Recently, the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation learned of a project by Authors Alliance and the Organization for Transformative Works to functionally expand fair use rights for e-book authors in the United States. We think everyone who knows about IFTF should know about it and consider helping out by completing a survey.
OK, you want us to know about a legal thing. Fair use rights, what?
There is a law in the United States called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which makes it illegal for most people to rip DVDs, Blu-ray, and digitally transmitted video. However, under United States law, people are allowed to repurpose copyrighted works when it is a “fair use.” If this is the first you’ve heard of the term “fair use,” watch this explainer, then come back here.
The Library of Congress periodically issues exemptions from the DMCA. This means that they consider possible fair use cases, like making an artwork or creating a film school textbook, and then say “yeah, that sound like it’s good enough—we won’t go after folks who break the DMCA in order to do that.”
Right now, there is an exemption for people who make fanvids (if this is the first you’ve heard of fanvids, oh boy, are you in for a treat): they are allowed to rip movies in order to make their work. Similarly, people who make film school textbooks are allowed to do so. But most people in the United States, under the DMCA, are not allowed to rip movies.
What does this have to do with interactive fiction?
IFTF defines “interactive fiction” pretty broadly. We include parser games, yes, but also Twine games, visual novels, pretty much anything you can think of. And a lot of things that we consider “interactive fiction” are legally considered “e-books.”
Authors Alliance and the Organization for Transformative Works are trying to expand fair use rights for e-book authors (which, as we just said, includes most people who write interactive fiction). Right now, the DMCA only allows people who write e-books about film analysis to rip DVDs. But we know that people can create interactive fiction that’s fanfic, and we believe that fanfic (like fanvids) is covered under fair use. Someone ought to be able to create a Twine game or a visual novel critiquing a film and use images from that film.
So, what should I do?
If you create e-books (which, remember, are broadly defined, and include a lot of types of interactive fiction!) then you should take the survey—especially if you ever include images in your work! This will help them learn about fair use in the case of interactive fiction.