This is my undergraduate thesis on folklore and copyright, originally published and made available online in 2005. As with anything that heavily cites the internet and fandom, links may be defunct and jargon may be out of date—but as I’ve seen my work cited by others, it seems wise to maintain it as close to its original state as possible (up to and including using my maiden name). There are several things I’d do differently now, and maybe I’ll do a followup paper in the future, but in the meantime: please enjoy.

by Katherine Macdonald

English 399
April 25th, 2005
Advisor: Professor Jonathan Kahana
Second Reader: Professor Joseph Kramer
Department of English
Bryn Mawr College

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Abstract: This essay describes a method of using folk culture to understand mass culture, in an attempt to reconcile mass media and folklore studies and to show the applications of both in current, North American society. Concentrating on the phenomenon of fanfiction, this essay focuses on issues such as the culture industry, authorship, legitimacy, transience, the current copyright culture, and the folk process in a modern context. As a specific example, the essay follows the history of a human-interest folklore article, “Myths Over Miami,” as it travels through and is changed by the modern folk process. This essay argues that the changes made to the article, and the methods by which those changes are made, are universal, can be described using a folk studies rubric, and are legitimate and fundamental to the development of North American culture as a whole.

“Reflections on the Modern Folk Process” is comprised of two main sections, each meant to reflect back on the other. The first is a thorough examination of the folk process and its place in modern, North American culture (1); it includes such things as definitions, methods of examination, and theoretical work on one particular aspect of the folk process, fanfiction (2). The second part is a history—or the study of an evolution—of one cultural artifact (the folklore of urban homeless youth in Miami, Florida) as it travels through, and is changed by, the folk process. The first part of “Reflections” gives the reader the tools to follow the second part; the second part gives the reader the ability to fully understand the first, and to later apply that method of thought to other areas of research.

“The modern folk process” is a critical phrase in this paper, and its accompanying definitions and applications are the thrust of this study. Before a discussion of modernity can take place, however, it should be made clear what is meant by the term “folk process.”

The origin of the phrase “folk process” has been attributed to musician Pete Seeger (3)—as well as the most accessible definitions (4)—but the action Seeger was labeling had originally been described by late 19th-early 20th century music historian Cecil Sharp in his book English Folk-Song: Some Conclusions. Sharp describes the evolution of the folksong and folktale (Seeger’s “folk process”) as encompassing three principles: that of continuity, variation, and selection. “Continuity” refers to the idea that, in the norm, “types” (or motifs, themes, narratives, etc) should remain constant, and variation should be considered the exception; “variation” refers to the phenomenon of changes being introduced to folksongs by singers, whether unconsciously or with intent to change for artistic reasons, reasons of preference, or for the hiding of errors; “selection” refers to the theory that “the musical taste of every community must vary, and, as that taste is the controlling factor in the evolution of the folk-song, national peculiarities must ultimately determine the specific characteristics of the folk-songs of the different nations.” (5)

Though understanding these principles is not strictly necessary for understanding this paper—and though these principles are considered not entirely accurate by this paper’s author, at least when applied to modern folk culture—one of Sharp’s contributions to the study of folk culture was providing a method (or, at least, the guidelines) by which the separation, evaluation, and quantifying of the steps of the folk process can be accomplished and communicated to the reading audience.

The folk process, as defined in this paper, is the process by which cultural artifacts are changed, whether minutely or in significant amounts, to form new cultural products. (6) Cultural artifacts are the individual elements that make a culture: pieces of art, moments of history, religion, mythology, traditions (7) . . . The chief difference between an “artifact” and a “product” is their relative position during the process—the artifact is what came before, the product is what came after. There is no other differentiating characteristic, and the terminology exists largely for the discussion of theory.

To briefly illustrate how cultural artifacts and products are positioned in relation to one another, Tim Phillips, in Opposing Copyright Extension, says:

One very well-documented case of a work of cumulative authorship is the Christmas hymn “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” […] Besides deletions of 16 of Charles Wesley’s original lines, these changes are (1) verbal changes by [George] Whitefield (1753); (2) verbal changes by [Martin] Madan (1760); (3) the introduction of a refrain by the 1782 Cambridge editors of the New Version of Tate and Brady; (4) verbal changes first attested in [J.] Kempthorne (1810); (5) re-ordering of lines by the 1826 [U.S. Episcopal Church] American editors; and (6) verbal changes for the 1982 hymnal. (8)

In the example above the cultural artifact is Wesley’s work, and the product is Whitefield’s. Later, Whitefield’s product becomes an artifact for Madan’s product.

Phillips is defining “cumulative authorship” as the incorporation of the work of multiple minds in the authoring of a text—regardless of when those minds did their work or what each mind’s intent, with regard to the text, was. Basically, if the “folk process” describes the results of time and change, then “cumulative authorship” describes the authorial position as time passes and changes occur to the product. The phrase is being used here in reference to its application in the intellectual property debates. (9) The phrase is also applicable to folklore research (as a basic term describing the unknown author(s) of folk products) and in determining authorship for academic purposes (discussions of Shakespeare, for instance).

A phrase worth considering in conjunction with cumulative authorship is “collaborative authorship,” which James Naremore describes in films and television as “collaborative media, but their modes of production are hierarchical, involving a mixture of industrialized, theatrical, and artisanal practices. Given the circumstances under which particular films are made, it is possible to think of any of the creative individuals who contribute to them as a kind of author.” (10) In the case of the modern folk process, authorship is in many cases both cumulative and collaborative.

By the using the terms “artifact” and “product,” it is hoped that the occasionally antagonistic studies of folklore and mass media, both of which use these terms in commiserate ways and both of which are connected in this paper, can at least be reconciled long enough to recognize the validity of one another’s work as well as the applications each study might have for the other. As it is, Jack Zipes, in his Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales, is fairly clear on how he views the mass media in relation to his own field: “Profit mars their [the oral and literary tradition’s] stories and their cultural heritage. Folk and fairy tales as products of the imagination are in danger of becoming instrumentalized and commercialized. All this has been accomplished within the framework of the modern culture industry.” (11) Zipes paints the modern culture industry (12) as an active threat to folk culture.

On the other hand, mass media studies (which is tied to the modern culture industry by, at the very least, fiscal necessity, and certainly by its ties to the school of thought that produced the culture industry theory) largely ignores the potential applications of folk research in its field, as evidenced by, for instance, Ragnhild Tronstad’s study of MUDs. (13) MUDs require a level of creative involvement in the creation of a shared environment that can appear very much like the requirements of cumulative authorship in folklore research. However, Tronstad neglects that avenue of research in favor of essentially reinventing the wheel—though, to be fair, perhaps Tronstad was unaware that such an avenue is open for travel. (14) This area of thought will be discussed further on.

The apathy (and sometimes outright hostility) evidenced by several of the researchers in these fields is blocking the potential evolution of both these studies. As such, one of the goals of this paper is to show how the science of folklore might be applied to mass media studies, and how the mass media is not a harbinger of the death of folk culture but rather another, new pathway for folk culture to develop.

The purposefully industrial sound of the “artifact and product” terminology is what pushes forward the idea of this being a folk process, a mechanical approach to understanding folk culture. As a machine takes raw materials and produces finished products, so too do active cultures take elements of their own or other cultures and transfigure them into new cultural creations. The idea of a culture “machine” would not be appreciated by Zipes or fellow researcher James Heisig, but the argument of this paper follows more closely the ideas of folklorist Richard M. Dorson and mass media studies researcher Henry Jenkins: not that the “machine” is destroying folk culture, but rather that it represents a new idea of folk culture.

