Comic Non-Sans: Why I Hate the Fanart Debate

I’m heading off to Katsucon this weekend, as are many other arty types, in hopes of selling Stuff, Stuff, and Other Stuff.  And, you know, seeing people and enjoying myself, because once in a while that’s still what conventions are about.  Except for the bits where fights break out and people get angry and things are misunderstood and before you know it there’s violence and annoyance on last-episode-of-“Blackadder” levels.

And that’s actually sort of what I’m circling ’round today, at least in part.

The fanart debate has been a huge one in convention Artist Alleys lately (“lately” being “over the past few years,” not “during the last three or four cons”).  And it’s completely understandable, both from the creator’s side and the conventions.  If stuff gets complicated legally it’s gonna make the con look bad, or at the very least it’ll make them incredibly unhappy.

I’m not here to raise the fanart debate itself.  That’s been hollered over dozens of times, a lot of it over the past few weeks in relation to one Artist Alley.  Whatever, that’s resolved, and dozens of artists are re-re-sorting their inventory and feeling a bit warmer toward the convention again.  This will be a bone of contention always forever and ever amen.  No, here is my problem.

When it comes to any really strongly-held opinion, I’ve often told people I would sooner have someone disagree with me intelligently than agree with me stupidly.  The latter is far more “dangerous” in debate and a billion times more worrying.  And this has been the worst area for it of late.  When word got out, rightly or wrongly, accurately or inaccurately, that there was going to be a Zero Tolerance Policy for fanart sold in Artist Alley, there was something of an explosion.  Okay, understandably.  That wasn’t the worrisome part to me.

To me, the worrisome part was the fact that the people who exploded said absolutely nothing of substance. It was empty, it was pointless, and it was pretty well bound to make anyone who agreed with the principle get written off as equally pointless.  That becomes the problem with debate or anger, usually online but in reals also: when you take Occam’s Razor to a lot of these arguments, you ending up cutting them down to “It’s not fair.” Or, or, you get people flinging around statements on copyright laws via hearsay.

Fortunately, there actually were some competent people out there with references and coherent wording who helped to bring this whole thing to a satisfactory (and legal) conclusion.  The problem there was, even after cases were stated in an actual useful manner, the kids — sorry, they might not actually be kids, but I’m gonna call them that given the way they shout — didn’t really actually rephrase anything or even notice that their cause had been defended more productively.

Ire gets nothing done.  It’s fun sometimes, but it doesn’t get much handled when it comes to big issues like this.  And the major problem with the fanart debate is that everyone thinks they know why they’re right because they’re repeating what they’ve been reading on the interblags.  Anyone who’s going to tackle this, especially if they consider themselves pro, needs to do some reading — not just legal stuff, especially not abridged legal stuff, but the history of fan-made media at conventions.  Practices at international conventions.  Examples — not via hearsay — from other conventions that may have influenced a con’s decision.  And if you can’t do that?  Shut up.  Because you’re going to embarrass other people and undermine those who are actually on your side.

And that, in the end, is why I leave the actual debate of it to other people cleverer than myself.  And, by God, it works.

See you at Katsucon.

Posted on February 15, 2011 at 00:51 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, Webcomics · Tagged with: , , ,