Category Archives: About Copyright

DERIVATIVE WORKS: Legitimacy, Ownership and Creation (The Community Fires Dan Harmon Remix)

Do you know what’s puzzling about the divide between ‘legitimate creative works’ and ‘illegitimate creative works’?

The idea that the creator and unique voice of a creative work can be legally prevented from creating it further, and that someone who has never been a part of that project can, without the creator’s consent or permission, continue producing it ‘legitimately’.

To most people, this might sound ridiculous, but that is exactly what just happened on NBC’s Community. Dan Harmon, widely acknowledged as the unique voice that made this small show great, has been fired from his own series, being replaced by two new showrunners who have never even worked on the show.

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Derivative Works IV: Taking Back the Culture

In previous Derivative Works pieces, I’ve written about how the stigmas regarding fanfiction are inaccurate, and how derivative works can use a majority-centric work to create a space for a minority. In that last essay, I wrote about how cover songs can ‘queer’ a mainstream song, giving queer voices a way to access a song friendly to them in a landscape that usually isn’t. I’d like to explore, for a moment, how fanfiction does something similar with other works; in this example, television.

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Derivative Works I: What and Why

One topic I foresee myself writing heavily on is the field of derivative works; that is, works using the creative property of another artist as a foundation of a new creative work. This field includes music like mashups (see the works of Girl Talk, DJ Earworm and some compositions created for Glee) and cover songs, writings such as unofficial sequels and companion novels (like Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone or Gregory Maguire‘s Wicked cycle) or fanfiction, and even in visual art (such as Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q.). Even ‘legitimate’ works such as movies/TV based on books (like Fight Club or Dexter) fall under this umbrella.

So why is it so interesting?

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