The word “folk” has been used with great frequency up to this point, but a definition has not yet been made clear. Despite having meanings as simple as “Individual persons; individuals,” (15) it has gained the reputation of having solely to do with rural people and rural practices. However, “‘Folk’ need not apply exclusively to country folk, but rather signifies anonymous masses of tradition-oriented people.” (16) For the purposes of this paper, an individual or group of individuals become(s) “folk” when they begin using cultural artifacts to create cultural products; in other words, when individuals start interacting with their culture, they become part of the “folk.” This means that harvests are part of folk culture and coffeehouse poetry is part of folk culture; but so too are the movements of the stock market floor part of folk culture. Programmers, writers, scientists, homemakers, children, PTA members, poker night players – all are folk, because they are all of them using artifacts to create products. Often those products do not resemble what either mass media studies or folklore studies would traditionally assume to be a folk product (quilts and quaint traditions, as opposed to mathematical theorems, the playing of a computer game, the way one walks through a city, or a robot constructing a car). This is a radical departure from popular and academic thought: Simply put, the conversion of any artifact to any product by a culture (or the products of that culture) is, in fact, part of the folk process. Accepting this departure, if only for the length of this paper, will open up new avenues of thought and allow for a unique view of both folk studies and mass media studies in the current culture.

There are several pitfalls in the study of the folk process that must be watched for. At first glance, the use of “Hark” earlier in this paper appears deceptive. The obvious lineage (Wesley, Whitefield, Madan, etc.) may make it difficult to reconcile the word “folk” with the clear stepping stones of “Hark” unless care is taken with the definition of “folk” given in the paragraph above. What’s more, the common caroler likely does not know—or care—about the persons who made “Hark” what it is today—all that matters is the final (or at least, current) product. This notion of that which is known and unknown (such as the authors of “Hark” and all of “Hark”’s previous incarnations) will be returned to further on.

Another possible pitfall in this folk process methodology is that it would appear that the previous artifacts in “Hark” have been “erased” from usage, or are no longer works from which new products may be derived. (17) This is untrue. Though the textual representation of the folk process affecting “Hark” seems to produce a definite linear progression, looking at a flow chart (18) of the changes makes it clear that, for instance, Madan’s product, Courcy’s product, and the 1782 New Version of the Psalms of David product all spend a period of time in common usage; in other words, they are all of them being sung (or, at the least, recorded and distributed in some manner). In 1810 a change is made to one phrase, and this song, in addition to the previous three, also enters common usage. (19)

To understand the nature of the folk process, it is necessary to realize that no matter how linear a progression there might appear to be in the history of any particular product (as it appears in the case of “Hark”), that progression is unavoidably misrepresenting the true process; there is no way for researchers to know what products have been created if there are no recordings of those products—in turn, what records there are then appear to progress in a linear fashion, deceptive because the actual progression of a cultural artifact may more closely resemble a fractal pattern than a simple A- to-B line. Alfred Lord, in his The Singer of Tales says that:

Unlike the oral poet, we are not accustomed to thinking in terms of fluidity [of text]. We find it difficult to grasp something that is multiform. It seems to us necessary to construct an ideal text or to seek an original, and we remain dissatisfied with an ever-changing phenomenon. I believe that once we know the facts of oral composition we must cease trying to find an original of any traditional song. From one point of view each performance is an original. From another point of view it is impossible to retrace the work of generations of singers to that moment when some singer first sang a particular song. (20)

That attempts have been made to trace these works is commendable and, what’s more, generally important in the understanding of one’s culture’s evolution. However, as Lord suggest above, the folk process is at work whether or not a recording is made to prove it. What is helpful in any history of an artifact’s evolution is the record of “known” artifacts.

For a product to become a “known” (recognized) artifact, it is likely to be three things: popular and distributed, relevant to the culture, and recorded (21); the only actual requirement of a known artifact is that it must have been used in a product, and the creator of that product must have intentionally used the artifact. However, not all cultural products have used known artifacts—rather the creator has used “unknown” artifacts. With unknown artifacts the author has used an artifact without direct intent or, for that matter, realizing that an artifact has been used. It does not diminish the importance of an artifact if we as a culture cannot remember, or describe, what the artifact actually is – which is why recognizing the presence of both known and unknown artifacts is important.

For example, consider for a moment the following two texts:

23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Ron, by his teammates adored:
Ron, the Quidditch Keeper Lord.
Red-haired like his dad and mum;
Jealous of ol’ Viktor Krum.
Loves adventures with Harry;
Secret crush: Hermione;
Broken wand backfires spells;
Hear him exclaim “Bloody hell!”
Gryffindor students all sing,
“Ronald Weasley is our King!” (22)

The first text is from chapter one of the Gospel of St. Matthew, in the King James Version of the New Testament. The second text is the second verse of the song Ronald Weasley is Our King, written by “Tiffany (MuggleTiff)” for a Harry Potter fan website Christmas song parody contest. The quote from St. Matthew is one of the artifacts used for the second verse of the currently popular “Hark” hymn:

Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold Him come,
offspring of a Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see:
Hail, the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
Glory to the new-born King. (23)

. . . which in turn was an artifact for the production of “Ronald Weasley.” Of importance is that Tiffany need not have had any knowledge whatsoever of the Bible verse to produce her product—nor is it a requirement that she should have. The quality of “unknown” does not refer to an artifact’s lack of availability or the producer’s ignorance of the artifact (St. Matthew can be found in every hotel room in the United States, and some knowledge of the Bible is part of a large segment of North American culture), but rather to the idea of being unaware of what artifacts are being transformed by the folk process. The example here represents the multitude of known and unknown cultural artifacts that came together to transform into Tiffany’s product: the “Hark” hymn, J.K. Rowling’s characters and universe, and, delving further, the artifacts that formed “Hark” and Harry Potter, from St. Matthew to, in Rowling’s case, Western magic theory and bardic hero cycles. Grantland S. Rice, in his book The Transformation of Authorship in America, discusses a particular work of Washington Irving’s—The Sketch Book (1819) – that describes this process as “dipping into various books . . . taking a morsel out of one, a morsel out of another.” Irving also says that this is “the way in which Providence has taken care that the seeds of knowledge and wisdom [will] be preserved from age to age.” (24)

Returning to the artifact-to-product-to-artifact cycle, let us look again at Tiffany’s product. “Ronald Weasley” has clearly been recorded, as we have a record of it with which to make our argument. It has not been taken up as a popular song; it has not been distributed over the air waves; it does not seem to have any distribution outside of the website it appears on at all. In the realm of cultural relevance, it does not seem to have impressed itself— through cleverness or popularity or meaningfulness or any of a hundred reasons why one product is remembered over another—upon any specific community (even the community within which is was created, that of Harry Potter fans).

However, by the inclusion of Tiffany’s product in this paper it shows that, if not the song itself, an aspect of its existence is relevant to at least two communities (that of folk researchers and college students producing theses). The distribution of the song will also increase, if only marginally, by its inclusion in this paper. Tiffany’s product is a known artifact of this paper because this paper’s author intentionally used it. More to the point, it cannot be shown or proven whether or not “Ronald Weasley” has affected other people in ways they may not even be aware of, thus causing those people to create products from the unknown artifact of “Ronald Weasley”—just as Tiffany created her product from the probably unknown St. Matthew verse.

Up to this point, the reader should now have a general grounding in the folk process, with its terminology and traps, as it is being applied in this paper. Next, we must take this knowledge and apply it to the modern day and the study of mass culture.

