Intellectual property rights are supposed to protect the rights and livelihood of our cultural producers, but they also stifle the freedom of expression of creators working outside the mainstream. This tension has beset science fiction media since the 1930s, pulling between profit-driven mainstream producers (writers, filmmakers, graphic artists) motivated by economics, and fans motivated by community building and self expression. The latter generate works based on the media they enjoy, including fan fiction. Their work repurposes, criticizes, and transforms characters and worlds from mainstream media in non-profit original fiction, and is usually distributed on a small scale among members of the marginal community.
By using discourse analysis to examine primary source documents (letters, fanzines, academic articles, and books) about two mainstream cultural productions and their fandoms, I articulate two ways that mainstream creators respond to their fandoms: on one hand, the profit-driven model that George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, illustrates has always emphasized intellectual property and created an atmosphere that stifles freedom of expression in fandom; on the other hand, the model that Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, emphasizes the value of human expression, and is based on cultivating a fruitful relationship with its fandom. I argue that this second model is ethically sounder.
This work is relevant to information ethics because it deals with the ethical implications of intellectual property, and because it explores a non-monetized mode of human expression and information freedom. This research and these findings highlight the intellectual opportunities provided by alternative archival collections and library engagement with non-mainstream communities.
Information Ethics, Fan Studies, Intellectual Property
Copyright © 2016 Ella von Holtum
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