Monday, April 24, 2006

Speaking of Copyright Law...

Last week, I posted about a particular case of copyright shenanigans in which an author's estate's wishes weren't followed. Toward the end of last week, Lee Goldberg once again alerted me to a case of copyright infringement. That's right, ladies and gentlemen. Someone has written a piece of Star Wars fanfiction, published it without permission from the copyright holders, and is selling it on-line.

For those of you who don't know (*waves at family members reading the blog for Drew pics*), fanfiction is a genre of fiction in which a writer takes an established fictional universe or cast of characters or whatnot and writes their own story using those established entities. It's a fairly big underground thing that a lot of pubbed authors have spoken out against because they claim it violates their copyrights. The fanficcers have a broad spectrum of counter-arguments, none of which I know well enough to even summarize. In general, I don't have an opinion either way, though I'm sure that will change once I have a published fictional universe with copyrights to protect. I've seen a fair number of idiots and frothing at the mouth sorts on both sides of the aisle. There may be a body of case law to reference for fanfiction in particular, but the only case that comes to mind is the much-quoted Marion Zimmer Bradley Darkover incident, in which the fanficcer let MZB read her piece, and then sued MZB because a later Darkover novel (which never did get published) had similar elements to the fanfic piece. I can't remember if the suit was successful or MZB's publisher decided not to go through the legal mess and just pulled the novel from publication. Suffice to say, things got ugly there and they often get ugly in this debate.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has a good summary of this particular FUBARed episode, including links to the cached views of the author's now-pulled website. Most of the blogging response if focusing on this author's insanely stupid reasoning as to why she's not violating copyright laws here (and for the best blow-by-blow smackdown of this, check out Scalzi's post). This rated a rolling of the eyes and a head shake from me last week when I read it (and was in the middle of much work at the DDJ), but I actually had time today to go to the now-cached website, and I found this amazing morsel in a review of Another Hope:
In the remarkable genre of apocryphal Star Wars mythology comes Lori Jareo’s Another Hope. Mixing familiar moments from Lucas’s first Star Wars film with a mass of new story material, Jareo gives us an alternative history of what happened on Tatooine, Alderaan and the Death Star based more soundly on the now-complete three prequel episodes.

My eyebrows shot up at genre of apoycryphal Star Wars mythology. Talk about niche. But my favorite was the sentiment that this piece of fanfiction is based more soundly [than the original SW film "A New Hope"] on the prequel trilogy. Until this point, I'd had to take anti-fanfic vocals' word that fanficcers actually believe they know the characters/stories/universe better than the actual creators, but now I see it for myself and just am absolutely stunned.

But, on the other hand, assuming this author doesn't get the pants that house her amazing cajones sued off of her, I can take this as precedent to publish my "Deal or No Deal" fanfic in which it is revealed that The Banker is really Howie Mandel's long-suffering alternate persona and NBC, having realized this after the first episode, is now working with several mental health programs to get Howie help, and the models are all robots that Howie built while working through a third personality break after "St. Elsewhere." (Well, if you were a part of a six-year long show that ended with a variant on the horrid "it was all a dream" cliche, wouldn't you have a schism too?) Really, this is the best work of fiction I've ever written and ever will write, but it won't be violating copyright laws when I publish it on Amazon because I won't be earning anything from it (all profits will be donated to the "Save Howie's Psyche Now" fund) and only ya'll will know about it don't pass this link on or else I'll get in hella trouble with some lawyer types.



Dave said...

*waves back*

Andi said...

I don't have a complaint with fanfic; after all, I write some myself (complete with introductory reminders that I don't own the characters/world/etc., listing who properly does). I think it's a form of flattery, really, and it wouldn't bother me if someone decided to write fanfic in any of my worlds - provided they gave me proper credit and they never tried to sell it (I wouldn't read any of it, more than likely - I'd probably get irritated at what they'd done to my precious work ^-*).

I think that's where THIS case violates all sense: she SOLD it. Fanfic is supposed to be free, because you DON'T own the right to sell it. It's something done for fun, not profit. You're supposed to write it for yourself, not to impress the original author with your ideas or writing, and certainly not to make a profit. Anyone who's writing fanfic for any other reason than fun needs to stop before they start. This woman is an idiot - a complete idiot, without a reasonable excuse. You don't sell someone else's work; that's foolish.

To do so with a universe as strong as Star Wars...yeah, this woman doesn't have a single brain cell.

Kellie said...

Primarily, I don't understand fanfic. If I see something I like in a show or movie or book or if I see something that has a promise that wasn't fulfilled, I find a way to work it into my own ideas. I've got at least four distinct universes floating around in my head with a myriad of stories to tell in each. I'd much rather play there than anywhere else. And I like my shows and books and movies to be the domain of someone else telling me about that universe, even if I don't always like where they go or think they could look closer at other elements. That's part of what makes that stuff fun for me: seeing what someone else does playing in a universe. This doesn't mean I don't like fanfic or think it should all be outlawed. I just plain don't get it.

But you're right. This chick is an idiot. And Amazon is revealing their stuipidity as well as they still have not yet pulled the book from their site.