For the duration of this paper, the “modern” folk process is the process that exists in the realm of mass culture, media studies, and began, in fiction writing, in the 1960s—the start of the fanfiction subculture. (25)

The term “fanfiction” has multiple meanings, though all have a common theme: fiction written by fans based on someone else’s creation. Henry Jenkins gave an excellent definition in his talk The Poachers and the Stormtroopers: Cultural Convergence in the Digital Age: “An active subculture which produces new artworks through their appropriations from pre- existing media content.” (26)

There is a great deal of discussion within the fanfiction community of what is and is not “fanfic”—for instance, professional parodies could also fall under the header of defined fanfic, and there are any number of published works currently in existence that, had they appeared within a fan context, would be labeled fanfiction (for instance, Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West). The key difference between these and actual fanfictions, then, is the legality. Parodies are protected by “fair use” within U.S. copyright law—and have gone to court and won because of the “fair use” argument—and Maguire (or his publisher) no doubt sought permission from the owners of the Wizard of Oz franchise. Fanfiction has no such legal permission, and is therefore theoretically illegal. Theoretically, because no author of fanfiction has taken their case to court when faced with a Cease and Desist letter from the owners of the “infringed” copyright. (27) This legal question is something to keep in mind as the modern folk process is further discussed.

The practice of fanfiction is arguably several centuries old (28) —however, the term and the community-style activities surrounding it began in the late 1960s with the television show Star Trek. As Juice writes in A History of Fan Fiction:

The pilot episode of Star Trek was shown by series creator Gene Roddenberry at the World Science Fiction Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1966. Its initial fans were also science fiction fans who were familiar with fanzines. Some of them decided to publish fanzines for the new program. Spockanalia, published in 1967, was the first and contained only one story. 1968 saw the publication of Spockanalia 2 and 3, as well as ST-Phile 1 and 2 with several more stories. […]

Star Trek’s 1969 cancellation deprived fans of new source material, forcing them to create their own material in greater and greater volume. In that year, three new fanzines of varying quality as well as subsequent editions of Spockanalia and ST-Phile sprung up. […] There were two publications at the end of 1970 that just listed fanzines. These zines [listed in these publications] were beginning to include more stories, not just articles and letters.

The number of zines, and by extension of stories, grew relatively slowly until the publication by Bantam Books of Star Trek Lives!, written by [professional author and fan writer] Jacqueline Lichtenberg in 1975. The book, a professional mainstream publication, explained fandom and provided resources that allowed new fans, or those who had no contact with other fans or knowledge of zines, a pathway into fandom. Within two years, there were 450 zines in publication […]. (29)

The evolution of the fanfiction community, as demonstrated above, has been rapid and protean in nature. Fanfiction as we know it started in an age of mimeographs and “zines” (30)—with the internet there now exists the possibility of instant publication with no editorial stops. Fanwriters no longer have to depend on far-off distributors to accept their work—the internet allows fanwriters to post their works up immediately, while at the same time allowing for a much wider readership: readers don’t need to pay or wait for fanzines, and there is a much greater chance of an “accidental” introduction to fanfiction through links or search engines.

Fanfiction is textual, firmly entrenched in and inseparable from the culture of the moment, and is connected to the established, “legitimate” (31) fiction culture as part of a cycle that is both necessary and inherent to what this paper is terming the modern folk process. The modern folk process is a progressive spiral that encompasses the apparent innate nature of human culture and the artificial constructs of, at the very least, North American society when it comes to technology, transmission, ownership, and art.

There are five steps to the modern folk process being proposed here: origin, recording, copyright, reclamation, and reversion. It is something of a misnomer to label these “steps” however. Though there is a linear basis for their order, a product can move from any step to another at any time – or even exist in two or more steps simultaneously. As such, it would perhaps be more accurate to label these “sets” instead of “steps,” to better reflect the transient nature of the product.

These five sets should be briefly described before going more in-depth, so that the reader has an immediate working knowledge before we come upon the Miami Universe long-example. “Origin” here is defined as the raw artifacts and products of a culture, unrecorded and perhaps unknown – what we think of as oral folklore falls into this set, provided that there are no records of it. “Recording” is when the origin set is, simply, recorded, thus leaving a theoretically permanent record of that particular moment in the folk process. “Copyright” is when the recording set (whether in part or in whole) is adapted into a cultural product that is then copyrighted to a specific set of owners and is no longer culturally “available” in the folk process. “Reclamation” is when copyright law is ignored and the copyright set is reentered into the folk process by the creation of new products using the copyright set as an artifact. The fifth set, “reversion,” is when the reclamations are themselves copyrighted—a product of the reversion set is simultaneously a product of the copyright set.

The modern folk process, as described above, is a difficult series of actions to understand. The remainder of the paper will attempt to describe these sets more thoroughly, including an extensive example of the process (the Miami Universe history) to further elucidate the folk theory that this paper is presenting.

The first two sets, origin and recording, are an established practice in our culture. A great many of the cultural artifacts that inform our storytelling are from recorded (published) fairytales, folktales, ballads, jokes, and other artifacts that North Americans have been raised on: Cinderella, Rapunzel, knock-knock, hush-a-bye. The artifacts of the origin set are by their nature uncertain and unknown except by the direct participants (the folk who are creating products within the origin set)—it is only with the act of recording that we realize that there must exist, outside of what has been recorded, a set of artifacts that has not been recorded.

The progression of artifacts that have been recorded over the centuries can be used to try and construct a history of a product’s evolution. For this we have the Grimms to thank, Francis Child, Perrault, Chaucer, the authors of the Decameron, the Pentamerone, the Gesta Romanarum . . . without these collections and others we would only have the evidence of our current products to suggest what might have come previously.

Unfortunately, the possibility of unarrested folk evolution in the origin set is made unlikely with the availability and perniciousness of the record available to the people. These accessible records—the Grimms, the Perraults, in libraries and in bookstores—affect what we as a culture have chosen to embellish and evolve with the folk process. There are dozens of books based upon “rewritten fairytales” (32); Disney makes almost its entire business out of the records we have of our folklore.

With the presence of the recording set, the evolution of folk products within the origin set is affected because there is the suggestion of an “official” version of a story that is then privileged over other versions. More, there is the suggestion that if this thing has been labeled folk, then all these other things must not be folk. This “official” product—or “legitimate” product—is both created and given weight because of the workings of the culture industry.

Kellner, in his essay “Culture Industries,” gives a possible reason for this creation/credence: “In the realm of culture, technology produced mass culture that habituated individuals to conform to the dominant patterns of thought and behavior, and thus provided powerful instruments of social control and domination.” (33) As such, we consider our own modern folk products illegitimate children of our culture because we have been conditioned into thinking so. (34) This false thinking suggests that a robot building a car is not a folk product – folk products are only quilts and other “legitimate” products that have been labeled as such.

As negative as this development may seem, this is not to say that the recording set of the folk process is to be avoided. It is rather a situation that we are unlikely to rectify—nor should we attempt to—and as such it must therefore be understood and worked with. It may never be known what has been lost by arresting the natural flow of folklore in the origin set, but likewise, we would not be able to see how much our stories have evolved, even with the issues of recording, were it not for the published works we have to study and compare. Without the recording set there would also not be the possibility of the remainder of the modern folk process, which has itself yielded products that might never have come about if only the origin set existed.

Continuing on, it is when a product of the recording set is used to create a new product, which is then entered into the public sphere as being “owned” by someone, that the process has shifted to the copyright set.

Carla Hesse writes:

The historical record makes unquestionably clear that the most distinctive features of what we have come to refer to as “print culture”—that is, the stabilization of written culture into a canon of authored texts, the notion of the author as creator, the books as property and the reader as an elective public—were not inevitable historical consequences of the invention of printing during the Renaissance, but, rather, the cumulative results of particular social and political choices made by given societies at given moments. (35)

The “ownership of the idea” phenomenon is not a universal constant, but rather a development in some cultures; this is one of the many reasons that this paper caps its argument at solely North America, for which Hesse’s discussion of print culture applies. As this paper strives to point out, as print culture developed due to the societal needs of the time—much like folklore develops to match cultural necessity—so too will the modern folk process (described in this paper, though by no means dependant upon this paper) develop into what in the future may be considered by non-academics as, like Hesse says, an “inevitable historical consequence.”

