net, and I was generally appalled at the attitudes I heard expressed by the panelists and attendees (most of whom wrote fic). Many of the appalling things that I heard match up pretty closely with the above mission statement of OTW. And in the end, for me, it comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between the artists and society. Legally (and I would say ethically), a novel or short story belongs to the creator, the author/s. In the case of movies, television, and comics, this becomes far more complicated, as most who work in those fields have sold their rights to studios and publishers. Regardless, the laws here are fairly clear (if not always clearly fair): whether or not "fanworks" are legitimate works of literature and graphic art is not the issue. I would argue that they are, and that they are regardless of whether they're good art or bad art, same as with the source material. The issue is copyright and ownership and respect for the original creators. And from that perspective, OTW is horridly misguided in their purported mission. So, in short, I agree with the statement that "fanworks are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate." But this does not necessarily entail agreement with an attempt to found a "a legal defense project and forming alliances to defend fanworks from legal challenge."

And here, before I go farther, read Franklin Harris' (grandmofhelsing) piece on Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and how it relates to the issue at hand. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Okay...here's the thing. There is, for me, no fundamental difference between an author writing characters created by someone else because a publisher is paying them to do it and an author writing characters created by someone else because they simply wish to write it. Artistically, the actions are pretty much the same thing, regardless of how good or bad the resulting fiction turns out. Money absolutely does not bestow artistic legitimacy. Setting aside, for the moment, my having written fanfic for Nebari.net and playing a Time Lord character and a Dune character in Second Life — both of which are clear copyright infringements — let's list some of the cases where I have written what is, in no way except the payment I've received from publishers, different from what non-professional writers of fanfic do. The Dreaming, for example. Almost all of that was derived directly from characters created by Neil Gaiman and other DC/Vertigo authors who came before me. Same for short stories like "Emptiness Spoke Eloquent," "Stoker's Mistress," "The Drowned Geologist" (all three based on Dracula), "The King of Birds" (inspired by James O'Barr's The Crow series), "Giants in the Earth" (based on Michael Moorcock's The Dancers at the End of Time), "Two Worlds, and In Between" (based on George Romero's Night of the Living Dead), and "The Ape's Wife" (based on the original 1933 King Kong). I could go on, but I think this list makes my point. If, as some claim, fanfic is inherently worthless and/or immoral, then all these stories are inherently worthless and immoral. And never even mind all the "borrowing" I've done from poor H. P. Lovecraft.

But, in the end, this is not truly an argument about art. It's an argument about law. And I do not support the sorts of perpetual copyright extensions sought by corporations such as Disney and Paramount. For my part, copyright should protect the writer or artist, not a corporation. If an artist or author wishes, these rights should pass to others (a spouse or children, for example), but only if they make those wishes known and take legal steps to transfer the copyright. Otherwise, so far as I'm concerned, copyright protection should end upon the death of the creator, as a dead author or artist no longer needs the income generated by hisherit's artwork. And there is far more to be gained, artistically, by allowing future generations to play in the sandboxes of deceased artists than there is to be gained from allowing corporations to profit from a monopoly on these works (as we can see by a work such as Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

This really is getting long. I think, to wind it up, what I'm trying to say here is that the proposals being made by OTW are wrongheaded because they exhibit such a flagrant lack of respect for the original creators, a disrespect I heard firsthand at that Dragon*Con panel. It usually comes down to a bizarre assertion that the source material, in whatever medium, actually belongs to the fans who adore it and not the creators whose livelihoods and ability to continue creating is dependent upon income derived from their work. But, on the other hand, I have no moral qualms with fanfic, as long as the fic is a non-profit endeavor and as long as the creators' whose work is being "transformed" are also cool with it being done. I think that moves by corporations and artists to stifle fanfic is almost always as wrongheaded as the mission statement of the OTW. In most cases, fanfic does not devalue art, but promotes it.

The community that creates "fanworks" would be far-better served if an organization like the OTW sought to establish a middle ground with the owners of copyrights, rather than attempting to lay claim to rights that clearly are not (and will never be) their's to claim.

