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WinterDusk14
02-07-2010, 09:56 AM
Seriously? I downloaded the online version of Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker. He said something about the lines that people who wrote fanfictions, and the author use the ideas written in the fanfic, that author can get sued?

WildScribe
02-07-2010, 10:07 AM
Um... well, it is plagiarism, but you are technically plagiarizing an illegally derivative work, so... sticky.

Chasing the Horizon
02-07-2010, 10:14 AM
Since you can't copyright ideas I'm not sure how that would work? Unless the writer stole the fan-fic writer's actual words, or characters they themselves had created.

MacAllister
02-07-2010, 10:20 AM
Yes, Virginia, if a writer was to swipe a piece of fanfic and try to claim it as his own, it would be plagiarism.

Far more often, some over-entitled fanfic writer sees similarities and levels charges of plagiarism, when in fact there was never any such thing. But it can still be pretty damaging to a writer's reputation. This is why many, many writers refuse flatly to look at people's unpublished manuscripts.

There's been more than one lawsuit that I know of, guys, and many charges of plagiarism--and that's just plain career-ending, in many cases--from fan-fic writers who claim the original creator has either stolen an idea or plagiarized a work.

Stlight
02-07-2010, 11:00 AM
So is there anything that can be done about this? Or do we simply hope it doesn't happen?

MacAllister
02-07-2010, 11:18 AM
Mostly, not much, Stlight. And the vast majority of us will never actually need to worry about it, either.

But in practical terms, if you're famous, don't read fanfic of your work?

No matter who you are, try very hard to be respectful if you're a fanfic writer, or a reader of fanfic, and remember that fans are playing in someone else's sandbox, and that creator might not be done with the world yet, either.

And perhaps most of all, understand that ideas are pretty much finite. Two or three thousand years ago, a famous wise man said, "There is nothing new under the sun" and it was true then, and it's true now.

Most of all, what we can each do is strive to be as original as possible. Sure it's easier to cheat a little, and use that character that you and a buddy dreamed up, late one night...But a cheat is still a cheat.

Often, avid fans pick up on the natural direction for a long set of interconnected works to go -- and write fanfic based on those subliminal-but-pretty-logical conclusions. No fair claiming plagiarism, if you just accidentally guessed what happens next because a writer left you clues, you know?

Terie
02-07-2010, 12:00 PM
Could someone in the know explain the Marion Zimmer Bradley DARKOVER case? I've never fully understood that one, but IIRC, one of her books was pulled out of publication because of it.

Mac H.
02-07-2010, 12:20 PM
Could someone in the know explain the Marion Zimmer Bradley DARKOVER case? I've never fully understood that one, but IIRC, one of her books was pulled out of publication because of it.Is this the one you are referring to ?

Ref:

http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.written/msg/80c1db3e5e35c1f9


Here's what happened. It _was_ fanfic, but published under MZB's more or less aegis as a permitted issue of MOON PHASES (Nina Boal, editor).
...
I received a letter offering me a sum and a dedication for all rights to the
text. I attempted at that point to _very politely_ negotiate a better deal.
...
At that point I did not threaten any sort of suit whatsoever; in fact, a few
months later I received a letter from Ms. Bradley's lawyer threatening me with
a suit should I be a bit too frank about Ms. Bradley's um, writing methods, and
who her current collaborators were at the time (at least that is how I took the lawyer's phrasing). Needless to say, I could not afford to defend myself if
sued. Winning with the truth could have bankrupted me (and probably still
could).
...
It's been a long strange trip. But it DID cure me of fanfic.


Another version of the encounter:


Author Raymond Feist (Magician, and others) explains. "Marion [Zimmer Bradley] was working on a Darkover novel, and at the same time reading and editing fan fiction for her Darkover 'zine. She found a story that was very similar in theme to what she was doing in her novel under work, and a character she really liked. So she contacted the author of that bit and asked if she could use the material and the character, and would give the author a tip-of-the-hat mention in the dedication. The author replied that Marion would have to split royalties, put the other author's name on the book, and if she used any of the material or similar (like the stuff Marion was already writing) the author would sue.

"This was a woman who enjoyed fan writing and nurtured it, and the wannabe writer turned on her… [MZB] canned the project she was working on. Her publisher wasn't really happy about losing the book, nor were her readers. Marion changed her policy on fan fiction at that point, and in the end, a [fanfic writer] who was, in my opinion, greedy and stupid ruined it for a lot of Marion's fans."


Mac

Polenth
02-07-2010, 12:31 PM
Could someone in the know explain the Marion Zimmer Bradley DARKOVER case? I've never fully understood that one, but IIRC, one of her books was pulled out of publication because of it.

This site has various quotes discussing all the possible ins and outs:
http://www.fanworks.org/writersresource/?action=define&authorid=53&tool=fanpolicy

The short take-away point would be: never read fan fiction. Don't reply if a fan sends it to you... delete it the moment you know what it is (or destroy it, if they send a paper copy).

Ken
02-07-2010, 12:50 PM
... what a nightmare for an author.


