I have just finished reading through Fan Fiction and Copyright : Outsider Works and Intellectual Property Protection by Aaron Schwabach, and since I can’t stop mentioning it to friends I run into and have lunch with, I’m going to mention it to you too.
You might think that an examination of fan fiction’s use of another’s intellectual property under copyright law might be a little dry and laborious. You might even think that such a work by a law professor would be like returning to school during the days of your most intense burn-out. You would be wrong. Not only does Schwabach present a work that bridges the gap between legal expertise and a layman’s understanding of extremely complex laws, to which the review in the Times Higher Education points as the book’s strength, he also convinces you that he has read all the Harry Potter books, seen the movies, and all the Lord of the Rings as well. In fact, his voice in the book comes across as that of a fan and intellectual consumer, not a wholly impartial observer. In a book with heavy treatment of fan communities and the way they celebrate their appreciation of a creative work, and one that attempts to reach those same fans with information relevant to their activities, this is extremely important.
Though I am sure that legal study introduces one to several interesting pieces of information, it is a way of studying human history, I am loathe to attribute Schwabach’s mention of London exclusive societies, ancient greek poetry, Mozart, WWII history, and ballet to his legal study alone. I could almost not contain my nerdgasm* when he pointed out that in the Dark Night the Batmobile does lose a wheel and the Joker does get away as is described in “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells.”
Schwabach’s breadth of knowledge is impressive. He comes across as someone who would be a joy to talk with over dinner because he, for the most part, relates various tidbits of information with clear indication of his feelings and opinions of the thing itself, more evidence that he didn’t simply read up on the material as one would study for a research paper. All of this and very pointed and specific examination of legal precedent that builds the structure within which fans write their tribute to the characters and the worlds of the author’s they admire makes Fan Fiction and Copyright the best nonfiction I have read all year.
*when I say nerdgasm I refer to the excitement generated when one’s concentrated devotion to a medium allows one to understand a connection between two seemingly unconnected ideas. I do not mean nerdgasm as it is defined by the Urban dictionary.