Intelligence and Intellectual Property

As luck would have it, just as I was perusing the AV Club’s various articles on the US networks’ fall programming, regular CWR reader/my friend Marilyn brought a certain issue to my attention.

This fall CBS will be bringing the series Intelligence to the small screen [not to be confused with the CBC series of the same name that aired in 2005]. The following is the trailer, which I only saw half a minute of earlier because it failed to grab my attention:

The synopsis on the official CBS preview site reads as follows:

Josh Holloway stars as former Delta Force turned U.S. Cyber Command über-agent in a crime thriller that explores the unlimited possibilities of technology. With a special microchip implanted in his brain, he has become the first super computer with a beating heart.

Now by this point you’re probably wondering where I’m getting at with all this, so let me stop blathering as if CBS pays me [they should, considering all I’ve gone through reviewing 2 Broke Girls] and get to the point.

Intelligence bears a lot of similarity to A Girl and Her Fed, a webcomic by K. B. Spangler, as well as Digital Divide, a novel she wrote set in the same world. This is fairly suspect, but we’ll get back to that in a sec. First let’s look at what CBS is saying-

The show is apparently based on Dissident, a book by writer John Dixon that has yet to be published. In an interview he posted on his blog Dixon talks about how his novel was optioned by CBS, and even goes into a little detail about what it’s all about. When asked for a single-sentence synopsis he replies:

When a tough sixteen-year-old sentenced to an isolated boot camp for orphans discovers it’s actually a mercenary training facility, he risks everything to save his friends and stop a madman bent on global destruction.

Does that sound familiar? Well, it might, if you’re a prolific reader of YA literature, but let’s pretend all you know is this blog post. If that were the case [and thank the Lord it isn’t] there is no possible way you would connect the TV show Intelligence with the novel Dissident.

Now I haven’t personally read Digital Divide, though it comes highly recommended, and is only $5 on Amazon, but I am more than willing to trust an author on her own work and any similarities there might be between her writing and a three minute trailer. In a post put up yesterday Spangler describes her reactions to watching the teaser as follows:

I can overlook the tough-as-nails dusky blond hunk and the sassy brunette “minder” whose job it is to protect him.  Attitude + sexy = win.  I can ignore the whole “we gave a human the kind of power that was previously only seen in a machine” theme.  Been done before.  The shift from accessing the EM spectrum to controlling the EM spectrum (two very different things) is understandable as it makes for better action, and one can lead directly to another.  I can even overlook that they are portraying the agent and what he represents as “this generation’s Manhattan Project,” which is a major theme throughout the seven-plus years of the comic and Digital Divide, even though that trope is less well-established in the general sci-fi & government conspiracy theory literature.

But…. Guys, the uber-elite Secret Agent with the chip in his head makes constructs. He says that an “unexpected” side effect of the implant is that he can project what he sees.  “The intel I have access to… I can see it.  It’s like a virtual evidence wall.”  This is very unique and differs from other projection-type tropes, such as Gary’s in Alphas, where he translated what he perceived into images that only he could see. The Secret Agent in Intelligence can also perceive snipers from a distance, which is straight-up Rachel.  The more information that we get about these projects, the harder it is for me to separate the ideas in them as being unique from my own.

Walls of text aside, what you need to understand is that there are some similarities that result from following the same sorts of tropes [government organizations, pushing the limits of technology, etc.] and others that seems far too specific to fall under that category. Spangler goes on to say in the comments section of that post that she spoke to Dixon, and that their conversation “suggested that his novel has a very different plot than the pilot.”

K. B. is making the wisest decision possible at this point and has contacted legal counsel, and is also withholding judgement in spite of all that she has observed thus far. The most saddening thing about this entire situation, however, is how realistically she’s viewing it all. In an interview with AlterGamer titled “Cross-Medium Copyright Infringement and Intellectual Property Concerns” she admits that there “is really no best-case scenario” and that ” the little guy doesn’t have the money to go up against a multinational corporation.”

At this point in time no one can truly comment on what CBS is doing with Intelligence; if Spangler is refraining from outright accusation I can probably hold back as well. What we can observe, however, is the helplessness of the one who doesn’t have the money or influence that big businesses always will. This has happened in the past with TV shows stealing covers, and it would not surprise me if some exec somewhere made the decision to take the premise of a webcomic with an audience anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand. After all, who would really notice? Even if they did, what would happen?

As I said near the beginning of this post, all of this is fairly suspect. Until Intelligence actually airs I, and fans of K. B. Spangler’s work, will have to wait and see what happens. What’s important is that she’s taken the necessary precautions, and hopefully gets to the bottom of all of this sooner than later.

One response to “Intelligence and Intellectual Property

  1. Pingback: Shame Day: Shia LaBeouf | Culture War Reporters

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