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FOTSGreg
11-05-2011, 10:43 PM
...and what do you think about the following,

Publishing public domain fiction (such as a collection of stories by Jules Verne) wrapped up in a nice cover and selling it for money with an "editor's" name on the cover of an ostensibly specfic magazine.

Selling fanfic work that uses actual characters from a popular TV series in order to garner interest in your other work or as your own original work.

Specifically, I want to gauge the opinion of the AW community regarding these things, not start a war (I've already asked essentially this same question of Uncle Jim, but his answer piqued my curiosity).

Mods, if this isn't the right place for this, please move it appropriately.

CACTUSWENDY
11-05-2011, 11:05 PM
Off the top of my head I would assume that copywrite law is involved with this. There is a disclaimer attached to the law that any reproductions that you sell for money is a no no.

As for the public domain stuff, that would be another story. They reproduce the Bible and sell it all the time. (Biggest example I could think of.)

I bet the TV stuff is not public domain as the time period for it is still in effect. Fan fiction is in that ball park also. IMHO. Without the 'holders' permission I would say it would be against copywrite.

I guess I am not real sure of what you are asking?

Filigree
11-05-2011, 11:08 PM
1) If you mean advertising a public-domain collection in a writer's or other industry magazine, go ahead -- I'm sure they'd love to take your advertising money for a product that might well be had for free online.

I can see this in the scholarly fields, if you have a new translation of some medieval poetry, a limited-edition printing from a high-end press, and a niche market that might be interested in it. Just calling yourself 'editor' without some value added won't attract positive attention.

2) I write fanfic, for fun and practice. I wouldn't sell it, because that's ILLEGAL. It's another person's universe, and I shouldn't profit from it.
The only way you're going to make money off fanfic is if you have a name as a writer already, and if it's estate-or-creator-sanctioned fanfic, like J.J. Abrams' reboot of Star Trek or Scalzi's modernization of H. Beam Piper's 'Fuzzy' universe. Try selling it on your own, especially if it's based off TV characters, and you could have lawyers breathing down your neck in no time.

If you are a very good fanfic writer -- and yes, they do exist -- you might get a little spillover interest in your original works.

Neither of these gambits will help you gain widespread interest in your original writing. Only your original writing can do that. Anything else is at best a creative exercise, and at worst a waste of time.

FOTSGreg
11-05-2011, 11:17 PM
Wendy, I'm asking your opinion. That's all.

Filigree, thanks for your comments.

To make myself perfectly clear, this in no way involves me or any of my writing. It's a phenomena I have observed occurring, um, elsewhere. I am averting my eyes from the phenomena, but I am genuinely interested in the opinions of other folks here for some stupid psychological reason (like wanting to get to the bottom of the idea of why someone would even do this when they can just make stuff up on their own and not even have to worry about lawyers and such).

Fruitbat
11-05-2011, 11:27 PM
I guess they think they've hit on a clever way to make some easy money, attaching themselves in various ways to big names and trying to cash in on them. My guess is they won't get far. Maybe it's more likely they'll just be ignored than get into any real legal trouble. It sounds like a pretty naive little scheme. But, I guess you never know.

Cyia
11-05-2011, 11:33 PM
The first you can do, if the work is public domain. The second is illegal- you can't sell fanfiction. (In Japan, I believe you can sell it at a loss of greater than $0.01, but not at a profit.) Leveraging fanfic readers into original fiction readers, however, has been done. You have to deal with figuring out how many are willing to pay for your writing, rather than just reading it for free, as well as those who only want to read about familiar characters, but you can build a fanfic audience pretty quick.

Becky Black
11-05-2011, 11:38 PM
Publishing public domain works is perfectly legit. Someone's got to keep them in print and available. A good publisher will add some value by doing something like commissioning an academic or literary critic to write an introduction.

Selling fanfic, aside from in the form of official tie-in works, which are usually commissioned anyway, is illegal. You can sell books that are essentially fan fiction of public domain works - Sherlock Holmes and Dracula and the like still show up in stories all over the place.

richcapo
11-06-2011, 01:02 AM
I write fanfic, for fun and practice. I wouldn't sell it, because that's ILLEGAL. It's another person's universe, and I shouldn't profit from it.
The only way you're going to make money off fanfic is if you have a name as a writer already, and if it's estate-or-creator-sanctioned fanfic, like J.J. Abrams' reboot of Star Trek or Scalzi's modernization of H. Beam Piper's 'Fuzzy' universe. Try selling it on your own, especially if it's based off TV characters, and you could have lawyers breathing down your neck in no time.I know an aspiring writer from a comic book website who planned to self-publish and sell to readers a story featuring Freddie Kreuger, Hannibal Lecter, Michael Myers, and many, many other proprietary characters. He said he would run into no legal trouble doing this because the comic would "impart knowledge" by way of the back stories he'd have them recall to and pondered by a psychiatrist. All he would have to do, he said, is a bit of research into psychiatry first and apply what he learned from it to his comic, and he'd be legally scott free to publish and sell his comic because that is "imparting knowledge." This wasn't social satire, mind you. It was simply an poseur-psychiatric look at his favorite proprietary characters and telling of whatever back stories he cobbled together for Freddie and company.

