Meddling With Copyrighted Material

The British general election is next month. Labour Party leader Ed Miliband apparently has the time to think about who should play James Bond. He’d like to see a woman actor: Rosamund Pike in particular. Some, like this Guardian writer, agree:

….So far, the feminist revolution has been largely limited to comics. We pointed out last week that there is a thing going on in that world with feminist superheroes. If Thor can be a woman, so can Bond. (Idris Elba could obviously be Bond too, but that is a different piece)….

Actually, one would think the man who desires to be the next British Prime Minister should be rather more concerned about when they’ll finally be a woman leader of his own Labour Party. One supposes he doesn’t plan to step down himself immediately and make way for one at last?

That said, who does he think should play the next, say, Lara Croft? A man?

….This is a genius way of demonstrating a generational shift in political attitudes, a seemingly guileless exercise in spontaneity that tells you more about Ed Miliband than any number of debates, interviews or even a peek at his kitchen. This is a man who genuinely does not imagine gender as a limiting factor, who has interesting ideas, and the confidence to express them….

No, except in the sloppiest of senses this is not about any of that. It is especially not about his “interesting ideas.” Rather it is about his messing around with someone else’s interesting idea and appropriating it for his own electoral purposes.

He has no right to do that. He’s out of line. I’m sure he didn’t mean it this way, but that “spontaneity” actually shows he doesn’t quite understand what intellectual property and copyright means.

A creator’s perspective needs to be injected into this. Allow me. Author Ian Fleming created the sort of iconic character every writer DREAMS he could invent. “James Bond” is not (yet) a public trust. Fleming’s books are still in copyright, and those books and the copyrighted films based on them belong solely to those who now own the rights.

If you write, imagine it? Opinionated politicians and busybodies pronouncing how one or more of your beloved characters you’ve worked so hard to bring to life should be altered to be what you never intended to or wanted to write? Indeed, evidently they are pretty much demanding it – trying to bully you in public into doing so?

“There’s been a generational change,” they lecture you. “The world has moved on. Valérie really should be a 7 foot tall Icelandic zombie….”

Free Stock Photo: Illustrated silhouette of a beautiful woman.
Free Stock Photo: Illustrated silhouette of a beautiful woman.

My polite response? Get stuffed. Go write your own novels and concoct your own characters. Mine are what they are for my reasons.

If one feels there should be a black British secret agent, or a woman one, write them. Produce an original tale for the ages. Get to work. It might well be brilliant, and that’s what’s needed, not piggybacking on someone else’s “interesting idea” and, essentially, stealing it.

No politician or newspaper makes a call on my copyrighted characters. I decide who and what they are, as will those who will “own” them after me. In fact, I may put that into my literary will so my heirs understand that fully. 😉

Have a good Thursday, wherever you are in the world. 🙂


  1. I don’t know if this was an April Fool’s Day joke from the Guardian, I am so not used to seeing humour from that lot. Still, I agree with you about the misuse of a character. Also because James Bond was one of my favourite characters. Ian Fleming based it on his brother and several naval commandos he knew and got the name from an ornithologist who specialized in West Indies birds.

    But we aren’t just talking about the type of fan fiction exercise that upsets the likes of George RR Martin and JK Rowling. Some Guardian fembot thinks it’s a great idea, even in jest? This quintessentially male ENGLISH character should be repurposed as a femme? Good luck then to the man who would be PM of that rump nation.

    OK, rant over. Writers of the World, Unite! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know what set me off. We see this sort of “casting” all the time – good natured debating about who should play which role in a film version of a popular novel. It just that suddenly struck me that Fleming’s Bond isn’t (yet) another version of Austen’s Mr. Darcy or Shakespeare’s Romeo.

      James Bond does not “belong” to all of us (yet) to make any such demands of the owners of the franchise. It’s not public domain. Naturally I don’t think Miliband, or even the Guardian, were, or are, thinking in those terms. Maybe it was an April Fool? 😉

      But I think the distinction is important, and worth bearing in mind. I love the idea of an ORIGINAL British woman or black male secret agent. Someone must have a bl-ody original idea somewhere for a novel series and a film! Create one! C’mon! 🙂

      My rant is now over too. 😉


      • It’s a good thought still, Robert. If the owners of the franchise (which is what it is now) want to repurpose “M” from a man to a woman and shift from the upper class David Niven to the up from the streets Sean Connery to the campy Roger Moore then more power to them, we’re used to this sort of shite from movies any way.

        But literature? The books I used to read 50 years ago vs. the teen fiction pap they now read? I grab the alienated yoot in dystopian future worlds and supernatural vampire/werewolf bodice rippers out of their hands and tell them to read A Clockwork Orange instead. Orwell and Huxley. Then to cleanse the palate, PG Wodehouse. His characters are timeless, and because the philistines don’t see how they can adapt them, they will always remain unchanged.

        Second rant over 🙂


        • I suppose at the root of my irritation is demands directed at the copyright holders. If they’d like to transform their Bond character into even a vampire, that’s entirely their prerogative. But they shouldn’t be “coerced” into doing so.

          Second, mini rant, now concludes. 🙂


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