I spent this summer posting an intellectual property law syllabus on the H2O Project’s website, which was incredibly informative if a little dry (you can see what I did if you sign in as an Anonymous user, or you can request an account). But the joy of my summer was researching, designing, and building a module on the legal issues surrounding fanfiction. This has been an interest since my senior honors thesis on the history of creatively critical derivative works (well, more like since I was 11 and discovered Buffy fanfic, but that could hardly be called a professional interest).
Feel free to mosey through the entire playlist, but if you’d just like to dip a toe in without reading full cases, I’d suggest reading through the Feral Copyright section, which deals with what happens when non-lawyers (read: content creators) try to manage copyright on their own. (I thought the Marion Zimmer Bradley incident was particularly illustrative).
The other section to waft through is the hypothetical. Anyone who’s seen Paperchase knows that law professors use the socratic method and cold-calling (i.e. the Russian Roulette of Learning Strategies) to squash their 1Ls into personhood, but you may also remember hypos, the stories which professors use to get to a particular point. My hypo is pretty simple:
A friend emails you with a fan work she created and asking if it is a violation of anyone’s copyright and whether it might be protected under fair use. Drawing on Campbell v. Acuff Rose, SunTrust Bank v. Houghton Mifflin Co., and Salinger v. Colting, what do you think?
One of the great things about H2O is that is allows me (the module-maker) to include all of my texts in one system and annotate them within that system. However, I noted:
Note: Unless you are already familiar with the communities from which fanfiction arises, you may be well-served in reading/watching/listening/viewing the work you choose to analyze in its native location. The comments, fanart written for works of fanfiction, fanvids remixing fan songs are all part of the gift economy of fandoms. For example, “300 Things” has received 3868 views on An Archive of Our Own, 1248 comments on the author’s LiveJournal, and is a subject of regular discussion on Tumblr; this information may help you understand the context of your hypothetical friend’s fan work.
But while the Hypo may be simple, the fun comes in with the dozen or so examples of fan works the students get to choose to evaluate, everything from an excerpt from the 76,000+ word epic College AU mention above to this video:
(Description of the video: “Illustrations of the superheroes from The Avengers perform Laurie-Ann Gibson’s choreography to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” with a clip of that song playing in the background.”)
If you have any feedback, on the glossary, or the work selection or case selection, I would love to hear it.
“The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.”–Jules Renard, “Diary,” February 1895