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Fan Fiction Author Charged With Obscenity In The UK

from the seems-a-bit-extreme dept

Apparently, it's not just the US that has decided to jump back into the murky waters of charging people with obscenity charges for stuff they put online. Over in the UK, a guy is facing an obscenity charge for a bit of fiction that he wrote. There are communities of folks online who often write fiction involving "famous" characters, whether from TV or movies or, in some cases, from real life. The whole concept, frankly, strikes me as a little bit odd, but for those who want to do it, I don't see why they shouldn't be allowed to do so. In this case, the guy wrote some apparently graphic fiction about a band in the UK and is now being charged with publishing obscene materials. If he loses, I would imagine that there are large groups of folks who post this sort of (yes, ridiculously distasteful) stuff online, who could be facing similar charges. I have enough difficulty understanding obscenity laws that go after people in online communities where the content is, in no way, pushed on others -- but it seems even more bizarre to include obscenity charges for fictional writing.


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  1.  
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    some old guy, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 5:12am

    The beauty of the internet is ...

    The beauty of the internet is that ANYONE can become a publisher!

    The ugly of the internet is that anyone can become a publisher.

    This is effectively two problems. One can be solved with ANTI-SLAPP type laws. The other can't be solved except to eradicate laws that were written for a bygone era.

    When laws governing publishing were written, it was not the intent to suppress individual's voices, but to prevent those in power from brainwashing those not in power, to put it rather bluntly.

    In terms of "the speed of lawmakers" the internet is still extremely new, and adoption of it into the daily lives of the lawmakers denizens is still on the rather rapid upswing. The internet is still changing very fast. As a result of this, many lawmakers are still as of yet unwilling to start destroying the foundation of many laws and start rebuilding them from scratch taking this new platform into account.

    We'll get there, eventually, hopefully.

     

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    No Six Pack, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 5:41am

    That's a very bold statement ...

    That's a very bold statement there old guy.

     

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    Kuro, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 5:44am

    Interesting...I've seen some ...

    Interesting...I've seen some pretty bad fanfiction online, in all senses of the word, but never have I heard of anyone getting arrested. I guess they forgot the standard disclaimer: "This is a work of fiction and I OWN NOTHING!"

     

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    Jake, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 5:44am

    Personally, I wish the band in ...

    Personally, I wish the band in question the very best of luck; the sort of ill-spelled, luridly perverse dreck you usually find on the few sites that still tolerate celeb-fic gives fanfiction a bad name.
    Though frankly, having seen a few Girls Aloud music videos, I really can't help thinking they're at least partly the authors of their own misfortune where this sort of thing is concerned.

     

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    some old guy, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 6:01am

    That's a very bold statement...

    That's a very bold statement there old guy.

    Ya, thought for sure I closed my bold tag... /sigh oh well.

     

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    Craterbaiter, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 6:48am

    Disproving the rule: there are ...

    Disproving the rule: there are old guys and bold guys, but no old bold guys ...First comments are often the best..

    Perhaps it's unremarkable that there is an audience for the lurid crap that floods the internet, and that publicity encourages excess. Fanfiction seems to contain elements of porn and stalking indicating mental health issues and worthy of committal.

    In centuries past pamphlets and fliers, penned and printed by 'commentators' of all odd descriptions, appeared before the public to varying amounts of amusement, anger and derision.

    This seems to part of more of the same .. We'll all get over it.

     

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    PassinThru, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 7:02am

    I'm still trying to get my ...

    I'm still trying to get my mind around your statement about obscenity and fiction. There are numerous ways of defining what's obscene, but I've never heard one that included whether the material was fictional or not. How does that figure in? I've never found anything obscene personally, at least not to the extent where I'd want prosecution, but I've also never asked whether what I was reading was truth or fiction in my evaluations.

    So what's the connection?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 7:14am

    If this was a "fanfic"...

    If this was a "fanfic" involving Harry Potter characters, or Frodo and Gandalf, then whatever. No harm done unless it really disturbed you and you can always just STOP READING IT so I can see no lawsuits being valid there.

    But doing the same thing with real people... I can see how that wouldn't be right. Unless you have a huge disclaimer, some people may not realize its fiction at first. Second, it just doesn't "seem right" to me.

    Sure, Iron Man and Wonder Woman "go at it" with pics included. Whatever. But this is akin to celebrity porn. Never struck me as right to go watch Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee's sex tape. I don't see how pretending they're having sex is any more "right."

    But to each their own. That's just my opinion, and I don't ask everyone to agree with it.

     

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    Comboman, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 7:40am

    I don't think ...

    I don't think "obscenity" is the right word for it, but there is certainly something wrong with publishing fictional (i.e. false) stories about real people (whether of a sexual nature or not) even if they are clearly labeled as fictional. Slander? Character defamation?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 8:11am

    It's not slander or character ...

    It's not slander or character defamation, because in fiction there is no "claim of fact".

    Consider historical fiction. People write stories about real people who were actually alive, in a fictional context. Nobody seems to get upset or confused by this. The authors are not subject to criminal charges even if the fiction is quite unlikely bear any resemblance to the actual historical events and people depicted.

    I don't see any compelling reason to look at fan fiction about living people in a different light.

    Laws against obscenity are anachronistic. If you find something objectionable, don't consume it.