The short take-away point would be: never read fan fiction. Don't reply if a fan sends it to you... delete it the moment you know what it is (or destroy it, if they send a paper copy).

Or better yet, return it (unopened) to sender, if possible.

Mr. Anonymous
02-07-2010, 01:01 PM
I've actually heard a lot of writers mention they stay away from fan fics set in their own worlds and they refuse to read any stories sent to them (in general) by fans for this very reason.

Terie
02-07-2010, 01:07 PM
Is this the one you are referring to ?

That's the one. Thanks! And whichever side one chooses to believe, the bottom line is clear: authors shouldn't read fan-fic. (Other takeaways are possible, but those move into personal preferences.)

I brought that up to address the OP's question, but didn't want to say anything about the details when I couldn't remember what they were.

You can get sued for anything, of course; that doesn't mean you'll lose. But if you read someone's fan-fic set in your world and it turns out you were going to do something similar, yes, they could sue. They might or might not win, but they could sue.

kuwisdelu
02-07-2010, 01:07 PM
Not just fanfic, but I've read many writers will refuse to read work by anyone they don't know so no one can accuse them of stealing ideas from something someone sent them.

Don't know if that happens much, but I know I've read it somewhere. On the internet. It must be true.

Old Hack
02-07-2010, 02:03 PM
Since you can't copyright ideas I'm not sure how that would work? Unless the writer stole the fan-fic writer's actual words, or characters they themselves had created.

It's often assumed that plagiarism = word-for-word copying of someone else's work, and presenting it as your own; and that as you can't copyright ideas, you're allowed to use the worlds that other writers have created in your own work, or to rewrite other people's works and get away with it scott-free.

This is not the case.

When an author builds a world of his or her own, whether it's SF, fantasy or just plain literary fiction (because every fictional world is different from reality), that world is part of the writer's expression of his or her idea. So the details which build that world (the geography, the politics, the laws, the flora and fauna) are part of the writer's copyright, and any use of them will be a copyright infringement or a plagiarism, depending on how they're used.

I've spoken with IP lawyers about plagiarism a few times in this past year and one thing they have all told me is that in most cases, plagiarisers have a skewed understanding of the law, and insist they've done nothing wrong: they hear that bit about "you can't copyright ideas" and plunder those ideas thinking they're safe to do so. This misunderstanding of the law doesn't protect them from the consequences of breaking it, though. It's far safer--and far more ethical--to not risk such consequences in the first place by working with your own ideas, and nothing else, right from the start.

waylander
02-07-2010, 02:08 PM
Not just fanfic, but I've read many writers will refuse to read work by anyone they don't know so no one can accuse them of stealing ideas from something someone sent them.

Don't know if that happens much, but I know I've read it somewhere. On the internet. It must be true.


The point is that other writers, including well-known ones, have also read this on the internet and will refuse to read other people's unpublished work.

gothicangel
02-07-2010, 03:31 PM
Hang on, plagiarism is the copying ad vertim, right?

So surely fan fiction is copyright infringement, rather than plagiarism?

kaitie
02-07-2010, 03:37 PM
What surprises me is that a fanfic author would sue an actual author over an idea considering said author could in theory sue the fanfic author for using the characters without permission in the first place. I mean, I wouldn't want to do that because it seems really unfair and I find fanfic pretty harmless, but to say, "I'm suing you for this technically illegal thing I did," is a little um...ballsy.

I do think, though, that the more popular a writer becomes the more careful they'd have to be. The same way anyone famous becomes a target for people hoping to sue. There will always be someone out there who will try something if they see a quick buck in it.

The Marion Zimmer Bradley story is sad. No matter which way it went down, it's disappointing because I think it's awesome she had been so supportive of the group in the first place.

kaitie
02-07-2010, 03:39 PM
Hang on, plagiarism is the copying ad vertim, right?

So surely fan fiction is copyright infringement, rather than plagiarism?

I think in theory both are considered cases of copyright infringement. I don't think plagiarism is illegal in the same way. I might be wrong about that, but I'm pretty sure if you're plagiarized, you sue for copyright infringement.

Parametric
02-07-2010, 03:48 PM
Hang on, plagiarism is the copying ad vertim, right?

So surely fan fiction is copyright infringement, rather than plagiarism?


I think in theory both are considered cases of copyright infringement. I don't think plagiarism is illegal in the same way. I might be wrong about that, but I'm pretty sure if you're plagiarized, you sue for copyright infringement.

I'm just starting the copyright section of my intellectual property unit, but my understanding is this:

Plagiarism is an ethical issue - passing off somebody else's work as your own. Copyright infringement is a legal issue - doing something to a work that only the copyright holder is allowed to do, like copy it, publish it, revise it, etc. (Note that there is no copyright in ideas, only in the execution. Text can be copyrighted, ideas are not.) The two often go hand in hand, as when you publish somebody else's story pretending it's your own, but not necessarily.

Stealing someone's ideas pretending they're your own = plagiarism.
Publishing someone's text without permission, but clearly stating the original author = copyright infringement.
Publishing someone's text verbatim pretending you wrote it = copyright infringement and plagiarism.