Comments

( 38 comments — Have your say! )
uncledark
Dec. 13th, 2007 10:07 pm (UTC)
Hallo. Love your work, even though the bleakness makes my eyes bleed sometimes. But, on to topic...

What do you make of the culture of fanworks surrounding anime and manga in Japan? There, it is expected that what is "fanfiction" here will be written, published, and sold. In fact, that is how many authors/artist break into the business. It's all part of How Things Work.

Also, the link to Franklin Harris' bit doesn't actually go anywhere.
puppetmaker40
Dec. 13th, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC)
Manga Adaptor/Editor Hat on
It is a bit different there. Clamp started as a fan group that became a studio. A number of people broke in that way but usually with their original rather than their derived stuff. Most of the Manga I have dealt with professionally came out of various studio and houses that may have started with fanzines and the like but rapidly developed their own products which is MUCH more lucrative than working for one of the big manga companies since they might hire you but they own all that you did/do/will do. It is sort of like DC or Marvel or Image hiring someone who has done sample pages of one of their main characters.
uncledark
Dec. 13th, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC)
Re: Manga Adaptor/Editor Hat on
Ah. Thanks for the clarification.
greygirlbeast
Dec. 14th, 2007 01:02 am (UTC)


Also, the link to Franklin Harris' bit doesn't actually go anywhere.

Sorry. The link has been fixed.
puppetmaker40
Dec. 13th, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
YES! Thank you so much for writing this.

I have been a book editor for a number of years currently freelance but formerly for Del Rey where I worked on Star Wars both fiction and non-fiction. I worked with a lot of media tie-ins and other things that were licensed properties that we (being Del Rey) licensed from the authors (if alive) or the estate (if dead but still under copyright). And fans don't see the line that they cross when they go to these sort of length to, for lack of a better term, legitimize fanfic. There is legitimate fanfic and the publishers who publish it pay for the privilege to do so. Just look at your local books store and you will see them.

I feel sorry for some authors for having to deal with this sort of thinking that the fans love for the subject trumps their legal rights. Gawds know I have had to do it enough in my time as has my husband.
greygirlbeast
Dec. 14th, 2007 01:03 am (UTC)

YES! Thank you so much for writing this.

You're welcome.
wolven
Dec. 13th, 2007 10:20 pm (UTC)
Can't read grandmofhelsing's piece, unfortunately.

With the advent of the Creative Commons license many people are seeing the creative process as some kind of mind-meld, hippy-dippy love-fest free-for-all, which is to say that they do not believe that anyone can actually "own" an idea or a character. This is an idea that, while I agree with the principle of the thing, does not work, when extrapolated into practice. I put work into my ideas, you put work into your ideas. While there may be homage, reference, or even blatant thievery involved, from time to time, any respectable creator will do her or his part to make sure that credit is given, where due.

As you said, the key is respect. Respect for the authors, their ideas, and the work that it takes to combine those ideas into something new, something original, and their need to survive off of that process. I think that the line is rather clearly drawn by licensing, such that whomever holds said is able to dispense it to whomever they wish. With the advent of the CC, a creator is basically saying "Use it, but please acknowledge my work." After that, it gets a little complicated, and I still don't fully understand what the limits and rights of the CC license are...

All of this is a rather long-winded way of saying that I agree with you, and wonder how non-sanctioned fanfic authors could ever hope to lay any kind of legal claim to those bodies of ideas...
wolven
Dec. 13th, 2007 10:23 pm (UTC)
Incidentally, what are your thoughts on publishing these short essays, as a form of literary criticism, from an Actual author, rather than someone not going through the process?
greygirlbeast
Dec. 14th, 2007 01:02 am (UTC)

Incidentally, what are your thoughts on publishing these short essays, as a form of literary criticism, from an Actual author, rather than someone not going through the process?

