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Old 10-18-2019, 11:53 AM   #196
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You raise some really interesting points, Alanon! I haven't thought about comparing fanfic to nonfiction approaches to engaging with a work, but now that you point it out, I agree that there are lots of similarities, and that the differences in how we treat them don't make sense.

I'll try applying this to the concrete examples mentioned here:

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Originally Posted by leebase View Post
What if....Donald Trump (or if you like him, pick someone you despise) decided to use your characters, your universe, to promote his campaign?

What if a pro-abortion group...or an anti abortion advocate....used your work to promote their agenda?

What if someone made your characters "gay" in a gay advocacy way? Or....did the opposite...but your characters and universe into a morality play against homosexuality?
I can write an article arguing that, given their actions in the books, Harry Potter would endorse my preferred political candidate or cause, and Voldemort would support the opponent using dishonest Facebook ads and political violence. And I can write a fanfic where this happens. Morally, these seem equivalent, and in my opinion, both are OK. (Of course, if Rowling disagrees, she might answer publicly, so it might be a risky thing to do.)

Interestingly enough, if I switch medium, and imagine a billboard or a TV spot with the same message, it feels iffy, regardless of whether I use the "argument based on analysis of the text" or "fanfic" approach. I'm not sure why. Intellectually, the medium shouldn't affect the morals of using a fictional character this way, but my gut feeling disagrees.

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Or....simply....what is you had plans and story ideas in your mind that you hadn't written yet, and someone else writes fan fic that gets popular enough that YOUR story plans are no longer compatible?
I'm sure this is unpleasant for the author. I'm thinking of that time fans got so angry about Arthur Conan Doyle killing off Sherlock Holmes that he felt pressured to revive him. And when fans complained about the lack of LGBT+ representation in the Harry Potter books, and Rowling responded by declaring that Dumbledore was secretly gay and had a thing with Grindelwald in his youth, it just never appears in the books or films. And the "Team Jacob" and "Team Edward" stuff, where some fans had strong feelings about who Bella should end up with in Twilight, and no matter what Meyer chose, she'd disappoint a significant part of her fanbase. And the fan campaigns "Give Captain America a boyfriend" and "Give Elsa a girlfriend", where the creators decided to (presumably) ignore the campaigns and go with their original plans for the characters.

Another example: Many fans were disappointed with the ending of the Marvel film "Endgame". I've seen articles arguing that 1) key characters acted in ways that were inconsistent with how they have been portrayed in earlier films, 2) it's bad storytelling because long story arcs were disrupted, 3) it's problematic in (among other things) the ways that it treated female characters. I've also seen a lot of fanfic rewriting the ending in different ways to deal with these objections, for instance revealing that a key character had been replaced with a shapeshifter, and the other characters in the story going "Oh, that explains why he was acting so uncharacteristically". Again, to me these seem morally equivalent, and completely OK.

And sure, the creators probably disagree with the criticism, and might feel that the proposed changes would completely destroy everything they were aiming for artistically. *shrug* Tough luck. I hope noone would advocate that literary criticism should be censored to protect the feelings of authors, and I fail to see how this is different.

If you write something that becomes popular, a lot of people will engage with it -- not just by reading, but also by thinking about your work, discussing it, criticising it, dressing up like characters from it, and having feelings about it. Some of that engagement may push a story in a direction the author doesn't want it to go, or interpret it in ways that the author dislikes. I get that this can be stressful. But I don't see that engagement can -- or should -- be avoided (unless it descends into harassment, that is of course never OK).

When we're talking about the public engaging with works of art, and how that impacts creators of art, I don't see that writing fanfic is morally different from writing a review, writing a an article, or creating a #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend-hashtag. If an author demanded that no reviewers should criticise how they handled LGBT+ issues in their work, we'd rightly laugh at them. I'd view an author who demanded that noone write gay fanfic of their work the same way.

But even while I argue - at length - that fanfic is morally equal to other engagement, I find that I'm not completely consistent, because I still feel that fanfic is only OK if it's noncommerical.

OK to do for profit, IMHO:Not OK to do for profit, IMHO:
  • Publish a fanfic of a work that's under copyright
I'm not sure I can defend the difference, though.
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Old 10-18-2019, 12:54 PM   #197
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Originally Posted by tubemonkey View Post
How many characters are there in the universe?