I called my friend, who worked as one of New Line Cinema's top attorneys for years -- and whose wife still does -- and he laughed at the idea, telling me that that writer was fishing for a lawsuit.

Filigree
11-06-2011, 01:20 AM
Writers jumping on either of these bandwagons in hopes of a fast way to the top are similar to folks who buy perpetual motion kits from ads in the back of magazines. The energy you get back is always less than what you put into the system.

I've seen the phenomena, too, FOTSGreg, and I tend to sigh at it on my better days. When I'm feeling vicious and catty, I look at as the competition slitting its own throat.

dangerousbill
11-06-2011, 02:21 AM
...and what do you think about the following,

1. Publishing public domain fiction (such as a collection of stories by Jules Verne) wrapped up in a nice cover and selling it for money with an "editor's" name on the cover of an ostensibly specfic magazine.

2. Selling fanfic work that uses actual characters from a popular TV series in order to garner interest in your other work or as your own original work.



1. This is done all the time, often with an editor's introduction, which validates the copyright on the whole work. But the original work is still in the public domain.

2. Do this only if you want to be firebombed by IP lawyers and your bones hung over the entrance to Disneyland.

IceCreamEmpress
11-06-2011, 02:28 AM
What's wrong with 1.? The editor is doing the work of selecting the stories, perhaps adding introductions or footnotes or afternotes where necessary, perhaps deciding which version to use (where there are varying ones), copy editing where necessary, etc. I fail to see how there's any potential issue there--what would you have to "avert your eyes" from? Am I missing something?

Buffysquirrel
11-06-2011, 03:41 AM
I don't see anything wrong with 1. Of course, you do have to be careful whence you source the public domain work. A lot of novels and so forth that are in the public domain have had edits done that are probably still copyright to the editor, or the publisher who employed them, for example when choosing between variant texts, or attempting to correct corrupt text.

The only potential problem (beyond the editor actively deceiving purchasers) I can see is people feeling that no editing has actually been done by the purported editor, and perhaps feeling less kindly inclined towards them in the future. There are ways to add value to public domain works, eg by adding original notes, a glossary, and so on.

I have seen versions of Dickens' work given away with the Sony ereader and tbh they are awful. Some of the text doesn't scale, and at one point in Barnaby Rudge the text was interrupted by a dateline. So a more carefully edited version might have value.

However, I'm not sure that establishing themselves as an *editor* will do someone much good in their career as a *writer*.

2 is most definitely not legit. I remember encountering someone online who repeatedly boasted how their fanfic novels had helped them acquire a reader base for their original works. (I don't think they actually charged for the fanfic; I think it was on a display site). I thought this a pretty tacky approach tbh, but, if they were to be believed, it worked for them. Whether they had acquired fans who were willing to pay for their work is unknowable.

Libbie
11-06-2011, 04:39 AM
Neither seems very respectable to me. Whether they're legally legitimate depends on factors which are probably beyond my comprehension at this point, but I know that neither sounds respectable.

(If the editor in option 1 is doing actual work in editing and compiling an anthology, then yes, that's totally legit.)

BigWords
11-06-2011, 05:34 PM
In order to stop this turning into another thread where everyone pips in with "DO NOT SELL FANFIC", I want to point out that there is a massive market out there for the public domain characters - indeed, people have been writing fanfic for as long as there have been writings available. The majority of Greek epics can be considered fanfic, and the Anno Dracula, Wold Newton and League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen series can be seen as fanfic. As long as all of the properties are in the public domain (go look at how many books with Dracula are out there - all of them are fanfics), and spend a little time looking at why the same characters keep on being used.

I have paid a considerable amount of money buying the various Wold Newton books over the years, so it feels okay to me to use PD characters. One of the most interesting fanfics is from Stephen King, where Sherlock Holmes turns up (and any Sherlock Holmes story not by Conan Doyle is automatically a fanfic)...

Phaeal
11-06-2011, 06:31 PM
It doesn't matter what MY opinion of copyright law is. It remains law.

As for putting out a version of work in the public domain: You'd have to add considerable value to it, via original commentary or other useful material, for me to buy it.

VoireyLinger
11-06-2011, 06:32 PM
As for the public domain stuff, that would be another story. They reproduce the Bible and sell it all the time. (Biggest example I could think of.)

