Legal Complications

My thanks to everyone who welcomed the ideas Kevin and I had for reforming Hugo Award administration. However, I regret to say that I no longer believe that solution is possible. Here’s why.

As I explained yesterday, individual Worldcons are incorporated. They have to be, because they as subject to enormous legal risks. But WSFS, famously, is not incorporated. If we were to create an Independent Hugo Award Administration Committee as part of WSFS, that would also not be incorporated. Anyone who was unhappy with the results of the Hugos in a particular year could then sue the members of that committee for damages. No one would serve on such a committee under such circumstances.

There are technical ways around this, but they’d require a lot more wording in the original motion. In particular there is an organisation called WorldCon Intellectual Property Inc. (WIP) that exists to own the WSFS service marks. That could be re-puposed to own the IHAAC. Ironically, WIP was created out of the ashes of the corporation that Kevin and I created to run the SF&F Translation Awards, so it was originally an award organisation. But the creation of WIP was hugely controversial within WSFS, with many people seeing it as creeping incorporation. And of course there are plenty of people within fandom who think it is wrong for WSFS to own the Hugo marks at all.

So we could re-craft the motion so that the IHAAC reports directly to WIP, and its members are therefore protected by WIP’s corporate shield. However, that would leave little for WSFS to actually do. It is incorporation by another name, and it would make much more sense to simply transform WIP into WSFS Inc.. And that, I’m afraid, will not fly.

I may be wrong, but my sense is that there are still way too many people within fandom, and in particular amongst those who run Worldcons, who will fight to their dying breath to oppose incorporation of WSFS. Indeed, I suspect that some old-time fans will be trying to rise from their graves to come and vote against it.

At this point I think WSFS is dead in the water. It can’t enforce its own constitution, and the social contract by which Worldcons agreed to adhere to the Constitution anyway has been broken. The only possible remedy is anathema to too many people in fandom. I’m not sure we can get out of this.

2 thoughts on “Legal Complications

  1. This is why we can’t have nice things. The modern civilization has become too complicated for a mere mortal to be able to untangle itself from its own legal complications. The centipede syndrome. We are going to collapse because of it. Not the climate crises, not the swarm of Ungodly Immigrants (TM), not the fascist rebirth. We are going to drown in paperwork. Funny how, of all distopias, Brazil comes out to be the most accurate.

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