Fan fiction is a popular form of entertainment. In the majority of cases, fan-fiction is written when a reader doesn't want to leave the characters or the world they enjoyed so much, and the temptation to continue the story becomes overwhelming. But it's against the law to publish your fan fiction stories without explicit consent from the author/publisher [aka copyright holder], even if you only post them to your own website.
What moves a person to start writing fan fiction? Many aspiring writers believe it's a dead-end place to use their talent. Fan fiction is rarely acknowledged by professional writers or publications. Because of copyright laws, none of the stories can be published professionally.
Last Edit: Aug 29, 2007 18:26:50 GMT -6 by Joxcenia
Inspired by the ongoing movement in science fiction publishing toward tie-ins to popular movies and TV shows, Bridge announced today a brand-new contest with its own series of anthologies: "L. Ron Hubbard Presents Fanfic Writers of the Future."
This was over two years ago... I wonder why the book never came out? <scratches head in confusion> I guess none of the copyright holders gave permission. <shrugs> It would have been cool to see some of the FanFic authors getting published. <big grin>
hmmmm Perhaps they only used Uber FanFic and just dropped the term "FanFic" from the title.... <shrugs>
Last Edit: Aug 29, 2007 18:28:01 GMT -6 by Joxcenia
The question was about what rights does a fanfic writer have? Does the original creations (plot, characters, etc.) of their fanfic belong to the fanfic writer, or do all rights of the fanfic belong to the creators of the characters/show/etc. ... even though the fanfic writer created the plot, other characters, etc.
Before you read AndrewCrossett's answer, read his warning:
As a fanfiction writer who has also made a study of intellectual property law (mostly for a previous job I had as editor-in-chief of an entertainment website), I can tell you some things (but I'm not a lawyer.... if you get into any actual legal issues, you need to listen to one of them, and not to me.)
Writing fanfiction based on characters or properties you don't own -- even if you make no money off it -- is, technically, a copyright violation. The owner of the copyright can stop you if they choose to do so.
The exception is if your work is a parody of the original... but remember, just because your work is a parody doesn't mean you can't get sued over it and have to pay a lawyer to defend you against a huge entertainment megacorp with a platoon of expensive attorneys. If the copyright/trademark holder wants to sue, then it's the court that decides if your work is a parody... not you. And that process could take a long time and cost a great deal of money... which the corporation can easily afford, and you can't.
But... If your fiction is based on a corporate property like Xena, Buffy, Star Trek, etc., the chances are very slim that you'll ever have any problems as long as you don't try to make money off it, distribute it through commercial means, directly copy large amounts of copyrighted text, or falsely claim ownership of any copyrighted or trademarked stories or characters. Many fanfic writers include a disclaimer with their stories mentioning that the characters are owned by such-and-such a company or person. But I've never heard of anyone in recent times being sued by a corporation for writing fanfic based on their properties, as long as they abide by the no-profit rule. Most of them realize that fanfic (even the x-rated stuff) is very useful for building and maintaining interest among the most loyal and devoted segments of the fandom.
Fanfic based on a property owned by a single person (Harry Potter, Twilight, etc.) can be a different story.. some authors object to fanfic and ask that people not write stuff using their characters. Anne Rice is one example of this. In such cases you might get a nasty lawyer letter if the author finds out about your fic, possibly followed up by legal action if you continue. But most authors don't have a problem with it, for the same reasons the corporations don't.
Any story you write... even one based on someone else's characters... is automatically copyrighted to you as soon as you put it down in a fixed format (on paper, in a computer file, etc.). You can't copyright an idea in your head, which is why you shouldn't go blabbing your brilliant story ideas in Internet message boards or chatrooms before you've written anything down.
If you've written a story including someone else's copyrighted/trademarked characters, they can (if they want) force you to remove the story from circulation and stop using their characters... but they can't steal the story you've written for their own purposes. The story, as written, does not belong to them just because some of their characters are in it. This is why professional writers are supposed to avoid reading fanfiction based on characters they're writing... because they might subconsciously incorporate elements of a fanfic story into one of their own scripts and be open to accusations of ethical (if not legal) wrongdoing.
If your fanfic includes original characters, created by you, who interact with the characters you don't own, you still own your original characters 100% and the company or person who owns the copyrighted characters can't take yours from you.
Andrew. I know that in some instances, a writer/author can use a certain number of words (short phrases/passages) from books, song lyrics, etc. without getting into trouble or having to get permission (pay a fee). What about dialogue from movies/TV shows? Would that be considered in the same category?