Eh, probably not. I mean, it's all here for free, after all. And half of it I probably won't agree with in a year or so, anyway.
wolven
Dec. 14th, 2007 06:49 am (UTC)
Fair enough, and good point.
sclerotic_rings
Dec. 13th, 2007 11:45 pm (UTC)
A couple of years back, "Edgar Harris" wrote a little diatribe about the Fanfic Writers of the Future based upon precisely that attitude. Specifically, a local Dallas anime convention not noted already for anything other than its "by the fans, for the fans" mentality (which always translated to "Why should we have to pay for anything when we can bully fans into paying for us?"), decided to host a workshop on fanfic. It wasn't on legal issues, or explaining the difference between fair use and blatant violation of copyright, or even "how to write fanfic that doesn't suck". This whole workshop was intended to "hone your fanfic skills" so as to encourage the amateurs to go pro.

Yeah, I had the same response: if the "encourage the amateurs to go pro" push was for fanfic writers to expand their range into original works, it wasn't allowed at this workshop. Instead, the idea was that somehow, if you cranked out enough fanfic and it was that good, this would somehow allow you to write it professionally. At first, I thought the idea was akin to the computer crackers who break into corporate databases in the hopes of getting hired to work for the company's computer security department, which was reprehensible enough. No, the idea among the participants was that this was to hone their skills so they could write their own fanfic and publish it.

The worst part of this little fantasy is that nobody's willing to pay for short fanfic, and it's harder and harder to get readers to buy fully authorized fanfic novels. If it were possible, wouldn't the Wizards of the Coast revival of Amazing Stories back in '99, where WotC negotiated with any number of copyright holders to publish authorized and royalty-paid fanfic, still be around?
greygirlbeast
Dec. 14th, 2007 01:00 am (UTC)

Yeah, I had the same response: if the "encourage the amateurs to go pro" push was for fanfic writers to expand their range into original works, it wasn't allowed at this workshop. Instead, the idea was that somehow, if you cranked out enough fanfic and it was that good, this would somehow allow you to write it professionally. At first, I thought the idea was akin to the computer crackers who break into corporate databases in the hopes of getting hired to work for the company's computer security department, which was reprehensible enough. No, the idea among the participants was that this was to hone their skills so they could write their own fanfic and publish it.

Despite my own professional fanfic work, I have never understood the dogged refusal of good fanfic writers who are not paid professionals (and I have read a few) to even attempt to create their own material, their own characters.
robyn_ma
Dec. 14th, 2007 12:25 am (UTC)
Y'know, I'd never thought of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and Lost Girls, too) as fanfic before. But, when you get down to it? It's essentially the classiest fanfic ever.
greygirlbeast
Dec. 14th, 2007 12:45 am (UTC)

It's essentially the classiest fanfic ever.

I am inclined to agree.
robyn_ma
Dec. 14th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
Actually, Lost Girls is probably the classiest slashfic ever.

I say 'probably' because I haven't yet been able to shake loose $75 for slashfic. I have seen chapters of it in Taboo, though, aaaand was not spending-75-simoleons impressed.
awdrey_gore
Dec. 14th, 2007 12:35 am (UTC)
It usually comes down to a bizarre assertion that the source material, in whatever medium, actually belongs to the fans who adore it...

I recently read Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing our Culture, and while it was filled with some alarmist bullshit, he had some valid arguments. One may explain where this bizarre assertion originates.

According to Keen, part of this attitude is caused because the information "gatekeepers" have changed with technology. These are days when anyone can self-publish a book with PublishAmerica (and I am not indicting self-publishing though I see its problems) and expect it to have the weight of a book that has been vetted by the slushpile process and worked on by editors. The editors of Wired Magazine are urging readers to "index" books online, mixing Faulkner with Atwood with Piers Anthony with random bits of information from People Magazine to create a text that, to them, is every bit as valid and culturally relevant as the parts from which it was cannibalized. When people can publish just about anything they want on a website, it can rob traditional publishing of some legitimacy. When so many people want to be a part of the creation of new(ish) content and offer it for free, copyright seems elitist to those engaged in such activities. In such an environment, is it any wonder those who write fan fiction are concerned about their legal rights?

Interesting times...
greygirlbeast
Dec. 14th, 2007 12:58 am (UTC)

When so many people want to be a part of the creation of new(ish) content and offer it for free, copyright seems elitist to those engaged in such activities. In such an environment, is it any wonder those who write fan fiction are concerned about their legal rights?

