Microsoft's New Rules

I may be adding more essays about copyright later on, but I happened to find an article on EuroGamer titled "Microsoft slaps down user creation rules for machinima, videos, fanfiction". I was rather surprised at the reactions people had, many of them feeling the rules were stupid, disgusting and/or other things.

The first rule is about not making money off the fan creations make. This may seem like a no brainer for people but it really isn't. If one goes to Deviant Art's shop and type in the words "halo", "fan" and "work" you'll unfortunately find prints containing fan art for the Halo series for sale. On the plus side, whenever you find fanart in the print shop file a report abuse claim on the work to get it re-categorized under the fanart category. There is a reason you're only allowed to file fan works under the fanart category there.

The second rule is an official disclaimer. Disclaimers actually don't save you from a possible lawsuit. A company can still sue you and file for removal any work that contains a disclaimer. However, this is different when a company gives an official disclaimer for the fans to use. Then the official disclaimer becomes a protection for the person who created the fanwork. Be glad a company is willing to give something that can be considered an official disclaimer.

The third rule deals with titles. You are not allowed to use the franchise title in the works. As Microsoft says, this really is to lesson confusion between official videos and non official videos. Many companies like Funamation have their own accounts on youtube and have official videos on the site. Personally when I surf the internet site I look at the title and the video, I tend not to look at the users name. The rule doesn't say anything about using the franchise name in the summary though.

The forth rule states that all derivative work based off a series belongs to the company. At least one person in the comments made an argument about how the person who made the derivative work happens to own this. This is what I wish to talk about because it is a very important thing to discuss because a creator of fan work needs to know their rights.

All forms of derivative work belong to the original creator except when it comes to parody work. What belongs to the creator of the derivative of the work is the work involved. Some people may be thinking, but these are the same thing, but it is really not. The first is the body of the work, while the second is the time and effort that a person puts in to creating something.

If you come up with an interesting idea for a fandom and it occurs in the series you can't go and file lawsuit against the creators of the fandom because ideas can't be copyrighted. However, if the creators of the series goes and takes a fans story and copies it point for point and uses dialog they have to legally compensate the creator of the fan work for their work.

Think of it this way. If a creator of a fandom were to go and take the exact story from another fandom it would constitute plagiarism unless the original creator of the fandom is compensated for the use of their hard work in creating the original story. Of course, one should hope that a writer wouldn't stoop to this level, but it has happened.

There is a story going around on the net about why published writers shouldn't read fanfiction for the stories they write. The story goes that a popular writer had to quit writing a book because her story was to similar to something a fan had written and the fan wanted compensation for what they wrote but didn't like the amount they were being compensated with. Thus the fan was blamed for the cancelation of the book.

However, there is another story one can find on the net if they happen to be lucky with their searches. Unbeknown to the fans of the series the writer was having some mental/health problems that prevented her writing her own books anymore. The publishers were using fans to ghost write the new books and none of the fans knew the better until a later date.

Which story is true? I'm going to say who knows, because none of the e-mails or other hard copy evidence. I'm also not going to say which side I believe either. It boils down to two things. A creator of an original work shouldn't have to worry about including ideas fans use in their work. On the other side, a fan should be compensated for doing the work for the creators just like any other worker would.