Fanfiction is not necessarily plagiarism if the author is clear about what elements are original and which not. A lot of fanfiction has disclaimers at the top for this purpose. I believe that technically posting fanfiction is copyright infringement because you are publishing (posting on the internet is a form of publishing) a work derived from somebody else's copyright.

Maxinquaye
02-07-2010, 03:51 PM
Hang on, plagiarism is the copying ad vertim, right?

So surely fan fiction is copyright infringement, rather than plagiarism?

Yeah. There was a 'fan fic' case concerning the recently departed JD Salinger.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/books/17salinger.html

ETA: It's a very interesting case, imho, that explores the boundary of copyright, and what you can do as far as derivation goes.

Mac H.
02-07-2010, 04:05 PM
That's the one. Thanks! And whichever side one chooses to believe, the bottom line is clear: authors shouldn't read fan-fic. Actually, if you read carefully it's clear that those two vastly different accounts don't contradict at all. (eg: "AT THAT POINT I didn't threaten to sue" doesn't contradict "She threatened to sue")

They can both be 100% accurate.

Mac

gothicangel
02-07-2010, 04:31 PM
I have to admit the only area I've come across plagiarism [not mine!] is in academia when students fail to reference properly.

the_Unknown
02-07-2010, 04:44 PM
Authors (and many people) let their good nature get the best of them--most companies (especially game companies) have been using fan content for years with no issue.

The way to do it is never to ask, but make available an electronic submission of their fanfiction (or whatever) and the terms of the submission require them to forfeit all rights. Offering a token prize every now and then is usually all that is desired.

kaitie
02-07-2010, 04:49 PM
I have to admit the only area I've come across plagiarism [not mine!] is in academia when students fail to reference properly.

Or when professors steal other people's work...happens a lot more often than you'd think. It's pretty sick, really.

Parametric
02-07-2010, 04:59 PM
Authors (and many people) let their good nature get the best of them--most companies (especially game companies) have been using fan content for years with no issue.

The way to do it is never to ask, but make available an electronic submission of their fanfiction (or whatever) and the terms of the submission require them to forfeit all rights. Offering a token prize every now and then is usually all that is desired.

Surely passing off other people's work as your own is still plagiarism, even if you used the law to ensure that you're not infringing copyright.

the_Unknown
02-07-2010, 05:54 PM
Surely passing off other people's work as your own is still plagiarism, even if you used the law to ensure that you're not infringing copyright.

You can call it whatever you want, but if someone signs over their rights with a submission you can do whatever you want with it. It's the same thing when people open source their code without requiring royalties or credit.

You take their text and modify, redistribute and/or sell it and nothing is required on your part. This is the same with photos and video--news stations do this all the time.

Another example is using models (who are regular people) that have signed a release form to be photographed and used for profit. Often times children in catalogs are just relatives of employees that want to see their child in print.

Oh and if you think this is bad, the hospitals (government) takes your DNA at birth and sells it to companies who patent it. Then you have to pay them for treatment (even when you're dying from a disease and can't afford it).

ChaosTitan
02-07-2010, 06:38 PM
There was also a very recent, highly-publicized case of a self-published author suing Stephanie Meyer over a handful of coincidences between her book and Meyers' "Breaking Dawn."

RoseColoredSkies
02-07-2010, 07:05 PM
Wait, was that the Russett Noon chick? I forget her name. All I know is that was some crazy stuff going down.

ChaosTitan
02-07-2010, 07:11 PM
Wait, was that the Russett Noon chick? I forget her name. All I know is that was some crazy stuff going down.

No, that was another nut-job entirely.

Here ya go: http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/movies/nocturne-writer-to-sue-meyer-over-breaking-dawn/story-e6frfmvr-1225758197470

gothicangel
02-07-2010, 07:12 PM
You can call it whatever you want, but if someone signs over their rights with a submission you can do whatever you want with it. It's the same thing when people open source their code without requiring royalties or credit.

You take their text and modify, redistribute and/or sell it and nothing is required on your part. This is the same with photos and video--news stations do this all the time.

Another example is using models (who are regular people) that have signed a release form to be photographed and used for profit. Often times children in catalogs are just relatives of employees that want to see their child in print.

Oh and if you think this is bad, the hospitals (government) takes your DNA at birth and sells it to companies who patent it. Then you have to pay them for treatment (even when you're dying from a disease and can't afford it).

Nope. When you sign a contract with a publisher, magazine, newspaper etc you sign away the rights to print the work in certain territories in certain media. You NEVER sign away copyright. Copyright remains with an author until 70 years after their death.

If you want to reprint their work, you need permission and pay an agreed royalty.

gothicangel
02-07-2010, 07:14 PM
Or when professors steal other people's work...happens a lot more often than you'd think. It's pretty sick, really.

I shall remember to electrify my dissertations before subbing in future! :D

Old Hack
02-07-2010, 07:58 PM
Hang on, plagiarism is the copying ad vertim, right?


Wrong. You don't protect yourself from charges of plagiarism merely by rewriting something in your own words: you have to add your own interpretations, ideas and understanding to it, too.

