Mol (mollyringle) wrote,

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Publication and parodies

A reputable-sounding man (to judge from his online material) has asked me if I would be willing to publish the LOTR parodies. He says his motives for asking are selfish, in that his daughter (who pointed the parodies out to him) wants to use them for her school's theater class, where the students can only use published material. He suggests, where you can do these things for cheap - no setup fee; $4.35 fixed fee plus $.02/page on every print-on-demand book, then however much royalty you want to tack on, with Lulu taking 20%. I had looked into that for novels, but when you have 200 or more pages the prices add up a bit too high. (At least $10 for a paperback? Most readers wouldn't bother.) However, the parodies might only run to 25 pages or so, and thus could be affordable.

The main concern I have is copyright issues. I love these movies more than any other, and the book is in my top five favorites of all time, so it would be a personal disaster if I got slammed with a lawsuit over this, when the whole point of doing it was because I was an over-the-moon obsessed fan of LOTR. Granted, I doubt New Line or the Tolkien Estate would even notice - I think even at the height of the popularity of these silly things, I'm still well below their radar; and probably very few people would shell out cash for a printed copy when they can get the electronic version free right here on LJ. (Not to mention everywhere else it's being pasted.) So it's not as if I'd be getting rich and stealing consumers from New Line/Tolkien. Not at all.

Furthermore, I've looked up some fair use copyright information, and it looks like parody tends to slip past the net. It's always the exception they cite –
A parodist is permitted to borrow quite a bit, even the heart of the original work, in order to conjure up the original work. That's because, as the Supreme Court has acknowledged, "the heart is also what most readily conjures up the [original] for parody, and it is the heart at which parody takes aim. " (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569 (1994).)

Parody is given a slightly different fair use analysis with regard to the impact on the market. It's possible that a parody may diminish or even destroy the market value of the original work. That is, the parody may be so good that the public can never take the original work seriously again. Although this may cause a loss of income, it's not the same type of loss as when an infringer merely appropriates the work. As one judge explains, "The economic effect of a parody with which we are concerned is not its potential to destroy or diminish the market for the original--any bad review can have that effect--but whether it fulfills the demand for the original." (Fisher v. Dees, 794 F.2d 432 (9th Cir. 1986).)

Now, some people actually have told me that they'll never take the original films seriously again after reading the parodies, but somehow I don't think that's really true – not to the degree they mean here. I think, basically, I'm safe as long as nobody is saying, "Wow, now that I've read your parodies, I don't NEED to see the films!" And I don't think anyone would say that, since the parodies don't even make sense if you haven't seen the films. (Or, at least, they're not nearly as funny.)

I've also learned you can't slap on a disclaimer and expect it to protect you from all legal smackdowns. Disclaimers help keep the public from being confused, but that's about all. Still, wouldn't it help if I did put a preface on the thing, saying, "I love these movies and these books, and everyone should see them and read them first before they read this"? (As well as saying, naturally, that I did not create the characters and place-names and so forth.)

Furthermore, I was thinking that I could almost pass off the things as a film review – that's really all they are, in a sense. And Dave Barry did exactly the same thing as me – a parody script of 'The Two Towers' – in his column last year, and surely he got paid for that and didn't have to apologize to anyone. So how would it be different if I sold the parodies as a book? Do newspaper articles/columns get a free ride that books do not? I sort of doubt it.

So unless one of you tells me otherwise, I'm going to assume that this is a decent, non-disastrous idea, and may attempt to go ahead with it.

However, you know what this means, don't you? It means I have to finally write a proper condensed-parody-script version of 'Fellowship,' as well. Having two out of three just isn't complete. Guess I have to get cracking on that before I do anything else. Hoo boy…

P.S. How much should one ask as a performance royalty, if anyone wants to use it as an actual theater script? I've just got no idea. 25 bucks?
Tags: fandom, writing

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