Well that’s awful. SCP, the collaborative-fiction project that’s been running for eleven years now, is under attack by a patent troll somewhere in Russia. I don’t have all the details, but you can read more about it on the following Reddit thread. I only have an academic interest in SCP (not into horror scifi) but their fight strikes home, since it deals with the scary world of global scifi.
Fun fact: If you’re an an author, you don’t just need to know writing. You also need to be an expert in publishing, accounting, design, negotiation, marketing and yes, even intellectual property. According to Wikipedia, the main purpose of intellectual property law is to encourage the creation of a wide variety of intellectual goods. The downside is that intellectual property laws vary from country to country, and gray areas leave room for bad actors.
The reason why the SCP story is so compelling is because the community attempted from the beginning to avoid any such bad action. As a collaborative-fiction project, SCP made use of the free-culture movement to create a compelling story that anyone could read, and anyone could write. Monetization seemed to be the last thing on anyone’s list and to their credit, they’ve been doing this for eleven years with a decent amount of success.
So here comes Andrey Duksin, ‘a Russian man who has illegally registered an illegitimate trademark for SCP within the Eurasian Customs Union. He has used said trademark to threaten and extort legitimate sellers of SCP merchandise, and in addition is guilty of copyright infringement, as his own merchandise completely violates the SCP content license: Creative Commons Share-alike 3.0.’ His actions strike at the heart of what free-culture, collaborative fiction, and Creative Commons are meant to support.
Naturally, this should scare everyone in the SCP community and it does. What’s the point of contributing if it means some dork in another part of the world can waltz in and use IP laws to steal what you tried to give away for free? What recourse do we have when one person, anywhere in the world, can end your life’s work with the touch of a button?
I’m going out on a limb right now and calling Andrey Duksin a toxic fan. He didn’t invent SCP, but he’s using global intellectual property laws to steal it, and that is #5 on the list of questions you can ask yourself (“Do you take more than you give to scifi?”). What he’s doing isn’t right, but let’s face it: It was going to happen sooner or later in this weird, copyright-trolling universe we inhabit.
Even at my modest level, I’m cautious about the microfiction I’ve published. I’ve already had one person ask permission to translate it and share it, but I said “no.” Maybe they have good intentions, but I can’t guarantee that they won’t show up later going ‘this is mine now, sucker.’ That is why I prefer to err on the side of caution. There’s no such thing as a risk-free enterprise, but I want to be as smart as I can while being as open as I can.
So for now, the main thing is to stomp the bad acting wherever we can. While this this unhappy episode with SCP illustrates the challenges that small-time, grass-root organizations face when interacting with a global community, the good news is that there’s more with us than there are with them.
The only way patent trolls will be stopped is when understand that not only is a patent troll a waste of time, it’s going to hurt to even try. We aren’t there yet, but my hope is that we will be, soon. You might consider kicking in a few bucks to their legal fund and hashtagging the #StandWithSCPRU.