First Asian Workshop on Cultural Economics edition:1 location:Doshisha University, Kyoto date:27-28 November 2011
Up to now, fan-created derivative works have been exchanged largely in sharing economies in most parts of the world. For various reasons, pressure is increasing to commodify these derivative cultural goods and let them play a role in the commercial economy as well. However, it is unclear exactly how the creators of these works could be compensated in monetary terms, while also reserving compensating for the creators of the source works on which fanworks are based. In this paper, I explore the possibilities for commodifying derivative amateur cultural products as “open source” cultural goods.
The economy surrounding open source software production has been described as a “hybrid” economy in which participants from the commercial economy work together with participants from a sharing economy. Open source production practices have proven to be a very popular model for creating hybrid economies in areas unrelated to software. The hybrid economy of open source software can provide scaffolding for other peer production-based hybrid economies because, through its philosophy and simply by example, it inspires alternatives to established systems -for instance, the established system for the production of cultural goods, a system that excludes derivative works.
Scholars from a remarkable variety of fields have already linked the production systems of derivative cultural goods such as fanwork to open source-based practices. Several researchers who have presented economic models for the commodification of derivative works propose that a system inspired by the production practices of open source software may be the most beneficial for derivative works creators and copyright holders alike. Beyond that, fanwork may have an important example function to fulfill for legal and economic systems trying to adapt to new technological realities. Although the influence of open source “philosophy” has now spread far beyond the area of software creation, cultural goods remain a conspicuous blank in many long lists of various “open” movements, not in the least because legal concerns make the creation of an “open source cultural good” difficult. Fanwork may be an ideal candidate for the title of “open source cultural good”, not only because many characteristics of the fannish production practices are already highly comparable to those of open source, but also because fannish production practices have a history and practising community that is a perfect basis for supporting an open source-like system of production and commodification.
Open source and fannish production practices are similar, but not identical. However, because of their shared origins and characteristics, the vocabulary, problems, and solutions from one can help us articulate similar problems and possible solutions in the area of the other. I will examine how open source practices could be adapted to create legal, economic, and social conditions in which derivative cultural goods such as fanwork can be integrated into the broader cultural economy. I will also argue that this sort of commodification of derivative cultural goods would be beneficial, economically and socially, both for fanwork creators and for the companies whose media products fanworks are derived from.