Thursday News: Marriage equality in Washington; fan fiction in manufacturing; and women as spies
Marriage equality is up for a vote in Washington this year. Two Seattle artists created this video in support legalizing same sex marriage. Don’t forget to vote this year. It’s as important as it ever was.
The long tail of Lego | The Great Debate – I haven’t read Makers and I’m not sure that Chris Anderson’s long tail theory is playing out, but that’s not why I am pointing out this article. And no, it’s not just because I love all things Legos either. Instead, the rise of a cottage industry of Lego products made by non Lego manufacturers mirrors fan fiction and may provide some guidance on how fan fiction can provide fulfill the niche gaps. In the excerpt provided at Reuters, Chris Anderson writes of Will Chapman whose sons were disappointed there were no modern day warfare Lego sets. Chapman set out to make his own building molds, melting down Legos for the plastic base and recreating Lego like structures for his war mad sons. Lego not only turns a blind eye to this, in some ways they embrace this culture giving advice on how to make the blocks more kid safe.
Chapman now supports his entire family on the sale of his non sanctioned Lego products. In some ways, this is like pull to publish fan fiction. It extends the discussion about free riding. It’s an example of how complicated and nuanced these discussion can and should be. Reuters
Why The Best Spies in Mossad And The CIA Are Women – This article is kind of silly in its assumptions but I love the message here – that women are some of the best spies in the spying business. We have so few stories in romance about female spies. I know that they are thick in some areas of historicals but it’s always written for shock effect. This is not to lay blame at the feet of the female writer for the lack of representation because as the Forbes’ article points out, Hollywood perpetuates the muscularity of the spy caper. According to the head of Mossad, however, female spies are pretty awesome.
Last week, in a stunning departure from protocol, the head of Mossad – Israel’s national intelligence agency – singled out his female field agents for praise. “Women have a distinct advantage in secret warfare because of their ability to multitask,” Tamir Pardo said to Israel’s Lady Globes. He also added that women are “better at playing a role” and superior to men when it comes to “suppressing their ego in order to attain the goal.” Forbes
Copy That – File this under “why it is dangerous to plagiarize.” A leading Iranian news service copied an Onion story that said Ahmadinejad is more popular in rural America than Obama. They admit to being snookered but are not backing down from the Onion’s satirical piece, arguing it might indeed be true. Pressing Issues
And there’s the key point. Make all the “accessories” for LEGO you want, but if you start making things that touch their trademark, you’re going to hear from lawyers.
@Isobel Carr: Did you read the article? These people are making things that Lego could be making. The only thing that is missing is the Lego brand on the objects.
@Jane: I think that’s the key difference, Lego doesn’t want to be associated with “war” toys any longer so have a go at those if you want to… mess with their lemonade stand or their pretty trees and park accessories and their cease & desists will begin.
Which reminds me: now that the tot is old enough to assist, isn’t it time Ned did a new production? hmmmm… was that him going out the back door?
@Joanne: Do you know the designer Jason Wu? Before he was a big designer he sold customized Barbies and other dolls on eBay. They often sold for several hundred dollars. Customized dolls are huge business where designers take existing dolls, repaint their faces, and reroot their hair and sell them with specially designed clothing. That kind of extension seems similar to fan fiction in some ways.
@Jane: I didn’t know about Wu. I wonder if he minds people putting out cheap copies of his clothing?
My big question re the dolls… who buys this crap?
Yeah, like my big question re romance… who reads this crap?
I mean, I’ve seen used copies of Laura Kinsale’s books, I mean *tattered* *paperbacks* of what is, let’s face it, housewife porn, go for HUNDREDS of dollars.
What is WRONG with people, that they have interests and hobbies and tastes that are different from MINE?
They aren’t romance but Greg Rucka’s Queen & Country series features a female spy/MI6 officer, Tara Chace. The series began with graphic novels (which I haven’t finished) but includes three stand alone books that can be read without the GNs.
ETA: Apparently a production company has optioned the series, and Rucka has lamented that they don’t know what to do with it because they want to wedge a man into Chace’s role or make him her partner. Rucka’s point being that she works independently, and if a man is added to make audiences more comfortable, then the dynamic of the plot and who Chace is as a character have been changed.
@Jane: Yes, I read the article, and what people are making are ACCESSORIES that do not violate LEGO’s trademark (especially, aftermarket compatible things like stickers and guns, no different than making clothes that will fit BARBIE). In fact, more than just read the article, I went and checked out several sites. I noticed right off that they are VERY careful to say that kits (like the tanks and helicopters) are made from real LEGO blocks and that all the LEGO figures are also real.
It can’t be lost on LEGO that these aftermarket accessories enhance their own sales, and that there really isn’t any way to trademark every accessory on earth that might fit a LEGO minifigure.
The companies that make the dolls that are popular with the OOAK doll crowd (like Tonner) tend to be really supportive of the doll artists, as all those specialty dolls drive the market for their product. Many of them even sell blank, naked dolls just for that crowd.
Also, trademark items like LEGOs and dolls are subject to first sale rules in a way that copyright items are not. You can do whatever you want with the physical book you buy (burn it, fold it into origami, stack them and use them as table legs), but the law does not allow you to do whatever you like with the story within those pages.
@Isobel Carr: The market for the goods doesn’t exist without Lego. These are made for Lego figurines, Lego scale, Lego sets. And Lego doesn’t see a dime of this. Deviation from the canon in a significant way (size, for example) would lose the market for these off brand goods. I see a real synchronicity here between fan fiction and these off brand goods. It’s not so different than parody or tribute videos on Youtube made of various artists songs.
