OTW Fannews: Legal challenges

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  • Public Knowledge announced its inaugural artist-in-residence, Elisa Kreisinger. She is currently soliciting contributors to her project Fair User(s) which asks “If you know of someone who has experienced any removal or disabling of content due to copyright please direct them to this survey.”
  • Copyright attorney Timothy B. McCormack wrote about a recent lawsuit against the show Heroes of Cos-Play. “Cos-play costumes are derivative works because they are recasting the work their costume is based on into a new medium while still representing the original work of authorship. In some cases they might also be ‘exact copies’ ‘strikingly similar’ copies or ‘substantially similar’ copies. This means anyone who makes a costume based on an original work is required to obtain a copyright license from the owner if they do not want to commit copyright infringement. As a practical matter, however, it is unlikely cos-players will be sued unless they are trying to use their infringing costume to make a profit. The recent lawsuits involving NBC and the show ‘Heroes of “Cos-Play,”‘ however, might beg to differ.”
  • While most people think of rights holders as those who control creative works, one set of cosplayers ran into legal problems with a commercial carpet company. “Apparently the carpet costumes were so popular that one of the original cosplayers offered a version of the Marriott carpet pattern for the presumably vast number of people who also wanted to dress up in carpet-themed camo gear. Seeing this, carpet designers Couristan Inc. sent cosplay suppliers Volpin Props a Cease & Desist letter.”
  • The proposed efforts in the U.K. to restrict online access to porn received worldwide attention, but less of it was paid to protests raised by users. At least one of them expressed fandom concerns about the legislation. “Another activist, Jess Palmer, was cheered by members after saying a pornography filter would have prevented her from discovering fan fiction with some adult themes and finding out about asexuality. Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, successfully asked for the motion to be ‘referred back’ to the party’s policy committee for a rethink. He said there are some problems with children accessing internet pornography but this is not the solution.”
  • Author Misha Burnett talked about aspects of fanfiction and their legal implications. “Genres are largely influenced by a particular work. One could make the case that Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer was Phillip Marlowe fan fiction. As Charles points out, J R R Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings series has inspired the entire genre of Epic Fantasy.” He also cites the many fiction and non-fiction works he has drawn on for his stories. “I don’t think that any author can be entirely free of the influence of other authors–what we read becomes a part of the experience that we draw upon to create our own work. The extent to which we are influenced by any one particular work is a matter of personal taste, however.”

What legal discussions have you seen pertaining to fandom? Write about them in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

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