Friday, December 19, 2008

On-Line "Fair Use", and why fans should care...

Being a webmaster of a website, that is devoted to a subject you love, can drive fans to such exuberance, that they tend to not pay attention to such details as the copyright, or "Fair use" of the subjects they write about. To be ignorant of these areas can put webmasters at risk, and they should really educate themselves.

I have been fortune to never have faced a cease and desist order from 20th Century Fox for the work that's done at the XF Lexicon. Crossing fingers I'm never faced with that situation. But I have been indirectly touched by the issue. At one time, years ago, I was a forum moderator and contributor to The Harry Potter Lexicon, who's owner, after getting involved with the publisher RDR, faced a lawsuit from J.K. Rowling's legal team and Warner Bros to stop publication of a print version of that website, J.K. Rowling's argument being that such a publication would be detrimental to the eventual publication of her own reference Encyclopedia about the HP world. The RDR publishers argued "Fair Use" in publishing their unauthorized edition, without the approval of the text from JKR's circle or WB. That "Fair Use" has applied to reference books in the past.

While I am not thrilled with the legal team of RDR, and feel that Steve Vander Ark was not advised or served well by them, I have also not been thrilled with the legal team of JKR or WB either. I have a lot more to say personally on the issue, but that's neither here nor there. The point being is that fellow webmasters of X-Files sites, should pay closer attention to this issue, in light of the outcome of the JKR vrs RDR case. Here's a couple of web addresses to educate anyone interested.

I do want to make it clear, as a writer of original fiction, I do believe that an author's work should be copyright protected, and others should not profit off of their work. Even if that author's work has become a cultural, and corporate, juggernaut, and I have personal doubts that the publication of a reference book from a small publisher could have much effect on that author's fortunes. But fans should respect the intellectual property of the author or creator. The precedent from this decision could affect on-line fandom in numerous areas, and webmasters should be wary of their actions, especially if it edges into the publication of their on-line work in print.

Hopefully, the relationship between corporate entertainment franchises and on-line fans will not become adversarial.

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