Over the past few days, dragonyphoenix has made a couple of posts about complications arising from the story she was doing for cof_remix. Let’s start by saying a few things. First, the problems go back almost entirely to me, since she corresponded with me regarding the rules about remixing remixes, and I thought I’d covered all the necessary angles but clearly did not. Second, the original original author (author of the story the remix of which dragonyphoenix proposed to remix) is entirely justified in her position regarding remixes of her work: okay with permission, but permission basically restricted to remix events in which she is taking part. (I would be likewise protective of my work, there just haven’t been that many requests or inquiries.)
It does raise a question, though: is it possible to remix the remix (the derivative work) in a way that doesn’t impinge on the territory of the original?
The best remix I ever did, no question, was “Otherwise a Perfect Sky”, a reworking of deird1’s stark, haunting “Come Crashing Down”. I call it my best remix because it took her story and put my own cast onto it. (I’ve done other remixes based entirely on some single note or concept from the original, but in OPS I remixed the story, to great effect since it was a great starting story and I’m halfway competent myself.) If someone wanted to remix OPS, then, and deird1 was either unwilling to consent or just simply out of contact, how could that be done without — in the absence of her permission — plagiarizing her work?
Basics of deird1’s story repeated in OPS:
Elements of OPS not present in deird1’s original:
- Post-apocalyptic wasteland. Okay, that’s generic enough that anyone could work with it.
- Willow maintaining a mystical barrier that protects the refugees in the compound. Particular to the story, but also obvious enough — who else would do it? — to not be an offense if repeated.
- Buffy killed by a demon after sending a truck convoy ahead of her while she stayed to fight. Not copyrightable, but a bit too close; better if it could be changed to deliver the same flavor and consequences without actually using the same scenario.
- Xander’s staying to fight a vengeful Spike, and being killed by him. Yeah, that one is clearly deird1’s. Change it, delete it, or work around it.
- Memory of the post-Glory portal-opening apocalypse being stopped by Anya’s killing Dawn, only to be immediately killed by Buffy. Perfectly reasonable, but still something that deird1 did first, an identifiable part of her story. Lose it.
- The sky being green inside the safety zone. Not exactly a major plot point — I used it more than she did — but still identifiably hers. Has to go. Even just using a different color wouldn’t really be enough to provide the necessary distance.
- Story from Tara’s POV, and ultimately about her.
- The Xander/Tara pairing.
- Tara — instead of Xander — killing Spike.
- Fred’s suicide.
- The discovery that Willow is the Big Bad here, and her reasons for doing what she’s done.
So, lots to work with, right? Full bang ahead, remix “Otherwise a Perfect Sky” in a way that veers far enough from deird1
’s original that there’s no conflict.
Even in this example, there’s the same complication that dragonyphoenix
ran into. In OPS I mentioned a character named Jacie Li, as a sidelong tribute to deird1
because it came from another
story of hers. (I’ve done the same with other authors, including the first remix I ever did — of bastardsnow
— and most recently of velvetwhip
.) What if a prospective remixer didn’t know that? dragonyphoenix
found herself faced with her remix-source including elements from several different original-source stories, which complicated the problem enormously. I suspect that she’s still trying to make it work only from unwillingness to see the writing she’d already done go to waste.
And, just as I (and she, but mostly I) had failed to foresee those first two complications, there may be yet others lurking to trap the unwary. This is uncharted territory,
and the rules are still being discovered.
So, in conclusion:
- It is, in fact, possible in certain cases to remix a remix without sinning against the original story.
- An author who chooses that course of action isn’t in the wrong, even if the OA doesn’t necessarily agree.
- Doing this can be extremely ticklish, and except in unusual and extreme cases it would be a lot less work and less risk to just skip it and remix a story that isn’t a remix.
has pretty much already covered these points in her own posts. This is just me owning up to the problems I unleashed with my blithe Sure, go ahead.
My feelings now are quite a bit less carefree, and can be summed up thus: It’s not easy, and snares abound, so why look for trouble?
Get advance permission from the original-original author, or just find a non-remix story for your source.
It’s easier all around.