Branding Culture: Fictional Characters and Undead Celebrities in an Era of 'Transpropertied' Media

AuthorDaniel Downes
Branding Culture: Fictional Characters
and Undead Celebrities in an Era of
“Transpropertied” Media
 
 : This chapter explores changes in intellectual property law
as part of a changing media ecology that began during the 1970s in which IP
law is a medium of control in the digital age. It will be shown that the exten-
sion of copyright, trademark, and rights of publicity to ctional characters
and authors helps set the boundaries of economic and social expression in
the global media environment of the twenty-rst century in a process de-
ned by the author as transpropertization, whereby dierent types of IP pro-
tection overlap.
The mechanism or communicative practice associated with this new
ecology of information is branding, which is evolving from a technique of mar-
keting to an informal medium of control alongside these changes in the law.
: Ce chapitre explore les changements du droit de la propriété
intellectuelle en tant qu’écologie changeante des médias, débutant dans
les années 1970 au cours desquelles le droit de la propriété intellectuelle
devient un moyen de contrôle dans l’ère numérique. Il sera démontré que
l’expansion du droit d’auteur, des marques de commerce et des droits de
publicité sur les personnages ctifs et les auteurs aide à créer les limites de
l’expression économique et sociale dans l’environnement médiatique mon-
dial du 21e siècle dans un processus déni par l’auteur comme « la transpro-
priation », qui se produit lorsque diérents types de propriété intellectuelle
se chevauchent.
Branding Culture 247
Le mécanisme ou la pratique communicative associée avec cette nou-
velle écologie de l’information est la création de l’image de marque, qui s’est
développée à partir d’une technique de marketing jusqu’à devenir un moyen
informel de contrôle en parallèle aux changements du droit.
On 28 October 2009, a public reading of a unique literary collaboration was
staged at Toronto’s Bathurst Street Theatre.1 Expatriate Canadian Dacre
Stoker and American screenwriter Ian Holt took elements from Stoker’s
great-uncle Bram Stoker’s unpublished notes to his 1897 novel Dracula and
wrote an ocial sequel entitled Dracula the Un-dead.2
The publication of Dracula the Un-dead and its public performance by
the authors and various actors in period costumes is of particular interest
to both media and intellectual property (IP) scholars because the sequel
was written, in part, “to right the wrongs done to Bram’s original classic.3
To answer the question of what wrongs had been committed, the authors
apologize to their literary audience for “losing the copyright and control of
Bram’s magnicent and immortal story for almost a century.”4
While it may seem counterintuitive to hear a writer reclaiming owner-
ship of copyrighted and, indeed un-copyrightable material, Stoker’s use of
the language of ownership and control in describing both his own and his
ancestor’s work is consistent with what might be described as the contem-
porary ecology of IP.
There is a deeply ingrained tendency to talk about various forms of ex-
pression as property, to think of the free market as a natural environment,
and to think of many, perhaps all, forms of human interaction as fungible
and translatable to economic relations. But, we must ask, in what ways
is our understanding of IP historically contingent and how is that under-
standing related to social, economic, and technological conditions in the
creative industries?
1 “Dracula the Un-Dead — A Dramatic Reading w/ Original Music Premieres in Toronto”
MODA Entertainment (28 October 2009), online:
2009/10/dracula-un-dead-dramatic-reading-w.html; see also Dracula the Un-dead: The
Ocial Site for the Sequel to the Original Classic, online:
2 Dacre Stoker & Ian Holt, Dracula the Un-dead (Toronto: Viking Canada, 2009).
3 Ibid at 413.
4 Ibid.

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