Comment of the Day: USA! USA! Edition

Today, we pitted Mockingjay against Catching Fire for the ultimate prize (bragging rights), closely observed a stunning showdown between two praying mantises, and pondered the legal ramifications of defamation of (fictional) characters.

Georgetown law professor Rebecca Tushnet joined us for a Q&A on the legalities of fan fiction, artists' mash-ups, and musical sampling. In response to this question, from Commenter Snarfelpopper who asked if the original creator of a character might come after fanworks for defamation of character, Tushnet shared this tidbit about the lifecycle of fanworks in the US:

Not in the US! One wonderful thing about the history of fandom is that, from the beginning of mass media, fans have argued back even against the author, when they felt that the author mistreated their favorites. Fans even rewrote the ending of Richardson's Pamela, because they thought he did her a disservice. Other countries have what's called a "right of integrity" allowing the author to object to distortions of their work—but it's always in the author's control, not fans' (so no matter which official version of Batman you think is the travesty—60s camp or recent crapsack world versions, your only option is to fight back with your own opinions). In theory, the integrity right applies to the work as a whole, not specific characters, but authors in such moral rights countries could probably object to certain "distortions" of their characters.

So what does the scene in the rest of the world look like?

Most other countries don't have "fair use," though they do have "fair dealing," which usually allows commentary and criticism. It's hard to predict—some countries interpret fair dealing broadly; Germany even holds that sufficient commentary/parody transforms a work into a completely new work independent of the original, so there's no need for a defense. Canada has a new exception for noncommercial remix that is really promising. Japanese law is in theory strict, but in practice copyright owners are very tolerant of unauthorized remix like doujinshi, which they recognize supports their own markets. But there's very little precedent in most nations.

Image: Amungaray