Well, the truth is, unless what they're doing has been authorized by the copyright holder, they have no legal rights to worry about. When I have undertaken unauthorized fanfic (like the work on Nebari.net), I have always understood that if the copyright/trademark holders should object, that I would have to take the writing and artwork down, for legal reasons and out of respect for the creators.

I just don't get the inability by some people to respect the wishes of the creator of the thing they admire. My brain does a sort of disconnect there. If I ever found out that my Nebari stuff had offended the Hensons or Rockne O'Bannon or another of the series' creators, I would not hesitate to take the it down.
awdrey_gore
Dec. 14th, 2007 03:24 am (UTC)
You know, I wonder about that, too. I wonder if those who refuse to take down fan fiction are embarrassed and feel like they have lost face and need to shore up their egos by refusing. I think all those recitations of "fair use" (which are always inaccurate) and similar are just anger at what they see as rejection.

But it is odd. Why would they antagonize the author who inspired them? Human nature is bizarre and people are so prickly. I think that has to be it. Surely Keen cannot be right and it all boils down to complete ignorance of or contempt towards copyright law.
grandmofhelsing
Dec. 14th, 2007 01:14 am (UTC)
For everyone trying to get to my LJ, it's friends-locked (sorry, work-related issues are behind that), but I'll friend anyone who asks. Otherwise, the piece in question is also here: http://www.decaturdaily.com/stories/1479.html

And it's also posted to my MySpace page, which is my "public" web site and isn't friends only:
http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=18428382&blogID=337766098
robyn_ma
Dec. 14th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
'I'll friend anyone who asks'

Slut.
grandmofhelsing
Dec. 14th, 2007 02:01 am (UTC)
I only share water as widely as possible so that everyone may grok.
reverendcrofoot
Dec. 14th, 2007 01:25 am (UTC)
>It usually comes down to a bizarre assertion that the source material, in >whatever medium, actually belongs to the fans who adore it and not the creators >whose livelihoods and ability to continue creating is dependent upon income >derived from their work.

But without fans there is no livelyhood to be had and why would fanfic take away from a real authors livelyhood. I mean, if everything's been done, then what I am paying the author for is their voice, their way of telling it. I'll pay Caitlin cash on a barrel head to tell a Dancy story over some Betsy McRottenpants any day.

I say fuck it,(pardon my language) but isn't writing is all about stealing. I've been told time and time again that there are no new stories, nothing new under the sun, so isn't every writer essentially writing fanfic, stealing the livelyhood of some other author just a few are just better at it then others.


(point made. Begin Aside.)
Now I don't condone plundering another writer's written word but it sometimes happens. I always question myself when I write something I think is above me. Where did I get it from? I'll say.

I do this now because once I wrote this line, He moved with a quickness hitherto unseen. I was pretty happy because I got to use the word hitherto. Then one day rereading The Drawing of Three, I came upon this line-> "The clawed creature moved with a speed which its previous movements had not even hinted." I realized that was where I'd gotten my line from.
greygirlbeast
Dec. 14th, 2007 01:36 am (UTC)

I've been told time and time again that there are no new stories, nothing new under the sun, so isn't every writer essentially writing fanfic, stealing the livelyhood of some other author just a few are just better at it then others.

In the most general sense, yes, I believe this is true.

But without fans there is no livelyhood to be had and why would fanfic take away from a real authors livelyhood.

Again, generally speaking, it doesn't.
sharonafyre
Dec. 14th, 2007 01:38 am (UTC)
Hey, did you post on Beowulf the film? I just saw it and loved it.

orangegummi
Dec. 14th, 2007 04:34 am (UTC)
I used to frequent the Buffy/Firefly fandom (I hate that word) sites, and there is a definite sense of ownership among Joss Whedon's fans. People are always shocked when studios close down their online stores that sell high quantities of unofficial, unlicensed Firefly merchandise. It's a clear instance of someone making money off of something they don't own. I guess they feel that their devotion is the only reason Serenity was made, so they somehow have more right than the guy who wrote it or the studio who financed it? It's a very foreign mindset to me, and it's part of the reason I had to stop visiting those sites. I think the fanfic panel you were at would have driven me mad.
greygirlbeast
Dec. 14th, 2007 06:13 am (UTC)

I think the fanfic panel you were at would have driven me mad.