I'm pretty sure that works 'inspired' by other works is okay to publish. A lot of uber fanfic gets published all the time with no repercussions, that I've been aware of. The reason I ask is, I've been working on some poems that are 'inspired' by Xena: Warrior Princess, and only one has a bit of dialogue from an ep. The dialogue is pretty much paraphrased, but I waver on whether or not I could include it in a poetry chapbook. (Of course, that's if I ever try to get it published. I waver on that idea too.)
I didn't know if that was in with all your research or not, but I assumed it would be.
ChelSierra: Andrew. I know that in some instances, a writer/author can use a certain number of words (short phrases/passages) from books, song lyrics, etc. without getting into trouble or having to get permission (pay a fee). What about dialogue from movies/TV shows? Would that be considered in the same category?
That's "fair use" and it technically applies only to reviews and works of scholarship. In a work of fiction you're supposed to get permission to use any amount of quoted text that's clearly identifiable as being from the original work. But you're not going to get in trouble for doing it in a limited manner in a not-for-profit fanfic. You can flash back to a conversation Xena and Gabrielle had in an episode of the series and copy a few lines of dialog. But you'd want to avoid verbatim copying of an entire scene that goes on for minutes.
ChelSierra: I'm pretty sure that works 'inspired' by other works is okay to publish. A lot of uber fanfic gets published all the time with no repercussions, that I've been aware of. The reason I ask is, I've been working on some poems that are 'inspired' by Xena: Warrior Princess, and only one has a bit of dialogue from an ep. The dialogue is pretty much paraphrased, but I waver on whether or not I could include it in a poetry chapbook. (Of course, that's if I ever try to get it published. I waver on that idea too.)
Uber fanfic is safe for publication (even for profit) as long as the characters are not actually Xena and Gabrielle... they have to be distinct enough from the TV characters that they're not a trademark violation. You couldn't have a character who's a brunette reformed warrior princess who wears leather armor, carries a chakram, and has a blonde companion who's a bard, even if you rename them Trudy and Michelle. But you can have characters with similar personalities, similar backgrounds and a similar relationship.
Publishing and selling a book of poems inspired by Xena should be fine as long as no trademarked characters appear in the poems... you shouldn't use the names Xena, Gabrielle, etc. because you'd be profiting off someone else's trademarks. Paraphrasing a conversation should be OK. Actually identifying the book as "poems inspired by Xena: Warrior Princess" might put you in a questionable area, since it might be seen as creating a derivative work. You might want to ask a copyright attorney before doing that.
Thanks, Andrew. None of the poems mention any character names from the show, and only one has the paraphrased dialogue. And good to know not to put in the acknowledgments that the works were 'inspired' by Xena: Warrior Princess. Again, I still haven't decided if I'll publish them or hide them away in my closet, or post them on my blogs. :shrug1:
If I knew who to contact, I might even consider seeking permission to publish. If & when I finally made up my mind to publish. I'm guessing that publication of Xena books stopped due to lack of good revenue on the Publishing House's part. But now there's Lulu.com, (& similar sites), and if one gets permission, they could just self publish the work themselves. I don't know how 'tie-in' books work, but I'm sure there's someone that reads the manuscripts and gives dos & don'ts as to what can and can't be done, and then gives a yay & nay on when/if the final draft is ready for publication.
I know at Lulu.com, that if two authors collaborate on a book and both sign up at the site they can set up how the money is to be divided. 50/50 ... 60/40 ... 70/30 ... 20/80 ... etc. So if TPTB (of any show/movie) set up an account they would be able to get their percentage straight from the company. Not that they'd even consider doing this. But to me, it's a fairly cool idea on how to make money off of the really good/well written fanfiction. (And, no, I've never written any fanfiction. But I might consider doing so in the future if I knew there would be a profit in it for me.) ;D
Again. Thanks for the info, Andrew. I appreciate your time. (And now I shall stop hijacking Katherine's thread. Well, maybe )
Last Edit: Jun 15, 2009 20:54:10 GMT -6 by Joxcenia
ChelSierra: Thanks, Andrew. None of the poems mention any character names from the show, and only one has the paraphrased dialogue. And good to know not to put in the acknowledgments that the works were 'inspired' by Xena: Warrior Princess.
It would probably be OK to say this as long as the poems themselves contain no copyrighted or trademarked material. I'd recommend getting a legal opinion on it, though.