The LIEF Erikson

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Copyright & Downloading

I've been busy over the past week and just got the chance to catch up on some of my mailing lists. One of them had an extended discussion thread on the legality and ethics of downloading episodes of Star Trek from the Internet. It was quite an eye-opener, not so much as to the law, logic and ethics of downloading but as to the attitudes of Star Trek fans (er... fen). With some notable exceptions the posts were simply trying to justify what they wanted to do.

Many point out the difference in price and value between Star Trek DVD boxed sets and, say, Star Gate season sets. So I love Giraffes too. I'd never buy one though when I can go to the zoo and see one any time I want! You don't think the DVD is good value? Rent it. One poster took his fellows to task regarding the effect that circumventing copyright by downloading would do, a most pertinent point although he didn't press it strongly enough.

At the moment, believe it or not, the owners of the Star Trek copyrights, Paramount et al, are very Fan friendly and do not press to try to "protect" their rights. It's not just the thousands of fan fiction stories on the Net nor the Fan Movies (I know of at least three although their names escape me and I am work away from my files). It could mean them coming down on the Fan Clubs and all the component chapters using Trek Logos and LCARS Fonts or the websites with screencaps of episodes and movies. Even the large and growing number of free paper models of trek ships and props available on the internet.

Think it won't happen? Ever wondered why you don't see many Disney Fan sites? Disney are renowned for being savage about protecting their copyright. Want to compare? Set your search engine on "Disney copyright" (try "Eldred" as well) and then search on "Star Trek Copyright". All you will find on the latter are the copyright riders we put on the bottom of our Fan works.

Copyright and Intellectual property rights are an incredibly complex problem that needs a balanced understanding of the rights and responsibilities of all parties. The creators of the works (the actors & designers) and the commercial risk-takers (the producers & distributors) need to show a return for their work and investments. On the other hand the consumers (the public) and those who would take the artistic work a step further - the fan fiction writers, amateur actors and producers and model makers - simply want to enjoy "the fan experience".

I think Star Trek fans who start actively attacking the legal rights of the copyright owners - no matter how much they think they can justify their actions – could cause Paramount to counter-attack. At the moment they allow fans pretty free reign but if they see that their bread-and-butter income producing properties are being devalued, well, what would you do?

Sunday, February 13, 2005


This months brings us face to face with the almost certain cancellation of "Star Trek: Enterprise". Opinion from Star Trek fans has been varied from resignation - "Told you it wouldn't catch on" - to revolution - "They can't do it! We have to do something!". My own reaction is a mixture of the two.

On the one hand, after the close call on their renewal last year, I could see that UPN really didn't want them to go on. Paramount's incentives to see it continue were protrayed by the sceptical as a desire to see it reach a stage where it could go to DVD and syndication release.

That is not to say that Manny Cato and the new creative staff of Enterprise gave anything less than their best. They have gained near-universal critical praise for what they have done with the show in the last season. It is this great improvement in quality that makes the decision by UPN to cancel seem so unfair. Obviously they have been guided in this by purely commercial considerations