Gothic, if you take someone else's story and give it a swift re-write so it's in your own words, but the bones of the original story are still clearly visible--so the plot line remains identical, and elements of the original story are there (specific scenes or ocurrences, for example, or a particular structure or form), then it counts as plagiarism: the original story would still be there, just in a very slightly different form.

If you take an element of someone else's story and create your own new piece from that, with new incidents, new characters, a new structure, and all those things, then that should be ok (so long as you're not using someone else's "world") as the original story would no longer exist within your new one. It might inform it, but it wouldn't mirror it. Does that help?

Cyia
02-07-2010, 08:03 PM
There is "plagiarism" in fanfic (and "societies" dedicated to stopping it.) A friend of mine had a short story posted that someone took and reposted verbatim with new characters for a different show. (with a warning that "for this story [the anime characters] were "really hot vampires, okay?") It's usually done by younger kids wanting to impress their friends with NC-17 scenes.

I've had people take things I posted and put them on other sites without permission.

If a writer were to take a fanfic story and use it as an "original" story, then it's plagiarism - IF the writer uses the fanfic writer's words. (Like if S. Meyer were to try and publish "Russet Noon" as her own story, that would be plagiarism. It would also be bad taste, but that's a different matter. If she wrote her own story of what happened when Jake and the Nessie-monster grew up, then it's not plagiarism. It's her own series, and there's nothing saying that that wouldn't have already been the natural progression of her storyline.

If a writer solicited fan ideas with a promise of compensation if one was used, then wrote a book someone decided was too close to their idea and they were never compensated, she could be in trouble.

And yes, at least one "original" novel has been plagiarized from fanfiction posted on-line:

Laura L'immortelle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_l%27immortelle) was a book sold by a 12 year-old who stole a Frenchman's Highlander fanfiction. It got a 5,000 book print run.


A Frenchman named Frédéric Jeorge received a copy of the book and found that about 99% of the book was a copy of "Des cendres et du vent," a Highlander fan fiction written by Jeorge that was available on the internet around 2001 to 2002. Côté later admitted that she plagiarized the fan fiction, rewrote it, and presented it as an original work.

Parametric
02-07-2010, 08:07 PM
There is "plagiarism" in fanfic (and "societies" dedicated to stopping it.)

Aha, someone else familiar with stop_plagiarism (http://community.livejournal.com/stop_plagiarism). :tongue

DeleyanLee
02-07-2010, 08:11 PM
About 10 years ago, I won a charity auction for a indepth critique of a first chapter by an author I knew and liked. I sent off my chapter. Within a few days, I got an email back from her stating that the start of my chapter (Renn Fest setting, jousting, time travel Romance) was similiar to the start of the book she had coming out about in about six months. She was uneasy about critiquing my chapter because of the similiarities.

Fortunately, I was savvy enough to know that if her book was coming out that soon, that she'd written it at least 2 years or so prior to my writing it, reassured her that I wasn't ignorant of that fact and we had a small discussiong regarding that fact and she did critique my chapter. (And it was well worth it, BTW.)

Lawsuits are easy to bring about in the US and they can be filed for all sorts of reasons, including ignorance and self-entitlement, if someone wants to go through with it. It's really hard to protect yourself against someone else's ignorance and self-entitlement.

Cyia
02-07-2010, 08:11 PM
Aha, someone else familiar with stop_plagiarism (http://community.livejournal.com/stop_plagiarism). :tongue

LoL, couldn't remember their name... how's that for pitiful :(

gothicangel
02-07-2010, 08:38 PM
Wrong. You don't protect yourself from charges of plagiarism merely by rewriting something in your own words: you have to add your own interpretations, ideas and understanding to it, too.

Gothic, if you take someone else's story and give it a swift re-write so it's in your own words, but the bones of the original story are still clearly visible--so the plot line remains identical, and elements of the original story are there (specific scenes or ocurrences, for example, or a particular structure or form), then it counts as plagiarism: the original story would still be there, just in a very slightly different form.

If you take an element of someone else's story and create your own new piece from that, with new incidents, new characters, a new structure, and all those things, then that should be ok (so long as you're not using someone else's "world") as the original story would no longer exist within your new one. It might inform it, but it wouldn't mirror it. Does that help?

Not sure, fighting the beginnings of a migraine.:(

I'll get back to you when I can do a bit more than string a few words together.

Jamesaritchie
02-07-2010, 11:13 PM
If you're a new writer, don't write fanfic. If you're an established writer, don't read fanfic. Problem solved.

LOG
02-08-2010, 01:14 AM
A stop-gag measure could be to hunt down the major fanfiction sites and inform them that you do not wish to have your works reproduced in any way on their site. I know sites like FanFiction.net will follow the authors wishes if you ask them.

FanFiction.Net respects the expressed wishes of the following authors/publishers and will not archive entries based on their work:


Anne Rice
Archie comics
Dennis L. McKiernan
Irene Radford
J.R. Ward
Laurell K. Hamilton
Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb
P.N. Elrod
Raymond Feist
Robin Hobb
Robin McKinley
Terry Goodkind

Failure to comply with site rules will result in the removal of stories and/or suspension of account.