How many authors can use a philosopher's stone in their stories?
If one were to go by the rules assumed, no authors can use a philosopher's stone since it was copyrighted by the first person to write about it. How many writers call character Hobbits rather than Halflings?
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:01 PM   #198
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Originally Posted by leebase View Post
There behavior would have changed. And we aren't talking about legends from the mist of time where nobody knows who created them.

If you write about Harry Potter....you are infringing on JK Rowling's copyright. And yet...people are STILL able to create endless wizard school books (and have)
You can't have it both ways. Intellectually, it's the exact same thing, but you are just ducking the question because it's an issue you want to dismiss with a wave of the hand. I've already pointed out how some authors have extracted money via suits because another work was kind of, sort of like their story. This is the problem with drawing the line. When enough money is on the table, people are going to push the envelop.
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Old Yesterday, 02:41 AM   #199
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Originally Posted by pwalker8 View Post
You can't have it both ways. Intellectually, it's the exact same thing, but you are just ducking the question because it's an issue you want to dismiss with a wave of the hand. I've already pointed out how some authors have extracted money via suits because another work was kind of, sort of like their story. This is the problem with drawing the line. When enough money is on the table, people are going to push the envelop.
What's to ignore. There WAS a time before copyright. People copied freely. There has been a time of copyright. People can no longer copy freely.

Every prediction of what doom should occur because of "endless copyright" should ALREADY be visible. Already you can't copy pretty much anything anyone currently wants to. I sincerely doubt the "Count of Monte Cristo Fan Fic" is anything like the Harry Potter or Star Wars or Twilight Fan fic. Of course, since the Count of Monte Cristo is in the public domain it wouldn't be fan fic.

What we DO have now that we didn't before is a whole class of professional authors who get paid....not by Kings and Queens or other wealthy patrons...but by the public who buy their works. We have so much more content being created than in days prior to copyright.

So one dude sues the Terminator movie production company and the company pays. Terminator is still made. Other "AI controlled machines take over the world" books and movies are created by the truck loads.

People who want to specifically work in another author's universe, with another author's characters....need to acquire rights to do so from the rights holder. But nobody HAS to write fiction based on another author's work. That's a choice.

Fan fic exists even though -- it violates copyright. Most rights holders don't do anything about it. Some actually encourage it. So even "fan fic" isn't squelched by copyright.

With copyright, intellectual property has been monetized and because of that we have SUPPLY. The SUPPLY itself is the public good.
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Old Yesterday, 02:46 AM   #200
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leebase View Post
With copyright, intellectual property has been monetized and because of that we have SUPPLY. The SUPPLY itself is the public good.
Again, no-one here (I think) is arguing that copyright should not exist. The question is how long copyright should last.

And the answer for me is that it should last just long enough to ensure the continuing supply of intellectual property, and no longer.

There are costs to society in enforcing copyright. Society bears those costs because of the benefits to society of rewarding the creators.

Is any creator of intellectual property going to produce more or better work because it will still be in copyright for 70 years after they die instead of just 50 years?
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Old Yesterday, 03:02 AM   #201
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Society has the stories available for purchase. That's the good. Why should there ever be a time when society takes possession of the rights holder's intellectual property any more than any other type of property? Why shouldn't the heirs of the author inherit the value like every other type of property....subject to the same taxes as any other property?

Fiction is not like medicine or mechanical contrivances where there is only SO MANY ways to accomplish a task.

If 70 years after JK Rowling dies....anybody is still interested in writing Harry Potter fan fic it will be because some corporation is continuing to invest money into the Harry Potter franchise keeping it in demand. Such a corporation is owed the fruits of it's labor.

I've already agreed that truly orphaned works should fall into the public domain rather than disappear due to copyright.

But then....nobody is going to care that orphaned works are in the public domain. If people cared, they wouldn't be orphaned works in the first place. (care in enough quantity to matter).

The real desire is as always "gimme gimme gimme". People want books they don't have to pay for. People want to leach off the name recognition of characters they didn't create. Gimme gimme.

