Monday, May 12, 2008

Who are we? Where are we going?

[Note: I am a co-author of the book The Harry Potter Lexicon, but that's not what this post is about. I think there are larger things at stake.]

On my last visit, my doctor listened to my update on the book situation and asked me “What is ‘fandom’ – what do you mean when you speak of it? Is it one website? Two?” I knew she wanted me to explain it out loud because it might help me figure out why I have given it so much power to hurt, to control what I say and do. I launched into an answer but kept stumbling. Eventually I came up with something like “It’s the whole community of online Potter fans, people who come together to theorize, or draw the characters, or write fanfics. Not just people who love the books, but people who love the books and feel compelled create and to be together online sharing it all.”

I was surprised I had such a hard time explaining it, because I haven’t taken Potter fandom for granted. When I discovered my first fansite (HPANA) I dove in partly *because* I wanted to understand it as a phenomenon. As a children’s librarian I could see that what was happening in the name of Potter could have implications for the way young people of the future read books, why they read, and how they share them. Although I was initially hooked for professional reasons, I quickly learned to appreciate the energy and creativity of the fandom itself. I began contributing too. Soon, I added my voice to the community at HPANA, theorizing, and enjoying other’s theories. The reference librarian in me discovered that there was no reference book to consult, but that there was this nifty website called the Harry Potter Lexicon. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine ever working there.

But anyway, I have been aware of Potter fandom as children’s literature history in the making since the very beginning. At the conventions I attended I sought out programs where people would be discussing what we were, and where we are headed. What will happen to us when book 7 comes out? I have even done presentations to area library professional organizations using Potter fandom as an example of how online communities can bring readers together in fresh ways, a sort of “best practices” for libraries looking for new tools to bring book lovers together online.

So part of my sadness about the lawsuit and fandom reaction has been an awareness of a massive loss of innocence, a lessening of freedom and openness to new ideas that I remember from early fandom. I know, I know, it was not always sweetness and light *coughshippingwarscough*, but we were so unself-conscious, so proud of our dorkiness, so unshielded, so glad to find people online to share it with. What the hell are we doing to ourselves? How is it that we seem to have been taking lessons from Seamus all along, and not Dumbledore? What does it say about people that a community centered upon books that celebrate tolerance, integrity and individual responsibility can turn into angry factions bent on wounding and punishing each other?

I think I am finally getting over the loss of fandom as a place I can escape to, but my sorrow over where we find ourselves is profound. Potter fans, let’s see if we can build bridges and stepping stones together, and remember how to have fun again.

34 comments:

avivavictoriabrueckner said...

Not unlike you I stumbled into fandom rather by accident. Up to that time I used internet as a tool to check facts, do my bank business and get my supply of English language books. Curious about online HP communities and what they would do I left my normal tracks and soon found myself discussing all matters HP, theorizing and sharing my art. And from the beginning I was astonished about the sheer amount of adults, people my age and older sharing my soon to be obsession.

I met some of my best friends online, some of them I flew half around the planet to visit. I established vivid contacts and always defended what I was doing as a worthwhile activity before others who had never had the experience of online activities and/or couldn’t see the beauty in a children’s book series.

Yet, I also soon discovered, sooner than you are now, that fandom is not different to the normal world outside the cyber space. Opinions clash here and there. And while freedom of speech and opinion is worth fighting for, some just can’t handle the concept of a discussion where arguments are exchanged and sometimes a point can be reached where both sides just have to agree to disagree but life goes on peacefully. What started as a fun discussion ended sometimes with whole groups forced out of places as the arguments got personal and violating.

What we see now, built up like an avalanche above us, is just what we were heading to since a long time. It’s not about a simple legal case on copyright anymore (even though it’s nothing simple about this case I reality). This court case is just another sign that business, commerce and the question of leadership has long taken over in fandom as well. Just by becoming one of the leaders in HP fandom one can become a person of interest, one can create opinions and exercise power over other people. And what makes it even worse emotions and feelings have been mixed in that can and have been hurt.

I guess fandom can never again become the cosy place it once was in the beginning even though that is sad. Yet we have outgrown our children’s shoes. Now all of us need to act like adults. Even as adults we can have fun in the unique world of HP.

Aviva Victoria Brueckner aka Nymphchild

mary-j-59 said...

Hi - I am here from rattlesnakeroot's livejournal page, and wanted to share with you some of the thoughts that have come up there. First, I am really sorry about the lawsuit; it seems like a bad thing on several levels. Second, I am also new to fandom; the HP fandom is the first one I've participated in actively, though I've been a fan of Tolkien and Lewis practically all my life, and of Star Trek and Dr. Who from early adolescence onward.

But what I wanted to say, and did say on Rattlesnakeroot's page:
1. The Harry Potter fandom was never an entirely innocent or welcoming place to me. I was and am a Snape fan, and there were always places where you were castigated simply for liking and defending this character - or other places that seemed completely creepy in what they did to him and other Potterverse characters!
2. I got propelled into fandom not because I loved the books so much and wanted to share the love, but because they upset me. I date the moment of my entry into fandom from reading HBP and searching online for support and comfort. As it turns out, the weaknesses and problems I saw in HBP were only confirmed in DH. Which brings me to my final point:
3. Rowling's books do not celebrate tolerance and diversity. Like you, I thought they did, but they don't. There is more on this in the discussion on Rattlesnakeroot's site. But the fandom, in its divisions and bitterness, seems to be echoing the unhealed divisions in the books.