Actually, translations of the Bible are copyrighted. KJV is the most common version used for quotes and suchforth because it's public domain. Companies that put out Bible study guides and devotionals will usually use the version for which they hold the copyright. if they don't own a copyright they will fall back on KJV or procure licensing.

bearilou
11-06-2011, 07:49 PM
2 is most definitely not legit. I remember encountering someone online who repeatedly boasted how their fanfic novels had helped them acquire a reader base for their original works. (I don't think they actually charged for the fanfic; I think it was on a display site). I thought this a pretty tacky approach tbh, but, if they were to be believed, it worked for them. Whether they had acquired fans who were willing to pay for their work is unknowable.

I know in one case of a former fanfic writer doing this, the fans seem to be divided on their feelings regarding her using her fan base to launch into novel writing career.

But there's no denying that her original works do appear to be selling and her fans easily made the jump from her fanfic with her.

bearilou
11-06-2011, 07:57 PM
Selling fanfic work that uses actual characters from a popular TV series in order to garner interest in your other work or as your own original work.

The way this is phrased bothers me.

Some writers started out as fanfiction writers, never sold their fanfics, and yet have launched successful careers writing original stuff. Usually a large percentage of their fans make the leap with them and continue to support their original novels.

Doing one does not automatically assume one is doing the other.

It just reads like that the author had to sell fanfic in order to gather the necessary fanbase to start a novel writing career.

I say this because in all the instances of where I read someone was trying to sell fanfiction based on currently in copyright active status, they have been dogpiled by the fandoms at large and pressured to take it down/stop. So I'm not aware of anyone who was 'successful' in selling fanfiction to gather interest for their original stuff.

Writing it, yes. Selling it, no.

Medievalist
11-06-2011, 08:09 PM
As for the public domain stuff, that would be another story. They reproduce the Bible and sell it all the time. (Biggest example I could think of.)

The Bible is not, in general, public domain. The Queen and the Stationer's Office own the copyright on the King James 1611 edition; others, like the New English and RSV are also under copyright with various publishers.

The bible is a translation; they are all different.

Cyia
11-06-2011, 08:26 PM
I say this because in all the instances of where I read someone was trying to sell fanfiction based on currently in copyright active status, they have been dogpiled by the fandoms at large and pressured to take it down/stop. So I'm not aware of anyone who was 'successful' in selling fanfiction to gather interest for their original stuff.



There's no faster way to lose a fanfic audience than to try and profit from the original author's work. Fanfic readers are (generally) an extremely loyal bunch.

dangerousbill
11-06-2011, 09:03 PM
The Bible is not, in general, public domain. The Queen and the Stationer's Office own the copyright on the King James 1611 edition;


This is one of those 'betcha didn't know' things.

Does this mean the Queen has special copyright privileges that last longer than Berne Convention limits? Curious minds want to know.

Medievalist
11-06-2011, 09:12 PM
This is one of those 'betcha didn't know' things.

Does this mean the Queen has special copyright privileges that last longer than Berne Convention limits? Curious minds want to know.

There's the actual 1611 version, which is public domain with certain gotchas (a new edition based on the 1611 edition is not public domain) but it has to do with the idea that the Crown is rather like a corporation. That said, having contacted HRH's Stationer's Office Registry for permissions to use the later revised KJV for scholarly purposes, they didn't charge UCLA a dime, just asked for a statement of rights.

Medievalist
11-06-2011, 09:13 PM
As for putting out a version of work in the public domain: You'd have to add considerable value to it, via original commentary or other useful material, for me to buy it.

Exactly. And I'd expect the editor to have special expertise.

dangerousbill
11-06-2011, 09:26 PM
But there's no denying that her original works do appear to be selling and her fans easily made the jump from her fanfic with her.

I know such a person, too. (Not me.) She is doing very well as a romance-suspense writer after an apprenticeship doing Phantom of the Opera fanfic. Much of her fanfic audience followed in spite of the change of subject.

jennontheisland
11-06-2011, 09:32 PM
Public domain is one thing, but when books like "Married to the MIB" where the MMC is "a Man in Black, a special agent dedicated to protecting Earth from temporal and extraterrestrial threats" is being sold on Amazon ... you really gotta wonder if fanfic is becomeing defacto legal to sell.

IceCreamEmpress
11-06-2011, 09:40 PM
Public domain is one thing, but when books like "Married to the MIB" where the MMC is "a Man in Black, a special agent dedicated to protecting Earth from temporal and extraterrestrial threats" is being sold on Amazon ... you really gotta wonder if fanfic is becomeing defacto legal to sell.