In the case of America’s copyright system, there is a cultural imperative that there be such constrictions on the folk process. The copyright set, indeed, is related entirely to the idea of “intellectual property.” The purpose of copyright, and its importance to society, has recently been succinctly put in a “Statement by India at the Inter-Sessional Intergovernmental Meeting on a Development Agenda For WIPO [World Intellectual Property Organization], April 11-13, 2005”:

The primary rationale for Intellectual Property protection is, first and foremost, to promote societal development by encouraging technological innovation. The legal monopoly granted to IP owners is an exceptional departure from the general principle of competitive markets as the best guarantee for securing the interest of society. The rationale for the exception is not that extraction of monopoly profits by the innovator is, of and in itself, good for society and so needs to be promoted. Rather, that properly controlled, such a monopoly, by providing an incentive for innovation, might produce sufficient benefits for society to compensate for the immediate loss to consumers as a result of the existence of a monopoly market instead of a competitive market. Monopoly rights, then, granted to IP holders is a special incentive that needs to be carefully calibrated by each country, in the light of its own circumstances, taking into account the overall costs and benefits of such protection. (36)

In other words, the concept of personal ownership of an idea, with the ability to enforce that ownership, means that what was previously a publicly owned cultural artifact has been claimed in such a way as to prevent other members of the culture utilizing the artifacts without specific permission. The ability to own and gain by an idea allows for the presence of artistry as a may of making a living, as well as giving recognition and appreciation on a cultural/historical level to those proficient at it.

It goes on to say that intellectual property is a concept that is integral to the current culture. It can be argued, however, that if the recording step of the process can briefly arrest the general flow of evolution, the copyright set technically exists to bring the folk evolution of specific products to a complete halt. This is reflected in, for instance, the use of copyright to stifle innovation and creation instead of protecting artist’s rights, (37) an issue that India raises in its statement to the WIPO. Because the folk do not have access to the product, they cannot use it as an artifact in their own products. This legal suppression is a reprehensible action, but one that is allowed by the current copyright culture of America. Regardless, copyright exists, and it (or the idea behind it) is a fundamental part of modern culture.

A solution that became evident in the 1960s with the production of Star Trek fanfiction was that a product may be reclaimed from the legal and ethical questions of copyright by, simply, using the copyrighted products as artifacts regardless of the legal “ownership.” Many of the methods employed in this endeavor are either illegal, being currently contested, or have yet to come up to legal scrutiny. Sampling, fanart, photo manipulations, vidding, role-playing, (38) and fanfiction are all examples of this; these are all products of the reclamation set.

With the copyright set, cultural artifacts stop being able to freely affect the folk process. However, if there are aspects of that artifact that are important enough that someone feels the need to continue and/or share it, that someone will almost inevitably utilize those aspects regardless of the law. For instance, if there is something particularly striking about the step- mother’s cat in Disney’s Cinderella that someone thinks elucidates the importance of some key theme, lesson, or motif, that person, whether in their heads, the privacy of their own home, or through a public venue like the internet, will use that artifact for their own creation. Henry Jenkins describes this as “repair[ing] some of the damage cause by the privatization of culture.” (39)

The media creations of today are the new cultural artifacts of our folk production. Since we no longer have a widespread unowned oral folk process, our new storytellers are getting all their artifacts from the copyrighted media. This can be described as a storyteller asking his or herself why they should tell different versions of the Red Riding Hood story when the “point” of a new product can be carried by the more culturally relevant and approachable Harry Potter going through the Forbidden Forest. This is not to say that new versions of Little Red Riding Hood are not created using the fairytale as the primary artifact—rather, some vehicles are more readily adaptable than others to the stories that need telling, and many of those vehicles are under copyright.

Fanfictions (and other similar products) reclaims copyrighted products and returns them to the public sphere—or rather, fanfictions show that whether work is copyrighted or not, on a certain level it remains publicly owned by the culture. This is the foundation of the reclamation set of the modern folk process; it is arguably not so much the act of reclaiming that which has been locked away, as the realization of the legitimacy of that act.

Far more than legality, legitimacy again affects the thinking of modern culture. It is a culture that “assumes that cultural value originates from the original contributions of individual authors” (40) —it is a mode of thinking that, like the previous realizations of legitimacy issues, may be inescapable.

For instance, the issue of legitimacy brings up the question of whether there is artistic merit in something that lacks total originality. Janet Murray, in talking about MUDs in her Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, says that:

There is a distinction between playing a creative role within an authored environment and having authorship of the environment itself. […] Interactors can only act within the possibilities that have been established by the writing and programming. They may build simulated cities, try out combat strategies, trace a unique path through a labyrinthine web, or even prevent a murder, but unless the imaginary world is nothing more than a costume trunk of empty avatars, all of the interactor’s possible performances will have been calling into being by the originating author. (41)

This quote is in many ways an apt description of the creation of fanfiction: an originating author’s created universe, which then “interactors,” or fanfic authors, delve into. According to Murray, these interactors appear to create new worlds but are really entirely circumscribed by the overall creation of the “real” author. (42) This is a reasonable assertion in the realm of programmed MUD games—but Murray then proceeds to overstep these parameters when she apparently dubs the Greek poet Homer a pre-digital interactor:

In the 1930s, Greek scholars were distressed when literary analysis revealed that Homer (and other epic preliterate poets) created through a process that involved fitting stock phrases and formulaic narrative units together. Critics at the time resisted the thought that the great artist Homer was not original in the same way that modern print-based writers are expected to be. Now, with the advent of computer-based authorship, we are experiencing the opposite confusion. Contemporary critics are attributing authorship to interactors because they do not understand the procedural basis of electronic composition. The interactor is not the author of the digital narrative, although the interactor can experience one of the most exciting aspects of artistic creation—the thrill of exerting power over enticing and plastic materials. This is not authorship but agency. (43)

When Murray says that modern print-based writers are expected to be wholly original—and at the same time denies interactors the title of “authors”—this signals the culture war between what is legitimate creation and what is not. At the same time, her confused statement that Homer, the “epic preliterate poet,” is little better than an interactor who works not through “authorship but agency,” rather suggests that if Homer is not an author of worth, then the ideas of authorship, legitimacy, and worthiness in general should be put entirely to pasture.

In addition, Murray’s entire argument can be put to question when she states that “Contemporary critics […] do not understand the procedural basis of electronic composition”—on the contrary, Ms Murray appears herself not to understand the cumulative, cyclical nature of the modern folk process, and therefore her argument falls somewhat flat.

Regardless, in response to these “legitimacy” thoughts our culture has developed one more set in the folk process: reversion. That is, for the sake of legitimacy—both to be recognized for one’s efforts and abilities and to spread the importance of the story to those who look only to that which is popularly felt to be “legitimate”—some creators of fanfiction will take their fan products and remove or change the elements that utilize artifacts of the copyright step.

The thoroughness of this change is variable—some of these “original” fictions are recognizably descendants of reclamations, while some bear only the faintest of similarities. Either is acceptable provided it does not step over the bounds of either being poorly written or still clearly infringing upon a copyright.

