Copyright Laws and You

Question: Someone MSTed your fic without your permission. What do you do?

A) Read it, email the MSTers and compliment them for their impeccable sense of humor, because, well, now that they mention it, your fic wasn't really that good after all.

B) Read it, cry, show all of your friends just how evil it and start a flame war with the MSTer because it goes against the copyright you hold on your fic.

C) Ignore it.

If you chose answers A or C, then congratulations! You're a well-adjusted human being with a healthy enough sense of humor to laugh at yourself or at least not get pissed off easily. After all, if you can't see humor in your own faults, then who can? Some of the best laughs I've ever had came at my own expense.

Come on! Mock me! I can take it!

Wait a minute. Did you just call me a "Poopey-head?" Really, I thought you could do better than that!

Anywho…

If you chose B, well… I pity you. Why?

1) You obviously take yourself far too seriously. Lighten up a little. This is FANFIC! Not a published novel.

2) You just made the stupid mistake of citing Copyright Law in your defense.

Over the past few years, I've come to notice that when it comes to fanfic, the "Copyright Defense" as I like to call it, is the first thing people cry when they see that their fic has been "unjustly" manipulated.

"Copyright Infringement! Copyright Infringement!"

Gah! The next fic author to scream that gets a smacking by my clue hammer.

The problem is, every person who screams that has absolutely no idea how copyright laws work and are applied to the world of fanfiction.

So, here are a few things to remember:

1) Fanfic is NOT protected by law.

In fact, fanfic is illegal. You do not own the characters. You do not own the locations. It is a FANfic. Emphasis on the word FAN. As members of the Sailor Moon fandom, we're very lucky in that Naoko Takeuchi and all of the companies involved in Sailor Moon graciously decide to turn a blind eye to what we publish freely. Quite a few LEGITIMATE authors (Anne Rice, for instance) have sought legal action against fanfic writers that have taken their characters without permission. Others have placed severe restrictions on what sort of fanfics are allowed to be written. To be given the freedom to be able to write what we want with characters that are not ours, is a gift. It is not a right.

In other words, Naoko Takeuchi is allowed to claim rights on Sailor Moon. You are not. It does not matter how original the story is. You don't own it.

This means that if you are plagiarized, you cannot sue. You must handle the affair privately. No amount of screaming "intellectual property" will save you.

Furthermore, MSTs do not break copyright. How can they? The author doesn't own their fic. Even if a MiSTing DID break copyright law, there's a very good chance that it would be covered under a "fair use" provision of some sort.

Why?

Well, first and foremost, it's a satire/parody that openly gives all credit where credit is due. Secondly, a MST is considered valuable for educational purposes.

Tangential: You cannot copyright fanart, screencaps, or scans.

In the instance of fanart, please read the above. Not your characters. Not your design. You can't claim them. You know those people that sell their fanart on eBay? They could get in a shitload of trouble one of these days.

As for screencaps and scans, well, I understand that one feels that if one puts so much time into capturing/scanning those pics, they should be able to claim them.

No.

The scans are not yours. The screencaps are not yours. Did you draw them? No. Did you edit them? No. You just COPIED them. Hear that? COPY. Yes, those kinds of pictures are copies. Technically, you shouldn't even be using them. But again, most companies are very lenient about that sort of thing.

In the event that you edited the pics, yourself, you do have the right to ask for permission of use… BUT you still can't copyright it.

2) You cannot copyright a title.

I always cringe whenever I see someone write in their authors notes:

The title, [insert title here] in relation to Sailor Moon, and the fan fiction of this title, is legally copyright of [insert author's name here] If you wish to quote from it, use the title for a Sailor Moon-related web page, post the fanfic on your web site, or otherwise publish it, please first ask permission of the author, by e-mailing [insert email].

Where in the hell do these people get off? I can't help but thinking, that someone is being a little bit pretentious, here, do you not agree?

After all, said author is so damn important. May we all should bow at his or her feet.

Actually, the above was lifted from the ANs of a legitimate fic. (Author and fic title shall remain nameless.) Why don't we all analyze what he/she has to say objectively and see what it has to say about the author.

Sailor Moon, the manga and TV series are copyright of Naoko Takeuchi/Kodansha, TOEI Animation and its English language TV adaptation is copyright of DiC Entertainment.

Ok. I'll buy that. But next time, remember Cloverway.

However, the title, [deleted] in relation to Sailor Moon, and the fan fiction of this title, is legally copyright of [deleted].

Um, I just covered this. No it is not. You cannot copyright a title. If that were the case, we would have already run out of titles for bad harlequin romance novels.

If you wish to quote from it, use the title for a Sailor Moon-related web page, post the fanfic on your web site, or otherwise publish it, please first ask permission of the author, by e-mailing [deleted].

Alright, I understand the posting it on one's web site argument. It's nice for a person to keep track of where their stories are located online. That having been said, if one WANTS to quote from something, one can quote from it… as long as the quoter gives credit to the original source of the quote. No asking need be involved. Just look at this rant! (Hee!) After all, when was the last time you asked permission from George Orwell to quote 1984 when you were writing that book report? You didn't. Once an author makes something public domain, people can do whatever they want with said author's stuff as long as proper credit is given and no money is being made off of it… especially if it's being used as a reference. No permission required. (Furthermore, I would be more than willing to credit the above quote, but, dang it, I think that said author would find it even more mean than what I'm doing now. The Fic Bitch has her limits of meanness.)

If you copy the fanfic onto a website without the author's permission, that constitutes copyright infringement.

No, because you never had a copyright in the first place. Sorry, honey, but fanfic is illegal. Your 10+ chapter epic is illegal. Theoretically, Naoko Takeuchi herself could read it and decide to lay the smackdown on your ass. Then where would you be? With a lawsuit, that's where. You have no RIGHT to be discussing copyright.

While this fan fiction is freely published on the Internet, and I receive no profits from it….

Ok. That's true. Disclaimers = Good.

…nevertheless, it remains legally, the intellectual property of its author, and I retain the rights to where it may be published.

Sorry, Sweetie-Pie, but technically, you have no say, whatsoever. Asking may be polite for fic distribution, but you can't exactly MAKE anyone do it.

Don't get me wrong, minna-san--I am pleased that you enjoy my work enough to want to include on your web site or use it in some manner, but my work is my reputation, so where and how it appears is important to that reputation.

I'm sorry, but if reputation were really that important to you, maybe you'd want a pleasant one? Not that I know how you really are in real life, but this just screams of self-importance. Frankly, you should be flattered that people even bother to READ your work – no strings attached.

No offense. ^_^

(It's right about here where some people COULD argue "Well, gee, Fic Bitch, you sure are one to talk." To which I respond that if being blunt and having the balls to freely express those opinions that everyone else has but is too scared to say is a bad thing, then things are more messed up than I thought.. Keep in mind, that I do what I do with the best of intentions in mind. Some people love me for it. Others find me terribly abrasive. Deal. 98% of my harsh and abrasive comments are done purely for comedic effect. If you can't understand or at least respect that, then you have issues.)

So in summary, I am sorry, but people, the law is NOT on your side in this issue. Next time you make silly claims like "copyright infringement" please make sure that you know WHAT it is that you're talking about. When too many "stoopid" people make "stoopid" and uninformed arguments, they only make asses out of themselves. And fodder for me.

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