I might let people start writing fanfiction on my books only after I was sure I was done working with that universe.

the_Unknown
02-08-2010, 04:19 AM
Nope. When you sign a contract with a publisher, magazine, newspaper etc you sign away the rights to print the work in certain territories in certain media. You NEVER sign away copyright. Copyright remains with an author until 70 years after their death.

If you want to reprint their work, you need permission and pay an agreed royalty.

Nope, what? You're not addressing anything I'm talking about.

You're talking about what writers are supposed to do professionally, I'm talking about what companies do to gain unlimited rights over works.

There's a reason you pay an agent to do contractual negotiations.

eqb
02-08-2010, 04:32 AM
There's a reason you pay an agent to do contractual negotiations.

I sold short stories for well over seven years before I signed with my agent. Retaining copyright was never a problem. Not with magazines, not with anthologies. And the book publishers I've dealt with have never tried to take copyright, which is the main concern.

Perhaps you could relate some specific examples from your own experience?

Bubastes
02-08-2010, 04:41 AM
You're talking about what writers are supposed to do professionally, I'm talking about what companies do to gain unlimited rights over works.


Um, what?

Publishing contracts clearly state which rights they're buying from the author. The author owns the copyright (which is essentially a bundle of rights) and sells publishers selected rights from that bundle. The only time a publisher gets unlimited rights over a work is if the author sells "all rights," which would be clearly spelled out in the contract.

I've sold plenty of short stories and articles and haven't had a problem with publishers doing a sneaky rights grab, which seems to be what you're implying. If I've misunderstood, I apologize.

MacAllister
02-08-2010, 05:01 AM
djf881, I have an awful lot of friends who both read and write fanfic. There are a huge number of people on this board who both read and write fanfic.

You have maybe five minutes to self-edit that pointlessly aggressive, insulting and ridiculous piece of crap post, or you can have a few days away from the boards to reconsider your participation here. Your choice.

ETA: Meh. I've deleted the post in question. You're on pretty thin ice with the unsupportable and insulting dick-waving. Might want to look to that.

ChristineR
02-08-2010, 05:07 AM
I think it's worth pointing out that there are numerous different contradictory accounts of the Zimmer-Bradley incident, and that it appears that she may have actually used some fan ideas in her books previously, which would have made fanfic a positive experience for her. And no one actually sued anyone, as far as I can tell. Apparently the publishers quashed a book because they couldn't get a release from the fanfic writer for what they thought would be a fair sum.

What I don't understand is this. If the fanfic was a minor part of the story, why didn't she just rewrite it? If the fanfic was a major part of the story, that doesn't make the fan's request for co-authorship and a decent sum of money sound so odd, does it?

LOG
02-08-2010, 05:12 AM
If it was truly illegal, FanFiction.net would not exist.

MacAllister
02-08-2010, 05:21 AM
I think it's also important to point out that I can think of about five Hugo-winning novelists who still read and write fanfiction, and a number of other writers who got their starts writing fanfic, filing the serial numbers off, and publishing those novels.

eqb
02-08-2010, 05:24 AM
I'd still be upset if someone wrote fanfic using my characters and world. But then, that's my personal preference.

MacAllister
02-08-2010, 05:35 AM
I'd still be upset if someone wrote fanfic using my characters and world. But then, that's my personal preference.I wouldn't be thrilled either, honestly. I don't read or write fanfic, and don't really get it. But lots of other quite good writers do.

Anaquana
02-08-2010, 05:38 AM
I wouldn't be thrilled either, honestly. I don't read or write fanfic, and don't really get it. But lots of other quite good writers do.

I'm the opposite - I'd be utterly thrilled if somebody loved my work enough to want to play in it.

eqb
02-08-2010, 05:42 AM
I wouldn't be thrilled either, honestly. I don't read or write fanfic, and don't really get it. But lots of other quite good writers do.

Sure, I know. I still don't like it.

On the other hand, if someone were inspired by my work to write their own take on a subject or theme, that would be a real compliment, in my eyes. (Even if their inspiration were along the lines of, That fool. Let me do show them how to do it right.)

djf881
02-08-2010, 06:11 AM
djf881, I have an awful lot of friends who both read and write fanfic. There are a huge number of people on this board who both read and write fanfic.

You have maybe five minutes to self-edit that pointlessly aggressive, insulting and ridiculous piece of crap post, or you can have a few days away from the boards to reconsider your participation here. Your choice.

Sorry, I didn't mean to be offensive. I'm just annoyed that an author had to throw away a book she'd written because a crazy fan started making crazy threats, and I am annoyed that her agent or her publisher or her personal counsel didn't help her protect herself before she got into that situation.

There are a lot of odd or unreasonable or litigious people in the world and on the internet, and some of these people are are writers. I didn't mean to imply that fanfic writers are especially crazy; any reader correspondence can result in weirdness or lawsuits, which is why many authors do not communicate directly with readers, and instruct their agents and publishers not to forward fan mail to them.

