Pride & Property & Nora Roberts, or Jane Austen meets the laws of intellectual rights — 4 Comments

  1. Abigail,
    What an interesting subject. My husband is a lawyer and I know his firm has an intellectual property dept., but I’ve never given that field of law any thought until I read your blog. Now, I find it fascinating.
    Your example of Darcy diving into a pond as belonging to Andrew Davies has been used by some of the JAFF I’ve read in terms of E coming upon him and he’s all wet. Does that cross the line? Is unpublished JAFF which is available through various websites subject to the IP rule? This whole subject of who owns what is really interesting.
    By the way, it’s my understanding the Davies P&P was an A&E production. The BBC had done one years before, which I found stiff and “bloodless” in comparison.

  2. Leslie,

    You’re right about A&E and the BBC – my mistake. Online JAFF is indeed subject to intellectual property laws, but as far as I know, there’s never been an attempt to enforce it as regards any of the P&P adaptations. As you say, it’s common for fanfics to refer to scenes from P&P2 and P&P3, and even to use dialogue. The first meeting between Elizabeth and Georgiana at the Lambton Inn in P&P2 is a good example; lots of fanfics use the exchange about Georgiana being fond of music, and others use the “bewitched body and soul” line from P&P3. Sometimes the references are deliberate, and sometimes people have forgotten where Jane Austen ends and Andrew Davies begins. I used some P&P2 references myself in the original version of From Lambton to Longbourn, mostly because it seemed like a standard part of fanfics, and I only took them out when I published it.

    So the bottom line, as I understand it, is that legally we shouldn’t use references to the adaptations in fanfics, but that practically speaking, it’s unlikely that there would ever be trouble about it because nobody’s making money from those fanfics. I’m not suggesting that anybody should go change their stories. But I’m not a lawyer and shouldn’t be considered an expert.

  3. Interesting topic — especially hearing an Author’s perspective. I remember several years back there was a JA fanfic author that was blatantly taking the stories of an author and replacing the characters’ original names with Austen characters. The original author herself posted after being notified by a reader and the site took down the story. The fanfic writer also apologized. Around the same time there was controversy over two JAFF writers using the same title. There was a lot of discussion at that time about plagiarism and copyright law, but I don’t recall seeing much discussion about it in the various JAFF communities since then.

    It also feels like JAFF has broadened to more individual sites than ever, which I think makes it easier for fanfic plagiarism from other established fanfic writers than when all the fanfic is at 2 or 3 websites that everyone visits.

  4. Just a point about the 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice. You were quite right the first time Abigail – it was a BBC production, although it was partly finananced by the A&E network and distributed by them in the USA. The copyright remains with the BBC. It was first broadcast in the UK in 1995, only later being shown in other countries.

    The BBC has often made multiple versions of classic stories and did indeed had made a version of Pride and Prejudice in 1980 with Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul as well has four previous versions.

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