April 21, 2006
The 2006 Stupidest FanFic Writer Award Gets Retired Early
Via Nick Mamatas, I learn of Lori Jareo, who has written up a Star Wars fanfic novel, published it without the expressed, written consent of George Lucas, and has it listed for sale on Amazon. Oh, but she's not worried about the massive copyright violation; Indeed, let's see what she has to say about it in her "author interview."
Q: Having set Another Hope in an already existing universe, I find myself wondering if there was any concern on your part regarding copyrights?
No, because I wrote this book for myself. This is a self-published story and is not a commercial book. Yes, it is for sale on Amazon, but only my family, friends and acquaintances know it’s there.
Let me repeat this, just to savor the juicy cluelessness of it: "Yes, it's for sale on Amazon, but only my family, friends and acquaintances know it's there." I feel myself getting stupider every time I read that line, but the good news is that I have a long way to go before I would be actually stupid enough to say that line myself.
For those publishing novices out there, let me, as a public service, outline all the many ways Ms. Jareo's statement above is ill-informed and/or ignorant and/or just plain idiotic.
1. "I wrote this book for myself." If one is writing a book for one's self, then why would one sell it on Amazon? Unless one has clones, of course. And while that would be perfectly consistent with the fictional universe whose copyright Ms. Jareo is violating, in the real world, alas, there are no human clones to be had, much less ones who access Amazon on a regular basis. Also, if it's for one's self, why the Web site promoting it, complete with interviews, reviews and excerpts? Ms. Jareo ain't exactly being all Emily Dickinson on us.
2. "This is a self-published story --" Strangely enough, U.S. Copyright law does not say "you can't violate someone's copyright, unless of course you're self-publishing, in which case it's perfectly fine." Also, Amazon's publisher information has "Wordtech Communications" listed as the publisher of the book in question -- Wordtech Communications being a publishing concern which claims to be "one of the nation's largest poetry publishers." Ms. Jareo is apparently one of the principals of the company, so I guess you could say it's self-published, in the sense that, say, Tom Doherty could claim to be self-published if he were to write a book and have it put out by Tor.
3. "-- and is not a commercial book." Someone explain to me how selling a book on Amazon is not a commercial endeavor. It's possible the book is not commercial in the sense that no one in their right mind would publish it, because then George Lucas' Sith Lord lawyers would unleash their dual-bladed tortsabers on them (leading to the "self-publishing" in this particular case). But, you know, if you offer a book in exchange for money, you're engaging in commerce, and it doesn't really matter if you make any profit off it or not. Lot of publishers publish lots of books that make no money, or even lose money. They're still engaging in commerce.
4. "Only my family, friends and acquaintances know it's there." Hello, Lori Jareo. I'd like to introduce you to my 15,000 daily readers, almost none of whom, I suspect, are your family, friends or acquaintances. Funny how the Internet has a way of being leaky.
This would be bad enough if this woman were just some clueless person letting off some Mary Sue steam and then getting the idea that, gosh, this could be a real live book, but in fact Ms. Jareo purports to be a professional editor -- which is to say she really has no excuse. In her interview Ms. Jareo mentions something along the line of "George Lucas says as long as no one is making a profit, tributes are wonderful," but I think she rather seriously misapprehends what Lucas almost certainly means here. Leaving aside the fact that even if Lucas tolerates a little geekery on the down-low, he's still fully invested in his copyrights and can enforce them at will and at whim, there's the issue of scale. Geeking out with little stories of Yoda and Chewbacca on the Wookiee Planet on a personal Web site that's visited by your friends is one thing. Publishing an unauthorized Star Wars novel via your publishing company and putting it up for sale on Amazon (not to mention Barnesandnoble.com and Powells.com) is really quite another.
I've said before I think fanfic is generally a positive thing for any science fiction universe, but I don't think being a fan means you suddenly have a license to be stupid. Publishing your fanfic novel and selling it online is just plain stupid, and publishing your fanfic novel and selling it online when you're theoretically a professional editor is just about as stupid as you can get without actually receiving head trauma from a tauntaun. If Ms. Jareo is lucky, she'll only get smacked with a Cease and Desist order from Lucas. If she's not lucky -- say, Lucas wants to provide a cautionary example to ambitious-to-the-point-of-oblivious fanficcers everywhere -- she and her company are going to get their asses sued, and given the blatant and obvious and self-incriminating copyright violations here, she should be thankful if she gets out of it without all of her assets, and the assets of her publishing company, encased in carbonite.
As it stands I think it's worth it to start a pool on how long it takes for Ms. Jareo's book to get pulled from Amazon. I'll say this next Monday by 3pm Pacific. Any one else want to bet?
Posted by john at April 21, 2006 02:11 AM
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