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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
I find it typical that the racist bigot who professes a desire to 'protect our women!' from the racial Other is the same person as the sexist bigot who, if 'his woman' is raped, is the first to tell her it was her own fault.

The implicit contradiction highlights the fact that neither the racial-other nor the gender-other is the real point of the bigot's complaints. The bigot himself is; he is the center of his universe and the only real points that he can imagine being made are ones about him.

This is why he is often the same person who, in any discussion centering on the perceptions, problems and possible solutions of women, will stand up and proclaim that the discussion is "exclusionary" or "reverse sexism" because it is not about him. Or he may be the one who insists on telling everyone, and calling on everyone to witness and agree, that he is distressed and injured by the hostility of the discussion, because he is most certainly not one of the bad men the women in question are angry at. This is a slightly more subtle attention-grab, but it results in the discussion being hijacked and recentered on him just as surely as the first example.

The one thing that this kind of person fears most is finding out that he is not the center and turning point of the world.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
I would suggest that one reason many members of fandom appear to have a vested interest in understanding fandom, and fanfiction in particular, as transgressive, beyond the pale, outlaw is that it serves as preemptive emotional protection.

Fans, especially in the creative parts of fandom, invest a great deal of themselves in their activities. Pure, id-stroking fantasy and carefully tooled craftsmanship are both aired under the title Fanfiction. To have one's work or fantasies or, most of all, work and fantasies derided is painful. To hold up that work-and-fantasy as viable, vital, respect-worthy opens one up to derision, particularly from those who dislike the creative framework one is using.

To proclaim that it is outside the bounds, on the other hand, offers dual protection. Accusations of frivolity or wrongness cannot take one by surprise, since one has already agreed to them. And, by appealing to the Western ethos of the Misunderstood Outsider or Rebel, one can dismiss all detractors as philistines who simply don't understand Art.

I can see the attraction. Unfortunately, as far as powerful defensive arguments go, this one is about on a par with arguing that homosexuals should have civil rights because they're born like that and can't help it, rather than because they deserve to have civil rights.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
A certain percentage of published authors, not infrequently those who do not actually have active fandoms, make a point of derogating fanfic at every turn. According to this set, fanfic is of universally poor quality and fanfic authors are just thieves/lazy/unsophisticated/inconsiderate/rapists/insert-pejorative-adjective-here.

(Example adjectives taken from real life. To read them in context, see any fanfic-related entry on Making Light.)

These people would do well to recall the Golden Rule.

This because the widespread (though inaccurate) fan conviction that fanfic is flatly illegal does not stop anyone from writing fic. The only thing that stops a fandom from ficcing is the respect they may have for the author's wishes. The authors in the above-mentioned set seem quite happy to ignore this fact and shred any good will or credit as reasonable beings they may have.

While they are busy insulting and disdaining the fanfic they are proud of not having read and its authors, who they seem not to believe they share a world and internet with, they should remember that many human beings do unto others as they have been done to.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Intellectual property is a bastard concept to begin with, in US legal and artistic practice. In fact, it runs directly counter to one of the major tenets of current copyright law, which is that ideas cannot be copyrighted, only specific executions or expressions of an idea. Intellectual property, on the other hand, has been taken to mean that ideas , and everything following from them, are the property of their originator, the same way a bowl is the property of the person who throws it.

If your mind is now teeming with objections about how those two things are just not equivalent, good for you.

Unsurprisingly, it is intellectual property, rather than copyright law as it is currently written, that authors appeal to when trying to assert that fanfic is illegal. Some authors, in fact, go further and say that an author has a moral right to determine all future dispositions of any world/characters/story they write and publicize, especially any refractions in a negative light--whatever "negative" means to them.

This is, frankly, a load of ripe bushwah. Neither history, precedent nor written law is on the side of such an assertion. Not even the Berne Convention or the DMCA say the author has control of everything, including audience reactions, for ever and ever amen, though the former comes perilously close. The strange bedfellow that such authors do have is big business, who want to protect their profits and keep control of all ideas, expressions and, most importantly, money that the author and the public might have.