Thanks for letting me chime in, and good luck.

mary

Lisa said...

Mary and Aviva, I enjoyed reading your thoughtful comments.

I agree that fandom has never been one big love-in. Anyone who has attended one of the cons quickly learns that there are factions and considerable friction between fans who are passionate in their beliefs. I also observed a fair number of forum trolls and fans who still hadn't learned yet to argue a point without resorting to personal attacks. But for every person like that there were 10 more doing filks or fanart that gave me goosebumps or a positing a new theory that involved rune analysis or something else wonderfully clever. What is different now is the scale of the poison -- how inescapable it is -- and that the schism is so public. It is also true that this is the first time I have personally been attacked for something other than a poorly constructed theory or my Lexicon entry on Ginny, so that inevitably must color how I see things. Early fandom wasn't free of hatefulness, but I remember noticing on several occasions how balanced it seemed as a social ecosystem. The well-run forums like HPANA had great mods, but it was also to a certain extent self-correcting.

Mary, I especially appreciate your point about fandom being a comfort when you discover people who share your viewpoint.

Hombre con criterio said...

I wanted to know how you feel, I hope you are fine. You have all my support. Fandom can be still great. What makes me feel sad are the brainless fans who just repeat the words of others, but we have to live with it.

Mike said...

Dear Lisa,

I am glad to see you posting again. I'm sorry for all the grief that you are going through.

I don't think I ever really got to know the fandom-community in the interactive sense. There was FictionAlley, and online reference guides (such as the ever-valuable Lexicon), and Leaky for news -- but those were libraries to me, not communities.

Eventually I started interacting with people in fandom through TLC's pre-Leaky-Lounge comments-boards. I found the discussion, for the most part, quite intelligent and mature. That declined markedly once the Leaky Lounge opened -- probably because the original commenters and modding force migrated over, but I never followed.

I did eventually start to make closer friendships through online interactions with some of those original commenters, but they were too few to feel like a "fandom."

Hmmm. Did I have a point? I guess it was that I never interacted enough with the fandom-community to get a good enough sense of "how it was," and so can't compare it well with "how it is." But I agree with Aviva above that I think the fandom was always like any community -- one could always find friction and discord and hostility if one looked for it. The current conflict looms larger, I think, because it is so present and so raw -- and for me, because it involves parts of the fandom that I have come to care about (as opposed to the shipping wars and the "delusional" crisis, which involved parts of fandom that I never cared much about at all).

I think that time heals much. It will take time and work to make those bridges you are talking about, but I think that there's only so long people can wallow in a cess pool. Eventually, most people will avoid negativity and seek out the best in the fandom again. (Well, there will always be those relative few who really enjoy the cess pool -- but they will be left to choke on their own bitterness.)

By the way, I don't know the arguments that Mary above refers to that Jo's books do not celebrate diversity and tolerance -- and as Mary said, this is not the place to discuss that -- but I do disagree with her point (if I understood it) that deficiencies in Jo's world are somehow responsible for deficiencies in our own community. Each of us is responsible for how we behave and how we treat each other. To paraphrase the Bard, the fault lies not in the Potterverse but in ourselves.

Warm regards,
Bandersnatch

Mike said...

Lisa said in her original post:
"What does it say about people that a community centered upon books that celebrate tolerance, integrity and individual responsibility can turn into angry factions bent on wounding and punishing each other?"

Ah -- this is what Mary was commenting on. Now I understand a little better. I still maintain, however, that when the vocal minority on this issue in the fandom acts so divisively and hatefully, they are not learning from any vices in Jo's imaginary world. They are simply being themselves.

And to address your question, Lisa -- since I think that Jo's books do indeed "celebrate tolerance, integrity, and individual responsibility" -- just because people read about virtues in Jo's world doesn't mean they are going to espouse them either.

--Bandersnatch

pianolibrarian said...

Lisa, I'm really glad you posted this. I've been wondering about you, and keeping you and your colleagues at the Lexicon in my thoughts and prayers.

My entrance into fandom seems similar to yours. I stumbled upon TLC as an undergrad who was determined to become a children's librarian someday, and something just sort of clicked in my head. It was the realization that there were people out there who were thinking about the same things I was thinking about, and the amount of creative expression I've seen from the Potter fandom over the years has been truly amazing.

It does make me sad to see this arguing in the fandom I've come to love. It's disheartening sometimes. The HP fans are anything but a homogeneous group, so it's pretty much inevitable that disagreements would come up, but the sad part is this time the disagreement is centered around a public figure of the fandom, and it makes everything so much harder to deal with on an emotional level. I wish things could be different. I wish we could rewind the last six months and...I don't know. I don't know what could have happened differently that wouldn't have brought the fandom here. I just wish there had been a way, you know?

But in the midst of this, the fandom hasn't stopped. The fic is still being posted, people are still making incredible artwork, the forums are still full of people having great discussions, and the Wizard Rockers just keep rocking away. There's still joy to be had in this fandom. There are people I've disagreed with over this matter, but I still consider them as fellow fans who are worthy of my respect, and I hope that if enough people adopt a similar approach, maybe some of the hurts from the last several months can start to heal.

Anyway, that whole long comment was really just to say that I'm thinking about you and the rest of the Lexicon staffers, and I really hope you're all okay.

-DaisyRenee

Abi Adam said...

