Copyright Leaves Fans of Creative Works Out in the Cold
When a group of fans of the Dune books received a copyright threat from the estate of Frank Herbert, they took the path of least resistance: they renamed and altered their re-creation of the novel’s setting – a loving tribute created inside the virtual world of Second Life – so that it was no longer so recognisable as an homage to Herbert’s classic science fiction novels.
What I want to ask is, how did we end up with a copyright law that only protects critics, while leaving fans out in the cold?
The damage here is twofold: first, this privileges creativity that knocks things down over things that build things up. The privilege is real: in the 21st century, we all rely on many intermediaries for the publication of our works, whether it’s YouTube, a university web server, or a traditional publisher or film company. When faced with legal threats arising from our work, these entities know that they’ve got a much stronger case if the work in question is critical than if it is celebratory.
Second, this perverse system acts as a censor of genuine upwellings of creativity that are worthy in their own right, merely because they are inspired by another work. It’s in the nature of beloved works that they become ingrained in our thinking, become part of our creative shorthand, and become part of our visual vocabulary. It’s no surprise, then, that audiences are moved to animate the characters that have taken up residence in their heads after reading our books and seeing our movies.
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Image Source: Raquel Camargo