"Hasn't reached the attention of the IP rights holders yet" is not the same as "de facto legal." Amazon doesn't do vetting for that. Cf. the case of Lori Jareo (http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/004162.html).

DancingMaenid
11-07-2011, 12:06 AM
There's no faster way to lose a fanfic audience than to try and profit from the original author's work. Fanfic readers are (generally) an extremely loyal bunch.

Yep, that's been my experience, too. Also, I think most of us are pretty conscientious of the fact that fanfic can potentially cause some sticky situations, and want to minimize that as much as possible. We know that people selling their fanfic can just call negative attention to all of us.

Aside from being illegal, I don't think selling fanfic is a great way to get fans.

Becky Black
11-07-2011, 03:30 PM
Public domain is one thing, but when books like "Married to the MIB" where the MMC is "a Man in Black, a special agent dedicated to protecting Earth from temporal and extraterrestrial threats" is being sold on Amazon ... you really gotta wonder if fanfic is becomeing defacto legal to sell.

That's an interesting one, since the movie series is based on stories going around since the '50s about people who say they've reported UFO sightings and later been visited and questioned by mysterious "men in black" who claim to be working for the government. So as long as someone didn't use any of the details from the Men in Black movies, could they use the basic idea, since it was already existing?

shaldna
11-07-2011, 04:38 PM
...and what do you think about the following,

Publishing public domain fiction (such as a collection of stories by Jules Verne) wrapped up in a nice cover and selling it for money with an "editor's" name on the cover of an ostensibly specfic magazine.

Pulbishing of public domain works happens alot, I know that I'm a sucker for Verne, and I have a lot of 'special' editions of his work - including a lovely one with a velvet cover that I KNEW i had to own.

Putting an 'editor' name on it is, I feel, dishonest unless that editor actually did anything - such as a commentary or a foreward etc (in which case 'forward by xxxx would be more appropriate anyway)



Selling fanfic work that uses actual characters from a popular TV series in order to garner interest in your other work or as your own original work.

Hope you have good lawyers.

Many authors don't mind fanfic so long as that's what it is, fanfic. But selling it means that you are making money and most certainly breaking copyright law.

The difference is if it's parody.

Generally though most authors will simply not allow you to do this, and you would best not do it.

shaldna
11-07-2011, 05:04 PM
Does this mean the Queen has special copyright privileges that last longer than Berne Convention limits? Curious minds want to know.

There are some cases of extended and special copyrights - such as the Bible and also Great Ormond Street hospital being willed the copyright to Peter Pan. GOSH can collect the royalities in perpetuity, but have no creatrive control over Peter Pan due to the way copyright laws work.



Public domain is one thing, but when books like "Married to the MIB" where the MMC is "a Man in Black, a special agent dedicated to protecting Earth from temporal and extraterrestrial threats" is being sold on Amazon ... you really gotta wonder if fanfic is becomeing defacto legal to sell.


That's an interesting one, since the movie series is based on stories going around since the '50s about people who say they've reported UFO sightings and later been visited and questioned by mysterious "men in black" who claim to be working for the government. So as long as someone didn't use any of the details from the Men in Black movies, could they use the basic idea, since it was already existing?


The MIB are not a recent creation. In fact there are written accounts that date back as early as the start of the 1700's. The idea has been used often in fctions and stories since then.

There is a school of thought that the earliest 'men in black' were priests dealing with reports of demonic possession, vampires etc. and over time this became a governmental duty.

FOTSGreg
11-08-2011, 11:11 PM
bearilou, I apologize for the somewhat ambiguous wording. I wanted to make this a discussion and garner opinion without appearing to make any accusations or reveal identities (as far as I know one or more of the "offending" parties might be an AW member).

However, at this point, I'm not sure clarification is necessary as the discussion is fairly clear imo. Under certain circumstances, fanfic is perfectly okay, just don't try to make a buck off it. Using it as a way to try to steer reader's toward your other work, which you can make a buck off, appears to be okay.

Using public domain work is perfectly fine, though why someone would pay for something they can get for free already is a mystery. However, there should be some substantial reason why anyone would republish a public domain work and charge money for it.

Please forgive me. I'm really enjoying the responses and the discussion of this topic and do not wish to derail it anywhere.

Polenth
11-09-2011, 12:25 AM
Most of the public domain books I own do not have new content. They're scans of the original. That's exactly what I wanted so I was willing to pay for it. As long as the customer is aware of what the book is, and they're fine with the price, I don't see it as an issue.

Richard White
11-09-2011, 05:33 AM
A friend of mine released a copy of Carmilla recently. It is in public domain, but he contracted for new illustrations for the book. So, while it's still the same old vampire story that came out (pre-Stoker), the art is definitely modern and, I have to say, quite good.