Every fairy tail that Disney ever borrowed from is still available to everyone else. You can't borrow from Disney's version, but you can do exactly what Disney did. If you are talented enough.

We are in a better world with Disney continuing to control Disney property. It's what Disney continues to do that makes Disney characters worth copying. Nobody would care one whit to copy Steam Boat Willie....if Micky Mouse weren't STILL being invested in by the millions and millions - by Disney.
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Old Yesterday, 04:37 AM   #202
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leebase View Post
Society has the stories available for purchase. That's the good. Why should there ever be a time when society takes possession of the rights holder's intellectual property any more than any other type of property? Why shouldn't the heirs of the author inherit the value like every other type of property....subject to the same taxes as any other property?

Fiction is not like medicine or mechanical contrivances where there is only SO MANY ways to accomplish a task.

If 70 years after JK Rowling dies....anybody is still interested in writing Harry Potter fan fic it will be because some corporation is continuing to invest money into the Harry Potter franchise keeping it in demand. Such a corporation is owed the fruits of it's labor.

I've already agreed that truly orphaned works should fall into the public domain rather than disappear due to copyright.

But then....nobody is going to care that orphaned works are in the public domain. If people cared, they wouldn't be orphaned works in the first place. (care in enough quantity to matter).

The real desire is as always "gimme gimme gimme". People want books they don't have to pay for. People want to leach off the name recognition of characters they didn't create. Gimme gimme.

Every fairy tail that Disney ever borrowed from is still available to everyone else. You can't borrow from Disney's version, but you can do exactly what Disney did. If you are talented enough.

We are in a better world with Disney continuing to control Disney property. It's what Disney continues to do that makes Disney characters worth copying. Nobody would care one whit to copy Steam Boat Willie....if Micky Mouse weren't STILL being invested in by the millions and millions - by Disney.
A large part of the issue is that you keep insisting that any disagreement with you is due to people wanting something for nothing. You also continue to confuse the protection of Mickey Mouse (trademark) with copyright.

To answer your question of why aren't we seeing the problems, the answer is three fold. First, to a great extent, I think that we are seeing it in the movie industry. Movie projects tied up for years in court battles over who has the rights to what. So many big projects are franchises (Marvel Comics, Star Wars, Batman) or remakes. I think that a large part of why we don't see it as much in the book industry is that very few books make enough money to be worth trying to go after. We do see it in some of the big name books such as Sherlock Hoimes, which I've already used as an example.

The second reason is that in the book industry, much like the music industry, most authors are willing to turn a blind eye to what is likely technical copyright violations such as fanfic for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it just isn't worth the effort. There is no money to be had.

Last is that very few books (and I'm going to focus on books) have that sort of cultural impact and it takes time for such an impact to develop. Look at the whole book industry around Sherlock Holmes and Conan, just to give a couple examples. The flip side of that, is that we haven't seen that sort of thing develop around the big cultural impact books that are still under copyright protection (LOTR and Harry Potter, for example). There has been relatively few knock offs of either work. I can think of a couple commercial works that were likely knock offs of LOTR and none of Harry Potter. Are there wizard school books? A few, but really not that many and certainly not the flood that I expected. Both the Tolkien estate and Rowlings are well known for protecting their properties.
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Old Yesterday, 05:38 AM   #203
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Aside from what pwalker8 has stated above, I would add another argument, and that is that your economic premise is based on a fair amount of untenable idealism.

What you seem to believe is that compensation is due to original creators or their heirs in every case of borrowing/influence, use of their intellectual property, which is a noble enough principle. Except that corporations can purchase, gobble up and claim exclusive rights to creative works they had no input in creating, and eternal copyright would make this a living nightmare. And what with the current tendency of granting corporations individual liberties, that is just asking for trouble. Sure, it sounds fair and neat when John Doe asserts his moral and creative rights to ensure his kids and grand-kids will want for nothing, but if we're to assert your principle of property to the fullest, why shouldn't J.P. Morgan buy John's rights outright when he retires, in perpetuity, and proceed to pummel everyone to assert its rights? As long as the transaction is voluntary, your premise would seem to insist that it should occur. But do the consequences seem remotely fair to you, or in the spirit of your original intent?