It merely irritated me.
tripodella
Dec. 14th, 2007 05:04 am (UTC)
Oh my God. Oh. My. God. I agree with every word you wrote, and you put it much, much better than I ever could have. Thank you!!!
heron61
Dec. 14th, 2007 06:33 am (UTC)
As a professional author (of tabletop RPGs), a fan of various media, and on a very few occasions, a writer of fanfiction, my perspective is a bit different. I fully agree that the idea that fanfiction authors have any ownership of the original work or the universe is both ludicrous and wrong and that any expectation that writing fanfiction can in any way lead to paid work in the same universe is silly to the point of being delusional - it's a good way to improve writing skills, but that is the only way it can help one make money writing.

However, for me, money is the key. A fanfiction author has not the slightest right to either make any money off of their work or to do anything to impair the ability of the author to make money off of their work. However, as long as a fanfiction is written with the appropriate disclaimers, no attempt is made to make money off of the fanfiction, and absolutely no plagiarism is involved I'm rather suspicious of the idea that authors or (especially) corporations can forbid someone from writing in their universe or with their characters. In addition to the obviously impossibility of policing on-line archives only available to a limited number of people, or for that matter even finding all publicly available fanfiction, from my own PoV, the rights of the author obviously include prohibiting both plagiarism and anyone making money off of their characters or setting, even if direct plagiarism is not involved, but authors should not have the right to forbid non-monetary use of their characters and settings if no plagiarism is involved. Of course, this is most definitely an issue the is both contentious and complex and so I also recognize that mine is far from the only valid opinion.
tripodella
Dec. 14th, 2007 12:50 pm (UTC)
Actually, I don't think it is complex. The work belongs to the original creator. Period. It doesn't matter whether a fan fic writer attempts to make money off their derivative stories or not. It's the attitude of ownership of fan fic writers that bothers me.

Yes, it's impossible to police the Internet and delete all instances of plagiarism. But if a writer chose to do that, that would be her/his right.

Indeed, there are even writers in fan fiction who go on to professional writing lives by being hired to write Star Trek novels or whatever. I've seen it happen. The difference is, the corporation or the creator that hires a fan fic writer chooses that writer to write in their created universe, not the other way around. That's the right of the creator (and the corporations who own copyright, like it or not.) The owner of the copyright has the right to exercise control over who gets to play in their sandbox, should s/he/they choose to exercise that control.

My main concern with fan fiction is the proprietary notion that, once a work is in the public eye, that somehow it belongs to the fans and not to the creator. Legally, this isn't true. And to me, there are no other arguments.
stsisyphus
Dec. 14th, 2007 04:27 pm (UTC)
Taking a look at this, I can be fairly sympathetic to most of what the OTW is saying here, although I don't exactly have a history of writing fanfic or even authorized works derived from original material (e.g. Star Trek/Wars, The Crow, or even Nightmare on Elm Street & Friday the 13th [yes, I would like to see faustfatale weigh in on this]), I do have experience reading over mission statements for low-to-moderately organized non-profit organizations. (Aside: this one reads about as well as any NPO that's in its first five years, and has likely been written down on a few pieces of scrap paper in someone's dining room. But whatever.)

Here are the three central issues I have with this mission statement:

* Establishing a legal defense project and forming alliances to defend fanworks from legal challenge.

Everyone who posted here is legally correct, there is precious little defense against copyright infringement when fanworks attempt to usurp or divert income or other dividends from the creators of an original work. No big deal there. Here's what I'm reading into this, and it depends on assuming that the person who wrote this was not being exact enough or was somehow integrating the fanwork product as indistinguishable from the fan-author.

