An Open Letter to Fandom by Della Van Hise (1988)

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Open Letter
Title: An Open Letter to Fandom by Della Van Hise
From: Della Van Hise
Addressed To: fans attending conventions, fans who buy zines
Date(s): late 1980s (likely 1988)
Medium: print
Fandom: Star Trek: TOS, Blake's 7, others
Topic: Zine Pirating
External Links:
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An Open Letter to Fandom by Della Van Hise is undated but appears to have been written in mid-to-late 1988.

The subject was zine piracy.

This letter addresses the same topic, and in fact refers to, An Open Letter to Fandom by Deb Walsh (1988).

Van Hise also addresses the unauthorized copying of her zines in 1991. See the editorial in "The 25th Year".

Some Topics Discussed

The Letter

Later Open Letters: by Zine Publishers/Con Organizers Addressing the Same Topic

In 1993 and 1994, a number of Open Letters circulated in fandom, regarding the photocopying of in-print zines.

Note: Della Van Hise and Alexis Fegan Black are the same person.

Excerpts from Van Hise's 1988 Letter

At several recent conventions across the country, it has come to my attention that a certain dealer is making and selling bootleg xerox copies of fanzines which are still in print and available from the original editors and publishers.

The dealer in question is '[BONNIE V], who has absolutely NO authorization (or has she ever asked for any) to reproduce several of the zines she is selling at conventions. [Ms. V] has continued this practice despite the fact that she has been personally confronted and warned by many fanzine editors whose zines she was copying. At the CREATION'S SALUTE TO STAR TREK'S 20TH ANNIVERSARY CONVENTION[1] in Los Angeles in June of 1986, [Ms V] was confronted directly by several fanzine editors, including myself, Vicky Clark & Barbara Storey, Pat Diggs, Pat Friedman, Alayne Gelland, Noel Silva, Robin Hood, Wendy Rathbone, Sandra Gent and others. [Ms. V] was told at the time to stop xeroxing copies of these editors' zines. She promised to do so, saying, "I didn't know it was wrong. I thought I was doing a service to fandom."

At that time, the editors who confronted [Ms. V] accepted that perhaps she really didn't know it was wrong to reap profit from zines which were not only still in print, but zines which were available (at cheaper prices) from the original editors in the same room.

If the xeroxing of zines by [Ms. Vi] had stopped there, this letter would never have had to be written. Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that [Ms. V] is still selling bootleg copies of many of these editors' zines despite repeated warnings. She now certainly knows it's "wrong", and as I hope to demonstrate with this letter, it's anything but a "service" to fandom. It's a sad disservice. It is (remotely) possible that [Ms. V] has authorization for some of the zines she xeroxes and sells at conventions (and, I'm told, through the mail). However, for the record, she has no authorization, either written, spoken or implied to reproduce or sell the following fanzines:
As you know, producing zines is a hobby -- and a very expensive one at that. When people like [Ms. V] (who neither edits nor publishes a zine),[2] and start xeroxing other editors' work, it is essentially stealing. As any fanzine editor can tell you, it is vitally important to at least be able to break even on each zine she publishes. If she doesn't break even, the fanzine will inevitably fail. Also, since fanzine editors do not produce zine to make a living, why should [Ms. V] (or others like her) reap tremendous Fandom and Profitprofits from zines]] which she neither edited nor had anything to do with? By doing so, she is hurting those editors who legitimately produce their zines. She is taking money which should go to those editors in order to cover their costs, and to insure that fanzines will continue to be published.

So, how does this concern you? As a fanzine buyer, please know who you are dealing with, and make it a point not to do business with dealers who have no authorization to sell or, especially, xerox other editors' fanzines. In the past two years, zine sales have dropped rather dramatically, and part of this is due to the unfortunate xeroxing being done by people such as [Ms. V]. [Ms. V]i has been known to say that she does have authorization to reproduce some of the fan zines listed above, but let me assure you that such is not the case, (As stated, she might have authorization to do some zines, but none of those listed above). She is well aware that what she is doing is wrong, yet despite repeated warnings she continues to do so. If an editor prints 300 copies of a fanzine and is only able to sell 200 copies, a very significant loss is being taken -a financial loss which will quickly insure that she is not able to produce future issues. If that is allowed to happen, perhaps unscrupulous dealers will be stopped, but so will fanzine fandom. I don't think it's worth it.

