My husband recently posted this link about the evolution of copyright on twitter. It’s an interesting article which I’d highly recommend reading. One quote in particular stood out for me:
I spend quite a bit of time with teenagers through my work with the Pirate Party. One thing that strikes me is that they don’t watch movies, at least nowhere near the quantity I did when I was a teenager. Just like I threw out my TV set 15 years ago, maybe this is just the natural progression of culture. Nobody would be surprised if we moved from monologue-style culture to dialogue- and conversation-type culture at this point in history.
I’ve heard other people talk about how works that you can’t interact with “damage” culture and how things that society does to remix them, like fan fiction and anime music videos, are a way of “repairing” culture. That whole concept always sounded ridiculous to me. Now I’m wondering, did it sound ridiculous because I don’t think culture is damaged by a movie or did it sound ridiculous because for the majority of my life I’ve been acclimated to the idea that if you love Star Wars and want to tell a Star Wars story there is nothing wrong with getting your friends together and playing a Star Wars table top RPG?
I started identifying as a gamer in my teens and part of being a gamer is assuming that almost any “monologue-style” piece of culture is fair game for you to turn into a game (which I would think qualifies as something more conversational). We don’t get in trouble for this. No one issues DMCA take down notices on our campaign journals or sicks SWAT teams on our Friday night gaming group.
No one tells us that we’re bankrupting Star Wars movies when we run a Star Wars RPG.
In essence, I already “own the rights” to play with mainstream culture as much as I want. So for me, where’s the “damage”? Before today I didn’t really consider the fact that most people aren’t free to do that. They don’t have an outlet to love things in a creative way that’s not technically criminalized. I still don’t see that as cultural “damage” but I do think it’s screwed up. Someone writing fan fiction isn’t hurting Star Wars monetarily any more when they post it online than I am when I sit down with my friends for an evening pretending to be Jedi.