What I infer from this goal is that the OTW actually wishes to establish a legal defense project to defend fan-authors from legal challenge and prosecution (somewhat like the CBLDF) . Like it or not, American culture and business culture has become obsessively litigitous. And while the RIAA suits remains still very clear and present in the minds of people looking for free exchange of information (a philosophy which fanfic ascribes to almost by definition), it is not unreasonable to assume that an advocacy group would wish to provide at least some kind of legal protection for their chosen constituency. In that regard, I support the OTW's decision to form a legal defense project - to defend and possibly rebuff harassing and maliciously-severe litigation & penalties against citizens who see themselves as hobbyists unjustly pursued by exploitative corporations.

(Yes, I know that they would be justly pursued for the copyright infringement, but I think it would be naive to suggest that large damages against a private individual are a "fair" response to their actions)

As for the rest of it:

* Creating a fan wiki to preserve the history of transformative fanworks and the fandoms from which they have arisen.

This actually sounds interesting as an archive of the history of fan fiction, although I might think that there's probably been quite a bit already written on it from a scholastic perspective.

* Establishing a refereed academic journal to promote scholarship on fanworks and fan practices.

This is getting a bit out of hand, however. I think one might want to prove that there is enough academic writing on the subject of fan fiction as to support a quarterly journal on the subject. I might suggest that they pursue a series of refereed articles to an established journal (such as, perhaps, the Journal of Popular Culture?)
tripodella
Dec. 17th, 2007 11:21 am (UTC)
Legal challenge and prosecution from whom? This is NOT about our society being overly litigious.

The truth is, whether or not fan fiction diverts income from an artist, fan fiction writers don't have legal permission to do what they do. (Although some creators give it implicitly through their permissive attitudes.) However, if a creator of original material decided that fan fiction is harmful to his/her work, they would have every right to ask that fan fiction be removed from a public forum.

The belief that somehow fan fiction writers somehow "own" someone else's work because they love it (or hate it) not only shows a disconnect with reality, but shows a blatant lack of respect for the work (and the creator) they profess to love so much. Artists (of all kinds) have enough problems protecting their rights and income without having to do so from the very people who profess to love them.
stsisyphus
Dec. 17th, 2007 04:23 pm (UTC)
Okay, okay, hold on here. We're having our own disconnect here. Please note my disclaimer early in the comment:

Everyone who posted here is legally correct, there is precious little defense against copyright infringement when fanworks attempt to usurp or divert income or other dividends from the creators of an original work.

What I'm saying is that it's nice to see that someone might be interested in setting up a legal defense network to defend the writing of fanfic at all - not defending the profiteering from someone else's intellectual property (although said service would probably be used for that to - albeit to little effect, I'm sure). I rather don't trust publishers and corporations to not apply undue leverage against private individuals practicing a hobby, rather than (or in addition to) those who are using said "hobby" as a business or avenue of income. I think it's not too paranoid to suggest that the smallest folks get stepped on first. Thusly my comparison to the RIAA suits.

Looking back at my comment, I don't think that I was clear that the legal defense would be valuable to those who chose to write fanfic or even possibly the fanfic work itself - rather than intellectual-piracy-for-profit.
tripodella
Dec. 17th, 2007 04:56 pm (UTC)
Gotcha.
docbrite
Dec. 16th, 2007 02:10 am (UTC)
I know this is the time of year when the dictionaries are announcing the new words they'll be listing, definitions they'll be expanding, etc., but I must have missed the announcement that "transformation" is now a synonym for "plagiarism."
sclerotic_rings
Dec. 17th, 2007 02:22 pm (UTC)
Respectfully, I have to disagree. "Transformation" isn't now a synonym for "plagiarism": it's a synonym for "half-assed plagiarism with a side order of entitlement and denial and a big heaping scoop of temper tantrum." I'm just waiting for the day some Cat Piss Man decides to sue a creator because the CPM's fanfic is somehow more "canon" than the creator's work and therefore must be acknowledged.
anextropian
Dec. 17th, 2007 02:04 am (UTC)
That the originator "owns" ideas in the first place...
Is inherently ridiculous. Whereas a work itself is the expression of the individual, the elements within it like characters and whatnot do not and should not belong to the author. The original work does belong to it, but not the characters and everything else within it. Characters etc. are merely thoughts, and people have not the right to have any monopoly of thoughts over others. In addition, sometimes, I would have no respect for the originators whatsoever. Fanfiction is not only a tribute to the original author, but also does other things, like spite the original author. If it were a tribute, then the original author could be respected, but it is not always a tribute.
tripodella
Dec. 17th, 2007 01:10 pm (UTC)
Re: That the originator "owns" ideas in the first place...
anextropian, U.S. copyright law states otherwise. Once a creator of an original work gets his or her idea into tangible form, it is no longer merely a thought- as you claim - but a work that is protected. That's a fact you can look up yourself at www.copyright.gov. And if you think I'm being anal by continually referring to copyright law, let me say this: Those laws exist, thank god, to protect creators from people like you. You wouldn't ask for permission even if you WERE going to try to make money off of it.