A legal entity like an author's estate has an economic incentive to be vigorous in safeguarding its rights, even if the claims are untrue. So what we'd get in practice is a bunch of wealthy impactful estates suing (often frivolously) smaller or mid-tier authors in order to assert their rights, just in case they might milk some more money out of them if the work becomes popular. We see such nuisance claims everywhere, and they work very well. And before anyone says "the legal system will separate between what's frivolous and what's not" that's where the second prong of idealism sets in. Western courts are biased towards corporate interests, and much of the laws are written through lobbyists. What perpetual copyright would engender is a new industry of purchasing and trading with copyrights. Authors would simply cease to take risks out of fear of litigation, financial ruin or jail time, if proven guilty. Why would anyone try and make a creative industry into something resembling a real-estate market, with unhinged price fluctuations that caused Americans unable to afford a home in 70% of their country?
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Old Yesterday, 07:49 AM   #204
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Aside from what pwalker8 has stated above, I would add another argument, and that is that your economic premise is based on a fair amount of untenable idealism.

What you seem to believe is that compensation is due to original creators or their heirs in every case of borrowing/influence, use of their intellectual property, which is a noble enough principle. Except that corporations can purchase, gobble up and claim exclusive rights to creative works they had no input in creating, and eternal copyright would make this a living nightmare. And what with the current tendency of granting corporations individual liberties, that is just asking for trouble. Sure, it sounds fair and neat when John Doe asserts his moral and creative rights to ensure his kids and grand-kids will want for nothing, but if we're to assert your principle of property to the fullest, why shouldn't J.P. Morgan buy John's rights outright when he retires, in perpetuity, and proceed to pummel everyone to assert its rights? As long as the transaction is voluntary, your premise would seem to insist that it should occur. But do the consequences seem remotely fair to you, or in the spirit of your original intent?

A legal entity like an author's estate has an economic incentive to be vigorous in safeguarding its rights, even if the claims are untrue. So what we'd get in practice is a bunch of wealthy impactful estates suing (often frivolously) smaller or mid-tier authors in order to assert their rights, just in case they might milk some more money out of them if the work becomes popular. We see such nuisance claims everywhere, and they work very well. And before anyone says "the legal system will separate between what's frivolous and what's not" that's where the second prong of idealism sets in. Western courts are biased towards corporate interests, and much of the laws are written through lobbyists. What perpetual copyright would engender is a new industry of purchasing and trading with copyrights. Authors would simply cease to take risks out of fear of litigation, financial ruin or jail time, if proven guilty. Why would anyone try and make a creative industry into something resembling a real-estate market, with unhinged price fluctuations that caused Americans unable to afford a home in 70% of their country?
We see your second argument already in action in the patent industry, and that's an industry with much shorter time frames of protection. Corporations buy up portfolios of patents so they will the ability to counter sue if they get sued. While patents have been around for a long time, it was a combination of the patent office saying "we will just go ahead and grant patents and let the courts sort it out" and lawyers saying "Hey, if we threaten to sue, people will pay us $X just to go away regardless of the merit of the case" and finally, the lawyers finding a court that was open to expanding the definition of what is patent-able.
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Old Yesterday, 12:24 PM   #205
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The real desire is as always "gimme gimme gimme". People want books they don't have to pay for. People want to leach off the name recognition of characters they didn't create. Gimme gimme.
I'm beginning to take this personally. Have you got any idea how many hours it takes to prepare a book for upload to the Patricia Clark Memorial Library? Work done for no pay whatsoever, provided by the uploaders to the library just in order to provide to the public beautiful ebook editions of PD books - often out-of-print books that are not readily available otherwise. All this is done for the love of literature, and not in the spirit of "gimme gimme" at all. And the whole venture would be impossible if you had your eternal copyright.
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Old Yesterday, 09:06 PM   #206
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The people demanding that someone else's work belongs to them are the gimme gimme people. Preserving the works that would likely disappear because nobody is making money on them anymore anyway...I applaud that noble effort.
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Old Yesterday, 11:27 PM   #207
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I dont know much about copyright law, but if extreme versions of copyright law would prevent 9 out of 10 new additions to the library being a romance novel with a shirtless male on the cover, then maybe we would all be better off.

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