Copyright Evidence Wiki June 2020 Round-Up

This is part of a series of summary posts rounding-up new entries to the Copyright Evidence Wiki (organised thematically). As part of CREATe’s workstream for the AHRC Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, the Wiki catalogues empirical studies on copyright. This month, we summarise new featured studies on: Fan Studies, Reuse and Negative Space.

Fan Studies

Fiesler and Bruckman (2019) investigate ‘Creativity, Copyright and Close-Knit Communities’ in a study of social norms in online communities. Through interviews with fan-creators from Tumblr and LiveJournal, they uncover three consistent norms in fandom: attribution (which remains integral despite having no legal basis in the US); non-commerciality (with some inexplicable differences between e.g. fan art and fan fiction), and; secrecy (which plays a key role in shielding online communities from legal action).

Whilst we have a considerable amount of qualitative evidence about copyright and fan studies (see e.g. Sarikakis, Krug and Rodriguez-Amat (2017), Fiesler (2018), Katz (2019)), a literature review by Flaherty (2020) reveals the absence, and need for, a quantitative element. In particular, quantitative studies could bolster calls for fan fiction to be recognised as pastiche under UK fair dealing law by demonstrating that social welfare benefits outweigh the harm caused to the producer.

(Re)Use

Closely linked to fan studies, Khaosaeng (2019) examines norms of online ‘recreations’ using a combination of survey data and interviews with pop culture recreators. Their study finds that, whilst many recreators would like to ask permission to reuse work from the primary creator, none have never been able to do so due to practical obstacles (such as difficulties in communication, or the prospect of a cost-prohibitive licence).

Pappalardo and Aufderheide’s (2020) study of ‘Romantic Remixers’ finds that many creators share a logic with the conceptualisation of creative works as acts of individual genius. Creators in this study believe that ‘original’ work is more creative, whereas reuse (such as sampling etc.) is easier and lazier, and therefore deserving of less reputation. The study also finds that barriers to reuse (e.g. lack of a licensing option) are perceived as a reason to spur creativity by encouraging the use of creative workarounds – failure to adapt is perceived as a reflection of the lack of grit or creativity on the part of the person seeking permission.

Negative Space

Building on Oliar and Sprigman’s (2009) study of stand-up comedy as a negative space, Pham (2019) offers an updated view from the social media age. They find that the norms system governing the stand-up comedy industry underperforms here, as extra-community players are unaffected by intra-community norms. Whilst most comedians remain intrinsically motivated to create jokes, joke infringement via social media may lead to the loss of reputation or a potential audience for the comedian.

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