Once more, to make sure everyone caught that: rights of control over production, in the US, are about money. Not morals, money. If a case gets to court, which, incidentally, has never happened for fanfic in its current incarnation, morals don't win. Money wins. Money always wins. The complete and utter lack of that mythical beast "artistic control" evident whenever big business makes a derivative work should hammer home that fact to the authors who are whining over what a terrible defamation uncontrolled fanfic is.

If, in face of this, authors still want to put forward arguments about ethics, about how things should work, then they should be prepared for the fan-creators to start doing the same. Vigorously.

In our next segment, how things should work, by all rights.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
You know your whole damn culture needs therapy when large numbers of people can be convinced that there is something evil and wrong about writing yourself being and getting absolutely everything you want in your wildest dreams. This is even more true when the evilness and wrongness is explicitly identified as the act of sharing, posting, making public, speaking aloud your wish-fulfillment, and being applauded for doing so.

The urge to police other people's pleasure should be recognized as the greatest moral perversion of all.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
The only thing one needs to be "qualified" to have an opinion or make a judgment on anything under the sun is a working brain that one is using at the time.

A working brain, you see, is the only equipment you need to find the materials to make an informed judgment, and the one piece of equipment that will enable you to change your opinion if later evidence suggests doing so.

You do not need to be a part of the group/practice/whatever the judgment involves, you do not need to show a membership card, you do not need to preface your opinions with a lawyer's worth of disclaimers explaining how insignificant it is. You just need to be using your brain with a will.

I, or anyone else, may still think your judgment is wrong and your opinion asinine. But you are damn well qualified to have them; don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
If, after a story is written, published and sold for money, a derivative story based on it is then written, published and sold for money, does this cause any monetary loss to the author of the source-work?

I would suggest that it does not.

The two products are not commensurate; one cannot replace the other, in either direction. Any argument that they are competing for the same market share must acknowledge that, as the second work is derivative, they also mutually support the growth of each other's customer base.

Thus, the commercial basis of copyright law does not apply to fanfic.


In our next segment, reflections on the "intellectual property" aspect of the issue.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
The statement that "there must be limits on freedom" is one I find worthy of consideration in the mouth of a philosopher.

In the mouth of a national president and head of state, someone whose own freedom will not be curtailed by any limits he enacts, it is wholly untrustworthy.



If Plato's philosopher king had ever actually sat on a throne the whole concern would have gone the way of Blithedale.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Question inspired by a brows through [livejournal.com profile] fanficrants: Do fen use terms that trivialize extremely serious matters?

Yes.

Question under the question: Do fen casually use weighty words without bothering their fluffy little heads for one second to think about where those words come from and what it does to their own patterns of thought, to use them casually?

Yes.

Prime examples: gay [as a pejorative] ("That's so gay!"), rape ("Fox is raping my favorite show!"), crack ("This fic is total crack/on crack.")

This is not, of course, specific to fen. It isn't even limited to a young demographic, though teen and young adult slang is where it shows up most often.


What I find most disturbing about this is the number of people who, when pressed or questioned about their use of such terms, will instantly say that their interlocutor is "taking it way too seriously, get a grip!"

Because I would certainly hope that queer-bashing, rape and drug addiction are taken seriously at all times. They should be taken seriously, as anyone who has ever had the misfortune to experience them knows beyond a shadow of a doubt. Insisting on using the terms in a light and unreal/istic way is singularly stupid.

Maybe it's a guilty conscience that drives this double trivialization. Or maybe the people protesting the taking-seriously really are that brainless, shallow, naive, callous and lacking in empathy.

I kind of hope it's a guilty conscience.

In either case, the question I keep wanting to ask next is: Why do you want, so badly, to keep using those particular words? What do you find appealing about them and the concepts they refer to or embed?

