Some friends called my attention to an interesting-looking book: Fan Fiction and Copyright: Outsider Works and Intellectual Property Protection by Aaron Schwabach—a legal textbook examining the copyright issues surrounding fanfic. At $81 for the paper form or $70 for a Google e-book, it’s obviously meant for the edification of college or law students, not the enjoyment of one such as you or I.
That being said, I found an interesting review of it by Stacey M. Lantagne in the peer-reviewed journal Transformative Works and Cultures. Lantagne’s review gives a pretty good idea of what the book is about, and suggests that it might well be worth reading for anyone with an interest in fanfic or creative works. She does find a few flaws in it, but nothing critical, and holds that “the book’s value […] is considerable” as a repository of legal analysis and reasoning about the issue.
While fan works’ copyright implications have been examined in a number of law review articles (Tushnet 1997; Chander and Sunder 2007), they have not yet been treated to many book-length analyses. This book ably fills that gap. The full complexities of the central question flourish in the longer medium, presenting a much clearer picture of the many moving parts of the analysis, all in one neat package for ease for the curious fan—or copyright holder. This is a book aiming beyond merely fellow intellectual property professors, with appendices containing excerpts of relevant US statutes and Web site resources for fan creators. It never drags into an overly long, esoteric discussion but does an excellent job relaying the nuances of complicated copyright law in such a way as to make the topic seem less intimidating. At the same time, the book is academically sound, dotted with helpful (and sometimes snarky) footnotes, and it never loses sight of the fact that the question it is seeking to answer is complicated.
One thing worthy of note is that the work is written by someone who has both impeccable legal and authentic fannish credentials—someone with a foot in both worlds who is ideally suited to bring the two together rather than looking at it strictly from one side or the other.
I need to see if my local public or college library might have a copy of it I can examine. The textbook price is too rich for my blood.