The LIEF Erikson

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Who is Kirok of L'Stok?

At different times I've been pulled up about the fact that I use a nom de plume on the internet. You have a choice of three answers.

He could be an English-born Australian, a married father of two who has worked on the railways for 27 years and has reached the pinnacle of his career as a technical officer crunching numbers into an unrecognisable pulp on a computer all day!

... or he could be a Klingon abandoned at birth because of major handicaps, raised by Vulcans and used as a human guinea pig for cybernetic implants.

... or he could be a Star Trek fan who likes to write. A member of Starfleet International and correspondence member of a Canadian fan club, he edits two SFI Fanzines, is a moderator of their Writers group and regularly contributes to their Newsletter, Communique. A major contributor to the Trek United Fan Film Campaign, he writes for their Newsletter and contributes articles for their front page as well as for Planet Fandom and yes, I am still struggling to get The LIEF Erikson out as a monthly Fanzine.

OK, I'll 'fess up. I'm all three!

I've been described as a "fan video maker" and I must admit that I held the title of producer of the Trek United Tribute Trailer although I can take little credit for the amazing body of work that it has become - Trek rider, the Director deserves full credit! Without her it would not exist. The closest I have come has been to make two
short "Teasers" for the Trek United campaign on Windows Movie maker. I have aspirations to participating in one or more fan productions in the future, but for the moment I am a comentator rather than a producer!

It all started when my kids were little, I decided to take up something for fun to show them that Dad wasn't really a boring old stiff - I started getting involved with Star Trek. Writing Fan Fic, articles, editing Newsletters and, lately, inflicting my Blogs on an unsuspecting world.

When I was a kid in England years ago, my family was incredibly working class - you could see your life laid ahead of you like train tracks and it was heading into bleak, grey world. I dreamed of doing extraordinary things but the unspoken law was "People like us don't do things like that". "People like us" don't become geologists or helicopter pilots, write books, listen to classical music or go to the theatre. "People like us" work in factories, watch TV, read, listen and watch whatever we are told is popular or trendy.

My kids have shown me that a person can do absolutely anything! By encouraging them to read, write ... create ... I've started to do these things myself.

Did I tell you Kirok loves his kids?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Fan productions: Fair Use or Piracy?

This Blog is based on my rebuttal of material posted on the history page of the Wikipedia article "Star Trek, other storylines", where a subsection was added entitled "A Questionable future for fan films". This was deleted, reposted, deleted again, had its inaccuracies listed, yada, yadda, yadda! Until eventually the discussion page became bigger than the article!

I was encouraged to add my comments to the history page even though it was getting incredibly large. This did catalyse certain material that I am collating for Decembers edition of The LIEF Erikson. This is a preview ...

To me, the overriding question when considering Viacom's response and relationship to the growing number of fan productions should be - Is this a legal problem or a commercial problem? I mean, are they compelled by law to take a certain course of action or can they respond in a manner that best suits their commercial needs. To put it bluntly: are the lawyers in charge or are the managers?

Let's view this as an ethical question. What is the purpose of the copyright laws? To assert the rights of ownership by the professional producers - Paramount - over their works, the characters, designs, scripts, music … etc. These rights of ownership usually mean getting a fair monetary return by the producers and distributors for their investment but it can also include the rights of the creators (scriptwriters, composers etc) to be identified as the authors of their work. The threat of litigation is the force that the law uses to enforce the owner's rights when they are compromised.

Fan film producers have no problem with any of this.
  • They acknowledge the copyright ownership of the original Star Trek copyrights
  • They do not divert revenue from Viacom by accepting money

  • By being predominantly an "original work of authorship" they are by definition an unauthorised derivative work

  • They are non-confontationist and admit that they exist by the sufference of the copyright owners.

  • From an artistic standpoint, they not only acknowledge the work of the writers and directors, they venerate them! Remember we are talking about fans here! I see no need for punitive action.

I would go so far as to say that fan productions are doing the opposite. My contention is that they are maintaining Paramount's revenue by keeping interest alive in the Trek franchise. In fact they are doing even more - they are an active force for increasing Paramount's revenue on the general and the specific level by drawing new fans to the franchise.

If that fails to impress you look at it the other way around. How much profit will Viacom make by taking a Draconian stance and closing fan productions down? certainly Disney does this, but remember Disney is in active production of even its oldest copyrighted characters, Mickey and Donald! Paramount has said they will not have any new professionally produced within the forseeable future so their sole income will come from merchandising their existing productions. Who buys them? The fans and any new fans who might come along.

So explain to me again how closing down fan films on a legality and alienating their only source of revenue is going to deliver a higher profit to their stockholders? I would contend that it makes sound long term commercial sense to encourage fan productions