Fan Fiction II: The Revenge, Fanfic Faces Off BigThree Accounting

From Fanlore
Jump to: navigation, search
Title: Fan Fiction II: The Revenge, Fanfic Faces Off BigThree Accounting
Creator: Roxanne Conrad
Date(s): December 2000
Medium: print
Topic: fandom and profit, copyright
External Links: Fan Fiction II: The Revenge, Fanfic Faces Off BigThree Accounting, Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.


Fan Fiction II: The Revenge, Fanfic Faces Off BigThree Accounting is a 2000 article by Roxanne Conrad.

It was published in Tarriel Cell v.14 n.2.

The Essay

Here's a big wake-up call to all fan writers out there, and any fans who maintain devotional websites for their favorite shows: You're breaking the law. And people are starting to care.

In a recent article on EOnline, Marcus Errico gave an example of a Millennium fan site that was slapped with a "cease-and-desist" order by Fox after only days. His crime? He used logos and graphics from the show. This is happening more and more as the Big Guys wake up to the fact that they're starting to actually lose money due to their devoted fans.

How can that happen? Easy. In the June 2000 issue of Electronic Publishing. Alexis Gerard pointed out that "Whereas fan sites might be construed as harmless or even serving to promote Warner Bros, properties - and no doubt they do - recent Media Matrix website rankings show Warner Bros. Online in 47th place, with about 4.2 million unique visitors for December 1999. while GeoCities ranks 6th with 21.5 million visitors during the same period. Many of those high-powered GeoCities pages were devoted to Warner properties." Why, you might ask, is this important? Let me assume my mantle of Pinheaded Dilbertness (or professionalism) and point out a couple of reasons.

Warner spends a ton of money on promotion. One of the ways that promotion is managed is by achieving a unified "look" and "feel" for all of its marketing materials. That goes to hell in a handbasket when fan sites get hold of the materials and twist, pull, separate and recolor. The "branding" effort often turns to webcrap, often to the tune of millions of dollars.

Warner's website sells advertising based on the number of visitors. The more people beat a path to fan sites (some of which are making money through advertising revenue in their own right) the less money in Warner's web-pocket. Bad news in the boardroom.

A case could ultimately be made that the free Nothing gets an executive's attention faster than an erosion in profits (read: personal bonus). So be aware. The production and broadcast giants may very well begin to move, and they'll put pressure on hosting services, fining them as conspirators in the copyright violations.

No matter what you've been told by layman lawyers, "borrowing" copyrighted graphics and images is stealing. There's no such thing as "fair use" in this particular instance. So if you're going to use graphics on your site from a show, cross your fingers, because it could cost you money.

Regarding Fanfic:

Here's a funny description from an article by Jim Frauenfeld, writing for "The Standard" in April of last year: "Imagine a world in which people could reach into their TV sets, grab their favorite characters, and stick them on their own public-access shows." He's talking about fanfic, though he doesn't exactly know the terminology to use. That's how outsiders view our labors of love in this area ... and here's the scary part: they're not entirely wrong. We don't have a leg to stand on in current copyright law, and if we did, that teeny weeny little peg leg will soon be chopped right out from under us by the new Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

According to copyright law, all fanfic is by its nature "derivative" - which means it's in violation of the original copyright, unless we have secured permission from the copyright holder (yeah. SURE we have). And the copyright holders don't have to be nice about it. It doesn't matter whether or not you're making money from the fanfic, either - that only helps to determine the amount you'll be required to pay for damages, it ever, if you ultimately damage the commercial value of the property, kiss your savings account goodbye.

Also, fanfic can now earn you a criminal record. Until recently violation of copyright was just a civil violation, but now a commercial copyright violation involving more than 10 copies and valued at over $2,500 is a felony. The good news is, this is a fairly new and untested statute, particularly as it applies to something traditionally "soft" like fanfic.

Eek! So Why Do It?:

A question I ask myself daily. The obvious answer is, of course, that we love it. It's fun. it's exciting, it's often our only comfort in a world where corporation see fit to slash and burn the TV schedules like Amazon rain forest without a thought for their fans. It allows us the creative outlet of writing (or drawing, or web designing). It makes us feel as if we're part of something special.

The good news is that a fair number of The Power That Be, particularly the Creative Powers That Be, understand this. They also owe fans for keeping them afloat in the shark tank, and they don't think it would be wise to take bites out of their own flotation device.

But when it comes right down to it, we're doing it because we love it. Do we love it enough to continue in the face of cold, hard truths like the ones I've laid out here? Maybe. The casual transgressors should flee the field immediately, but there will always be a hard core of people who just can't not do things the hard way.

Because we love it.

Because... if we weren't stupidly optimistic, we wouldn't be fans.

Those of you who leave this article still determined to soldier on, write, draw, paint, web design, I salute you. Corporate profit margins may ultimately win. We may ultimately be the bad guys. But, for now, I prefer to view us as the last, best hope for fandom.