The copyright world is hotting up. The Government has just published the first batch of draft legislation to change copyright exceptions for private copying, parody, quotation and
public administration. You can find details here and I'll be doing a post in the next day or so.
Meanwhile, I've been meaning to do a post about Kindle Worlds, which is important both as regards fan fiction and, more generally, about the world of derivative works.
Fan fiction - new stories inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games - isn’t new. The worldwide publishing phenomenon ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, by English author EL James, started life as fan fiction and features the main characters from the ‘Twilight’ books.
So Amazon’s recently announced ‘Kindle Worlds’, its new fan fiction platform, is capitalising on a well-established genre rather than inventing a new one. Amazon have started by doing a deal with
Alloy Entertainment, Warner Bros’ book packaging division, covering three book/TV series crossovers, ‘Gossip Girl’, ‘The Vampire Diaries’ and ‘Pretty Little Liars’. The deal enables Amazon to licence fanfic authors to write new stories based on the characters and themes featured in the ‘Worlds’ created by the authors of the original works. Other World licensors will be added. Fanfic authors get 35% of net revenues, after royalties are paid to the World licensors, from Kindle sales.
In Kindle Worlds, Amazon Publishing stands as publisher at the centre of the fanfic universe. It takes licenses from the authors or other rights owners of the ‘Worlds’. Whilst World licensors no doubt retain the underlying copyrights and trademarks, Amazon gets worldwide publication rights in
the new fanfic works via an exclusive licence from fanfic authors over thestory and new elements they create. I would guess that rights in those newelements accrue back to the World licensors, subject to Amazon as publisher being able to license them to other fanfic others to create new works. That way, the ‘Worlds’ continue to grow.
I think ‘Kindle Worlds’ is important for at least three reasons. First, it’s a further advance by Amazon into the publishing world and demonstrates how it’s able to leverage its technical platforms and ‘end to end’supply chain from author to platform to consumer device to create additional revenue streams. No wonder that at one of the publishing industry spectrummajor players in the publishing industry are thinking hard about merger inorder to gain scale and at the other end niche players are looking at creating vertical sectors in which they compete through specialisation.
Second, whilst fanfic will continue outside Amazon’swalled garden with its proprietary technology, Kindle Worlds will also see that garden grow. For many consumers that’s great and the convenience of the ‘one click’ experience with Amazon outweighs any downsides for them by being tied in
to the Kindle platform. But others will think hard about that and wonderwhether they want their content available on any device, any time.
Third, Kindle Worlds is a great example of how intellectual property and derivative works have moved to the heart of the publishing business model, driven by the reader/consumer. This goes well beyond fan fiction. Intellectual properties in literary works, including underlying themes, plots and characters, together with formats, brands, software and online communities,together form the heart of the publishing ecosystem. A publisher may firstpublish a story as a print or digital book, but that may soon be followed – or even preceded – with a partnership for a full or short form television
programme which is broadcast or available as a ‘VOD’ services, a computer game, live event or in a variety of other formats.
In this ‘hub spoke’ world, a clear and effective IP strategy to manage rights across a range of works and multitude of platforms is not just a part of the legal function, it’s at the very heart of publishers’
business models in the 21st century.
Have a good week