Magic Modders: Alter Art, Ambiguity, and the Ethics of Prosumption

Aaron Trammell


This paper explores the perspectives of Magic: The Gathering (MTG) fans, as they interpret and parse intellectual property law regarding the alteration, and subsequent sale of artwork on Magic: The Gathering cards. MTG is a transmedia product that is supported by a fan base, which collects, plays, and discusses the game online in web forums and virtual game-spaces, and offline in hobby stores and community spaces across the world. This fan community is atypical because, for the most part, participants are highly concerned with the economic value of the MTG cards they own and trade. This paper draws attention to the complicated ethical landscape of intellectual property law as it pertains to artistic modification. The paper concludes that corporations should be legally required to set up a “safe haven” policy regarding the rights of consumers to produce derivative works, and, similar to creative commons licensing, to stipulate therein how issues of acknowledgement, reproduction, and sale of the product should be managed.


law, fan studies, prosumption, magic: the gathering, wizards of the coast, ethnographic methods

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