I am genuinely confused by your identifying yourself as the "author" of the Lexicon book. The Lexicon book only has Steve Vander Ark as its putative author but this is also a misnomer. The Lexicon book is based upon the contributions of fans to the Lexicon fan site none of whose permission was asked for, or given, to publish; and none of whom will receive any remuneration for their efforts. A more accurate and honest description might be co-editor of a commercial venture based upon a free-to-use non-profit fan site that itself infringes Jo Rowling's work solely at her discretion and tolerance.

It fascinates me that someone who is so interested in the good could side with such an illegal purpose as copyright infringement, both of Jo Rowling's work and that of the fans who contribute to the Lexicon web site, in order to make a profit. At no point in Mr Ark's contract did it stipulate he was to give his share to charity. And your name did not appear in the contract that had Mr Ark indemnified against copyright abuse law suits, which he clearly anticipated.

There seems to be a disconnect here, which I genuinely do not understand. Intelligent fans have been genuinely distraught to see someone they thought loved the Potterverse involved in such illegal and immoral activities. Surely it must have been anticipated that such activities would cause immense friction amongst the fandom? Why then be surprised at the vituperation?

Lisa said...

abi adam, my note says I was a co-author. I want to comment further on your note, but I need to think about your points a bit longer.

hinoema said...

Something else to think about- and I'm not a lawyer, but- as far as I know, the second Steve signed a legal contract claiming that he owned all rights to all material in the Lexicon, the other 'co-authors' and any other contributors lost any rights they had to any say about or receive anything for that content (unless you/they too legally protest). The only way, as far as I know, that this will change is if the contract is invalidated or cancelled.

What has concerned me is if you ever signed anything giving these rights over the original material you penned to Steve. If not, I'd say his claim of these rights in the contract is invalid.

Torill said...

Hi Lisa - glad to have found you here. I am mostly posting over at this blog these days, should you be interested: http://torill-underthemagnoliatree.blogspot.com/

I am sad too how people who used to be friends and have fun together are now suddenly behaving like enemies towards each other - and I do feel for you and all the crap flung in your direction by some. Of course, there are still those - many more than it may seem on sad days - who are capable of discussing this law suit and differ in their opinions on copyright law and the merits of the case without vilifying each other. Hopefully, when the case has ended, we may eventually all forget the strife and get back together, if not perfectly as before, to have fun with anything Potter.

It is true what Mary said as well - there have been wars in the fandom before, and will be in the future - as there will always be those who cannot tolerate differences of opinion or interpretations, whether this be about Potter characters, movie adaptations or copyright law.

The trick of course is to find those you can still communicate with and still have fun with, discussing the books and other deep life issues! And then try to rise above all the vitriol and hatred - which is easier said than done,I know...

Abi Adam - I appreciate that you sincerely believe the RDR Lexicon book constitutes copyright infringement and therefore should not be published. I respect that. I am not sure the intent of Lisa's entry here is to discuss the merits of the case itself, though - as I read her, she is more concerned about the form discussions over this issue has taken in the fandom. Too many are not really debating the merits of the case, but instead allow themselves to characterize the characters, personalities or moral qualities of the parties involved. It happens on both sides of the fence. It really ought not to be necessary, as it ends up hurting everybody on all sides.

You question how anyone who is interested in the "good" can side with RDR aginst Rowling/WB here - as if it is crystal clear that the book in quesiton does constitute copyright infringment, and that anyone connected to it must also know this and therefore act out of criminal intent, be nothing but despicable lawbreakers engaged in immoral and illegal actitivites. And that all intelligent members of the fandom must be against them.

But this is not so. There are perfectly good, intelligent, law-abiding and morally virtuous people supporting both sides of this case, I assure you. I know several of them, on both sides, and they are all sad how this has turned out. The disagreement that has ended up in court is not about levels of morality, but about how copyright law should be interpreted. Nothing more, nothing less.

The honourable judge Patterson himself - someone we must assume does know the law better than the majority of fans discussing this case - says the case is covered by a gray area of the law and may go both ways, therefore appeals to the parties to try and settle outside the courthouse. This means that both sides have some merit, some good and valid arguments. We as fans need to accept that, no matter what our personal opinons of the case may be, and where our personal loyalties may lie.

Because the case is not cut and dry at all. Both sides, both RDR and Jo/WB, believe they have the law on their side, none of them have any intention or will to engage in anything criminal or morally dubious. There's no reason to assume this kind of intent of any of the chief players here. We as fans shouldn't feel the need to ascribe this kind of motivation to any of them.

Of cousre, whenever something ends up in court, the willingness to reach compromises and understand the other party's point of view are abandoned. Lawyers and representatives on both sides will start to do their best to paint the opposite party as bad as possible in order to impress the judge, and maybe also the fandom. That comes with the territory, and the players of the courtroom are used to that and don't take it personally at all.

But sadly enough, fans may be influenced by this game, take all the arguments and all the attempts at vilifying and disgracing the opposite party, outside and inside the courtroom, literally - and start to accuse the side they oppose, and each other, of lack of morality, decency and honour. At least I believe this is one factor that has weighed heavily in here when the disagreements in the fandom has turned so bitter.

I wish we could all take one step back, try to see the greater picture, and grant those we disagree with as much intelligence, decency and moral integrity that we claim for ourselves.

We also need to accept that this is a civil case, not a criminal one, and that the dispute over whether and in what cases fair use should be extended to include reference books is not settled among law experts. It must now be evaluated and decided by a jugde kowledgable of the laws and precedences in question - and we should all prepare ourselves to accept his ruling, no matter which way it will fall.

