In a free society, as pronounced by philosophers like John Locke, respect must be afforded to the property of individuals. This runs through to the protection that is given to people in accordance with how they choose to use their intellectual works, which can include different concepts that expand with the times thanks to the advances of technology. This is the subject of copyright.
Various societies have their own manners of handling the certification of an owner’s copyright to his/her own work. The United States Constitution, in Article I, affords Congress the power to enact such laws (Article I, Section VIII, Clause VIII [The Copyright Clause]). It has been amended several times, changing the amount of years that a copyright claim is existent, what types of works are included, and even whether a claim even needs to be renewed. Since such a subject handles the property of people, copyright understandably is a touchy subject. However, how these acts are undertaken and how expansive they’ve gotten has brought up the question of whether such laws have actually become more harmful in their application, and whether reform of copyright law should be undertaken. In my opinion, it should.
It is generally considered that copyright policy is free-market capitalism at work, or that the current system provides the best capability for productivity, but in fact such a system employs a form of regulation whereby works are limited in the manner in which they can be handled or used by other practitioners. This is not to say that such a protection is wrong. I feel that the creator/owner of something should have some manner of exclusive rights to the use of their work in the manner that they wish. However, does that mean that there should be excessive terms like the current law which provides protection for the lifetime of the author “plus 70 years”, which most certainly limits the capability for optimal productive capabilities? Or the ridiculous constraints on the use or imagery of particular works in various forms of media (ie showing a logo of a product on TV like on a cooking show, or even so much as playing a bit of a music track through a Youtube video)? How does that not constraint productive manners, which in many cases could actually be harming the owners/authors more than it helps? It is these among other things why such laws should be debated and considered to be the subject of a change in implementation.
Laws, in my opinion, should at the most protect for the use of an owner/creator’s work through their lifetime. Afterwards though, unless they or an intermediary have taken steps to pass their copyright ownership to another party, then it should revert to the public domain in some manner(for those touchy documents or works that might contain private and/or potentially dangerous circumstances, things could be worked out as to exceptions). Corporations/companies that own particular works would have to renew at certain points, no matter what (exemptions to this should be reviewed and taken with care). However, if the owner/creator decides to pass ownership to whomever he/she decides before their death, then that ownership moves on to that party, whether it be a family member or organization. At the end of the day, the owner should retain that right as to how their work is handled.
The concepts I propose might more than likely not be the full answer to such reform. However, there is enough question raised to realize that while respect and protection of an individual’s intellectual property should be paramount, it shouldn’t be taken to the extreme to the point where harm can be caused to it’s fullest potential.
Every now and then a fan releases a labor of love…in this case an enhanced remake of what was mostly a forgettable game in an otherwise memorable video game franchise…only for the company that owns the product to use a copyright claim to take the project down. Such an instance shows the power that copyright protection has in everyday life. Of course I am hardly one to argue against such protections in most cases. Creators and companies have the right to their property after all. However, that doesn’t mean one isn’t capable of questioning the methods by which one exercises said rights.
Nintendo, or at least those acting in their stead, claim that a DMCA claim such as this is meant “to protect and preserve (*their property*), or to possibly use (*their property*) for new projects”…however it isn’t clear how the existence of “AM2R” works against that. If anything, the project has worked to get the attention of people interested in action adventure games, and has actually gotten Metroid fans excited at a time when the franchise is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary. In fact, one could even make the argument that Nintendo embracing the project…perhaps joining forces with the creator to expand the project across other platforms, and open up to future Metroid endeavors…would have done much for building further goodwill with it’s fans. Indeed the project wouldn’t have remained free, but at least people would have gotten the chance to play such a clearly well-made game…a testament to the impact that franchises can have on their fans.
What drives companies like Nintendo to do so of course involve strict copyright laws, which hold a corporation responsible for defending trademarks and claims consistently. If they don’t, such haphazard legal frameworks can be used in court against them. I’m not sure if a move by Nintendo to work with the AM2R creator would have fit within such a framework, but perhaps the conversation on such circumstances can move toward a less-rigid structure that allows parties more leeway in settling disputes like this. That way, both fans and companies alike can find a more satisfying resolution.
Fan projects have been a controversial topic with various corporations and franchises for years, and Star Trek isn’t immune to it. As with Nintendo’s recent issue with AM2R, which I talked about in a recent post, CBS and Paramount have had recent trouble concerning the production of a fan film named “Star Trek: Axanar”. The film deals with the events surrounding the Battle of Axanar, which in the internal universe of the Star Trek franchise was known as a big clash between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. The project has had prequel short films, and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through crowdfunding from other fans in order for production to take place. It is perhaps this activity that has drawn the ire of CBS and Paramount, who wish for the project to be shut down. A lawsuit is currently in the works, though the companies have attempted to offer a list of rules concerning all fan projects as a compromise. The developers of “Axanar” see it as draconian, and look set to continue on with legal proceedings at this time (http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-hc-star-trek-fan-film-guidelines-20160623-snap-story.html). CBS and Paramount have also tried to go after the use of certain Trek products in the film, even going as far as to cry foul over the use of the Klingon language (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzmetJxi-p0VM19nbUpyNXE0a28/view). Once again, a moment like this showcases the continued issue dealing with the relationship between a company and it’s fans, and how copyright can be dealt with adequately.
There isn’t a problem with CBS and Paramount going through legal channels like this. After all, as with Nintendo, they have the right to protect their intellectual property under the law. However, as with the AM2R case, that doesn’t mean that the method upon which CBS and Paramount are going about protecting their copyright can’t be questioned. The list put forth by both companies concerning fan projects, specifically with how long they run and how many installments can be filmed, seems overbearing in it’s premise…especially considering that it isn’t clear how longevity of a particular film or project harms CBS or Paramount in any way. There could be a case made that the crowdfunding actions might break certain guidelines legally, but that could imply that people are forced to only purchase Star Trek-esque products from CBS or Paramount and no one else, which would no doubt have an adverse impact on the convention scene. Unless there is actual data to showcase an impact on CBS and Parmount’s bottom line concerning Star Trek as a result of the Kickstarter (which, like with Nintendo and Metroid, is nowhere to be found), all that is known is speculation. That shouldn’t be enough to deny people the ability to perform art or expression, as that is protected under the First Amendment. That extends as well to the use of the Klingon language.
It remains to be seen how far this case goes. Already, there are fans that are bothered by how the Axanar case could turn the tide against them. However, there is also a chance that it might yet prove positive. If nothing else, a conversation is desperately needed concerning the subject of copyright reform and how the process needs to be put more in the sphere of the companies and the fans instead of bogged down in legal morass. At least then, there could be an attempt to come to a solution that can appeal to both parties.