Payment in Credit: Copyright Law and Subcultural Creativity

40 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2007


Copyright lawyers talk and write a lot about the uncertainties of fair use and the deterrent effects of a clearance culture on publishers, teachers, filmmakers, and the like, but we know less about the choices people make about copyright on a daily basis, especially when they are not at work. Thus, this article examines one subcultural group that engages in a variety of practices, from pure copying and distribution of others' works to creation of new stories, art, and audiovisual works: the media-fan community. Fans justify their unauthorized derivative works as legitimate, no matter what formal copyright law says, with theories that draw on factors similar to those employed by fair use doctrine, but fan practices differ in significant ways from copyright law's assumptions, especially in their treatment of attribution as a substitute for compensation and control. The article concludes by discussing the rise of hybrid forms of partially or incompletely commodified, unauthorized but tolerated, creative production; these new forms challenge both conventional production models and traditionally noncommercial fan practices.

Keywords: copyright, cultural environmentalism, fan fiction, attribution, moral rights

Suggested Citation

Tushnet, Rebecca, Payment in Credit: Copyright Law and Subcultural Creativity. Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 70, 2007 , Available at SSRN:

Rebecca Tushnet (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

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