- Response to : The Ecstasy of Influence: A plagiarism/Embrace the Remix
Let me make it clear, I support derivative works. I am fanartist, as well as a freelance design of so-called original designs and works. The copyright laws are hot fucking mess, if I can be frank. It seems to protect those who can afford it, but the poor people eking out an existence off those few properties get crushed when they try to let people know, “Hey, I made that!”
I was told in undergrad there’s no such thing as an original idea. You take an idea but you it yours. The Hero’s journey is popular one, or in video games the concept of a shooter, or RPG. Many elements of Role Play games are derivative from Dungeons and Dragons, who in turn, was inspired by the works of fantasy novels by J. R. R. Tolkien, which if you play any RPG game you can clearly Tolkien behind every dwarf, every elf, and if you want to get even deeper, the writers of the Dragon Age series confessed George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series was huge influence upon Thedas. But still, Thedas has its own colorful cast of characters and races that stand on their own. Once could say fanfiction follows a similar vein, concepts taken from other properties and made into their own. I mean, 50 Shades of Grey, trash as it was, started off as a Twilight fanfiction. Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones series was just a Harry Potter fanfiction. The names have changed and some plot details, but at its core the fact remains they started as derivative works of another’s creation but made into their own.
But I will come back to that later.
I understand the frustration of an original creator having your original works abused. My font, which I had put many hours of work in, was totally free with a non-commercial attributed license through the Creative Commons. I googled the font name on a lark, and lo and behold! Several sites decided to upload it to their sites without permission! Thankfully through some polite emails, I was able to get most of them down, or allowed them to keep it so long as they made clear attribution. (I don’t expect my dinky little deviantART account to be known, and it was more the principle of the matter of not being credited that was my issue.)
That being said, I’m aware there are probably people downloading it and using it for commercial use without hitting me up and letting me know. I am not above people using it commercially; I would just like a little cash my way. I am to be honest, a living starving Freelance artist trope. I eke out my life through fly-by commissions and purchases of my prints, shirts, and templates. So even if I had proof of people abusing my guidelines, I couldn’t legally fight it because I can’t afford to. (Hey, I barely can afford my supplies for PComp, how would I get a lawyer?)
And as an employee from a company who has done this many a time, let me put in a confession: they do not care. If you’re loud enough, they might settle just because you rocked the boat, but if they can, they will get away with it. And if they don’t, the poor designer is to blame and given the sack. The designer, by the way, probably told their client they cannot just take it because it is another intellectual property and need the permission of the creator first; only to get pooh-poohed or even worst flat out ignored and forced to go with it. We are often torn in a war between moral integrity of ethical design and affording to pay or rent and bills, to feed ourselves. I honestly hate that either way my job is on the line. I hate myself over having to take things I know these poor people worked so hard on, so much that sometimes I want to just message them and tell them Hey, my boss is total dick and doesn’t even want to pay you the hundred bucks for your template to use! Maybe that’s me, but I would rather not get paid and know that job went to the person who created that work. Because it’s just ethical.
But that situation is also terrible.
Stepping away from ‘original’ intellectual properties, there’s the whole matter of fanart and fanworks. Fanart is not at new concept; I remember a conversation I had once during my undergrad where I argued that that famous paintings we know and love as ‘classic’ art are nothing more than fanart of the Bible. (Which the Bible in itself is a work of many writers over many centuries, many times edited and reinterpreted to fit the needs of people of a particular time. But I digress.) Just as I may draw so many iterations of Commander Shepard and Boba Fett for personal and financial gain through commissions today, so did the likes of Titian and Da Vinci draw Jesus and Mary, Disciples, and Saints—beloved people of their time’s popular culture—on commissions.
But the difference being now if I do that and post it online to share, to promote my commissions, there’s a chance I can get a polite little cease and desist from the likes of Electronic Arts and now Disney, since they have Star Wars in their fists. (Which has happened! I wasn’t shocked in the least.)
Conventions for these fandoms, these intellectual properties are filled with artist alleys with people like me who get money drawing things we don’t possess the intellectual property rights to. This leaves to the murky question covered in the article about plagiarism. We took the hours to sketch, draw, and color that art, but because we don’t own the rights to Batman so we must be forced to be silenced and to stop what may be our only source of income, or fear lawsuits we cannot afford. Bills like SOPA and PIPA only helped those with money make more money—the Disneys and Metallicas of the world could now hold even tighter reign over the internet.
But the fact remains we need to move forward with more, organic guidelines in this fast changing world. We have been so burdened by static rules that seem almost outdated since the time they put forward. Many of them were made in the days where most people were illiterate and the printing press had been king, there was no such thing a global connection, no phones, no internet. As time changes, laws should too. The Internet is a veritable Wild West of sorts, still young, still trying to figure out laws and rules that could govern something as wide and vast without fearing censorship and total control.
Finding that right balance of law that protects all creators great and small, either as originators or those who create derivative works. Bang out new guidelines of art and intellectual property for this new internet age. Ethical handling on things like stolen template designs. Or fanfiction and fanart and other such derivative works that are now a part of our popular culture whether or not you like it. Creative Commons I believe is nice step in that direction. Pay-as-you-like platforms for ‘commercial’ art, even donationationware for software with games. More importantly: attribution. Credit where credit is due. But it is not perfect, not by any means. Nothing is, and in time, there will be a newer and (hopefully) more concise way to protect us but also allow a space to encourage derivations.
To paraphrase what Isaac Newton said to Robert Hooke when he published his theories: If I have only seen so far, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Just as science builds upon the theories of others (and attributes them most of the time), so can I believe art too is no different. The works of the past inspire the future generations who in turn reform and improve upon things. Create off another’s idea, or concept. To be honest, they in turn probably got it off another. And so forth. But don’t be a dick. Give them some props because I know at least on the little person level, we appreciate more than those big people will ever do.
EDIT: On the train home today my memory was jostled about Nina Paley and her Copying is Not Theft! button design to go with her whole support of the free culture movement– which Creative Commons is a part of.
- Response: Her Long Black Hair
So I listened to this recording three times. One just as is, the second using google maps as a guide with minimal success, and the third physically walking. The first experience was okay, the next was frustrating (but that was on google’s part), and the third time was definitely worth the sore the feet and limping by the end of the walk. I also did this with a long time personal online friend too, whom we finally have met in person for this which perhaps colors my view a bit. I enjoyed it, she had the film noire feel just as it was described. And doing it on a very bright and clear day when it mentioned rain made it a little absurd. Actually it had that weird dual dimension feel interacting with the Central Park of the present and Central Park of her story, furthermore playing with the whole concept of time? (It rained AFTER we finished and my friend jokingly asked if we could start over.)
Another interesting bit was how oddly prophetic some of the comments were, like having a dog walk past, or an ice cream stand be where mentioned. Some things just don’t change in eleven year, I guess? My only real complain perhaps isn’t even a real complain per se? I get the themes interacted and maybe this is just coming my person purview of art but sometimes she and the boyfriend (husband?) character– the male voice– came off a little pretentious to me. Again personal preference, I suppose.
But my final thought on this is the question of art such as this, and all art to be honest, being accessible to everyone? Could perhaps such a project be made in mind for those physically disabled with mobility problems, or hard of hearing or deaf? Could we bring it in for a bigger audience? Could their differing disabilities make it a new and intriguing experience for each person? As someone with mobility issues myself, I was lucky today I was having a good mobility day to actually do the walk. But what if I hadn’t been able to? Other than possibly get marks against me in class, I don’t know. Perhaps I would have never had the chance to experience until I was able to get to it.