Where that thin line is, however, is an ongoing question for the courts and our culture. For example, in November of 2004 The New Yorker printed the story of psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis, her relationship to the Broadway play “Frozen” by Bryony Lavery, and Malcolm Gladwell’s (the author of the article) relation to both. Lavery apparently got her idea for the play’s main character from an article in a medical magazine; Lewis, upon getting the chance to read the play, discovered that the play had apparently been based upon her life, without her permission. Gladwell writes:

At the request of her lawyer, Lewis sat down and made up a chart detailing what she felt were the questionable parts of Lavery’s play. The chart was fifteen pages long. The first part was devoted to thematic similarities between “Frozen” and Lewis’s book “Guilty by Reason of Insanity.” The other, more damning section listed twelve instances of almost verbatim similarities—totalling perhaps six hundred and seventy-five words—between passages from “Frozen” and passages from a 1997 magazine profile of Lewis. The profile was called “Damaged.” It appeared in the February 24, 1997, issue of The New Yorker. It was written by me. (44)

While “Frozen” was by all accounts a successful reclamation stylistically, legally is another matter. Even that, though, is shown to be questionable. Whose rights have been violated? Lewis feels “violated” by the play, whereas Gladwell, whose actual words were taken, finds himself to be conflicted on the matter. He says:

Then I got a copy of the script for “Frozen.” I found it breathtaking. I realize that this isn’t supposed to be a relevant consideration. And yet it was: instead of feeling that my words had been taken from me, I felt that they had become part of some grander cause. […]Bryony Lavery had seen one of my articles, responded to what she read, and used it as she constructed a work of art. And now her reputation was in tatters. Something about that didn’t seem right. (45)

Gladwell created a product from Lewis’s artifact, and Lavery a product from Gladwell’s artifact. Gladwell questions whether the artistic merit of the reversion should come into the equation. The answer to that question—and the solution to the intellectual property equation itself—has not yet been reached, though this paper seeks to give the reader an arsenal with which to approach the matter.

Leaving aside “Frozen,” very few reclamations succeed in transitioning to the reversion set of the process. If a reversion is successful, though, and becomes legitimized through publishing or some other form of public, copyrighted media, the author of the reversion has both provided more artifacts for the reclamations and fed into the legitimacy issues of copyrighted versus non-copyrighted materials. In other words, by feeding into our culture’s legitimacy issues, the author of a reversion can be said to be upholding and supporting the same system that previously led to his or her feelings of illegitimacy in the first place.

As demonstrated earlier in this paper with the “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” progression, an understanding of the folk process is best reached through the use of an example. This second portion of the paper exists to give the reader a concrete object—that of the Miami Universe—to follow as it travels through the modern folk process. Other examples are available, but this particular one was chosen because of its relatively recent start (1997) and its very clear jumps from set to set. With older works there exists the question of origins—what were the cultural products used by the creator(s)? With newer works there is the possible lack of the time necessary to fulfill the cycle—a danger here, but one that will be overcome over the course of the paper.

The basic facts of this example are as follows: In 1997, journalist Lynda Edwards wrote an article titled “Myths Over Miami,” which described the religio-fantasy folklore of a group of children in homeless shelters in Miami. In the year 2000, writer Doris Egan wrote an episode of the television show Dark Angel, titled “Pollo Loco,” based on this article. After the airing of the episode, several fanfictions were written based on the episode’s narrative. These are only the basic and obvious facts of the matter—the remainder of the paper will place these facts into the context of this paper’s theory of the modern folk process.

Set One: Origin

There has not been a gross study of the Miami Universe. What we know of it comes from one article with no follow-ups. The basics are that: “Captured on South Beach, Satan later escaped. His demons and the horrible Bloody Mary are now killing people. God has fled. Avenging angels hide out in the Everglades.” (46) The Miami Universe is a universe that is (or was, in 1997) perpetuated by children between the ages of six and twelve in Dade County, Florida, homeless shelters. It is a bleak universe where there is no God, where the macabre figure of Bloody Mary stalks children, where benevolent powers are largely helpless, and where children have to do all they can to fight the good, though probably useless, fight.

In the midst of this recounting of the world, however, there are clear remnants of South American folklore (La Llorona, the weeping woman), children’s horror stories (Bloody Mary, whose origins are in dispute), early mythology (Yemana, “a Santeria ocean goddess”), and Christian religion (angels, God, Satan, and arguably the Virgin Mary). (47)

Beyond this short article, however, there is nothing else known about the Miami Universe. Folklore is protean and expansive—the directions the children’s folklore has gone is unknown; the full extent of the folklore in 1997 is unknown (was there more than just one article’s worth of story to be had there?); whether it is still active folklore in that area (or elsewhere— has it spread?) is unknown. That is the essence of the origin set.

Set Two: Recording

In 1997 Lynda Edwards, a reporter for the Miami New Times, went to Dade County homeless shelters and asked the children there “what stories, if any, they believed about Heaven and God—but not what they learned in church.” (48) The children’s answers, which make up the Miami Universe, were then written up in Edwards’s article which was later both printed and posted online.

All that we know of the Miami Universe comes from this article. Edwards’s line of questioning directed the recounting of the Universe—there is no way of knowing what else might exist in the Universe, or even if the heavily religious aspect is even the main thrust of the children’s folklore. On the other hand, the recording of the Universe has made it available for folk production on a global level. It has become a cultural artifact, reflected in several acknowledged cultural products and, without doubt, scores of unacknowledged products. The recording of the Universe has added to the folk process, and for that, Edwards’s article is a valuable folk product.

Briefly, it should be mentioned that there is some doubt as to the veracity of the article’s claims. The Miami New Times is not a major news source, but rather an offshoot of New Times, a “publisher of alternative newsweeklies,” which itself was begun during the Vietnam-era by Arizona State University students. (49) Lynda Edwards no longer works for the Miami New Times, but appears to be an Associated Press reporter working in the southeast states. Before her article, and since, there has been no follow-up to her research made publicly available. This lack of additional research may be for one of three reasons: Either no one has attempted a follow-up; an attempt has been made but the folklore has died out or changed enough to no longer bear much significant relation to Edwards’s findings; or Edwards’s entire claim was found to be false or erroneous.

The last option—that the article is a false narrative and is not a recording of folklore at all—is not catastrophic. For the purposes of this paper, the assumption is made that one of the first two choices is the correct one—not because it is necessary for the argument, but because it is simply easier. The article, even if fake, is still a product of the folk process—it is just at a different set of it: copyright. Lynda Edwards’s article still went on to become an artifact, and accurate or no, it is still a part of the folk process. It is for this reason that despite questions of authenticity, Edwards’s article is still a valid example for this paper. It is possible that it is authentic—as such, it is useful for demonstrating the first two sets of the folk process. It is definite, however, that the article progressed through the remainder of the folk process being outlined here.

The difference between the recording set and, for instance, the copyright set (considering Edwards’s copyright of the article), will be discussed momentarily, but the primary definition of the recording set is that it takes oral culture and records it in some non-ephemeral medium. It is the set immediately after oral culture.

Set Three: Copyright

The copyright set is in many ways the most difficult to discuss, particularly due to the current political and artistic environment which is causing major changes to take place in intellectual property theory and law on an almost daily basis.

The basic idea behind this set, however, is that after a record of a piece of folklore comes about, it may be utilized to become some other cultural product. It would be easy to say that the artifact (the recording) is used in creative works, but not all products are necessarily of what is traditionally thought of as a “creative” work—for instance, computer programs, mathematics, etc.

In this particular case the copyright set is also the first really ambiguous set—there is no way to fully articulate all the different products that have been produced from this artifact (or from aspects of this artifact) (50), whereas the first two sets in the Miami Universe progression are very clear. To keep this example manageable, we will be looking at one particular product: a television script by writer Doris Egan for the television show Dark Angel (FOX, 2000-2002 (51) ). As Ms Egan confirmed in a personal correspondence, she was inspired by the Miami New Times article to write the episode “Pollo Loco” (52) (season one, episode 17, aired April 24th, 2001 (53)) for the short-lived science fiction series. (54)

The influence of the Miami Universe upon “Pollo Loco” is apparent in several places. There are some direct reference points – the Blue Lady of Edwards’s article and the Blue Lady of the episode, for instance. More interesting are the thematic connections. Dark Angel’s basic premise is that a series of genetically engineered children were created and raised specifically to be super-soldiers as part of a secret government project. Twelve of these children escaped (shortly before a debilitating attack on the United States reduced the country to a post-apocalyptic depression), and have been hunted ever since by the government while at the same time seeking one another out as the only persons who are truly “family.” (55) This narrative bears similarities to the Miami Universe in that it has: “special” children who have to (or want to) fight; concepts of family; a world that is generally poor, and having to make do on a variety of levels; issues of trust; and danger lurking in unexpected persons and locations.