Mainly, just be aware of who you are dealing with. Many people believe that fanzines are just like any other book, and that they can be sold by any dealer at any convention. Such is simply not the case. Due to the nature of zines (particularly K/S fanzines and other adult zines), editors take great care to insure that discretion is used. Dealers who are only interested in reaping undeserved profits can and will be the downfall of fanzine fandom if they are allowed to continue. At several recent conventions, one dealer was known to openly display sexually explicit covers of fanzines, there by drawing unwanted attention from the media and other more "mundane" convention goers, thereby placing all of fandom in jeopardy.

If you have any doubt as to whether the person selling zines at a convention has authorization to do so, you may be well-advised to do drop a note to the actual editor of the zine and find out. Granted, there are times when fans would rather buy a zine at a convention than risk the hazards of the mail - but, I stress again, just be aware of who you are buying from. By unknowingly supporting unscrupulous dealers, fanzines are slowly being undermined and editors are being denied the money which should legitimately go to them. Also, if you are at a convention and see that someone is selling obviously xeroxed copies of fanzines, drop the editor/publisher a note and let her know. That's one sure way you can help insure that zines continue to be published, as well as helping to put a stop to the illegal xeroxing of zines.

There are, also, those rare times when unscrupulous dealers are able to sell illegally reproduced fanzines at a slightly cheaper price. And there are reasons for that -- not the least of which is that these dealers didn't have to pay for the original printing, the cost of half-tones, plates, negatives, higher-grade paper, typewriter/computer supplies, graphic aids and the other supplies which go into the original production of fanzines. These dealers are able to simply take the finished product in to their local copy shop, print 50 copies for a-little-bit-of-nothing, and then mark the price up to either higher or almost as high as an original copy (which, quite often, are still in print and available). It is, plain and simply, stealing -- from you, from editors, and from the integrity of fandom. It is, as another letter-writer put it, "artistic rape".

Please don't support this unscrupulous activity. Do your part to support the zine editors whose original blood, sweat and tears went into the production of the zine you love. Support the zine by purchasing it either from the original editor/publisher or from AUTHORIZED representatives. (To find out who is authorized to sell specific fanzines, just drop the editor a note with a SASE; she'll be glad to tell you what conventions she will be attending, or at what conventions she will be legitimately represented and by whom).

There are also many other fanzines which are being illegally bootlegged by [Ms. V], most of which are still in print. And as for those which are not still in print, perhaps you would do better to ask a friend to borrow a copy, or else try to pick up a copy through a zine sale, auction or even xerox your friend's copy if you absolutely have to. But giving any money to unscrupulous dealers, even for out-of-print zines which they are not authorized to print, is insuring that they will continue this unfortunate activity.

I regret the necessity to publish a letter such as this. However, only through communication will fandom continue to flourish. Please support fanzines by supporting the original editor or their authorized representatives. Unauthorized xeroxes of zines being sold for profit are nothing less than stealing from writers, artists, editors and publishers - and you.

Thanks for listening. -- Della Van Hise

Comments by a Blake's 7 Zine Editor

In December 1988, Diane Gies, editor of Horizon Newsletter wrote:
In N/L 20 we mentioned a girl named [Bonnie V] from California, who we had been told may have been photocopying back issues of our zines and selling them at conventions at higher than Horizon prices (and without permission). We asked for anyone who knew anything about this to contact us. From letters received and people we have spoken to, it would appear that these allegations (as opposed to the Star Tech ones) many have been unfounded. We have been presented with no proof that Bonnie copied our zines (although other zine publishers have made similar allegations regarding their own stuff) so obviously in the absence of any proof of her alleged wrongdoings, we unreservedly apologize to her for any distress our words many have caused. Apparently, Bonnie WAS selling some of our our stuff, which she bought in bulk from Forbidden P1anet Bookshop here in London (who we sell in bulk to). This is of course not illegal, although had she bought direct from us it would have cost her far less (since they do put a mark up on) and also would have avoided this misunderstanding. Since she was a Horizon member in the past, I do not understand why she did not do this, or at least contact us about selling our stuff, but unless anyone out there has any further observations to make, I shall consider this matter with Bonnie closed. By the way some people have said that we are making a big fuss about nothing -- I'm not interested in people who make a photo copy of our stuff for a friend, but in people who make VERY MANY copies and sell them at a vast profit, charging more for them than we do. So there! [3]

References

  1. "Spock Aboard For A Salute To 'Star Trek'". Retrieved May 30, 1986.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. This is actually incorrect. [Bonnie V] edited and published at least two zines.
  3. from Horizon Newsletter #31