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The Question of Ownership

Here's something of interest:

Don Murphy, producer of the films From Hell and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, writing about Alan Moore, and his comments about the film of V for Vendetta, "He [Moore] thinks that the VENDETTA movie changed his work and this upsets him. Did Lewis Carroll ever conceive of his heroine having lesbian sex with JM Barrie’s Wendy? Or, for that matter, did Alan ASK Robert Louis Stevenson if he WANTED Mr. Hyde to fancy Bram Stoker’s Mina Harker?"

Which I thought raised an interesting point, though it never really gets expanded upon, in the context of the message board. Of course, the difference between Moore's work regarding those characters, and the work made from Moore's scripts, is that Alice and Wendy and Mr. Hyde and Mina Harker are public domain, now. Whereas Moore's work is not. Still, that said, Moore has sold his work (even if he declines the payment now associated with it and passes it to the artist), so to an extent he has sold his work to another to be remade. What that new creator does is really up to him/her.

I enjoy and admire Moore's body of work--especially Voice of the Fire--and I have a lot of respect for him as a person, by what I've read, and what he's been quoted as saying. If I was offered the chance to meet him, I'd turn it down, which for me is always the mark of someone whose work I value so greatly. That said, in the situation of V for Vendetta I don't agree with his stance. I think he could have takent he money and given it to charities, or used it in a useful fashion, rather than have the half measure that he has (which it was obviously going to be due to artists involved) but it's not my point to link and discuss that. Rather, I'm interested in that concept of a moral right of ownership, and the question that rests there, in Moore's use of those characters, and I wonder how he'd respond to it.

I don't have any conclusions about this, either, and I suspect there's no answer. I just thought it was interesting.

(Of course, in that link there is also Don Murphy stating that Moore is insane: "And you define growth as becoming more and more insulated, locked up in your mansion with few contacts and no passport. Others define that as insanity.")


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Apr. 4th, 2006 02:43 am (UTC)
I don't believe that there is a moral right of ownership on literary work -- or any work of art. The problem with copyright law as it exists in the US today is that it equates intellectual property with private property, and considers both sacred. Copyright laws were originally devised to encourage creation of works of art for the benefit of the public, not for gratification of the creator. I think that still holds; and benefit of the public certainly includes creation of derivative work regardless of how Mr. Moore may feel about it (and even if that derivative work sucks). People should be free to write about Superman or Pokemon if they so please. Fanfic writers certainly got that one right.

Apr. 4th, 2006 03:48 am (UTC)
i tend to fall on the other side of the fence with the fanfic, write whatever you please side. but that's just me and i've certainly used real people (mark twain, john wayne) in fiction, so i don't make a big thing out of it.
Apr. 4th, 2006 02:46 am (UTC)
I know for a fact ('cause he told me so) that when Moore wants to use the characters of living creators, he asks their permission before he uses them. FWIW.
Apr. 4th, 2006 02:59 am (UTC)
I think for Moore, for what it's worth, it does come down to a question of ownership. Moore feels that those works which have been in a sense "stolen" from him and the other creators (through very dodgy contracts with DC and others) can't be considered his creative works, as he doesn't have a say in the way they're used, marketed, etc. So he wants his name off them...

I can understand that, up to a point. I guess to some extent it's a matter of respect; the films of From Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and indeed Hellblazer didn't show respect for the original works. I don't think this applies to V For Vendetta, which has some of the most faithful and effective transcriptions of Moore's or any other comic creator's work for screen. But that said, I thought pretty much every change they made in the movie was for the worse: making Evey an employee of the TV station rather than a lonely scared girl trying to sell her body; making Creedy the one to kill V rather than Finch, and escalating the love theme between V & Evey (why? They avoided so much Hollywoodisation too...)
I loved Stephen Fry though; even the Benny Hill sketch.

In the end, even if Moore did go and see it, he's probably too close to the material and to what he wanted to say with it to acknowledge that it is a pretty powerful movie that stays remarkably true to the spirit of the original. Even the politics, although far less focused than Moore's, are fairly admirable.

But Moore's pretty much a fundamentalist in terms of creators' rights, so there you go. I agree with you that he could've done something more sensible with the royalties, but it's not about that really for him - he's making a statement, saying "This is not my work, so I will make it literally not mine". I'm sure it's tied up with all the magic nonsense, the reifying of an idea in some sense. Yeah whatever, but hey, it's up to him.
Apr. 4th, 2006 03:50 am (UTC)
thee is, i find, a certain irony to the situation that moore wants his name removed from the film that is, really, the most faithful to the original vision.
Apr. 4th, 2006 04:13 am (UTC)
Totally agreed. It's a real shame, because in addition I suspect he's got himself to the point where he will never see it.
Apr. 4th, 2006 03:04 am (UTC)
I'm more on side with Moore on this one. Yes, he signed contracts which mean he doesn't have any legal right to oppose what's been "done to" his work in film adaptations. But people sign contracts without being happy with 100% of the terms they contain all the time - especially publishing contracts. That's just the nature of dealing with people who are more powerful than you.

