What’s Battlestar Galactica got to do with the copyfight?

My article on Battlestar Galactica and Canada-USA tensions over copyright is now available in open access full text at AU’s repository (courtesy of Liverpool UP). At the link you can read the abstract and download the PDF.

McCutcheon, Mark A. “Downloading Doppelgängers: New Media Anxieties and Transnational Ironies in Battlestar Galactica.” Science Fiction Film and Television 2.1 (2009): 1-24.

So what’s Battlestar got to do with copyright? Briefly, the show was produced in the USA, but it was shot in Canada, and it cast Canadian actors as the lead bad guys, who “download” a lot. At press time, Bill C-61 was on the table, but the argument remains relevant to C-32’s expected successor. The recently leaked cables showing the “U.S. swayed Canada on copyright bill” (Geist) add fresh evidence to my claims.

The OA version has neither the layout nor the frame-grab still shots from Battlestar that grace the publisher’s version. There’s an ironic copyright backstory story here. I got the proofs of my article laid out with lots of these still frames — none of which I’d chosen, let alone cleared. I told the editor the images added great illustrative value, but I was concerned about their copyright status — wouldn’t their uncleared use lead to litigation? The editor replied to say that, although “the copyright law around frame-grabbed images” had not yet been tested,

it is the case in the UK that they can be used without obtaining permission (and in the US and Canada, they are covered by fair-use clauses – at least until they too are tested in court). Publishers like [***] Press regularly use images without obtaining permission. We discussed this issue with Liverpool UP before launching the journal and they are prepared to go along with our understanding of the situation; and we do always credit the source of images, even though this is not strictly necessary.

Imagine my delight, then, that this essay on copyright got to appear in print accompanied by illustrative images used legally but without the Hollywood producers’ permission.

It’s only fair that research on copyright law should be openly accessible. It’s a bonus that fair dealing became a principle of this work’s form.

Work Cited

Geist, Michael. “Leaks show U.S. swayed Canada on copyright bill.” Toronto Star 3 Sept. 2011.

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