Fanfic is a derivative work as defined by copyright law, and it is technically in violation of the copyright in the absence of express permission. A lot of writers who don't grant their express permission tacitly allow fanfic by ignoring it, but that doesn't mean that they waive any rights, and that doesn't mean that the fanfic is legal.

Fanfic that is not expressly permitted by the rightsholder is a legal gray area, like trading concert tapes. The larger fanfic sites know they dwell in such a place. Their legal position as I understand it, is that they are analogous to ISPs and sites like YouTube; they are conduits for user-generated content and are not responsible for the conduct of users. They remove content or users when notified of violations by rightsholders, but they do not independently police user-generated content for copyright in the absence of a complaint. Most of these sites will respect the wishes of authors who have objected in public to fanfic.

Some writers enjoy communicating with their readers, and those who do should be aware of the potential dangers. I stand by my statement that any author who admits to reading fanfic and especially one who edits a fanfic 'zine should have professionally drafted submission boilerplate that takes the position that the author owns the fictional universe and all derivative works, and that anyone submitting a story to the author disclaims all rights to the story and all claims against the author.

Published works often contain the plot strands or setups for sequels and the author's planned derivative works. It's not difficult for a reader to spot these hooks, write a fanfic developing the ideas the author was working on, throw it up on a website before the new work is published, and then claim the author stole the idea from the fanfic.

This is foreseeable and likely as soon as an author starts dealing with stories sent to them by fans. If the author has not given anyone permission to write fanfic, it certainly helps her case to argue that the complaining fanficcer had no right to create a derivative work in the first place.

If the author gives permission to fanficcers, it helps to be able to claim similarities are coincidental or flow logically from the previous work, and that the author did not read the complainant's fanfic. In this case, the correspondence record prevents this argument.

This author gave the fanficcers permission, solicited and admits to reading the story, and tried to negotiate for the ownership of something that she rightfully owned all along. These mistakes might allow a potential lawsuit to get past dispositive motions, at which point, the publisher would have to settle with this fanfic writer. It's very sad that this author had to throw out her novel because she was too nice to treat this person as a potential adversary.

Cyia
02-08-2010, 06:28 AM
I'd still be upset if someone wrote fanfic using my characters and world. But then, that's my personal preference.

I've always had a problem letting others read my stuff, and fanfic let me get my feet wet without having to use my name. It helped with fine tuning characterization by trying to stick to the canon versions.

(Personally, I see a difference in TV/Movie fanfic and novel fanfic - one person writes a novel, so to me they own it and it shouldn't be mucked with. TV/Movies are the product of multiple people tinkering together and apart, so fanfic there isn't as personal.)

I can also tell you it's WEIRD to have someone take your personal creations and use them as their own. I had an original character that I used in a set of stories, that became popular enough in that little fandom that he was taken and declared "fanon". He was put into a lot of stories, and even just for that little bit, it was horrible watching others strip him of everything that gave him his personality to suit their needs. He's like a pod person. I can't imagine how it feels for someone to have their entire universe hijacked.


I can also tell you that in the series finale for this particular show, the writers incorporated a lot of fanfic constructs into the show. The fans who recognized the characters and specific set-ups picked them out as they appeared on screen, and it was a huge compliment and a bit of a thrill for those of us who had their ideas incorporated.

LeslieB
02-08-2010, 10:07 AM
(Personally, I see a difference in TV/Movie fanfic and novel fanfic - one person writes a novel, so to me they own it and it shouldn't be mucked with. TV/Movies are the product of multiple people tinkering together and apart, so fanfic there isn't as personal.)


I think that's a good point. Book writers tend to look at their characters as purely personal property, while for other media they are owned by companies.

I know it is true for the fandom I have written fanfic in. It's based on a computer RPG, and for a while the site I posted at saw regular visits from one of the game's designers. He even wrote some stories himself. He was deeply flattered at the attention the game received, and said that a number of the people at his company read some of our work. He didn't have to feel threatened at all by us, because it wasn't like there was much chance of us programming our own game to compete with the original.

Cyia
02-09-2010, 07:12 PM
He was deeply flattered at the attention the game received, and said that a number of the people at his company read some of our work. He didn't have to feel threatened at all by us, because it wasn't like there was much chance of us programming our own game to compete with the original.

It was the same for the writers/actors for the show I mentioned. Some of the writers would drop into the fan sites and read. They were flattered by the attention (and, unfortunately, horrified by some of the out of character writing and "ships" that didn't go along with the show's canon). A couple of the actors read stories... until one found a fanfic where the writer had "shipped" him as himself with him as his character in a very weird M/M scenario. It wasn't around for long (real-person stories = BIG no-no, plus it was just plain disrespectful).

The main point is that no one from the show had a problem with fans writing in their "universe". It was free publicity.

Richard White
02-09-2010, 07:48 PM
When I do media tie-in work, I am very careful to only use canon characters or very minor characters of my own creation.

Why?

Because if I create an original character, it belongs to the licensor (whether that's Marvel Comics, Midway Games, Paramount, or whomever). If later on, they decide to take my character and build a storyline around them and it goes on to be mega-successful, I get bumpkis.