We may of course all have our different opinions on what we wish that rule should be - and we do, I am sure - but there is no need to vilify our opponents. We disagree, that's all. That ought to be fine. The issue ought to be the merits of the case, not anyone's moral standard, character traits or personal life... This in my opinion, should be the concern of every intelligent fan interested in the good and the righteous.

Abi Adam said...

I appreciate due to the delicacy of the current stage of the court case Lisa Bunker may feel unable to answer any of my pertinent questions, all of which addressed the reasons for the change in fandom. So I will address Torill’s tangential comments in the meantime, which perpetuate the disconnect I referred to earlier.

It is simply not possible to disconnect the court case from the emotive reaction of the fandom. You do not steal something from the source of all our fun and then argue that everyone should behave as though a disagreement of opinion has occurred, and ask why cannot we all simply get on and be friends? Those responsible for the Lexicon book, which I have seen on Justia.com, cannot argue that Jo Rowling is behaving like some kind of Griphook the goblin demanding rights to something made and paid for generations ago. Jo Rowling’s work is copyrighted. To argue Fair Use is to accept copyright infringement but to plead “exception.” Why on earth would anyone of integrity, honesty, or any intelligence worthy of the name, want to infringe the copyright of the creative brilliance who produced the works that are the source of fandom fun? And then, to add insult to injury, ask: what has happened to fandom, where has all the fun gone?

Let us be clear. Mr Ark and Mr Rapoport were caught dissembling, on oath, to the court. Their deceitful behaviour was exposed for all to see, but, nevertheless, we are enjoined to ignore this so we can all be friends. Gross copyright infringement has been committed by those calling themselves fans or admirers of Jo Rowling, yet they plead for understanding and that the fandom should somehow ignore this behaviour so that we can all be friends and so that the fun can return.

Intelligence requires an ability to comprehend and understand. When someone says they do not understand why stealing is wrong, there must surely be a gap in their understanding? When someone supports people who dissemble on oath, there must surely be a gap in their comprehension, integrity, and their understanding of the meaning of the term responsibility? There is not a single case in the history of fair use copyright law that has accepted a work that takes over 90% of someone else’s copyrighted works. And, in any case, where is the integrity or responsibility in stealing 90% of anything from anyone? Never mind from someone one purports to admire, and who is the sole source of the fun one is missing, as a result of a court case initiated utterly by oneself and one’s actions?

Let us be honest, show integrity and take responsibility, and call a spade a spade: the Lexicon book is infringement on amphetamines, rampant in scale and depth. The Lexicon site infringes in parts but has been tolerated by Jo Rowling, out of, possibly misplaced, liberalism. Those who put the Lexicon book together used illegal or questionable practices to do so (scanning etc.), they then compiled, abridged, edited and summarised the work of the original author, Jo Rowling. They are not authors; they are co-editors, co-abridgers, co-summarisers, and/or co-compilers of the true author’s work (should I add co-scanners, co-paraphrasers, co-plagiarisers, and co-cut-and-pasters too, or is that too harsh? What is the truth?).

I have read the transcripts, the findings of fact and conclusions of law, the Lexicon manuscript, and have presented as much material as I could to British lawyers whose opinion I respect and trust. They either laughed, smiled, or shook their heads in disbelief at the gall of the infringers and their behaviour. I have looked at every important case cited by the Defence in support of their client and have found that without exception they support Plaintiffs’ case.

I have complete confidence in the judge precisely because he gave the Defence a chance to dig themselves out of the very hole they had so assiduously dug themselves into. And I look forward to the fun returning to the fandom once justice has been served. And yes, this case, morality, and fandom fun are all connected: “Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another”(Leviticus 10:11), is not a matter of opinion, it is a commandment. Note how, unlike a certain manuscript, I referenced my source and put the appropriated passage in quotation marks. © abi adam (ah, is that © for real or not?)

Abi Adam said...

Should read Leviticus 19:11 obviously my mistake, and responsibility.

Mike said...

abi said:
>To argue Fair Use is to accept copyright infringement but to plead “exception.”<

This is simply not true. If something is fair use, then legally it is not copyright infringement. The two are mutually exclusive, as far as I am aware.

abi said:
>Why on earth would anyone of integrity, honesty, or any intelligence worthy of the name, want to infringe the copyright of the creative brilliance who produced the works that are the source of fandom fun?<

Well, has it occurred to you that perhaps they didn't do it with an intent to break the law? Perhaps they honestly thought that what they were writing was fair use -- and thus legally acceptable.

You seem very sure of your evaluation of this case, abi, but I remind you that Judge Patterson quite clearly said during the trial that this case is in a legal grey area and could go either way -- that is one of the reasons why he urged the parties to come to a settlement. So although in your own opinion this case is absolutely clear-cut, in the end it is the opinion of the judge which makes that determination.

Is everyone entitled to an opinion? Yes, of course. May everyone express and debate their opinion? Certainly. But let us not circumvent the law of the land. "Innocent until proven guilty" -- and that means proven to the judge or jury of that case, not to anyone else.

--Bandersnatch

Abi Adam said...

