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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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February 24, 2011

Patrick Rothfuss offers to help Nathan Fillon buy back Firefly

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

In a way this is a story for my kind of nerds, but it's also an interesting story about creativity and control and why copyrights aren't always good things.

First some background for the newcomers: Firefly was a TV series shown starting in 2002 that never had that big of a following. It was a Joss Whedon 'cowboys in space' adventure that didn't achieve the massive following of his earlier Buffy and Angel series. As a result, it was canceled. Somehow, despite all that, a movie (Serenity) was made and delighted the show's fans. The making of that movie set the framework for a David (the fans, who call themselves browncoats) vs. Goliath (the big media companies) tale of struggle and eventual success.

Fox own the rights to Firefly and it's locked up in a vault somewhere. Nobody can make new Firefly material, despite the salivating fan base that want it. If you've ever been to the packed midnight showings of Serenity called "Can't Stop the Signal" you'd see how intense this fan community can be. And like most fan communities it doesn't want the story to end. It wants more stories, new material, and is willing to spend money on that.

So what? The fan base may be avid but it's not big enough to satisfy a corporate media giant. So the guy who starred in the series, Nathan Fillon, put out in a recent interview that if he had the money he'd buy it back from Fox and put the thing on the Internet. Presumably for free, but certainly more accessible to this fan base.

Maybe that's a stupid idea, if you're a major media corporate executive. Or maybe it's the most awesome idea for a crowdfunded project that has been heard in a while. Patrick Rothfuss, the author of Name of the Wind, thinks it's a worthwhile idea and he's offering to put the profits from his latest book behind the notion. And you know the fans were just waiting to jump on board this one.

Hibberd's EW story raises a couple of interesting points. One is that a handwave estimate of the rights' value is a lot less than the $300 million that Fillon guessed. But the big problem? Fox has no incentive to sell. They've got a property that's earning them some money without them having to lift a finger. Making new shows, movies, and so on? That costs money; that's risky. Their copyrights give them no incentive - or even a counter-incentive - to satisfying the fans' hunger for more and new material.

Which is sort of the opposite point of having copyrights in the first place. Copyrights are there to incent creation, not stifle it. I don't know if the Davids can overcome Goliath this time, but if they pass a hat around I'm throwing my money in again.

"May have been the losing side, still not convinced it was the wrong one."

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies


COMMENTS

1. Thalen on February 24, 2011 4:48 PM writes...

Browncoats, not brownshirts.

Permalink to Comment

2. Savannah on February 24, 2011 4:56 PM writes...

What Thalen said.

Also, I'm behind the idea of producing it online. Felicia Day has had great success with The Guild. Firefly could and should have the same opportunity that The Guild does. The fans are here! We're willing to contribute! Let us!!

Permalink to Comment

3. Nick on February 24, 2011 10:43 PM writes...

For gods sake BROWNCOATS!!! NOT BROWN SHIRTS!!! THOSE WERE HORRIBLE PEOPLE!!!!

Permalink to Comment

4. DrWex on February 25, 2011 3:01 PM writes...

OMG! That's embarrassing. Fixing it now. At least I fixed the typo in the headline that was there for an hour before anyone noticed it.

@Savannah: I'm also a fan of The Guild (shocking, I know) but that's an original property, done on a fairly shoestring budget with very minimal effects. I'm not sure you could translate even Firefly's low level of SFX to the Web at any reasonable price.

Permalink to Comment

5. lance on September 10, 2011 9:41 PM writes...

I would donate. Firefly was probably my favorite tv series next to House. Start the petitions.

Permalink to Comment

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