Again why?

Because I'm doing work-for-hire. I agree to give them the original characters I insert into their world.

The situation described abover is NOT analogous. If a fanfiction writer (FFW) invents a character that is not part of the canon and the original author (OA) wants to use it, they must obtain the rights from the FFW. Just as the FFW cannot use the OA's characters to make money without the OA's permission, the same holds true, even if the FFW's character has only appeared in the OA's world as a fanfiction character.

Nothing is stopping the FFW from taking their own character that they've developed in a fanficiton setting and creating a new storyline whole-cloth for them. They own all the rights to that specific character and can sell the publishing rights to that charcter (but not anything specifically related to the OA's world).

EX: If I wrote a story about an alien smuggler and set it in a Star Wars fanfic, got really good feedback and developed the character and three years later, I wrote an original piece of ficiton using that smuggler in a completely different milleau . . . I can do that. If George Lucas had seen my fanfic (hah!) and wanted to use my character, he would have to license the character from me.

(Now, knowing George, he'd just sue me to make me quit writing Star Wars fanfic, but that's a different story.)

Quossum
02-11-2010, 02:36 AM
...(real-person stories = BIG no-no, plus it was just plain disrespectful).

This reminded me...I've seen fanfic for American Idol contestants. Mostly pure wish-fulfillment-"squee! he chose me from the audience"-type stuff, but some with elaborate and--*ahem*--downright bizarre and / or disturbing storylines.

I have nothing against fanfic; when I was younger I wrote a lot of it, mostly in the Star Trek and Pern universes. I even had a couple of my own time travelling characters who put in appearances in many TV shows' worlds. All written strictly for fun, my own entertainment; I never put any of it on the 'net or anything.

But yeah...fanfic about real people? Kinda creepy.

--Q

kurzon
02-12-2010, 08:32 AM
I'd never even heard of real person fic until I started browsing Fandom Secrets. It's never really interested me, since, well, you don't really know what those actors are like, but I guess I can see that it's just another extension of being a fan - constructing romances for the actors you're fans of (which don't necessarily involve the fans at all, but instead other actors).

The Supernatural scriptwriters adopted fandom into their storyline (to the point of Sam and Dean discovering Wincest fanfic), but managed to mortally offend that portion of their fans because, of course, it was the typical crazy social cripple fan stereotype.

I'd be in two minds about fanfic about my own work. On one side, it's a compliment, on the other side, it's practically never in character. And vast amounts of yaoi is involved (which only works for me if the characters happen to be gay in canon).

singsebastian
12-23-2010, 02:36 AM
Fan fic is technically a copywrite infringment because you're not only using a world you didn't create but characters as well. That's why we put disclaimers up and a note that we aren't making money off it either. Though, no everyone puts disclaimers on their fan fiction - mostly because it should be obvious.

No - if anyone has listened to "writing excuses" - the hosts talk about ideas. They said "a good writer borrows, but a better writer steals" as long as you make it your own, its all right to 'steal' from others. Such as, I'm writing about Shinigami, which was mainly inpsired by the anime's Kuroshitusji and Death Note. However, since Kuro doesn't give a lot of details on their Shinigami and the Shinigami in Death Note aren't what I want to write about - I have loads of gray space to move in. So I can throw out things I don't like and bring in things that may be popular in fandom. The point is that I personalize it.

I give a shout out to Yana Toboso of Kuroshitsuji because that's my main inspiration. However, I do not use character remotly "like" the ones in Kuro - they're all my own.

Jamesaritchie
12-23-2010, 05:00 AM
Seriously? I downloaded the online version of Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker. He said something about the lines that people who wrote fanfictions, and the author use the ideas written in the fanfic, that author can get sued?

For using ideas, probably not. No one owns an idea. For using the expression of those ideas, yes.

But, then again, you technically are not allowed to publish fan fiction, and many writers jump all over those who do so, and this is one reason why.

singsebastian
12-23-2010, 05:14 AM
There isn't a war on fan fiction. and Brandon Sanderson is one of the hosts on "writing excuses" I love him - though I haven't read any of his books, I just haven't got the money. Anyway, in one of their podcasts they said that you can take ideas from other places but as long as you make the idea your own and not "exactly" as the other author's, than its all right. You have to just take the idea way, way, far away into other realms to the point where it's not infringing on other people.

If an author read fan fic I wrote about their world/characters and they wanted to use my idea; They are quite welcome to, even without my permission, seeing as how I infringed on them first and all.

Margarita Skies
12-23-2010, 09:17 AM
I would read fanfic but I wouldn't write it. I am afraid of ruining someone else's characters, work, execution, whatever...someone else's creation, like me writing fanfiction about say...Nip/Tuck. I really loved the show when it was on, but I would rather leave those characters and that story alone and keep creating my own characters, worlds, etc...

Cyia
12-23-2010, 09:31 AM
If an author read fan fic I wrote about their world/characters and they wanted to use my idea; They are quite welcome to, even without my permission, seeing as how I infringed on them first and all.


