Jocelyn's Other Desk

The writings of Jocelyn Smith, aspiring author, soon-to-be lawyer, once and future politician, all-around opinionated twentysomething.

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Location: Orlando, Florida, United States

I'm a lawyer in Florida, working on three novels, a screenplay, and half a dozen pieces of fanfiction at any given moment.

Friday, June 03, 2005

It's Friday But I Ain't Thanking Anyone!

You know you're a workaholic in the making when you hate the arrival of the weekend and are glad that you've got a keycard to get in after hours.

Yep, 'tis the conclusion of my second week lawyering at an Orlando law firm, and thus far, I'm loving it. I turned in my huge copyright research project yesterday, having learned some very interesting things about damages (I'm looking at YOU, Lewis Perdue!) and also about proving copyright infringement in general (I'm looking at YOU, Lee, Tod, Claire, Keith, etc.)

Only now I'm onto my next project, staring at the treatises and American Jurisprudence entries I use to get myself started, and thinking, "Good lord, I'm back at square one!"

Interesting. But each stage of figuring out a point of law has its appeal. I kind of like the beginning, just the learning part, but I adore the moment when it's really starting to come together and I'm finding the answers our client needs.

Or am I just pathetic?


Yesterday was the first day I put in less than ten hours. The day before the copyright memo was due, I put in over eleven and didn't eat lunch, I was working so hard. But I really like it. It's a relief. I'm thinking maybe law was the right choice after all.

But I still work on my stories during lunch. ;-)


Blogger Fandom Rebels said...

Will you expound on what you learn? serious question here. Sorry, we're all laying low for now, working in other areas, but the copyright issue's come up a number of times.

I've a question for you, though, aside from the difficulty of proving actual copyright infringement, what about the ethical issue? As in the difference between actually committing the crime and just knowing that what one is doing is wrong? we both agreed, the law is an ass.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

When I get the chance, I'll see about sitting down with those texts and figuring out the copyright issues from a purely-legal standpoint. It's really interesting stuff, I've just been too swamped lately.

A question of ethics would fall between a question or morals and of law. For example, people can get into trouble with professional organizations (like the Bar) for actions that aren't illegal, simply because they reflect badly on character and are "wrong" in a more universal moral sense. (Ex: a law student was denied admission to the bar after taking a number of perfectly legal free speech actions to harass classmates and school officials.)

But there are plenty of moral issues where there is enough debate surrounding them that it's unlikely there would be any ethical implications. Yes, I do count fanwriting among them.

Other such issues would be abortion (providing them, advocating for them, etc), globalization (helping create laws that support big corporations at the expense of small business), and any of the assorted environmental, religious, and medical issues out there.

The difference is this: if a person hears that a colleague has done something unethical, they may have some legal/professional recourse to act on their disapproval. (Ie, lawyer knows another lawyer is giving client advice out of motive to enhance his own fees.)

If a person hears a colleague is doing something they consider immoral, they may tut-tut about it, disapprove, even avoid that person or scold them, but it's all a matter of opinion.

Whether fanfiction is wrong or right is a moral issue, at least until the courts or lawmakers decide otherwise. I could tell a colleague here at my firm that I write fanfic, and they might think I was weird, but it wouldn't cause me to lose my job.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Fandom Rebels said...

Had a long discussion about this over the course of a few days with a legal type. Kinda went a whole gamut with him on the subject of IP, copyright infringement, fanfic, etc...

He was flabbergasted by it all. He's also digging out his material from a class he took in it a while back.

You see a difference between ethical and moral? Or am I reading that wrong?

You know, Jocelyn, regarding's my attitude:

as long as people keep it a hobby, understand it's a hobby, understand they've no right whatsoever to the free use of the world and characters of the creator of the If they could further have some respect for the creator of the work, that would be even better.

It's when they start calling it 'real writing', want to stick it on resumes, want to put in query letters that they won some assinine fanfic award, wander around thinking they aren't infringing on the creator's works and characters that I get my back up.

and then, there's that child porn angle, which, for me and most of the others, is the most important angle.

somebody on LG's blog said it. Real writers don't need to borrow somebody else's characters and worlds to write. That's because they're writers and have tons of their own ideas and characters, so many they can't get them down. You've been mentioning as much on your own blog, those 'real writing' stories that are pushing at your brain and making you nuts because you haven't the time to get them down.

1:57 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

I think where we differ most is in our definition of "real writing."

I think what you're doing is equating "real writing" with "professional writing."

I would bust a gut laughing if someone tried to put fanfiction on a resume or mention it in a query letter. Fanfiction is most definitely NOT professional writing.

But "real writing" encompasses ALL writing. Put words and ideas on paper, you're writing.

As for whether or not it is infringement, as with legal/ethical/moral, my definition of infringement is the legal definition. And by that definition, fanfiction is not infringement.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Fandom Rebels said...

I would bust a gut laughing if someone tried to put fanfiction on a resume or mention it in a query letter. Fanfiction is most definitely NOT professional writing.

Heh. spend some time at Fanthropology or Virgule or any of the other pseudo-intellectual places devoted to the subject. Spend lots of time deluding themselves about it, plus, they earn credits, write papers and teach it to our kids. I see a backlash coming. Intellectual freedom is one thing. Intellectual idiocy masked as intellectual freedom is another.

The law is an ass. It's infringement. Not 'real writing' because there's no need to create characters or background, it's ready made. What happens is a lot of bad habits are learned, half-baked plots, half-developed ideas because the writer is relieved of responsibility to create.

Friend of mine equates FF to bunch of people sitting around a fire telling stories. That's why they put stuff up a chapter at a time and almost never go back to rewrite. Can't do that in the real world. It goes out as a package, a done deal.

Anyway, looking at FF that way, fine with me. You getting anywhere with that new one you were talking about? Real story, not FF. The one based on a dream?

Regarding professional writing... that's a long, lonely road. Not getting published doesn't necessarily mean that somebody's not good any more than being published means somebody is good. So much of it is market decisions. One thing's for certain persistence pays. constant attention to the craft and persistence in submitting. Also, willingness to take criticism and act on it.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Lewis Perdue said...

I hope the infringement issues didn't cause too much brain damage.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn Smith said...

I hope the infringement issues didn't cause too much brain damage.

Actually, I had a great time with that assignment. I love copyright law (and not just because I'm a fanwriter.) I think it's fascinating, very different from real property. It's all about how the law affects ideas.

I'm a geek, what can I say?

9:49 PM  
Blogger Lewis Perdue said...

If we had more copyright geeks, then maybe the state of the law wouldn't be so pathetic.

12:20 PM  

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