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
You know, I'm always amused when people talk about the beneficial moral structure inculcated by training in the martial arts.

(For "martial arts" read, invariably, East Asian hand-to-hand and short-range weapon combat styles.)

Because, when you look under all the accumulated mythos of Warrior Virtues from the Golden Age of Honor, what the "morals" of martial arts come down to is: me alive, and them dead.

When you get right down to it, it's all about hitting people with blunt things, or sharp things. That's it. All that bushwah about duty and responsibility and loyalty and courage and whatnot? That's the social control-system invented by the aristocrats to keep a handle on the people with the weapons. And I quite agree that keeping a handle on the weaponed population, and also on the people who control them, is an issue any society does well to face.

But that doesn't seem to be what most people are talking about.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Apropos of watching some birds getting frisky...

I'm sure people besides me have heard various men appeal to the specious argument that they can't control their sex-drives because humans are animals and male animals turn into furry/feathery sex machines during mating season.

(Not that this is not a perfectly accurate portrait of the male animals in question, it just isn't nearly that simple with primates.)

At any rate, I can't help thinking that men would appeal to this argument far less often if women adopted the female response of the species in question--which is generally to pound the living shit out of any male they don't approve of until he goes off to bug someone else.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Anyone familiar with the saying "There's no prude like a reformed whore"?

Leaving aside, for a moment, all the unwarranted, bigoted and sexist character judgments embedded in that choice of subjects for comparison, there's a grain of truth in it.

For example, the people who viciously castigate, in great detail, authors like, say, Mercedes Lackey, saying she's a hack who writes cloyingly speshul heroines flatter than paper... They had to have read a lot of her books at some point, to know all they do about those supposedly horrible heroines and other characters allegedly beneath their contempt.

Kind of the same way the person most likely to need to think a whore is also a slut is the john who patronizes her.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Copyright. The right to copy.

It's really fairly simple, or at least it was until the web came along. Now those of us who deal with text and images are all stuck with laws that were developed to address paper and ink, trying to stretch them to fit pixels and server-client function. What a mess.

But, however the medium changes, the motives hold pretty steady.

The motive of copyright is to protect the income of the creator of some product.

That's it, really. I mean, we can argue all we like about intellectual property and the ethics of idea-theft and the integrity of artistic work, particularly. But the practical issue it's all based on is the money. (See the last entry about practicalities and ethics.) That's the part that makes me laugh when some artist sets up a howl about how their story or characters have been tainted by fanfic, and what makes me wince when I see another contract saying that some company owns all the ideas their R&D people have for five years after leaving the company.

Ideas are true public domain. It's only the development that can be proprietary. It's the development that time and money and the resources of thought and research are invested in.

And that is the understanding that the concept of "fair use" is based on. The more development that's invested in a derivative product, the more it becomes the property of the 'secondary' creator. The specific threshold between "enough development invested, this is yours" and "nope, not enough, you stole that" tends to be extremely circumstantial, but the principle driving the decision is consistent.

Copyright says that the creator has the right to determine whether and how her/his work will be reproduced and distributed, and the right to be compensated by the recipients. The definition of "creator" that copyright laws give us, though, is "someone who did the work". There's no Holy Mantle of Creator-ship involved, and I think that's a good way to look at it.

Of course, the fact that it's all down to money also means that copyright law dabbles in areas such as "trademark dilution", which I consider an abomination. Questions of trademark recognition, and the importance of it, have entirely to do with advertising, which I believe is a truly evil thing that no self-respecting human being should have truck with. It's rank propaganda, at heart, brainwashing by another name.

So I think the real question, the useful question, to ask yourself, the next time the issues of copyright and intellectual property come up is: who did the work?

Who, all, did the work?

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Ethics have practical reasons for existing. When ethics forget their reasons, then they become morals.


It's a place to start.

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