Bandersnatch:
Fair Use is “a statutory exception to copyright infringement … (which) permits the unauthorised use or reproduction of copyrighted work” (US Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit; 9 May 2006) but requires that “the burden of proving fair use is on the defendant” (Campbell v Acuff Rose 1994; similarly: College Entrance Exam v Pataki 1995). Note also the Defence has already conceded copyright infringement: “The parties do not dispute actual copying. Accordingly, Ms Rowling satisfies this element in regard to the infringement claims she asserts.” (p32; RDR’s findings of fact -conclusions of law; 9 May 2008)

Until the court affirms the exception to the infringement the Lexicon book is also assumed potentially infringing, which is one of the reasons why it is not in print already. The question remains however, why would any fan want to infringe Jo Rowling’s copyright to start with? Fair Use is a way of trying to get permission for an exception to the copyright infringement not evidence no infringement occurred up to that point, never mind the fact the defence accepts copyright infringement did occur. Only upon the court affirming fair use is that exception granted and infringement does not apply in law in that case alone. However, those fans who see the copying and book as unauthorised, which even under fair use it would be, will see the Lexicon book as infringing in the common use and sense of the term as: a violation or contravention of the bond between fan and the person they are a fan of.

Even if the book passes fair use, which it cannot according to all fair use case law I have so far examined, it nevertheless remains an unauthorised use of Jo Rowling’s copyrighted work. So why would any fan want to use unauthorised reproductions of the copyrighted work of the author one assumes they admire and respect? The fact of the matter is no proper “fan” would. Hence the misnomer of the nomenclature “fan” or “fandom” as pertaining to those who are attempting to use unauthorised copies of Jo Rowling’s work even if it is found under an exception to not be infringing. And hence too the bemusement as to why anybody attempting such an action would be surprised by the vituperative response of fandom.

The judge is duty bound in these types of cases to ask the parties to settle, it saves the court (read also tax payer), time, money, and effort if they do. And, it is true fair use can be described as a grey area of law in the sense that the law is determined on a case-by-case basis and decisions have been reversed in the Appellant Court (as in all areas of law), but note it was not the Plaintiffs who were arguing for fair use. I think the judge was also concerned at the sheer volume of case law he would have to wade through to back up any verdict he makes whether for or against any given party. Nevertheless, as the law stands, in the dozen or so cases I have looked into and which both sides cited, he cannot but find for Plaintiffs. I admit it takes time and effort to go through so many cases but my doing so, and my conferring with very able lawyers, explains my confidence in the outcome.

mary-j-59 said...

Well - but Lisa did not wish to discuss the merits of the case, Abi, but rather the divisions in the fandom. I guess you maintain the two cannot be separated? Even if that's true:

1. We *are* talking about grey areas here. The case has not yet been decided. Therefore, it is not only harsh, but inaccurate, to call those of us who believe there is a strong case for the Lexicon book dishonest.
2. As far as "fair use" goes, Rowling herself copied, and took concepts and ideas from, literally dozens, if not hundreds, of sources. There is nothing especially wrong with that; it is how the creative process works. Have you read Neil Gaiman on this question? If not, I would encourage you to do so. I cannot see that the Lexicon's book could possibly harm Rowling in any way, and one typically brings suit when one has actually been injured.
3. Following on from this (fair use again), I have on my bookshelf a volume with entries like this one:"Gandalf: An inscrutable, beetle-browed wizard who sets in motion the events of both stories. . ." (From Chambers Dictionary of Literary Characters). In what way is this original work? And how does it differ from what Mr. Vander Ark was attempting to do?

But my main point is simply that you are making assumptions by calling Mr. Vander Ark (and worse yet, those fans who think he may have a case) dishonest. That's not right. The case has not been decided yet, and the issues really aren't as clear cut as you think. How is it good or right to put other people down simply because they see this case, and the questions it brings up, differently than you do?

I think Rowling was wrong to bring the suit in the first place - if she did; it may not have been her choice, but that of the corporations involved. I think it would be better for all parties if they could settle out of court. I don't think my belief makes me a bad, evil or inferior person. Just my two cents

Mike said...

abi:

Legalese is not a language in which I am fluent, but describing Fair Use as "a statutory exception to copyright infringement … (which) permits the unauthorised use or reproduction of copyrighted work" sounds like a confirmation of my point that things which violate copyright and things which are Fair Use are mutually exclusive -- if it is an exception, and the use is permitted, then it is not in violation of copyright.

I also disagree with you that RDR has conceded copyright infringement. See RDR's findings of fact, p. 38: "Even if Ms. Rowling were to show infringement of her copyrights [implying that RDR does not concede the point], the Lexicon may nonetheless be protected by the fair use doctrine." RDR has agreed that copying has taken place, but they hold that it is legal as long as it is not "an improper or unlawful appropriation" of Jo's work (ibid., p. 33).

You said:
"So why would any fan want to use unauthorised reproductions of the copyrighted work of the author one assumes they admire and respect? The fact of the matter is no proper “fan” would."

I suppose that's what some of the most vociferous arguments in the fandom are about right now -- never mind what is legal, must a "fan" always abide by the opinions and wishes of the object of his or her fanaticism? But such arguments do not interest me particularly, so with that I will bid you all farewell.

--Bandersnatch

Abi Adam said...

Mike/Bandersnatch
RDR’s lawyers said in black and white they infringed Jo Rowling’s copyright by copying (p32). No legalese there. You disputed RDR ever infringed not I. Yet when RDR themselves say they infringed you choose to ignore it. Sorry, that is not how it works either in law or in disputation. Of course they present other reasons for why they should be allowed to get away with it, as is their right. But in terms of fair use they don’t have a leg to stand on.

