Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

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Open Can, extract worms

Something jaylake linked to started me thinking about the whole issue about fannish writing derived from commercial works. By way of background, I took some Communications Law classes in college ('68-'72) as part of my degree work. Laws have changed since then, but I don't think the general principles behind them have. My understanding is this:

A person who creates a work owns that work, and the right to using that work in other formats, or allowing others to do so. In overly simplified terms, if I write a book, I own the right to make it into a play or movie or set its words to music or turn it into an audio book, pot holder, calendar, coffee mug or T-shirt.

Critics have the right to lift excerpts from my book for their reviews, and teachers can do the same for educational purposes. Satirists also have this right. It's called Fair Use, and more often than not it helps sell more copies of my book.

So what about fans who take my characters and write their own stories or novels?

I say as long as they use proper attribution, they're in the clear. Point your readers to my book, and that's one more chance another copy of my book will be sold. What someone else does with my characters is their problem. Sending out Cease and Desist letters is just plain stupid. It does nothing to protect my work or increase my sales, and it turns a rabid fan into a sworn enemy. OTOH, sending out a "You realize you need to include a pointer to the original book, don't you?" letter strikes me as the smart thing to do.


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