Creativity in Common: Fandom and the Ownership of Ideas

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Title: Creativity in Common: Fandom and the Ownership of Ideas
Creator: Charity Fowler
Date(s): possibly 2011
Medium: online
Topic: fiction writing, copyright
External Links: here, Archived version
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Creativity in Common: Fandom and the Ownership of Ideas is an essay by Charity Fowler.


Once upon a time, creativity was a community endeavor. In an oral culture, the skill of the storyteller was what set him apart, not the characters or plots used, which all might be elements of a story the audience had heard before. Embellishments were added, plot twists conjured, characters developed—but the story was almost always based upon something known (Jenkins). While people have been telling stories for thousands of years, the idea of intellectual property is a relatively new phenomenon. In the digital age, however, it has risen to new levels of restrictions never before seen, just when the world seems to be entering a potential age of greater sharing and a secondary orality, which calls not for a strengthening of restrictions, but potentially for a new scheme all together.
As attractive as it may be to our egos, we need to recognize the idea of the Original Author as a recent invention in time, and further recognize the great wealth of previous creativity upon which artists of the past and present draw upon. Cutting this off, or as Boyle argues, locking up our artistic production and refusing to allow new artists to draw upon them for creative works of their own, will only make us a poorer culture in the end. Fan fiction is hardly the be-all and end-all of cultural possibility, but in its creation and dissemination, it speaks to the very essence of intertextual creation and the way in which we interact with the art with which we surround ourselves. When media enter into the public imagination, they become the property of all of us in many ways. While authors and artists should absolutely be able to make a monetary return on their work, they cannot seek to ensure this by controlling every aspect of their creation and denying a voice, a creative impulse, to those who love their work.