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October 12, 2006


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Joshua James

There's a big difference between writing a spec for Star Trek and writing fac fiction. Specs are samples, agreed upon by the industry (and Star Trek, when running, asked for open specs) as a way of judging work samples. They are not meant for sale without approval of the owners of the series or characters. Same with tie-in novels. Star Wars novels or Buffy books are contracted by the creator who shares in their success or failure.

Some who writes Harry Potter Fan Fic is profitting off of the work someone else did and that's quite simply unethical.

I feel the same way about sampling, remember Vanilla Ice tried to tell us "Ice, ice, Baby" wasn't a ripoff of Under Pressure (later we found out it was) or that "Ghostbusters" wasn't ripping off "I Want a New Drug" (Huey Lewis and the News later won a significant amount of money via settlement). If you use something someone else created, you need to credit them for it.

Firstly we should state that one cannot copyright an idea, only the expression of an idea. Expression is the coin of our realm. It's what we sell. When you sell a play or novel or screenplay, it's not the idea you're selling, but rather the expression of that idea. You're selling the copyright.

Without that, what we will live on, as writers? If there's no reason to pay a writer, how will that writer make a living? Or composer, or painter? What's to stop someone from taking an original John Grishman book, self publishing it with HIS name and make loads of money off of it without giving back any to the man who created it, John Grisham?

I myself have had a short play of mine appropriated some years ago by a student who put it up on her campus and put her name on it as author. She was found out, but without copyright, actions like plagerism are harder to discourage. I've also had plays of mine done without permission. It happens, and w

Copyright protects us in so many ways that I'm always a bit astounded to understand anyone not wanting it - it stops someone from taking your script, putting their name on it and selling it as their own. It protects the author from theft and protects the audience from fraud.

Protects the audience from fraud. Very important. Protects the creators from exploitation without consent or representation. Very important.

As far as fac fic goes, I'd like to direct you to Lee Goldberg, novelist, television writer and blogger http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/fanfic/index.html who is far more versed on the matter of fan fic than anyone else I know.

Malachy Walsh

"...We all think Beckett's a genius. Are his plays well served? Absolutely not, unless you think a system that means we read his plays but never see a production that reveals them as living, breathing, exciting organisms is "well served". The only Beckett I've ever seen that made me feel like I was experiencing something instead of staring at an ornamental metal gate in the Victoria and Albert is the production in DC the estate tried to close down."
Beckett thought his plays were best served by following his instructions, as he intended them to be followed (intention, in itself, being an interesting notion). Whether you think his work is best served this way or not is immaterial since you didn't write the work - and thus you have no claim on it. The job of actors and directors, in Beckett's world is to figure out how to live in his world.

What serves the audience best is just as subjective - and since Beckett wanted people to see things his way when they did work he made, well, anyone who buys a ticket to Beckett knows what they're in for.

Beckett's rules are Beckett's rules. Mee's rules are Mee's rules. Thank god we have both, but let's not apply one to the other.

As for feeling like you are "staring at an ornamental metal gate" when you watch most Beckett, well, sounds like you're seeing things just the way that old Irish fuck wanted.

Joshua James

I should add, that creating a character is the expression of a character (like, you can have a sci fi fighter pilot, but call him Luke Skywalker and you've jumped on George Lucas's expression of a sci-fi fighter pilot) and that's why fan fic is unethical. It's not a matter of whether someone can do better with the character or not (I sure with someone did better with Darth Vader in the last three movies, sorry Freeman) but who the expression originated from, who the copyright belongs to. It's important, it really is, and protects us. Charlie Schultz wouldn't want his denizens of Peanuts engaging in pedophile porn and that's why one can't do it. And shouldn't do it.

On the other hand, satire is fair business, which is why Burt Royal's play worked - he didn't use the character's names or even the character's indvidual expression of their personality. It was his unique expression, different from Peanuts and one uniquely his own. It almost owes nothing to Peanuts, when you think about it, and could exist separate from it. Shultz copwrighted the expression of children like Charlie Brown and company, but the idea of those kids grown up, with different names and persona's, that's not an infringement (the important hook was not using their names or keeping them at that age) - so it worked. He danced on a fine line, but didn't fall over.

I'm not saying it's a difficult line to ho, just an important one and rather than loosening copyright, we need to tighten and redefine it. It's the coin of our realm, it really is.

Alison Croggon

Just a clarification (with my genre author cap on) about fanfiction: it is just that, fiction by fans of a book, using the characters of the books they admire. It isn't done for money, and doesn't exist as a commercial proposition (that would be a different question, and certainly wouldn't be fan fiction). There is already a fair bit of fanfic around the Pellinor series, and that's perfectly legitimate fan enthusiasm. I don't know anyone who objects to it, and it would be a somewhat meanspirited writer who did.

Joshua James

Hey Allison,

Check out Lee's site, listed above, on the fanfic issue - there are many authors, some not mean-spirited, who do object to it, and more than a few critics who do -

The big question is, if you publish it online, is that publishing? I believe it is, as that it's up for public consumption, but again I leave most of that argument to Lee, who has been more articulate on the matter than anyone else I've heard and for a lot longer.


Actually, people don't profit off fanfiction, unless you mean profit through writing experience. Fanfiction is free for viewing. I've yet to see a site that charges for it, and I've been delving through this world for 8 years now. What you're talking about seems to be plagiarism, which is a completely different thing. Most fanfiction authors do not plagiarize. They admit the characters and/or plot history as not of their own creation and give credit where credit is due. When someone does plagiarize, it isn't tolerated. We want to enrich the world and our imaginations through fanfic, not steal. Many authors even take down any NC-17/R fics if it is known the author of the original series objects to them. Take Cassandra Claire. She took down all her NC-17 Harry Potter fics when she found out JKR preferred not to have them written. There's also Fanfiction.net. They do not allow fics based on the works of various authors who object to fanfiction, including Nora Roberts and others who I cannot recall at the moment.

So again, fanfiction is not for profit. It's something we write to play with "what-if"'s, "what happened after/before/during"'s, and whatever else our imaginations come up with. It's for fun. We don't charge, and we don't take credit for anything other than writing the fic itself. And often times, it helps to nurture writers so they can eventually write their own original stories for publication.

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