Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Copyrights ad Nauseum

I was going to write on another aspect of writer loopiness about copyrights, and maybe more, but I’ve been following another long discussion over on Making Light (May 25th). The links to Macaulay, and Legionseagle on Keith DeCandido and amateur law, are hugely useful.

To those I’d add material from Ray Patterson. There’s a link on my Color Cycling article that contains a link to an excellent essay by Patterson that has since been removed, (probably because of Patterson’s death in 2003), so that link is now broken and I need to update the article. I have that linked article of Patterson’s saved somewhere, and I may put some of his philosophy into action by posting excerpts sometime. I imagine that the material is also in Patterson’s book, Copyright in Historical Perspective, and at some point I’ll no doubt read the book for review.

The comments thread on the Making Light entries are quite revealing of the other aspect of writers’ perceptions of copyrights: ego involvement. One writer made it clear that they consider someone else’s use of “their” characters in “fanfic” as akin to rape, and the mere thought of it creates an inability for that writer to function as a writer. This strikes me as being a potentially career ending handicap, similar to horrible stage fright in a performer.

Of course, this is easy for me to say, given my own view that writing itself is a collaborative art, even if it is never published, since I hold that individuals change sufficiently over time that a single individual often collaborates with other selves. For that matter, the idea that a single individual self contains multitudes means that even a solitary soul is a collaboration. When other people are added, when a work is published, in other words, even more people are added to the collaboration (albeit one at a time for readers), and I do not think that I can or should have a proprietary right over what goes on in others’ heads, nor the expression of that in material form.

But cause and effect are tricky here. Do I read things I wrote years ago as if they were written by someone else because of the way I feel about these matters, or do I feel that way because I’ve found that reading old stuff is like reading someone else’s work? I don’t know.

What I do know is that the debate is to a large extent a distraction from the shell game. The arguments are always made predicated on the benefits that will go to “artists” and “creators,” but somehow it is the organizations of lawyers and moneymen who get the lion's share.

Now, for no particular reason, other than the obvious, here's Cab Calloway and Betty Boop:


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