And your selective quote from my post does the same re fandom. You cannot take something from someone without their consent and still call yourself a fan. Simple. Even in fair use it remains “unauthorised” use of copyrighted work. ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too’ is an English expression. I’m saying the co-compilers of the Lexicon are demanding just that, and therefore there is a disconnect in their thinking. In the case of stealing from the object of their fanaticism one would hope, yes, as a fan, they would abide by the author and originator’s wishes, otherwise why use the epithet fan at all?

Why not call a spade a spade and call those who seek to profit from literally copying Rowling’s words and ideas “profiteers” or “exploiters” as opposed to “fans” at least that would not be an abuse of the English language and would accurately describe the for-profit activities of the co-compilers of the Lexicon book as it stands. The sad fact is if they simply re-wrote the Lexicon book in a fair use manner everyone would be delighted and I, for one, would buy it, and, what’s more, I would have no hesitation describing them as both fans and authors.

Mary-J-59
I did not say anyone was dishonest, other than those who were caught dissembling on oath. I did imply intellectual dishonesty on the part of those who on the one hand call themselves fans or part of fandom, and on the other hand deliberately attempt to profit by the use of “unauthorised” copyrighted works of the person they purport to admire. There is an intellectual and psychological disconnect that requires explanation. Just as Lisa’s desire to separate what fandom is expressing from the merits of the court case makes no sense either and shows similar signs of intellectual disconnectedness.

And what on earth are the “fans” who supported this theft going to say when the court decides that this was in pursuit of an “illegal purpose?” Will they then rally round to pay RDR’s fines and legal costs? If they do, what are they saying to Jo Rowling the person they supposedly admire and who has proven that these individuals were acting illegally and had stolen her work and tried to undermine her copyright? Even with a modicum of thought none of this makes coherent sense if people keep insisting on calling themselves fans. But it makes perfect sense if they call themselves businessmen trying it on, or risk takers preparing to take a gamble, or politically motivated individuals with an agenda to pursue. Then, by all means, it makes perfect sense. It is important to be honest about one’s motivations and the consequences of one’s actions and not to delude oneself in relation to either.

By the way if you read the court transcripts Jo Rowling was asked specifically her reasons for pursuing the case. She answered that it was a matter of principle, that WB were licencees only, and that it was her sense of outrage at having her work stolen from her in the way the Lexicon book had in its current form, that motivated her to fight for her rights to protect her copyright from gross infringement. I suggest it is worthwhile to read the Lexicon manuscript, the court transcripts and the findings of fact and conclusions of law and you will understand soon enough (Justia.com). Then I advise moving on to fair use case law. It’s a real eye opener.

Lisa said...

Abi adam, To answer your original question about contracts: fandom, even at very high levels, had always functioned by e-mailed agreements and statements made to each other. And trust. This book was no different.

I don't want to comment further on the book, partly because as the only co-author to be posting much of anything it might give the impression that I speak for all of us, and I don't.

There are many forums where the book's legality is being discussed. To repeatedly request that I defend the book here, when when I don't feel free to speak puts me in an untenable position. I hope you are never accused of detestable acts by anonymous people and know that you are unable to defend yourself. Just about everything about this mess is out of my control.

I appreciate that you have gone out of your way to learn about the case but I draw rather different conclusions from what has happened so far. I will leave it at that and request that you consider your points made and move on.

Aviva, Hombre con criterio, PianoLibrarian, Mike, Torill, and mary-j-59, it was great to hear from you. No, better than great, it made me glad I posted.

Abi Adam said...

Thank you for your reply. I appreciate you cannot comment on the details of the case. But my initial comment was about the fandom and the inextricable link between their emotive response and the facts of the case. We are adults not adolescents who do not know better, and we are responsible for our actions. The court case will be over soon but the ramifications will continue, if not the Appeals.

Children and adolescents can be volatile and unreasonable and I am sorry you have been subject to their excesses. Nevertheless adults take responsibility for their actions and, if intelligent, have the perspicacity to anticipate the consequences. I hope you will do the right thing and withdraw your consent to the to-be illegal product of your past efforts and produce a beautiful well-written non-infringing book that we, the fandom, can buy and enjoy.
Yours sincerely abi adam

John said...

Dear All: It is a pleasure to read opinions which differ so fundamentally but are stated so politely. Well done. +linden swallow

wildfyre said...

Hey Lisa, just wanted to drop by to offer a hug.

Believe me, I know what it's like to have anonymous accusations flung at you and not be able to respond. I'm not as good at restraining myself as you are, so I have a great deal of respect for you (and the other co-authors).

Losing the escape of fandom is probably the hardest thing for all of us. The anonymity of the Internet makes people act even worse than they would in person. If we give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they forget that there are real people behind the avatars. Sadly, I've come to believe it's far more likely that a lot of them are all too aware that we're real, but enjoy the power that their anonymity - and the associated lack of culpability - gives them to hurt and destroy real people.

I think I've seen it as something of a wake-up call: never again will I invest so much in any group of people as to give them this power to hurt me. It's a valuable lesson, if a hard one.

My doctor apologised the other day for using the word "cult" when talking about fandom. On reflection, I think he actually understood it better than I did. There is still a community buried in there, though, and nothing can take away the fact that we've made some amazing friends and had wonderful experiences because of it. I'm inclined right now to say it wasn't worth it, but I hope one day we'll be able to look back and see the bonds that were strengthened by this, rather than the ones that were broken.

