After rifling through a bunch of information on American, let alone Australian copyright laws, I’m feeling drained. There seems to be a constantly developing set of different laws, for different types of artistic works, in different countries, dependent on different time frames, to suit the purposes of different corporations.
Too many layers for my liking. As our dear open information source Wikipedia tells us, this all began in the 18th century as “an Act for the encouragement of learning.”
Further investigation shows this is kind of stupid.
The whole aim of copyright is to lock down access to creative works, therefore stifling creative cooperation and inhibiting learning. But it’s very difficult to create something entirely unique. As Lawrence Lessig says, “creators here and everywhere are always and at all times building upon the creativity that went before and that surrounds them now.”
Consider fan fiction. Just looking at one creative work – Harry Potter – we find an unimaginable collection of new stories developing the original narrative and characters.
And the creator of HP, J.K. Rowling, is all for it, creating a kind of fan-fiction with her 2014 Rita Skeeter article, continuing the narratives online via Pottermore and engaging with fan-fic on twitter despite criticisms that it dilutes the original.
So, will copyright eventually crush all this? Maybe…
While laws protecting ‘derivative works’ do exist, they’re ambiguous. They require an assessment of quality, as original creators can sue on the basis of copyright infringement if ‘a substantial amount’ of a work is used in fan-fiction – an amount which is entirely subjective.
Essentially, fan-fiction creators are at the mercy of copyright holders. So, cheers to Ms Rowling.