A Deal They Can't Refuse

Bradford Walker offers some sound advice to media conglomerates who are overzealous about guarding their IPs.
Yesterday I posted Razorfist's recreation of a lost episode of The Shadow radio show. In the video, he mentions that he's gotten nastygrams from the IP owner, Conde Nast. The now-infamous Axanar incident shows another IP-related fiasco that, while legal, was neither good optics nor good Public Relations. This isn't new; it's common enough that several such stories a year come up in fan communities online.
The problem is clear: the actions taken, while legal, have long-term consequences that damage the brand. Why? Because the actions attack the core audience of the brand, those who are often most enthusiastic and often (for brand with multi-generational appeal) are the cohort recruited to professional ranks to replace retiring original professionals and keep the brand a relevant concern.
My loyal readers will recall that I recently wrote a post urging authors to control their IPs. You might think that stance puts me at odds with Bradford, but our positions are in fact complimentary. To put it another way, they're two sides of the same coin.

Both Bradford and I are talking about brand management. My post dealt with knowing that you, the author, are the brand, knowing the value of your brand's IPs, and not giving away the farm when a third party seeks to license or buy those IPs.

Bradford is warning IP holders against going to the other extreme: exerting such tightfisted control over your intellectual property that you do serious damage to your brand via the Streisand Effect.

How to find a happy medium? Bradford has a plan.
The smart thing to do when high-quality fan productions arise is not to shut them down. It's to give them an honorable offer that they can't refuse: authentication. In the case of Axanar, the smart move would've been to give the fan production access to Paramount's distribution network in return for a strict non-profit policy and non-canonical status. In short, an "Elseworlds" status; IP owners are wise to do something like this going forward. Curate the high-production fan works, see which ones will play ball, and sanction them by distributing them. Take away the financial risk to the fans, and keep the proceeds for distributing their work in return for giving them a pass- and an option to buy the work outright under Work For Hire terms.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery. If a fan production turns out a high quality, well-received short film or radio drama set in a Hollywood-owned secondary universe, the IP holders should consider giving them a seat at the table instead of slapping them with C&Ds and DMCA notices.

Judging by the declining quality and performance of the big SFF movie franchises these days, Hollywood could use some fresh indie blood to refresh their talent pool.
Yes, IP owners are right to protect their property. That's not disputed. What is disputed is the methods, as they are deleterious to the health of their property in the long-term. Star Wars, Star Trek, and many other popular properties suffer from incompetent or malevolent management. Others, such as The Shadow, suffers from such management as well as neglect- and yet have the same stupid-level of punitive enforcement done in the name of protection. For dormant properties, going after high-end fan productions is doubly stupid because they're marketing your property for you FOR FREE!
You fight piracy with pricing and convenience. When it comes to fan homages, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" might be a smarter approach for failing Hollywood.

We're still waiting on the first fanfic set in my award-winning and soon-to-be-completed Soul Cycle. In the meantime, the original books are already better than anything the big New York publishers and dying Hollywood studios are peddling these days. Check them out!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier


  1. Bradford's idea sounds a lot like Kindle Worlds or similar programs. As an occasional committer of fanfiction, the idea has appeal.

    1. Ah yes, I remember hearing about Kindle Worlds. Have you sampled any of their stories?

    2. Brian and Nathan
      What's Kindle world?


    3. Xavier,

      Kindle Worlds is licensed faanfic through Amazon. If a franchise signs up for it, and your work passes content guidelines, you can sell your work through Amazon and the media franchise gets a cut.

      I've yet to try anything from there, too many books, too little time, but if hell freezes over and a certain Eastern fantasy land even joins the program, I might dust off an old literary sin or two.