As far as I can tell, he wrote some work he was quite proud of, sold the rights for career reasons, and is now distancing himself as much as possible from the resulting film adaptations of his work he regards as inferior to the print versions. He's well within his rights to do that, and given how bad the adaptations are (LoEG, yeesh) it's not surprising that he's using some pretty strong rhetoric against them.

Moore has the same right to kick up a fuss about adaptations of his work he dislikes so intensely as Lewis Carroll would were he around to see what was done with Alice in LoEG. As far as I understand it he hasn't been putting forward any legal arguments, just dissing Warner and people like Don Murphy and the Wachowskis.

My take on the Wendy/Mina/Mr Hyde "abuse" issue is that it's different both because there's a respectful time gap, the characters are legally in the public domain, and also in the public consciousness, and the versions of the characters are appearing in an original work, not an adaptation. It would be different if Moore had written an erotic adaptation of Alice in Wonderland in which Alice slept with the Mock Turtle ...
Apr. 4th, 2006 05:05 am (UTC)
So, should those that you have met in person assume that you don't value their work that greatly?

As far as V for Vendetta goes, I think he gave his share to the other creative people involved (principally David Lloyd). I see no reason to argue with that, and Moores respect for his artistic collaborators has always struck me as laudable.

Don Murphy is a buffoon (as always), and says very little that isn't rhetorical obfuscation.

As far as Carroll, Barrie, Stoker, Stevenson etc - LOEG and Lost Girls went out under Moores title with Moores name attached, but an acknowledgement of the origins of the characters. Its not comparable to using the works of a living author and claiming that you have their assent to changes when you don't (which Joel Silver more or less did). Moore did not misrepresent the authors connection with the characters, Silver did.

And if Moore has sold his work and allowed someone to create work based on it, he has every right to criticise the result. Murphy is trying to claim that if you are not involved creatively, you have given up all right to criticism.

And as far as insanity goes, while Moore is certainly eccentric, he seems to be doing fairly well at the moment - well received public appearances, some good work coming out, in control of his own career, helping his family with their careers, etc. While Murphy is being punched in the face by famous movie directors. Whatever.
Apr. 4th, 2006 05:11 am (UTC)
So, should those that you have met in person assume that you don't value their work that greatly?

totally :)

more realistically, i find that meeting authors whose work i like changes my relationship with the work. maybe it's just because i can put a face to it, and the experience of meeting the person, you know?

as murphy's insanity comment, yeah, he's being a dick. don't imagine moore will have muhc to do with him, if he had ever planned to.

still, while you're quite right about the representations (and i imagine moore would say the same thing as you), the moral ownership bit still strikes me as interesting, especially in relation to characters and the intent or the original authors. nothing in it, just an interesting bit of thought.
Apr. 4th, 2006 09:54 am (UTC)
On the specific issue of moral rights and ownership, there is the simple fact that most comics industry contracts are on a work for hire basis. You sign them that way, or, for the most part, you don't get hired to do the work. To say that comics creators are free to choose is, in this context, naive.

And the issue of moral ownership is one of respect. When I interviewed Alan Moore last, he said '"Proper grown-up writers" have a moral right to their work - it says so right there on the page. The only reason I am described as the author on my books is that my name sells more copies.'

Apr. 4th, 2006 03:09 pm (UTC)
I think the guy needs to take the Stephen King approach, which I feel is the best one, and that is to see the book or the original work as one thing and the adaption as something seperate. A crappy movie of a book does not affect the book.

It's a great point that he made that Moore saw fit to fuck around with other people's creations and reinterpret them so why shouldn't someone else reinterpret his work? Particularly going from one form of art to another it's inevitable that reinterpretation will take place so i just have no respect for him sitting there complaining about it. I'm not sure about the legalities of it all but wouldn't he have had to agree to sell the rights to the stories at some point? And wouldn't he have received money for that? Unless it was the comics publishers that own them so they got the money - but even then he must have signed a contract at some point to get money in exchange for giving them those rights.

So if you can't handle people toying with your work then quite simply don't sell it!
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