That's my long-winded way of saying hang in there. As tests of character go, this has to be one of the hardest, and the fact that you're holding up at all is remarkable.

Al the best,

Elanor

Lilly said...

Abi Adam, personally I find that using the old "call a spade a spade" thing as an excuse to be aggressive and rude to be offensive. Adding quotes from the Bible to try and show a moral superiority is worse - what happened to "Judge not lest ye shall be judged" and "Let he who is without sin ..." or even turning the other cheek? You seem to have skipped all of the parts about forgiveness and tolerance in the Bible and for that matter in the Harry Potter books you seem to revere.

As far as your questions about why someone would want to write a book about the Harry Potter books - that one is easy, because they found something in them that they wanted to comment on, and discuss further with an audience who also love the books. Look around, there are many companion books already on the market - with both positive and negative commentary. The fact that people have found so many themes within the books, and are so passionate about them that they wish to explore them further in books is a tribute to the world that Jo created - if she feels that any of those books are infringing she is well within her rights - and in fact has said that she feels it is her duty - to try and stop it, but just because she feels that way does not automatically make it law.
You seem to have trouble understanding the fair use "exception", which does indeed mean that it is not an illegal copyright infringement. Whether that is true of the Lexicon Manuscript is still not decided as a point of Law. Yes, it is an emotional subject within the fandom, and sadly I am sure that the judgement will not end the argument.
Regardless of whether I personally believe the book fits this exception, I do not believe that the staff of the Harry Potter Lexicon wilfully or maliciously set out to harm Jo Rowling, or create a fandom war. I do believe that things could have been handled better, but hindsight is a great thing, and since Lisa has not been personally named in the suit, I find your attacks on her - whether they were meant as attacks or not, that is how they read - to be ill thought out. The questions you wanted answered could have been asked in a better way, without the vitriol. Remember you are dealing with a person who has feelings and has been hurt by her involvement in this ordeal. You, along with the rest of us, have no way of knowing whether she has any regrets on a personal or professional level, or even how she would have handled things if she had the power to do so - and if you wanted to ask her about that you could have done it in a much more compassionate way, not hiding behind "calling a spade a spade" and biblical quotes.
It is possible to be honest about your feelings about the case without disregarding the hurt you may cause another person.

Lisa, I wish you well and hope that you are able to find your way back to enjoying the fandom, which still includes many active, good people . Bandersnatch, nice to see you around, Torill - I'll talk to you soon!
Lilly

hinoema said...

I'm sure Lisa is a lovely person, and was well intended in this. I can't extend that assumption of lack of malice to others more intimately associated with the case, however, and one is often judged by one's company, unfortunately.

Part of the problem I see is evident in this blog entry itself. First, I don't understand why there seems to be this assumption that you, Lisa, *can't* discuss this. I see no reason why not.

According to all available evidence, you aren't legally a party in any of this; not in the case or in the actual book. You can voice your opinion, or *choose* not to, but I see no reason why you *can't*.
When you choose not to discuss this for whatever reason but choose to judge others for this divisiveness you see- when you lament the divisiveness you see but refuse to clarify anything in a way that may help ease the resentment and divisiveness- well, with all respect, not only doesn't that help, but it leads to further division. Some will fell accused and become defensive, while others become defensive of you and feel the former reaction to be an attack on you- as we see in these comments.

If you choose not to discuss the matter but choose to express a negative opinion about others' reactions, choosing not to clarify any of these apparent misconceptions when you, as far as I see, are quite able to, that doesn't help anything.

You speak of building bridges and stepping stones. Well, having the courage to speak candidly and honestly without fear of other's reactions is the first step. Otherwise, misconception rules.

wildfyre said...

Hinoema, I'm afraid I have to beg to differ. When all this started, I tried to step in and correct some of the flagrant misconceptions, and what good did that do? I've never had anything to do with the Lexicon book, and I've been vilified more than most of the actual authors, simply for speaking the truth.

If you look at what's happened to me, how can you possibly blame Lisa and the others for feeling that it's best to say nothing at all? Personally, I think that was an incredibly brave decision and one that I wish I was strong enough to have taken myself.

Elanor

hinoema said...

I don't blame anyone for feeling it's best to say nothing at all. However, this post isn't saying nothing at all. It is, in fact, a perfect way to cause the divisiveness it laments.

When you are in a position to give information, people will give your words a great deal of weight. And when those words basically accuse fandom of becoming "angry factions bent on wounding and punishing each other", then people will mentally sort themselves into good and bad fans, and proceed to defend themselves from this apparent accusation.

I can respect a choice not to discuss an ongoing case. However, refusing to do so and then casting vague aspersions while lamenting how bad things have become not only doesn't help, it fans the very flames that are being lamented.

Side note- legally, no one here is an author, co-author, what have you. The LM only has one person who claimed all rights for the work in contract. Personally, I don't think that was at all fair to Lisa or the others, which is one thing that I've wondered about. If Lisa doesn't want to discuss it that's fine- but if you're in such a position and voice an opinion, you'll get questions.

Lisa said...

hinoema, I have no lawyer to represent me, but last November I was terrified that the lawsuit might mean that our house and savings were threatened. Do you remember the 10 John Does? There are roughly 10 people on the Lexicon staff; you can guess the conclusions we drew. Our house is no mansion, but my husband and I have worked hard to pay for it. Having owned many companion books, Potter and otherwise, my belief was that the book shouldn't have been a problem. Far from being something that misused Rowling's universe, I believed the book was an affectionate guide that preserved in print the voice of our corner of Jo's fandom, and the obsessive indexing we had done over the years. You can't imagine how intimidating it is to worry that our house and careful savings could -- if a powerful corporation brought its influence to bear against me -- be taken from us.