As part of the folk process, Egan wrote a script that melded (at minimum) two folk artifacts: the Dark Angel universe (with which she was being paid to produce products) and the Miami Universe. Egan was free to use the Miami Universe—as a folk product it had no constraints upon it except the actual copyrighted phrasing of Lynda Edwards’s article.

The children of the Miami Universe are free to change their own folklore, and no doubt do, through the auspices of the oral folk process. Lynda Edwards, in her recording of the folklore, changed the children’s product by requesting certain aspects of it and then arranging it in a certain manner for the Miami New Times’s readership. Egan, in telling the Dark Angel universe with aspects of the Miami Universe, definitely changed the Edwards product in order to apply better to the established storyline and characters of the series. This progression so far mimics the “Hark” example given earlier. At no point do the new versions supersede the older versions, nor do any of the older versions disallow different products being formed from them. However, there is one new significant difference: now, only certain members of the folk—those who are contracted with the Dark Angel series—are allowed to change the Dark Angel product.

This is the essence of the copyright set. Within the origin set the folk process progresses without any controls or barriers. Edwards (or the Miami New Times) had a copyright on her precise wording (56), but not upon the folk product itself—if a different member of the folk, whether author, journalist, or researcher, went out and interviewed those same children to attempt to discover the same folklore, those folk are permitted to create a product from the Miami Universe and distribute it; their product would simply be another recording. At the copyright set, however, the average member of the folk can ostensibly no longer use “Pollo Loco” as an artifact in their own folk product. The only products that can be created from “Pollo Loco” are those that are permitted from the owner of the copyright, FOX’s parent company News Corporation.

However, for all that there is a legal and cultural restriction on making folk products when the artifacts are forbidden, this does not actually stop new folk products from being produced. It is these new, illicit products that form the fourth set, reclamation.

Set Four: Reclamation

The reclamation set encompasses creations that utilize artifacts specifically from the copyright set. Artifacts from other sets are also utilized, whether known or unknown, but for a product to be part of the reclamation set it must exceed the copyright limitations of an artifact—in other words, products which violate fair use laws, or products that use artifacts without permission from the copyright owners. Products that do comply with fair use laws or do have copyright permission (such as Maguire’s Wicked) are already accounted for by the copyright set.

Under these guidelines, products from the reclamation set break the legal and cultural boundaries imposed by North American society. Often if these products come into the public eye, the creators face legal ramifications that can involve not just fiscal penalties, court costs, and (potentially) jail time, but also the eradication of the product itself. This puts the products of the reclamation set in a similar state of ephemerality as that of the folklore set, as at any time a product of the reclamation set may be removed from the public sphere, leaving behind only the remembrance of the creation in folk mind, and the possibility of it having become an artifact for another product. (57)

As mentioned previously, this paper will deal only with the reclamations that take their form in fanfiction. In the case of the Miami Universe, “Pollo Loco” is a copyrighted work that has led to numerous products of the reclamation set. From the themes, details, plot, and substance of “Pollo Loco” and Dark Angel, fanfic authors such as Gatekeeper and pari106 deal with issues of trust; author Northlight suggests that Ben, the escaped soldier of “Pollo Loco” who has become a serial killer, became a homeless child when he escaped from Manticore, thus leading to his lack of faith in the Blue Lady; author The Initimable Pooh Bah suggests that it is love, or the wrong kinds of love, that led to Ben’s descent; authors M. Rose and The Peanut Butter General use the Blue Lady to demonstrate faith and religion, whereas author bulletproof uses religion as a theme to talk about guilt and responsibility. (58)

For the purposes of this paper, a piece of fanfiction has been written. Works Like Loco (59) deals with the issue of family in the episode of Dark Angel, and the religious image of Ben’s death at Max’s hand, as well as madness, love, and responsibility. Works Like Loco is not meant to be read as a creative work separate from this academic paper, but rather only as a readily-available example of this set of the folk process.

Set Five: Reversion

Reversion is the last set in the folk process. There is very little difference between a product of the copyright set and the reversion set except in that a folk product belongs to the reversion set when it was originally a reclamation. In other words, as with products in the recording set, a product of the reversion set’s status is partially dependent (as opposed to coincidental) upon its relation to its “predecessor.”

A reversion product is created when the creator of the reclamation product removes identifying characteristics so as to hide the known artifacts (of the copyright set) used—an attempt, in fact, to mimic unknown artifacts. The author is “reverting” the product to a state where the product does not represent a cultural or legal danger, and as such, the author can then attempt to enter the product into the copyright set (with the benefits and restrictions thereof).

This attempt at legitimization is not unknown in the publishing field; there are several professional authors who have published reversions. A persistent fan rumor exists that Lois McMaster Bujold’s first novel, Shards of Honor, was originally a Star Trek: The Original Series fanfiction. The rumor suggests that she revised her story to remove the direct Star Trek references, and then reworked her novel’s universe to encompass the revisions, thus for the most part effectively hiding the main artifact used in her book’s creation. (60) Careful reading of the first half of the novel can reveal the similarities, but without direct knowledge it is possible to not detect the suggested Star Trek artifact.

More frequent than published pieces are those works that authors have attempted to remove the identifying marks from and have failed to either do so sufficiently or have done so but have not sufficiently reworked the surrounding narrative to fit the “new” facts the author has devised. These works are often rejected, and as such never enter the reversion set. Products of the reversion set are those that actually enter the public sphere in such a way as to become accessible by the general public—in the case of fanfiction, this would be newly “original” works that are professionally published and distributed. Reversions must fulfill the requirements of the copyright set, though originating from a reclamation.

An example of this progression: The Star Trek universe theoretically became an artifact for Lois McMaster Bujold; Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga (the first of which is Shards of Honor) became an artifact for Charles Coleman Finlay’s fanfiction Negri’s Boys; Finlay rewrote Negri’s Boys “keeping the original characters and action, etc., but revising the other parts, inventing a new setting and backstory” (61); Finlay’s reversion, The Political Officer, was then accepted and published by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, nominated for a Nebula Award, and reprinted in the twentieth annual collection of The Year’s Best Science Fiction. (62)

From a reclamation, to a reversion, to a reclamation, to a reversion—it is a fascinating cycle, a progressive spiral that may or may not continue in any direct fashion, depending entirely upon whether anyone creates a reclamation of The Political Officer. Only with the admittance of “reversion” as a set in the folk process can this phenomenon be adequately described, rare though it might be.

To continue with the modern folk process’s dealings with the Miami Universe, in the previous section note was made of a reclamation written specifically for this paper, Works Like Loco. Of this reclamation, a reversion has also been written specifically for this paper, titled Night Gone Long. (63) Again, this is not meant to be read as a creative work separate from this paper. The fanfic’s ruminative aspects of religion, dream, death, and responsibility become a story of cloaked religion, dreamlike style, and a violent narrative of sex, death, and relationships. The directly identifying features have been removed, and the surrounding narrative adjusted to accommodate the new facts. In the course of that adjustment enough changes have been made to the text to make it seem as if it bears no connection with the original reclamation; for instance, there is no super-soldier in Night Gone Long, nor is there any mention of the Blue Lady or the “Nomlies.”

Of importance, however, is that though it may bear no resemblance now, Night Gone Long is nonetheless a product of the Works Like Loco artifact, and as such is poised to fall into the reversion set. With the publication of this paper (even for a small collegiate audience) it will become a reversion, because: it is a product on a reclamation, it does not infringe upon a copyrighted work, and it has been distributed in such a way that the folk may produce a reclamation of Night Gone Long if they should wish to.

