As usual when things such as this arise I have a simple question, “Is this licensed?” So I asked The Dark Room Theater about the licensing situation, but (surprise?) you won’t see my question on that thread any longer. When asked again, this time via email, Sean Wigglesworth’s immediate reply was nothing more than, “Why is this such an item of interest for you?” Confident that answered my question, I pressed further. His response will seem familiar to some of you: “Friends and I are doing a parody tribute of the episode since we are all fans of the series.” This is the go-to defense for licensing scofflaws in Firefly fandom. It’s what ultimately helped kill an unlicensed Firefly video game. Wigglesworth isn’t mounting a parody. He’s mounting a stage production of the episode. Parody is an imitation that mocks the original, even if lovingly and self-deprecatingly, mostly to make some sort of point or commentary about the original work. That point can’t simply be, “We love this.” (Or, it could, but not when what you’re doing is a full production of an entire episode.) Wigglesworth himself uses the word “parody” nowhere in his promotional material for the show. “Firefly (Jaynestown) Live on Stage!” That’s it. I am perpetually perplexed as to why people assume it’s okay to screen episodes or stage live productions of copyrighted material — by people whose work they respect and enjoy, no less — without first obtaining permission. Let alone then charge money for these events. The Dark Room Theater is charging $20 a head for this show and Wigglesworth thinks licensing questions are unseemly. This isn’t a matter of being able to produce replica Jayne hats but needing to call them something else because officially licensed versions exist. You simply can’t stage a live production of a copyrighted script and trademarked material unless you’ve got a license. That’s how intellectual property works. There’s little question in my mind that the creatives involved in the original “Jaynestown” themselves would probably enjoy a live production. But they don’t own it. Twentieth Century Fox Television owns it. Despite popular fan opinion to the contrary, Twentieth has been pretty good both to licensers and fans over the years, but we run the risk of that coming to an end if fans keep ignoring copyright and trademark law. I would love a licensing regime, especially for something like Firefly, which allowed a thousand micro-licensers to bloom in a manner which satisfies both the ownership of the property and the limited financial resources of fans. But until and unless such a scheme comes along, such blatant use of Twentieth’s intellectual property — no matter how appealing an idea, and no matter how much the creatives behind the original might (or might not) dig it — is nothing more than theft.

As usual when things such as this arise I have a simple question, “Is this licensed?” So I asked The Dark Room Theater about the licensing situation, but (surprise?) you won’t see my question on that thread any longer. When asked again, this time via email, Sean Wigglesworth’s immediate reply was nothing more than, “Why is this such an item of interest for you?” Confident that answered my question, I pressed further. His response will seem familiar to some of you: “Friends and I are doing a parody tribute of the episode since we are all fans of the series.” This is the go-to defense for licensing scofflaws in Firefly fandom. It’s what ultimately helped kill an unlicensed Firefly video game. Wigglesworth isn’t mounting a parody. He’s mounting a stage production of the episode. Parody is an imitation that mocks the original, even if lovingly and self-deprecatingly, mostly to make some sort of point or commentary about the original work. That point can’t simply be, “We love this.” (Or, it could, but not when what you’re doing is a full production of an entire episode.) Wigglesworth himself uses the word “parody” nowhere in his promotional material for the show. “Firefly (Jaynestown) Live on Stage!” That’s it. I am perpetually perplexed as to why people assume it’s okay to screen episodes or stage live productions of copyrighted material — by people whose work they respect and enjoy, no less — without first obtaining permission. Let alone then charge money for these events. The Dark Room Theater is charging $20 a head for this show and Wigglesworth thinks licensing questions are unseemly. This isn’t a matter of being able to produce replica Jayne hats but needing to call them something else because officially licensed versions exist. You simply can’t stage a live production of a copyrighted script and trademarked material unless you’ve got a license. That’s how intellectual property works. There’s little question in my mind that the creatives involved in the original “Jaynestown” themselves would probably enjoy a live production. But they don’t own it. Twentieth Century Fox Television owns it. Despite popular fan opinion to the contrary, Twentieth has been pretty good both to licensers and fans over the years, but we run the risk of that coming to an end if fans keep ignoring copyright and trademark law. I would love a licensing regime, especially for something like Firefly, which allowed a thousand micro-licensers to bloom in a manner which satisfies both the ownership of the property and the limited financial resources of fans. But until and unless such a scheme comes along, such blatant use of Twentieth’s intellectual property — no matter how appealing an idea, and no matter how much the creatives behind the original might (or might not) dig it — is nothing more than theft.

  1. theonetruebix posted this