That’s funny. I didn’t know about that business, but that’s pretty much the exact analogy I use when talking about P2P. Particularly the difference between the (typical) manipulation of characters in fan fiction versus an author simply being inspired by a character.
@hapax: Um, is this sarcasm? I just wanted to check before I got riled up about romance as “housewife porn.”
Yeah, sarcasm. Sorry I forgot to tag it.
The assumption “if it doesn’t interest me, it must be crap” irritates me beyond reason — especially when I see it in communities (romance, comics, gamers, etc.) that are often denigrated in just that way by wider society.
My daughter’s best friend does absolutely lovely handmade costumes, repaints, and sometimes re-sculpts of dolls. She made me a fantastic Kitty Pryde (my favorite X-men character), and an astonishing and mad sexy Movie!Loki for daughter.
Derivative and fan-based works, yes, but definitely demonstrating talent, imagination, craft, skill, and passion.
I think the ability to dismiss the interests of others is arrogant yet pervasive.
The Lego was patented, and the patent has expired.
The production of this particular previously patented article is is no more problematic to my mind than the release of generic drugs after the expiration of the patent term, or the plethora of lightbulbs made by people another than Edison’s heirs. It is probably even less problematic than someone putting out inkjet cartridge refills that free ride off of HP’s printer. There are thousands of examples of technology where the market would not exist without someone else’s initial invention. We still believe that ownership of the intellectual property ceases after a limited time, no matter what they’ve done.
Lego is entitled to a time-limited monopoly on their goods. They got it already. It’s done.
It is a good thing when people use public domain patent materials to stretch boundaries, to lower costs to consumers, and to provide products that the original maker is not themselves providing. It is a good thing when articles come off patent and people exploit them in new and creative ways. This is what progress looks like, and I for one think it should be celebrated.
If we had to pay royalties to everyone who paved the way for our success, 99% of us would start off life bankrupt and end life the same way.
@hapax: It’s like the book vs. coffee thing. I’ll decide what’s worth what when it’s my money, thanks.
I may not collect dolls, but I would probably faint if I added up how much I’ve spent on hockey in my lifetime. At least the collector has stuff on a shelf she can look at. I’ve just got a couple of jerseys locked out of commission.
I would make a terrible spy.
@Courtney Milan: If we had to pay royalties to everyone who paved the way for our success, 99% of us would start off life bankrupt and end life the same way.
@Courtney Milan I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with this. I think that these areas of derivative works, regardless of legal protection, are instructive and useful examples in helping people determine where lines should / can / may be drawn when it comes to originality and creativity.
@hapax: Bless your heart, it was a joke. A bit of my own sarcasm which doesn’t seem to have been appropriate. I’m sorry you took it as a serious comment. Of course what interests you and everyone else on this planet is wonderful and incredibly important.
I have three of the first book Nora Roberts romance books that add up to a small island in the sun. I hope that redeems me.
Loved the video. Thx Jane.
I’m sure Lego knows exactly what their legal options are. There’s a Polish company that sells toys that are fully interactive with Lego, look like Lego, but are slightly lower quality (the bricks seem fine, the kits are not as good). There’s a Russian company that sells Lego-like kits fully interoperable with Lego and has a lot of war themes (and some flowery cottages). This stuff is on the shelves next to Lego in toy stores in Russia. I’m sure it is stealing some sales. When I wanted party favors, I got the cheap stuff, not the brand name. My son also has a non-Lego Lego-like kit that has onion domes with Orthodox crosses on the top, so you can build churches.
Lego does its best to mine the inspiration of fans. I’m sure they’ve figured out that tons of creative fans can help them and they can’t do much about knock-offs. This is why they’ve gone into kits massively over general sets of bricks.
I think that copyright should have an expiration date and Lego is a great proof of that. They’ve obviously thrived despite their signature item (the brick) going out of copyright. They’ve thrived not by locking everyone out, but by continuing to innovate and delight their customers.
The innovation in HP’s inkjet cartridges was to make them proprietary so that they can massively overprice the ink (it’s one of the most expensive liquids on the planet) and get a stream of income. It was a marketing innovation, not a technical innovation. The printers are practically given away. Getting massive deals is pretty easy.
The only thing knock-off ink cartridges would do is to change HP’s pricing strategy. To me, this would be a good thing. The market for phones is a lot healthier in the countries where you buy your phone and your phone plan separately than in the US, where your phone is “free” with a 2 year plan.
The point of patents is to encourage innovation that benefits consumers. Figuring out how to gouge consumers on inkjet ink does not benefit consumers. If HP, Epson and Lexmark could make cartridges for each other’s printers, the cost of ink would fall.
I got pretty far down the CIA recruiting process before I woke up to reality. In the 80s, they had these wonderful ads along the theme of making the world a better place, working for your country and traveling to exotic places. Pushed all of my buttons.
My application got me invited to take a test, an all day affair rivaling the Foreign Service test. My test results got me several long phone calls with detailed questions , then an all-expenses paid trip to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia and a face-t0-facce interview. That’s when reality hit. Mid-interview. No, this wasn’t really about ending world hunger and convincing Reagan to stop meddling in Nicaragua.
What the CIA saw in me is a total mystery to this day.
@Joanne: “Bless your heart?”
Be more passive-aggressive. I challenge you.
@SAO: I can’t act my way out of a paper bag and multitasking is completely beyond my abilities. In short, I suck at life.
@Ridley: I could only do that if I had said nothing and then I wouldn’t have been able to apologize for upsetting someone. Then I would have been upset. Not going to happen.
@Moriah Jovan: No, you suck at a DOUBLE life ;)