Cross-Medium Copyright Infringement and Intellectual Property Concerns

Chrysophase: Is there a theme or message in your book?

KB: Too many! Science gone wrong; government gone wrong; private corporations gone Really Horribly Wrong; where the self stops and the group begins in an increasingly networked society; reliance on procedural evidence over personal character; the blurring of lines of law when new technology is introduced; prejudice and discrimination and how these evolve over time… I’ll shut up now.

Chrysophase: Based on what evidence is available, understanding that the television show has not yet begun filming, what would you say are the similarities between Digital Divide and Intelligence?

KB: At this point in time, I can say there are definitely no similarities.  Those other products do not exist so it’s impossible to draw similarities. I’ve read a three-sentence blurb about the pilot that had enough-potential-similarities for me to call my lawyer for advice. These similarities are: (a) cyborgs who were; (b) part of a government agency with; (c) magitech chips in their head which allowed them to; (d) access different electromagnetic frequencies and because of this they could; (e) solve crime. I’ll explain why we broke those down into individual items later. And I should probably note that DIGITAL DIVIDE is serialized and the first two-thirds of the novel are readily available online. This is why I called my lawyer, and not because I was sitting around in my crinkly tinfoil hat, wondering how people in Hollywood can read my brain.

Chrysophase: I understand you’ve consulted with legal counsel. What course of action has your counsel suggested and to what extent does your counsel feel you’ll be able to defend your work, assuming it’s necessary?

KB: My lawyer said to do three things. First, make news of the pilot public. Second, take steps to document the writing and revision processes for DIGITAL DIVIDE. Third, speed up the timetable for final publication of DIGITAL DIVIDE. I was hoping to run the novel past a few agents to check on possible traditional publisher interest, but that’s been pooched and I’m going the Amazon self-publishing route just to make sure the novel is established and distributed well in advance of the pilot. As for defending the work? That’s my answer to your last question.

Chrysophase: What’s your personal opinion on walking that fine line between defending one’s intellectual property while allowing the proliferation of new works?

KB: That’s a hard one because DIGITAL DIVIDE is contemporary science fiction, and I’m a professional researcher. I’ve researched the hell out of digital and biological technologies to make sure the science is decently grounded. I rely on my second readers for fact-checking: I run all of the gun stuff past my ballistics guy, the government stuff past my NSA and FBI guys, and the science and technology stuff past several different guys who give great advice after they’re done making fun of the first drafts. I’d like to think the technologies in the book might actually be possible given the current direction of research and scientific inquiry.  As a result, anyone who’s followed a similar writing process might have similar ideas. You have to look at the infringement of intellectual property as an IF-THEN equation, such as IF there are cyborgs and IF they have chips in their heads and IF they are fighting against the Big Bad Government, you just have established tropes in play. However, IF you have all of these elements plus, oh, a character who can see emotions or when people are lying to her, or specific plot points such as brainwashing, THEN you have possible cause for infringement. The more similarities there are, the more the work is a deviation from established tropes and resembles yours instead of being an original work on its own merits, and the more likely you are to make the case that your intellectual property has been co-opted.

Chrysophase: How do you feel Intelligence will impact the way people view your work, provided there are clear similarities?

KB: There’s a loaded question. If there are similarities, those people who will see INTELLIGENCE and think “Hey, that’s exactly like DIGITAL DIVIDE!” are the same people who are already familiar with the novel. I don’t expect it to go the other way around, simply because a successful pilot on a major network gets upwards of five to seven million viewers and I do not generate anywhere near that level of traffic. I might get some buzz out of it, I might get some book sales or website traffic out of it, but I absolutely positively guarantee the most likely outcome is that I will be answering a whole lot of email rants regarding theft, plagiarism, and how I should file the lawsuit.

Chrysophase: If there are similarities, what sort of outcome are you hoping for?

KB:  If there are similarities, there is really no best-case scenario for me. It’d be nice to think that I could win a major lawsuit, get a huge settlement, and could retire young and work on the comic and novels full-time, but that’s not how things happen in the real world.  Realistically, the little guy doesn’t have the money to go up against a multinational corporation. I will be able to muster some decent public pressure because fandom loves to fight for its creators, but the Internet is an unpredictable mob-monster and there’s no guarantee the public pressure will be enough, or will be sustained over time. I suppose the outcome I’d hope for is that increased popularity in the genre would turn cyborgs into the new zombies. There’s tons of zombie material out there in all kinds of formats. There’s no reason there has to be just one cyborg story. I’m aggressive about making sure my work is top quality (I’m even redrawing the awful black-and-white art in the comic!), and I have confidence there will always be a market for quality fiction. If the size of that market is significantly expanded thanks to INTELLIGENCE, so much the better for me.


About The Author

John Richard "Chrysophase" Albers
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John Richard Albers, an author, armchair psychologist, amateur historian, freelance, peacemaker, dragonslayer, warmaster, and part-time herald of the apocalypse, hunts ghosts when he isn't hunting crazy people. He holds dual bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and English Literature, is working toward a degree in parapsychology, and is acting CEO of Prior to Print Proofreading LLC, where he gets to torture editors instead of them torturing him for once.

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