If you think that's an untrue statement, let me add that you've already admitted this by stating that the idea "that the originator 'owns' ideas in the first place is inherently ridiculous." There's a huge difference between using old ideas in new and original ways . . . and doing what YOU do. You've admitted you're willing to steal someone else's ideas for your own benefit, and justify doing so by pretending copyright doesn't exist. In other words, you've admitted to being a hack and possibly an artistic parasite. Ironically, in your case, I suspect creators would be protected even without copyright law, because you could never hope to make money off of their ideas, even if you wanted to.

Lest you think I'm slamming fan fiction as an art, I'll say that certainly not all fan fiction writers have this attitude. Many - perhaps even most - write fan fiction because they truly love the original work they're writing about. For this reason, I can see why so many pro writers (and other creators) are permissive regarding fandom. And there are cases where fan fiction writers go on to become professional writers in their own right. No doubt fan fiction has its virtues. But attitudes such as yours - where you think something is yours just because you want it - are not one of them. The fact is, fan fiction writers don't have legal permission to do what their doing. And that's really all I wish fan fiction writers would acknowledge.
icarusancalion
Dec. 31st, 2007 09:24 pm (UTC)
I read through the mission statement, and I don't see where it says that fanfic writers own the copyright to other people's works. I did see this:

* Establishing a legal defense project and forming alliances to defend fanworks from legal challenge.

Is that the concern? The fact that a legal claim -- say a Cease & Desist letter -- would no longer be sent to a hobbyist, but to an entire organization?

This started with FanLib last summer. FanLib set up their archive aiming to be the newer, better fanfiction.net, to rake in profits from ad revenue and tie-in contests with fanfic-writing kids producing free content based on other authors' works. A skeevy business plan from all sides.

Fanfic writers panicked at the high profile of FanLib, its (originally) aggressive TOS, and exploitative intent. FanLib was "using fanfiction for profit" while shunting the legal risks to the writers. It was thought to be painting a large red target on fanfiction.

OTW began as the Fan Archive, creating a new fanfiction archive to compete with FanLib, along with a nonprofit organization to protect fanfiction from the problems any such for-profit archives would create. Under the surface was the fanfiction writers' distaste at FanLib's disregard for the fanfiction "prime directive": Thou Shalt Not Profit On Other Authors' Work.

Now the positions have shifted.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but everyone seems to assume (and by everyone, I mean OTW, original fiction writers, and possibly yourself) that fanfiction continues because writers such as, say, J. K. Rowling choose to ignore it.

OTW seems to assume that once fanfiction is noticed through being exploited for profit by groups like FanLib, we will see an inevitable legal case because fanfiction will have then crossed into for-profit territory.

Original writers seem to assume something slightly different, that so long as fanfiction writers make no claims to the rights to stories that use other authors' characters, authors are willing to ignore fanfic. But once OTW and fanfic writers claim rights -- whether profits are involved or not -- to their fanfiction stories, authors will no longer choose to ignore fanfic and will seek to end it.

Do I have the positions right?

If I have this right, then do original writers have more objection to OTW's intent to protect fanfiction than they do to FanLib's intent to profit off of it?

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