Copy Catfight

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Title: Copy Catfight
Commentator: Jesse Walker
Date(s): March 2000
Medium: online
External Links:
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Copy Catfight is an essay written by Jesse Walker and published in the March 2000 issue of It is subtitled: How intellectual property laws stifle popular culture.

The article views fan creations through the increasingly ever more restrictive copyright lens and looks at how these laws strike at the heart of social interaction:

"Star Wars is a part of our culture; it's a shared experience. And as Jenkins points out, "If something becomes an essential part of our culture, we have a right to draw on it and make stories about it....The core question is whether First Amendment protections include a right to participate in our culture." And not just to participate, but to criticize: A law that prohibits a Star Trek devotee's homages to his favorite show also restricts a Star Trek hater's right to parody the program's militarism, its view of sex roles, or its vision of the future....
When the government tells us we can't use those scraps without permission from Disney, Fox, or the Sherwood Anderson Trust, it constrains our creativity, our communications, and our art. It tells us that we cannot draw on pop songs the way we once drew on folk songs, or on TV comedy the way we once drew on vaudeville; it says we cannot pluck pieces from Star Wars the way George Lucas plucked pieces from foreign films and ancient legends. The consequences are staggering. Imagine what would have happened if, 100 years ago, it had been possible to copyright a blues riff. Jazz, rock, and country music simply could not have evolved if their constituent parts had been subject to the same restraints now borne by techno and hip hop. "[1]

One reviewer describes the article as: "A descriptive and fairly comprehensive overview of some of the legal controversies surrounding fanfiction." ~ Metafic by Bennie Robbins.