Quote of the Day | When tastes trump morals in creator rights discussions

"It's instructive to read something about a family wanting certain rights returned or better rewarded when most people really like what's been done with those rights as opposed to their either not caring or actively hating the result. One of the reasons a lot of our comics-related issue discussions remain unsophisticated is that we frequently choose to fight our battles along fundamental "I like it"/"I hate it" lines and then kind of furiously stare at the other issues involved until we can find a way to make them comply to our initial impression. It's no way to move forward."

-- Tom Spurgeon, on Christopher Tolkien's dismay over the Lord of the Rings films

Spurgeon's observation is helpful, because the first step in solving the problem is acknowledging the problem.

On a purely intellectual level, I'm a huge advocate for creators' rights, but I have trouble staying consistent on the issue. I have no problem pitching in to defend the creator (and his family) when he's being exploited in a way that I don't enjoy. It's easy for me to be upset at the treatment of Siegel and Shuster when I don't care about modern Superman comics. Others with more interest in current Superman disagree. Loudly. Usually in blog comments.

But before I wag my finger at those folks, I need to come to terms with my own lack of sympathy when the subject is a derivative work that I happen to love. Especially -- as in the case of The Lord of the Rings -- when I love it more than the source material itself. I admit that I've usually thought about Christopher Tolkien's complaining the same way some comics fans think about Alan Moore's: that I wish he would shut up and let me enjoy what I enjoy.

As Spurgeon says, that's no way to move toward figuring out the solution to the complicated issue of creators rights. Acknowledging that there are differences in every case and that one solution does not necessarily fit all (for instance, allowing a creator's heirs to have a voice in the discussion is a huge complication), the first step still needs to be divorcing my emotional investment in a derivative work from the argument over whether or not the derivation is moral. The two have nothing to do with each other.

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