This paper strives to suggest that all folk artifacts and products belong in one of these sets. It is suggested that the reader of this paper review the appendices that apply to the Miami Universe, and watch how the modern folk process changes artifacts and products, while at the same time, each time, drawing forth some important aspect and continuing that aspect to the benefit of the culture that inspires and allows for its continuance.



1. This is not to say that the folk process, modern or not, only exists in North America. (see the Feminist Television Reader for several essays that show the process at work in countries such as Trinidad with the advent of soap operas, and Richard M. Dorson’s essay “Folklore in the Modern World” in his Folklore and Fakelore) Rather, attempting to bring the entire world into the argument would take considerably longer than is necessary to illustrate the theory being presented in “Reflections,” and the research available, as well as the author’s primary interest, is most applicable to a North American focus. (back)

2. There are numerous other aspects of the folk process that could be discussed; however, fanfiction lends itself particularly well to the theoretical thinking involved in the study of the modern folk process. (back)

3. Seeger himself claims to have learned the phrase from his musicologist father, Charles Seeger. See “In praise of creative freedom 2—‘That Song of the Gypsy Davy’,” “Pete Seeger on the Folk Process,” “You Can Never Tell: A Conversation with Pete Seeger,” and “Folk Music, the Public Domain, and the Cultural Commons,” among others. (back)

4. See the first note of the Additional Notes section of this paper for an example of Seeger’s definition. (back)

5. Sharp, English Folk-Song, pgs 16, 21, 24-25, 29 (back)

6. See Henry Jenkins (Textual Poachers), Jack Zipes (Breaking the Magic Spell), and Theodor Adorno (The Culture Industry) for the “artifact” and “product” terminology. (back)

7. This is largely a selection of examples derived from Andrew Lang’s definition of folklore and the resources combed for motifs for Stith Thompson’s Motif- Index. (back)

8. Phillips, “Cumulative Authorship,” rjala/OpposingCopyrightExtension/publicdomain/PhillipsCumAuthorshipChart.html (back)

9. ibid. See also The Electronic Frontier Foundation ( and weblog Boing Boing’s coverage of the World Intellectual Property Organization ( 8&q=WIPO&btnG=Search+Boing+Boing& et) for examples of these IP debates. (back)

10. Editors Miller and Stam, A Companion to Film Theory, pg 9 (back)

11. Zipes, Breaking the Magic Spell, pg 2 (back)

12. “They [the Frankfurt School] coined the term “culture industries” to signify the process of the industrialization of mass-produced culture and commercial imperatives that drove the system. The critical theorists analyzed all mass- mediated cultural artifacts within the context of industrial production, in which the commodities of the culture industries exhibited the same features as other products of mass production: commodification, standardization, and massification.” (Kellner, “Culture Industries,” pgs 202-203) (back)

13. “A MUD (multi-user dungeon, dimension, or sometimes domain) is a multi-player computer role-playing game typically running on a bulletin board system or Internet server. Players assume the role of a character, and see textual descriptions of rooms, objects, other characters, and computer-controlled creatures or non-player characters (NPCs) in a virtual world. They may interact with each other and the surroundings by typing commands that resemble a natural language, usually English.” (“MUD”, (back)

14. Tronstad, “Performing the MUD Adventure,” pgs 220, 221 (back)

15. “Folk,” Oxford English Dictionary Online, (back)

16. Richard M. Dorson, Folklore and Fakelore, pg 46 (back)

17. In other words, that the creation of Whitefield’s product permanently destroys Wesley’s artifact in culture—Wesley’s version would no longer by sung, nor would any of his lyrics ever again affect other persons or products, because it has been completely supplanted by its predecessor. This idea does not hold up to close inspection. (back)

18. See the Phillips Song Survey, rjala/OpposingCopyrightExtension/publicdomain/PhillipsCumAuthorshipChart.html (back)

19. It is not until 1826 that the common use versions are consolidated (in text, at least), and it is not until 1982 that the version of “Hark” that is known and used today in the Episcopalian church becomes common. (Phillips, “Cumulative Authorship”) (back)

20. Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck, pg 194 (back)

21. This is an adaptation of Jack Zipes’s complaints concerning the state of folklore today. “Both the oral and literary traditions continue to exist side by side today, but there is a difference in the roles they now play compared to their function in the past. This difference can be seen in the manner in which they are produced, distributed, and marketed.” (Zipes, Breaking the Magic Spell, pg 2—emphasis added) (back)

22. MuggleNet, (back)

23. The Oremus Hymnal: Index of The Hymnal 1982 (U.S.), (back)

24. Rice, Transformation of Authorship, pg 71 (back)

25. This subculture has produced in itself several hundred essays that seek to define and describe the nature of fanfiction and the fanfiction subculture. Many of these essays are used as references in this paper, under the auspices of Thomas McLaughlin’s “vernacular theory”: “theorizing outside the academy.” Henry Jenkins says that, “Academic and vernacular theory carry different degrees of prestige, speak different languages, ask different questions, and address different audiences, though the line between them is rapidly breaking down.” (Jenkins, “Work of Theory,” pgs 235-236) This paper strives to be one of those breaks in the line. (back)

26. These are at best general and not necessarily all-inclusive definitions. (back)

27. See fanwriter and lawyer Rebecca Tushnet (RivkaT)’s short essay “Marginality and Legality,” as well as the “Harms” chapter of Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture. (back)

28. See Super Cat’s essay “A (Very) Brief History of Fanfic.” (back)

29. Juice, A History of Fan Fiction, (back)

30. “Zines” are amateur magazines. For more about zines in fanfiction, see Jenkins (Textual Poachers). (back)

31. That which is professionally published. For a brief discussion of legitimacy, see Melusina’s short essay “Literary Hierarchies and Fanfiction.” (back)

32. Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin and Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose, for instance, not to mention the short story collections by Francesca Lia Block and the long- running series edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling that began with Snow White, Blood Red. (back)

33. Editors Miller and Stam, A Companion to Film Theory, 203. (back)

34. See, as an extreme example of this sort of conditioned thinking, the weblog Boing Boing’s post on Ghana’s new copyright law. (back)

35. Editors Miller and Stam, A Companion to Film Theory, pg 249 (back)

36. (back)

37. See Nicholas’s “The Stifling Copyright Cartel,” which speaks on the DJ Danger Mouse “Grey Album” copyfight. (back)

38. Sampling is the act of taking a “sample” of a copyrighted song, a short portion, and using it in one’s own music; fanart is two-dimensional art or sculpture that embodies some aspect of a copyrighted work in a recognizable way; photo manipulations are copyrighted photographs that have been (usually) digitally manipulated to form some new image; vidding is the act of taking copyrighted television or film material and editing it in such a way as to create a new film text. Role-playing, and live-action role-playing (LARP), are “games in which they [fans] assume the roles of characters in the original stories to make up new characters within the same fictional universe.” (Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck, 42) See the second note of the Additional Notes section of this paper for a short listing of examples of these phenomena. (back)

39. Jenkins, “The Poachers and the Stormtroopers,” (back)

40. ibid. (back)

41. Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck, pg 152 (back)

42. “In electronic narrative the procedural author is like a choreographer who supplies the rhythms, the context, and the set of steps that will be performed. The interactor, whether as navigator, protagonist, explorer, or builder, makes use of this repertoire of possible steps and rhythms to improvise a particular dance among the many, many possible dances the author enabled. We could perhaps say that the interactor is the author of a particular performance within an electronic story system, or the architect of a particular part of the virtual world, but we must distinguish this derivative authorship from the originating authorship of the system itself.” Murray, Hamlet on the Holodeck, pg 153 (back)

43. ibid, pg 153 (back)