    Classification is all well and good, but when your society is criminalising people who write distateful stories, maybe it's time to wake up and smell the coffee. What's next? Locking up people who make ugly sculptures? Pornographic films? Comments you don't agree with?

    How 'bout NO.

     

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    Jeff, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 8:17am

    These types of stories are ...

    These types of stories are nothing more than fantasy.

    I'd hardly call it slander or defamation of character as those are presented as true statements to tarnish the reputation or impugn their character.

    Whether you are a fan of the genre or not, it is generally the case that the stories are presented accordingly, as fantasy.

     

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    Curtai, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 8:32am

    I found a story about something...

    I found a story about something like that... The guy sounds a little psychotic and perhaps deranged... But as long as he doesn't actually do something insane like that... Let him have his fun...

     

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    Chris, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 8:43am

    My personal 2 cents is ...

    My personal 2 cents is this:
    There should be a central website for fanfiction of this nature. On it, a disclaimer that explains by no means are any of the contained stories fact or true.

    If your going to lock up people for Obscene websites / stories... start with the creators of child porn and all the sites that promote perversion of any kind.

    In the case of stories, people who write stories about 2 real people having inappropriate behaviors, when its not true, is like spreading rumors. We know 95% of rumors aren't true, but they still hurt the people that they are about! ( don't tell me that's BS because i was a victim of such).

    Also, everything that you see or read or hear affects you. Doesn't matter if its fact or fiction. You may know the fiction is not real, but in some part of your brain, it believes it to be true. Your consciousness carries the ability to determine what is true and false. Therefore, some people, if you don't slap a big "warning" on the top of the story / video, will get the wrong idea.

    Ever notice on every film that was BASED on a true event says so before or after the film??? why is it there? for legal purposes... nuff said.

     

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    Milan Olofsson, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 11:51am

    Re: re: this article and public opinions

    Chris wrote:

    There should be a central website for fanfiction of this nature. On it, a disclaimer that explains by no means are any of the contained stories fact or true.

    It’s on the Kristen’s Putrid Stories section of the Alt Sex Stories Text Repository website, and the disclaimer is there, clear and strong.


    This case is significantly different to the one involving Paul Little (Max Hardcore). America has always had an uneasy relationship with things like pornography and gambling. It’s a fundamental tension between the freedoms upon which the country was founded and a, possibly misguided, religion-driven desire to protect people from themselves. The case of Paul Little is a small move in the tug-of-war between the two.

    The case of Darryn Walker and his story, Girls (Scream) Aloud, is closer to that of Karen Fletcher of Pennsylvania and her Red Rose Stories website. This case highlights a worrying trend. The rise of the Thought Crime. It’s particularly worrying in the UK, because there is no First Amendment-like backstop. Rizwaan Sabir, a student preparing for a PhD on radical Islamic groups, along with a member of university staff, arrested for possessing an al-Qaeda handbook downloaded from a US government website. Robul Hoque convicted of possessing, not publishing, non-real images of child abuse downloaded from an on-line comic strip. When section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 is brought into force, it will become illegal to possess many BDSM images that portray acts that are, themselves, legal to perform.

    I don’t think there’s any chance of the case against Walker standing up in court. Close to the start of the story, we have this sentence.

    It was purely by chance then, that I stumbled across the most fantastic eBay offer I had ever set my eyes upon: Genuine Girls Aloud body parts plus a DVD of all five girls’ murder with every purchase.

    eBay is used in the same sort of running jokes in the UK that it is in the US. You can’t sell that? You can on eBay! Eg. Weird Al Yankovic’s song eBay; the Lancashire Hotpots’ song eBay ’Eck. That puts Walker’s story close to the genre of comic horror. No-one’s going to be able to take it seriously. But, that doesn’t matter. The mere possibility of arrest will increase individual self-censorship on the Internet.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 2:44pm

    The actors who portray characters who then appear in fan fiction feel that they have been violated when their characters are written as doing something that they themselves (or their characters as originally portrayed) would not. That is because part of the character came from the actor and his/her particular qualities. If the target of the fan fiction is a real person, I would think the sense of violation would be even greater.
    Would the materials be obscene if the character in the fanfic was totally made up for that particular story, or does using the prebuilt character as a component (saving the effort of building one up and creating backstory, style, motivation, etc.) make the text obscene?
    If it would be obscene with a totally new character, then perhaps the living model, be it actor or band member, has some justification for asserting liable or defamation.
    If it is made obscene by the re-use of a character, then perhaps they have valid copyright or trademark complaints.
    But if this is typical fan fiction, I think they should be just as upset by the absurdly bad quality of the writing.

    I hope the Court will be able to sanely determine if the objects of the fiction have suffered by association, brand contamination, or embarrassment. And of course, let's hope the stories aren't actually responsible journalism, because the Truth is in itself a defense.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2008 @ 5:50pm

    It is called Slash

    Slash fiction has been around for a long time. It is basically taking the characters and altering their sexuality. I remember seeing a few Kirk and Spock stories in the seventies.

    I always thought it was boring but whatever floats your boat.

     

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  17.  
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    K, Oct 24th, 2008 @ 2:35am

    Orwell

    The 'thought police' are working overtime. If they win, do you think they will create a Ministry of Thought?

    Never underestimate the stupidity of large groups.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four

     

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