One of the problems with book based fanfic (it happens in tv/movie fic, too, but it's not such a big deal) is that there's a lot of plot inference. If there's a clear path that a book series is taking, and the fans recognize this, and while said fans are waiting for book 3 in a trilogy to be published a fanficcer writes their own version of how they think book 3 should go - and that version takes its cues from books 1 & 2 - then there's a strong possibility that there will be sections of the published novel that parallel the fanfic, even if the writer's never heard of fanfiction.

Look at something like Mistress Taterhead's unauthorized continuation of Twilight. She picked up the story thread of Jacob and Nessie and ran with it - not all that uncommon for fanfic fodder in the Twilight fandom, I'd imagine. However, if Ms. Meyer had published another book, focusing on the relationship between the same two characters, it would be entirely possible that some of her plot points crossed Taterhead's.

Logically, you could say that Ms. Meyer was going that direction the whole time and that she merely continued the story threads she'd created. A fanficcer with delusions of grandeur can look at the same situation and scream "SHE STOLE MY STORY!!!" when no such theft occurred.

Anne Lyle
12-23-2010, 02:48 PM
I'd be in two minds about fanfic about my own work. On one side, it's a compliment, on the other side, it's practically never in character. And vast amounts of yaoi is involved (which only works for me if the characters happen to be gay in canon).

If it weren't for the "don't read fanfic of your work, for legal reasons" issue, I'd be interested to see what readers make of mine, should it ever attract sufficient fandom. Most of my central characters are gay or bisexual, so there would be plenty of canon slash fodder :)

Margarita Skies
12-23-2010, 06:04 PM
I just wanted to clarify I wasn't implying that fan fic writers who are inspired by others' work or stories ruin those works. I was just saying that I am afraid I might ruin someone else's story and world by writing fanfic because I might write something that's totally atypical to that particular character, for example, writing that Bella Cullen is cheating on her husband Edward with Jacob or some other guy. Get my drift? I would rather leave those characters alone, let them be the way they are rather than having anyone say, "Magali totally ruined my character! That's something Bella would never do!"


Just taking my time to clarify before this gets way outta proportion.

Axler
12-23-2010, 06:27 PM
Because if I create an original character, it belongs to the licensor (whether that's Marvel Comics, Midway Games, Paramount, or whomever). If later on, they decide to take my character and build a storyline around them and it goes on to be mega-successful, I get bumpkis.

Actually, that has been challenged, at least in regards to media tie-in works.

Alitriona
12-23-2010, 07:00 PM
I wrote 2 fanfics, a short and a multi chapter with somewhere in the region of 200,000 plus hits to date and that's fairly small by some standards. I would be very excited to have someone write a fanfic of a book by me.

eward
12-24-2010, 10:22 AM
I'd be kind of flattered if someone wrote fanfic from my book, too, but I'd never read it - because of the legal issues, yes, but also because I agree with those who would be kind of horrified to see their characters in someone else's hands. I would be flattered that my world and characters inspired them, though. I spent most of my teenage years writing Harry Potter fanfic, and I wouldn't be the writer I am today if not for it haha

But if my book ever got to that point, and chances are definitely slim, I wouldn't touch that fanfiction with a ten foot pole.

citymouse
12-24-2010, 05:36 PM
I got an email from a woman who wanted to fanfic my first novel. I was flattered until she finished by saying she felt she could write my characters better than I. At first I was miffed, but then I began to smell a mouse--I'm too small potatoes for a rat. I declined the offer, wisely it seems.
I've no idea if she wrote or posted her version(s) on any site.

Personally, I don't understand the attraction to fanfic. I've never read a fanfic work. I believe that if one is good enough to write a story, then why not write one without instant inspiration. Pick up a newspaper. There are loads of themes and plots to spin a yarn on.
C

Anne Lyle
12-24-2010, 05:43 PM
Personally, I don't understand the attraction to fanfic. I've never read a fanfic work. I believe that if one is good enough to write a story, then why not write one without instant inspiration. Pick up a newspaper. There are loads of themes and plots to spin a yarn on.
C

I wrote some fanfic years ago, to get me through a spell of writer's block - it was just a bit of fun, and I treated it as such. With the characters and world-building already done for me, I could focus on just writing the story, which has always been the hardest part for me. And as an SF&F writer, newspapers rarely inspire me - the media on which fanfic is based are my equivalent.

A friend of mine has published several media tie-ins, having been "discovered" through her fanfic. So it's not necessarily a waste of a writer's time :)

ChaosTitan
12-24-2010, 06:09 PM
Personally, I don't understand the attraction to fanfic. I've never read a fanfic work. I believe that if one is good enough to write a story, then why not write one without instant inspiration. Pick up a newspaper. There are loads of themes and plots to spin a yarn on.
C

My discovery of internet fanfic/fandom is what led me away from writing screenplays and into writing prose. The feedback I got from posting a few stories online gave me the confidence to attempt original prose, and eventually, original novels. After a while, I gave up fanfic.

I totally understand that some folks don't get it. But more than one successful author has started out with it. :)