44. Gladwell, “Something Borrowed,” (back)

45. ibid. (back)

46. Edwards, “Myths Over Miami,” 05/feature.html (back)

47. In this we see that the progression of product-to-artifact-to-product exists even within the confines of the origin set. These children used several cultural artifacts to create their products—however, because the full extent of the Miami Universe is neither copyrighted, recorded, nor, for that matter, known in its entirety, the children’s products stay firmly within the origin set. (back)

48. Edwards, “Myths Over Miami,” 05/feature.html (back)

49. “Company Overview,” (back)

50. A small sampling of those products: A role-playing game by Infinite Monkey Productions (, a planned Clive Barker film (, poetry (, and one, of many, weblog entries ( (back)

51. TV Tome, 36/Dark_Angel/ (back)

52. See Eyes Only’s transcript of “Pollo Loco,” (back)

53. Bates, “Pollo Loco,” show=6&story =1567&limit=all&sort= (back)

54. Egan, personal correspondence, January 13th, 2005 (back)

55. ibid. (back)

56. Coincidentally, these rights may have been bought by Clive Barker. (Egan, personal correspondence, January 13th, 2005.) (back)

57. It should be noted that the disappearance of a folk product – particularly when that product is housed on the Internet – is a possibility regardless of legal issues. As Jenkins notes, “The early websites, made less than a decade ago, no longer exist, swamped by rapid growth, quickly scuttled and replaced, leaving no archival records. Writing the history of digital media will be much more like writing the history of a transitory medium, like early radio or vaudeville, than like documenting the evolution of a textual medium, like the printing press or the cinema. Rapid technological transformation may prevent future generations from accessing and reading many surviving texts and artifacts (computer games, software, hypertext narratives).” (Jenkins, “Work of Theory,” pg 234-235) This is one of the many reasons why the appendices of this paper include web content: there is no guarantee that the content will remain available for future researchers. It may be of some interest to compare the “transient” nature of digital media and the transient nature of the products of the origin set in the modern folk process. (back)

58. See the third note of the Additional Notes section of this paper for a longer annotation of these works. (back)

59. See Appendix [edit 5/22/05: For the purposes of web publishing, this portion of the paper has been omitted. While none of the appendices are strictly necessary, interested readers may request this appendix from the author.] (back)

60. For references to this rumor, see “Passing (2)” on and “The View from Entropy Hall #34” on The rumor is helped by the fact that Bujold had a story published in one of the first Star Trek fanzines, Spockanalia 2, under her maiden name of Lois McMaster. (Verba, Boldly Writing) Whether this rumor is true or not is unknown—it is certainly not in Bujold’s best interests (or any other professional reversionist’s) to confirm it. Regardless, the rumor is certainly compelling and, at this point, long-lasting. (back)

61. Finlay, Negri’s Boys, (back)

62. ibid. (back)

63. See Appendix [edit 5/22/05: For the purposes of web publishing, this portion of the paper has been omitted. While none of the appendices are strictly necessary, interested readers may request this appendix from the author.] (back)

First Note:

[Seeger was at one point recorded giving a short description of the folk process and his view of its history. Transcribed by Katherine Macdonald from internet recording.]

“In ancient days, all the men knew the same hunting songs, and all the women knew the same lullaby. Then, when agriculture was invented, then class society developed and you have priesthood and aristocracy that owned the land, and now they could afford to have, for example, music made for them. And this was the beginning of high art. Talented professionals would spend their whole lives creating the most elegant culture they could—if you want to use that word. The ordinary person, 99 percent of the population probably, could look at this and admire it from afar, but in their daily life they kept on making their own music, doing their own sewing, constructing their own houses and telling their own stories, usually without the benefit of any writing paper.

“Then beginning somewhere in the last thousand years I guess, maybe more or less, cities began to be developed where musicians, for example, could pick up coins in the market place, and this was the beginning of pop culture. Pop culture borrowed from the folk culture in the villages and it borrowed from the fine arts culture in the castle, and still occupies kind of a middle ground, but within the last century pop art is suddenly expanded with the help of tape recording and all the other things. It’s taken over the world. So it’s hard to say if there’s any true folk culture left. At the same time you can see there are elements of the folk process still at work, where people will whistle a tune they’ve heard, or dance to a tune, or hum it or even sing it, but don’t have the benefit of the big orchestra going on with them, and they may change a note here or a word there unconsciously, without quite realizing what they’ve done . . . and this is my hope. My father, who’s an old musicologist, he spent a lifetime trying to analyze the history of music, he said, ‘Rather than mourn the loss of ancient gold, let us consider its permutation into another metal, which although it might be baser, might surprise us in the end.'”

Second note:

[A short listing of examples of reclamations outside of fanfiction.]

Sampling: Wired Magazine interviewed the music group Beastie Boys in November 2004, the resulting article being largely a discussion of sampling as an art and as a legality. (http://wired-

Fanart: The LiveJournal community HPArt is an active area with numerous examples of Harry Potter-themed artwork. ( ommunity/hpart/)

Photo Manipulation: often holds “photoshop contests,” the results of which are often topically poignant and certainly legally questionable. This particular image-intensive example is FARK’s “Odd places for the low-carb label” contest. (

Vidding: Fan author Astolat has a large number of vids that utilize a variety of sources. Of particular interest is her vid of Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited,” set to the images of Silence of the Lambs. ( )

Role-playing or LARPing: The NERO campaigns are “medieval fantasy live action role playing” games. This particular example is that of the NERO Avendale campaign, with accompanying discussion forum, event registration guide, and photo gallery. (

Third Note:

[a short annotation of the Dark Angel reclamations listed during the course of the paper]

Northlight delves deeper into the character of Ben and what being raised an X5 (with the death experience) means for the characters of Dark Angel in her story Living In The Dark. ( livinginthedark.html)

M. Rose’s post-ep (“post-episode,” ie. a story that takes place directly after an episode and deals largely with the consequences of that episode) vignette (short story, between a page to five pages long) The Blue Lady reflects on faith and hope. (

Gatekeeper’s Dealing With It is a post-ep that rewrites the perceived ending of distrust between Max and Logan because: “Logan’s reaction when he saw the photos at the end of Polo Loco pissed me off. So I wrote this, straightening the boy out,” making the ending an entrance point to a story about trust and love. ( DealingWithIt.Gatekeeper)

pari106’s The First Kiss is an AU (“alternate universe,” ie. a story that takes the established events of the narrative and changes them to arrive at a different outcome/narrative) that suggests what might have happened if Ben had been provided with proper medical/psychological assistance to deal with his insanity. ( Pari106)

bulletproof’s Hunter talks about guilt, fear, what the difference between a monster and a human is, and rather delicately evokes the religious feel of the episode. (

The Peanut Butter General’s The Meaning of Christmas deals with the Blue Lady in her religious incarnation, with child-Ben learning about Jesus. While largely “fluff” (fanfiction that lacks any deep meaning; often a phrase related to romantic pieces), the story does open up interpretations other authors could make if they wished to build off of this idea. ( MeaningOfChristmas.General)

Northlight’s Tasted Blood, interestingly enough, tries to work out what Ben’s life was like, from his escape from Manticore to his death, and posits that he’d been a street child for the majority of that time. Unlike the children who developed the Miami Universe, in this story Ben feels betrayed by his faith in the Blue Lady. ( TastedBlood.Northlight)

The Inimitable Pooh Bah’s If Scheherazade is a “slash” story (a story that features a homosexual relationship) that tries to show the slow development of Ben’s modus operandi after a series of emotionally (and in one case, physically) abusive relationships. While not having the delicate religious touch of bulletproof’s Hunter, it nevertheless develops the madness that provides the frame for the Blue Lady in the original episode. (http://glas

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Questions, comments? Email Katherine Crighton.

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