I am pretty liberal in my views on intellectual property.
While I think the notion of copyright is an important element in promoting artistic endeavors, I strenuously object to the way it has been legally hijacked by opportunists and large corporations with no legitimate interest beyond squeezing as many dollars/Euros/what-have-yous from the work of others.
Nevertheless, I was interested to hear that Smash, a porn company who made a film based on Fifty Shades of Grey and was promptly sued for copyright and trademark infringement by Universal, who paid US$5 million for the film rights to E.L. James’s book, is now claiming that because the original was largely based on fanfiction, it is in the public domain.
I’m not a lawyer and can’t argue the legal end of it, but this seems utterly wrong to me. The argument seems to be that a derivative work cannot be protected by copyright.
This would seem to leap-frog over the rights of the original copyright holder (Stephanie Meyer, in this case) to assert that any significantly derivative work that is not disputed as infringing is automatically in the public domain and fair game for any and all comers to use in any way they like, regardless of whether their work is derivative or transformative.
I’m not arguing that a porn film cannot be transformative, but an argument that it does not have to be in order to avoid claims of copyright infringement seems very dangerous to me.