19 May 2011

Bitches (and Parts Thereof)

  • OK, you can pull them out from under the mattress: Playboy is putting its entire archive on digital readers. It's going to be very, very interesting to see how they handle the Tasini problem; back in the day when people would read Playboy for the articles (and fiction), the contract did not acquire electronic display rights for the pieces... so the only way the Bunnies can do this is via the reprint/reissue privilege in § 201(c) of the Copyright Act of 1976 (which applies here, even though the governing law at the time of initial publication was the 1909 Act). And technologically, the formats required by (and reader capabilities built into) digital readers — the iPad in particular — look somewhat more like what the majority in Tasini objected to than what they felt was allowable...
  • Ryan Britt offers an interesting, thought-provoking take on fan reaction when series creators don't meet fen expectations. This is much more than George R.R. Martin not being your bitch; it is also a rather reflexive piece that never acknowledges its reflexiveness.

    Remember, "fan" is a elision of "fanatic" — and that shows the actual source of the problem. Trufen simply don't have enough diversity in their fanaticism. Perhaps the best example is stereotypical Trekkies who rearrange their lives around one particular fictional construct. However, even in my own Trekkie phase — yes, I Was a Teenage Trekkie could well be semiautobiographical pastiche, bad grammar and all — my own fandom was quite diverse, in that it went far, far outside of slavish devotion to one oeuvre (which I could spell correctly even then). This isn't restricted to visual-media scifi, or even speculative fiction in general: There have been disturbingly similar followings for other properties, beginning not later than Sherlock Holmes. In any event, I slaked my thirst for more by discovering more; that is, the best solution to ire at George Lucas for the "prequel trilogy" is not fanfic, but a library card.

  • The 'net's only worthwhile feline the IPKat offers a useful summary of the Hargreaves Report (with an embedded link to the report itself) with a "top ten" list of recommendations. I'm still digesting the whole thing, but I have a few sideways reactions to the report based on reality:
    • Lord Hargreaves (and/or his staff) need(s) to learn how to write declarative sentences when making a declaration; convoluted sentences when describing something convoluted that is not amenable to simplification; and know the difference between the two. This is not a matter of "it's an academic treatment; what did you expect?"; it's a matter of "the writing style is ill-adapted to the material."
    • I am sick to death of the copyright system being blamed for inadequacies in other parts of the law; in particular, for inadequacies in the law of insolvency and of estates. If those two areas of law — in both the UK and the US — required accurate records of copyrights held, transferred, and forfeited, at least 80% of the "orphan problem" that takes up so much space in Hargreaves' report would never exist... and those in a position to prevent it from recurring would be on notice to do so. Don't blame copyright for solicitors'/lawyers' carelessness.
    • The most disturbing aspect of the report is its rejection of the US concept of "fair use" as a possible reform to UK law. Leaving aside the diffuse nature of "fair use", this reflects a parochialism that fails to consider free expression issues, whether those free expression issues arise from the First Amendment, from the UN Declaration on Human Rights, or from various EU proclamations on freedom of expression. That's not to say that "fair use" is, by any means, perfect — just that it is better than "fair dealing", even if one considers only the law that is definitively binding on the UK. I'm afraid I must give Lord Hargreaves at best a C+ for his discussion of the context in which fair use/fair dealing arise... and, sadly, this is the best-written part of the report.
    • On the whole, the report demonstrates little understanding of the creative process and how diverse sources of inspiration lead to new works. Instead, it focuses on the pseudoeconomic concept of "efficiency" as an overriding objective. This is also reflected in the blithe dismissal of relationship between form and content when discussing digitization of existing materials — something that a century and a half of battles over whether photography (and, in particular, photography of existing works of art) is itself creative and/or infringing should have cautioned against.
    • I think also that the economic context of "innovation" has overwhelmed all other contexts of "innovation" — particularly in the large section of the report concerned with patents, in which virtually every concern and conclusion is based upon enhancing the economic side effects of invention, and not the advancement of the underlying "useful Arts and Sciences" (to import the American term). This is a peculiar inversion of "hindsight bias": A "foresight bias" in which all future value is measured against direct profit potential.

    On the whole, I'm not encouraged.