Monday, January 14, 2008

Copied, Right?

If you are all like me, then copyright is a murky swamp full of legalese and snakes. And mosquitoes. And possibly leeches.

So anytime I see an article about copyright, I jump. Typically, the articles are all about the poor author and how someone tried to run off with the original content. Last week, however, I found this article on J.K. Rowling and how she should lose her copyright lawsuit against the Harry Potter Lexicon's intent on publishing their version of an encyclopedia of the Potterverse.

I think I agree with the logic behind the argument of creation versus content. The folks at the Lexicon aren't creating new material; they are organizing the material trawled from Rowling's books. The argument on consumerism is a viable one, too.

However, as an author, I can't help but cringe a little at the thought of someone Not Me going through one of my 'verses and building a book out of it. What if they get it wrong? What if they misinterpret what is there?

Then again, the thought of someone else keeping detailed records of my 'verses has a happy feeling to it. I know many authors (MZB, Elizabeth Peters) who have kept assistance, and I can't help but think part of their job was indexing.

Don't get me wrong, I love indexing. I was made for indexing. But that is as much of a job as the actual writing and one that would get me into trouble if I succumbed to it.

But an encyclopedia made by someone else after the fact? Online content versus hard copy (i.e. paid for) content? This is interesting copyright territory, and I'm not surprised to find Rowling's the one at the helm of the debate. And it isn't the same as the silly fanfic author who self-published a fanfic piece and put it on Amazon to sell (how many kinds of stupid is that?).

So where does creation end and organizing begin? How do I reckon consumerism versus the ownership of working my own material myself? Do I side with Rowling or the Lexicon or both?

The are so many scary issues going on with online content and copyright. This one, at least, I could wrap my brain around.

Creation: writing new material
Organizing: working existing material into indexed form
Consumerism: necessary evil
Ownership: write one myself to add to the competition
Side with: Rowling in spirit, Lexicon in law

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