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Copyright Infringement: How Far is Too Far?

      Everyone has favorites. There are favorite movies, shows, painters, music, sculptures, fashions, and just about anything else that is in our daily lives. Of course, it is often said that imitation is the best form of flattery. So where exactly is the line drawn? Somewhere in the area a line has to be drawn between the free-for-all fandom and the people who are trying to steal profits from companies. Clear lines have to be made for everyone to see what is innocent fandom creations and what is a scam.
      First, there are those who have the original copyrights of a certain work. There are only two necessities to be able to have a copyrighted item: it needs to be tangible, and it must be original or of one's own creation (Lee). Copyrights can be owned over many several different types of creations. Literary works, musical works, dramatic, pantomimes and choreographic works, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, audiovisual and sounds recording can all be copyrighted (Samuels 216). The original copyright automatically is assigned to the creator of the work. From there the author has the right to sell ownership of the product either as a whole or in pieces. This is often referred to as works for hire, and an example of those types of works are scripts for television shows. Writers make the script and then sell it for profit. It is not that simple, of course. That is assuming that the script is high quality enough to be sold and that there is a demand for it. Beyond that, copyrights are protected a maximum of seventy-five years after first publication or one hundred years after its year of creation (Weinstein 112). The reason classical music is part of public domain and can be used freely is due to this; the copyrights no longer apply to the original owners.
      With that said, there is another class of people who are entirely attempting to make a profit by illegally using the original product or recreating the product and selling it. There are several different ways this is done. One of the first ways is called a knock-off, or a cheap imitation of the original product that is often sold by misleading the consumer to believe that it is the original product. "Most advertisers assume that it is all right to attempt to persuade" (Christians 196). However, this is slightly different than persuasion. It is false advertisement. The product replicates a few qualities of the original product and tries to sell itself as the original. When the customer buys, for example, a watch that they believe to be a Rolex only to discover that it is a fake, that person has paid a much higher price for something that they did not wish to purchase. Not only that, but that customer has also paid for the wrong watch and did not support the company they originally meant to purchase from. So not only is the customer hurt with a shoddy investment but the company has lost one of its customers.
      Another common way to cheat investors is inside information.
A typical security device for a host site is a firewall, which limits entry into the network, using either a packet-filtering router or a proxy server. A hacker is someone who enters a host site without authorization, either bypassing security, like a firewall, or exploiting a flaw in the software. (Paradise 235)
People who have information not known to the general public can easily cheat the system. They can buy a stock before it is ready to go up, or apply for a job in a new company that will become one of the newest trends. An example of this was clearly written out in Media Ethics, where a fictional character named Martha worked for the media and had access to information a few hours before it would be published. She slipped into the habit of telling her friends information that she thought would be useful to them before it would be published, and even told them not to act on the information until it was brought out publicly so that she would not be suspected. Her friends now had an advantage over other people. They could be prepared to apply for jobs, buy products before they became expensive and possibly even know when to avoid purchasing certain items that would be unpopular by the end of the day. Since she wasn't hurting herself or her friends Martha convinced herself that this did not hurt anyone. What she purposely ignored is that many other people might need those jobs more than her friends did, but since they were not prepared as quickly as her friends they did not get the job (Christians 254). Inside trading hurts the public in general, not the companies or the person responsible for leaking information. People are at a disadvantage to those who have information they are not supposed to have.
      Another massive scam that is often used to steal profit from companies is counterfeiting. People produce movies or other works before they are actually released, and sell them to customers to gain profit that should be going to the company that owns the rights to the product. These are often called "flea markets", but not everyone agrees with that term.
"I don't like to use the term 'flea market' --because it makes them seem smaller than they really are," says William Nix, who was vice-president of business affairs for NBA Properties for several years in the mid-1990s. "There are tens of thousands of flea markets. Many of the counterfeiters at these flea markets are well organized. They have cellular phones and trucks and work in multistate distribution chains." (Paradise 102)
As stated, these companies neither try to re-create the original product nor slip them through the cracks. Instead they steal the product, produce it in mass and sell it before the owner has it out on the market. Both creator and consumer are injured. The creator loses its profit, and the consumer purchases a cheap product.
      To avoid breaking copyright laws, one must give credit to the source when writing. "Declarative statements that aren't products of her own research, Mann says, are handled with footnotes--or, when appropriate, quotation marks with attribution to the original source" (Parsons). Obviously there are some items that should not be touched at all. Strict guidelines have been made for educational use of products, so there is not a large argument in terms of how much can be used for education. Other works are not used for educational purposes though. These are usually for personal use, sometimes not even publicly. The famous mangaka circle known as CLAMP specifically requests for their artwork not to be used for designs or in fan-creations. This pertains to designing a web page as well, and yet several hundred fans violate that simple request and use CLAMP designs for their personal pages. Many fans even acknowledge that they know they have ignored the request at one point or another to use the beautiful artwork in their galleries or on their site design. However, most these fans usually do put disclaimers, copyrights and information on their page stating clearly that the work is not of their own and that it belongs to CLAMP. They are not trying to gain a profit from using CLAMP's works, nor are they trying to take credit for it. The art is beautiful and they admire it, so they use it to make the pages beautiful too. CLAMP is not the only place that does not like this. Other companies dislike seeing their hard work redistributed freely without neither their consent nor their authority to do so.
