Mimi gave me a great answer yesterday to my copyright question, and I am still sitting here musing. You probably all know this, but a few years back a law was passed extending the copyright on created works, i.e., the period before they pass into the public domain. Still, unless copyright law changes in a more fundamental way, things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer will someday open up for creative, publishable use. Of course (a) we won't be around then, and (b) it's questionable how well archived the show itself will be then, and (c) will anyone alive a hundred years from now even care if it is? I mean, cultural idioms change, and popular written works from a hundred years ago aren't necessarily the popular works of today or tomorrow. And some of the appeal of Buffy--it's hard for me to pin down how much--is very contextual, dependent on our familiarity with pop culture, whose minutiae and terms are often very transient.
On top of that, the net itself is currently considered to be, by its nature, a transient medium for publishing. Pages come and go, links die, works disappear; it's searchable but not well-indexed. Over time, portals could go belly up, list archives be deprecated, entire networks of information retired. We're totally in soft-copy mode--who is archiving the hard-copy? Compare the health of fannish zine publishing today with twenty years ago. Printing up stories for sale and delivery through snail mail is hard work, and why bother--we wouldn't be doing it for profit, only to recover funds, and who would pay for zines when they can get the same stories free online? Not many of us.
If a hundred years from now, Buffy appreciation is still going strong--if slayers caught the imagination in some archetypal way, and the source material stood the test of time, becoming adapted for stage, screen, et cetera, until copyright expired--where would our seminal fannish works be then? They'd have long since vanished. I mean, no one's going to offer to archive them in the Library of Congress. Universities aren't clamoring to document our works and stash them in vaulted stacks to be discovered decades later. I doubt if there is a single fan systematically printing and storing copies of the best fan-fiction works, across fandoms, in the hopes of carrying those words forward to future readers; or even saving them to CDROM. I could be wrong. But even if someone were making such an effort, what are the odds that those archives would ever reach a more dedicated repository, for public access?
Archiving fan-fiction for future generations would take money, effort, and planning. Of course, redundancy of effort would eliminate the need for participants to act in a perfectly cohesive, organized fashion--it'd be a project operating the way mirror sites do, trying to fix duplicated content in as many locations as possible, to increase the chances of its survival. Which is an argument right now for multiple archiving rather than single-owner control of our words, no matter what they are--stories, glossaries, etc.
I admit I haven't been very good about that myself. I get invested in issues of presentation; I like my words to adhere to the format and design I chose--page color, font, margin width. I usually tell people to include a link to my pages, rather than archiving my stories. Which is kind of perverse of me, because on some level I'd prefer that my stuff lived on for years to come, replicating out through the net, than dry up and blow away when my own pages do. And at some distant point--imagining longevity for the net, its persistence after my own death--I'd even be happy (dead, but happy) if my stuff was attributed to other people. It wouldn't be ownership that mattered any more--it would be the works themselves, in a kind of Homeric way.
Er, that sounds self-aggrandizing, but I mean it not just for my own works, but for all of our stuff. Which ties into the way I think about television shows and characters, and the stories we tell about them; as our own contemporary version of cultural myths and heroes--a collectively maintained, overlapping set of stories, often changing subtly or not-so-subtly in the retelling, taking on the imprint and voice of each storyteller, but relying on common attributes. This may be why canon itself works like a meme, as a kind of self-reproducing force: there's an endogamous instinct to ground our stories in a relatively tight area of overlap and interpretation, because we recognize on some level that cohesion helps perpetuate the Story. (The master, meta Story, that is--which, in this example, is "Buffy the Vapmire Slayer.")
Okay, I'm actually *at work*, and the divergence of my brain is just scary. Must go do something productive. And perhaps eat a donut.