I needed to find a way to end the sleeplessness and gasping panic attacks I was having so I spoke to friends who were lawyers and ended up consulting someone who knew copyright law. His advice was to try to be calm, but to not respond to fandom's questions, not even from friends, because any conversations could be subpoenaed and thus friends could be dragged in too. Steve said that RDR's lawyer was advising the same thing. I realized that I wanted to have as much of a choice as possible about whether or not I was forced into the trial, and I emphatically wanted the same for my friends. Don't take this as any sort of admission of guilt. What it is is an admission of gut-level fear, both reasonable and unreasonable, of being swept into something that would have enormous costs for me emotionally and otherwise. Anyway, I cut myself off from my online friends, and eventually had to stop reading e-mail. This also cut me off from support from some of the lovely people I had gotten to know, but, well, this isolation seemed to be the best, safest course. In the big picture, the court room, with its protections for truth and evidence, needed to be where things were decided, not fandom.

We know now that the John Does were the other publishers and not Lexicon staff, but still, the trial has not been decided yet. I pray for a settlement, but also know that if it comes to a ruling that WB and Jo dislike there could be appeals, and things will drag on and on.

hinoema, someday soon I hope to tell my side of things, but not while things are still undecided, and not now when so many ears seem unable to truly listen. Yes, I truly hope the good people of Potter fandom can build bridges back to each other again, and that it becomes a place known again for what it creates and not what it tears down.

hinoema said...

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. You may not know this, but one of the biggest concerns in places I've discussed this is that you and the other 'co-authors' were possibly being taken advantage of. If you put so much work and love into the site, then into what became this manuscript, why didn't you get actual credit, or get included in the actual profit? It made no sense to me. Admittedly, that's been to your benefit, since you aren't legally involved in this in any contractual way, but that still doesn't override the apparent injustice some saw of only one person claiming credit and being contractually promised generous profits for a years-long group effort.

Also, and don't take my word as gospel, but the indemnification clause that protects Steve from action should, from what I know, also serve as a barrier against uncontracted parties becoming involved, if such even could when their names aren't legally tied to the publication of the manuscript. I don't think the Manse du Lisa was ever in real danger. ;)

I personally see no reason why any guilt would be associated with you or the other co-authors. Quite the opposite, as I noted above.

Hang in there. It will be resolved, and people have been very sympathetic to your position, I can assure you.

Sandi said...

Hi, Lisa!

I just popped in to see if you had posted anything recently as I've wondered how you were dealing with all the insanity. I'm glad to see you doing all right. You may not remember me, but we met last July in Niagara Falls--I'm one of the Marauders.

And I see that Bander has posted here, so I will say "hello" to him as well. Hello, Bander! I hope you and Bear are well! I think of you often as my daughter and I are out stargazing. :-)

Take care!

MarauderSandi

Lisa said...

Hey Sandi! It's lovely to hear from you! It's weird to think that it is nearly a year since Book 7 and Prophecy. It's a crazy-busy time at work. Given the economic times everyone seems to have rediscovered the library. It's a good problem to have. I'll be at the Harry and the Potters concert July 12th and be thinking of all of you.

Ginevra Potter said...

Lisa, I am so sorry for everything you have had to endure over the past several months. I hope that this situation can be resolved in such a way as to end the negative feelings. Because a court decision will likely exacerbate the division, I am rooting for an amicable settlement - a girl can dream, right?

Thank you for handling this situation with such maturity, grace and calmness. You inspire me to behave myself more, and I need all of the inspiration I can get in that arena.

Thank you and the Lexicon staff for all of the incredible work you have done for me as an HP fan. I cannot begin to tell you how much the Lexicon, the QQQ, this blog and the Floo Network have meant to me over recent years.

Lisa said...

Hear, hear, Ginevra Potter! I am happy to say that time has been a great healer. I am hoping against hope that something good may come out of this. Time will tell.

ChingChuan Chiu said...

Hi Lisa!

I'm wondering whether my comment is appropriate - feel free to delete it - but your post just made me want to share my thoughts...

Apparently I'm not the only one who was thouroughly disgusted with the fandom's response to the lawsuit... (I'm not saying that everyone behaved like that but there were quite some people) Just reading comments on the 'major sites' made me sick - how could they start condemning Steve just like that, just because JKR doesn't want the Lexicon published? And for heaven's sake - the websites didn't even try to prevent Steve & the lexicon team from being harrassed - they even sort of allowed it by their 'support jkr' banners.

Ever since then, I've had a hard time participating in the fandom - I mean, it just sickens me - how can they treat their fellow fans like that - and WHY are there so few fans who dislike their fellow's behaviour? Why does no one speak up against the major HP sites - who make so much money while accusing Steve from trying to make a quick buck?

Well, that was quite a rant, and it probably won't help, but perhaps it helps to know that your disappointment with the fandom is shared... ;)

Lisa said...

ChingChuan Chiu, I have never deleted any comments here and I hope I never feel that I must.

Thanks for the support. I will probably not say much about this publicly until passions cool and people on both sides can listen again, but of course it drags on and on. I now find that I am more comfortable being a fan on the local level than in a larger way. That way I am always reminded that the neatest thing about these books is how young people have connected with them.