But two major news organizations, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, don't want Free Republic's users passing around any of their articles. In September, the newspapers filed a copyright infringement lawsuit to stop Free Republic from copying and posting stories from the Times and the Post, a move that could have lasting implications for the reproduction of copyrighted information on the Internet. (Garza 2)
This is how gray areas begin to fill up the once black and white system of copyright infringement.
      In the above case CLAMP stated that they do not want this and fans should take that into more consideration, even if they do not intend to hurt the creators of the product. Different companies have different points of view. Marvel may very well be against any type of recreations of their works, whereas Squaresoft may present fan-works based off their products on their very web-site. This is a common attitude taken with many Japanese companies in the animation or video game field. Original works created by fans are like having free advertisement. The fans themselves run out and show their own pictures and their own fictions, featuring the characters and worlds of the game that they enjoyed. The company didn't have to lift a finger to make that fan sit down and work for hours to show off their character; all they had to do was let them do it. This doesn't mean a company won't take any action if someone is trying to blatantly claim ownership of a product. With fans that usually is not a huge problem though. After all, they are fans of the product and want to help support the product so they display disclaimers and the original copyrights next to their fan creations. Thousands of fan creations are created every hour. People fall in love with certain characters and show those characters off to everyone in their own way. As long as they aren't doing it to make any sort of profit or to attempt to steal the creation, fans are usually safe to draw or write what they please.
      This is very true in the field of doujinshi, which translates into "fan comic". Squaresoft created a video game several years back called Final Fantasy 7. A quick search and one can find over two hundred doujinshi of Final Fantasy 7 in the yaoi genre alone. Another product that has many of these fan-creations based off of it is an animated television show called Gundam Wing. Another quick search and a person can easily pull up over a thousand doujinshi of Gundam Wing, still only touching the yaoi genre. All this can be found on just one page even. If a person was truly dedicated they could be sure to find thousands of different doujinshi all over the place just based on these two products. That isn't including music videos, artwork, fiction, movies, games and other creations that people make based off of them. People buy these fan products all the time, usually due to the fact that it is the only way they can buy anything else based off the series. So millions of comics and other products of a series can litter someone's floor and the original copyrighted owner of the product did not have to do anything to advertise for their product. It is quite common, and if they wanted to the companies can probably very easily file a lawsuit against the producers of those products, but they do not have to and often they leave the fans be to their own discretion.
      Now, those are more specific cases. Many other companies are very strict about reproductions of their works. Lawsuits have been filed before and can just as easily be filed again. Once again CLAMP comes into the picture. " At its crudest, it would mean that copyright works were not protected from simple paraphrases let alone from derivative works such as translations" (Cameron 5). In other words, people use the works without CLAMP's authority. So what has happened to these people? Generally, nothing at all. Even though they specifically requested for something, not all the fans acknowledge that request and often do not mean disrespect to the author. However, CLAMP does not wish to drive away fans by giving themselves a bad reputation for suing or ranting at every individual that ignores their request. There has to be some medium between blatant criminal acts and small acts, and there is.
      Simply put, the people who are fans try to do their best to give credit to the owner and support the creator of the works. People who are trying to pull a scam either try to avoid letting people know that their works are simple reproductions, or try to mislead people to believe that they are the real products. The basic rule that except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses or sells any patented invention, within the United States before the expiration of the patent has infringed the patent and is therefore an infringer (Christians 85) is no longer so obvious. That is not all that has to be considered, as in the court case against the Free Republic "the courts look at a number of factors, such as how the articles were used and whether they were transformed significantly" (Garza 2). CLAMP does not sue its fans, in most likelihood, for the simple reason that those fans are doing their best to be honest when using the works. As stated before some fans freely admit that they know they shouldn't be using the pictures but they do or have in the past. To attempt to make up for this they do everything to promote or support the creator, almost always adding a disclaimer to be sure no one mistakes them for trying to claim the work. Fans love and adore the product and they do their best to keep their uses for the product in the best interest of the creator. Not all fans are this considerate, of course, but the majority are.
      Those involved with the media are fighting a huge battle against counterfeiters and piracy. A poster in the computer lab of Rosary High School stated the sad statistics. One out of every four operating systems is pirated. The loss of profits is undeniable, even the general public has the basic concept of counterfeiters cheating people with everything from fake pearls to a pair of jeans with a fake logo sewed onto them. What the public does not realize is how large the problem is for those in the media industry. On the other hand, sometimes the media industry attacks the wrong people in their attempt to stop thievery of their work. At some point every company is going to have to sit down and draw the line and decide for themselves exactly how far is too far; when a fan is no longer just an innocent fan. One can only hope that the companies will keep the fans in mind when they draw that line.

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