About “fan fiction”, satire, and fair use….on August 5, 2011 at 21:30
It’s too bad it has come to this, but a good-natured hat tip to a what we considered to be a worthy forum board has degenerated into some kind of flame war.
Even after I specified that we would re-write the next 5 strips in the thumbnail arc to remove a certain “offending emblem”, thus completely and totally complying with the threats and demands of a certain individual, that individual none-the-less made a formal complaint and had our facebook group page shut down.
When something as simple as a red “Z” gets someones’s nose out of joint, a certain disclaimer comes to mind: “Is it possible that others may have done something that similar in the past?” The answer is yes. Coincidences such as this happen all the time in professional writing, which is why such disclaimers are usually printed in books and inserted into the credit in motion pictures. When we first saw the “Zombie Combat Command” (hereafter referred to as “ZCC”) fan-fiction forum board, we were struck that the logo was very similar to one I penned (okay, pencilled) some fifteen years ago. “Big deal”, I thought. Something that simple is bound to be independently created from time to time, and it has happened to me several times. Do I get mad about it? Certainly not. That’s life as an artist and designer who has a passion about helping others.
Since we had never published that design way back when, I agreed to change the story to write it out of the arc- even though we thought it would have a nice plug for the forum, and to help drive some traffic to the ZCC site.I agreed to do this within twenty-four hours of the original complaint, which is more than anyone could reasonably expect to be timely and responsive. I immediately (within four hours of being made aware of the problem) removed the image of the custom design work that was using this individual’s design- I never claimed to have owned that- it was a gift to the ZCC site to help them get some exposure. I have been doing comics, political cartoons, and commercial design for thirty years- beleive me, I know how nice it can be to get a little free assistance from someone who has been around awhile. If someone doesn’t appreciate the attention- that’s okay- they can keep the free work I did for them- it was a gift. (Just don’t expect any more help.)
As I said before, “fan fiction” is usually understood to be beneficial to a copyright holder, by action of increasing the public profile of the holder’s genuine work. When a copyright holder rejects such work (as is the case here), another artist (and/or writer) can choose to exercise creative license under the “fair use” provisions of current copyright law. This provision allows copyrighted material to be mocked in the form of satirical parody, and has been done by humor magazine such as “Cracked” and “Mad” for many, many, years. This use of satire is protected by law. Therefore if we chose to do a satirical parody of the ZCC, such use would be protected under the law. It is not my intent to parody the ZCC, as we are all working to a common goal- that is, preparing the populace for the coming zombie apocalypse.
The “Z” patch is thus written out of the story in the very next installment of “Tales from the Zombie Apocalypse”, and will never be seen again after that. Too bad the ZCC couldn’t wait a day or two to see what would happen.
By the way, here are photographs taken from the sketchbook in question. The first page shows the dates this book was in use:
The second photo shows the similarity of the “Z” logo in a 1995 pencil sketch. (You can tell it’s old- I draw better hands now):
Yes, I know this wouldn’t hold up in court as it’s not notorized or anything- but don’t worry, I won’t sue anybody for creating a similar logo. 🙂