Discussion Using other Fanfic Authors OC's and Plots

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Briannakin, Jun 20, 2013.

Moderators: Briannakin, mavjade
  1. Kahara Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 4
    Generally, I’m not in favor of having a screaming hissy fit over borrowing of OC’s without permission in cases where it seems like the borrower just hasn’t been around fanfic enough to realize the social codes. If they in turn throw a fit and refuse to change when asked by the character’s originator, that’s a different story.

    The finer points of etiquette in a fanfiction writing community can seem contradictory. We borrow from officially released material and characters all the time, but the use of specific events and characters from others’ fanfiction is frowned on unless done with specific permission. Without taking a deeper look at things, it can seem a little backwards. The reasons why I see the current status quo as the right way of doing things are as follows:

    1) Licensed material is available for checking and that makes it impossible for a writer to be able to pass a character/idea off as totally their own. People have read the books and can check Wikipedia. Thus the official books, movies, etc. are considered fair game for fanfic inspiration. Fanfiction is unofficial and can appear anywhere on the Internet. It’s more likely for a fanfiction plagiarist to get away ganking an OC or other specific piece of the story.

    2) Original characters and other unique features of a fanfiction can be very personal. Having them show up somewhere else without warning crosses a line for most writers, for any number of reasons. I think the social faux pas associated with non-approved use of OC’s is pretty strongly influenced by this discomfort. There is also the possibility that the use of said characters might be conflicting with the author’s beliefs/intrusive and annoying (you should have done this instead and this is why!)/disturbing/whatever. Fanfiction is in some ways a small town and in others a big urban city, and the sense of having proper boundaries is important to maintaining a good community atmosphere.

    3) Some writers seem to believe that others’ use of their plots or characters will somehow ruin the original or make a different ending than they had planned the “real” one. I don’t really get this, but it seems to be a very common reaction and I see it a lot in writings by pro writers who have banned fanfiction of their works. In these cases, I think it is best to be kind and polite: don’t use whatever they don’t want used in your stories. Everyone has their own quirks, and many perfectly lovely people just have a strong negative reaction to the idea of someone messing around in their sandbox, even if it’s entirely unofficial. I think that is a feeling worth respecting.

    Plots can and do turn out creepily similar without any ill-meaning on the part of the next writer. Sometimes I’ll avoid reading stories that I think are going to go down too similar of a path to something I’m working on. Others times I tell myself “stop being silly” and read it anyway. It can be a tricky area, but generally I fall on the side of using the similar elements anyway and just making sure to keep it different enough.
    Last edited by Kahara, Jun 29, 2013
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  2. SiouxFan Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Mar 6, 2012
    star 3
    I think you've touched on the fundamental problem of fanfic: how do we write an 'original' story and still keep it in-universe-ish? I'm a big fan of Jon Snow, so I've read a LOT of stories about him over on FF.N and many of them are eerily similar. There is a finite amount of ways a writer can have him meet up with Daenerys, after all.

    I'm not kidding when I say that I think I've read EVERY Jacen story on the internet. In my story, I've probably unconsciously incorporated various themes from all of these stories. Is that plagiarism? I don't know..maybe.
  3. Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Feb 25, 2010
    star 5
    Fanfic etiquette is very contradictory. We use the same license material, so there is bound to be overlap. I have read a half-dozen 'Anakin lives post-rotj' fics and I've even written one myself. They are all very similar when you get down to the bare plot. No one really cares because it has been done so many times, no one really knows who was 'first' (and I guarantee you the first was written before the invention of the internet and before I was born). I think the issue comes when people think they were the first (and in most cases you probably weren't the first).

    I think the devil is in the details. There are SO many books out there with the same basic plotline. No ones calls "COPY-WRITE LAWSUIT!" unless the details are the same. I think fanfic should be the same thing.

    This whole discussion reminds me of a paper I wrote back in grade 12 English. The prompt was something like "What is Inspiration?" Of course I hated English and writing on these stupid prompts drove me nuts, so being the argumentative, spiteful 17 year old I was, I argued that there was no such thing as inspiration. I said there is nothing original anymore and we are all just recycling old ideas. I even went as far as to include a verse from Ecclesiastes: "What has been will be again,what has been done will be done again;there is nothing new under the sun.Is there anything of which one can say,“Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time." (Ecc 1:9-10). My teacher was a very conservative Christian, but she hated when I took the prompt and just argued with the core idea. I actually ended up with an A+.
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  4. SiouxFan Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Mar 6, 2012
    star 3
    Reminds me of a quote attributed to the head of the Patent Office in the early 1900s--'We might as well close down, there is nothing left to invent.' (Bit of a paraphrase)
  5. Iverna Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 20, 2008
    star 4
    You can't copyright ideas. No one can own the copyright to "farmboy is called to great tasks by an old man with magic powers and must fulfill his destiny". That's why you can have Star Wars and Eragon and probably half a dozen fantasy novels when Lord of the Rings already existed. No one can own the copyright to "morally-ambiguous, roguish stranger who winds up the hero's sidekick, preferably tall, dark and handsome", that's why there are so many of them out there.

    Sure, if the details get too close or the names match, then yeah, there's a problem. But you can only own the copyright of specific, recorded instances of an idea, not the idea itself.

    I mean, if you could copyright an idea or a plot, there wouldn't be millions of romance or crime novels out there, there'd be three, maybe four. :p

    Speaking for myself, I don't care who uses my OCs and I don't see how it's any different than other kinds of fanfic. I don't have to count it as "official" unless I want to, it doesn't have to make any difference to me. Just like me using Star Wars characters doesn't impact the official canon in any way. If I ever get around to finishing and publishing an original novel, I'll adopt the same approach. Anything else honestly seems a little hypocritical, doesn't it? If I write fanfic about other people's OCs (and yes, Luke Skywalker is an OC just like any fanfic OC), I can't really get mad when other people do the same with mine, now, can I.

    As for actually finishing stories though... I don't know. I'd want to be asked. Because that would actually be plagiarism. I don't think I'd mind if I'd actually abandoned the story though, and if the person gave me some form of credit.
  6. Jedi_Lover Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 1, 2004
    star 5
    Yes it is a little hypocritical, after all we are borrowing Lucas' OCs, but as I said before the profic authors can opt out. If Disney forbid fanfiction of Star Wars the TFN fanfic forum would be down in a heartbeat and I wouldn't be writing SW fanfic. This forum doesn't have a thread where Fanfiction writers can sign up to disallow the use of their OC's like a profic writer can.

    But put that all aside. Forget the legality. The fact is taking somebody's story to finish or an OC without permission will cause conflict on the boards between not only the original author and the person stealing the story/OC, but also the readers get upset. For this reason alone, one should avoid 'borrowing' without permission. We really don't need flamewars occurring or bad blood between members of TFN.

    Even if a writer has abandoned fanfic and hasn't signed in to their account for ten years...they'll find out if you take it. I have a friend that used to write fanfiction, but she stopped years ago. But, I still email this friend, we are friends on Facebook, and if I saw her story reappear under a different author, I would send her an email ASAP. Hell, if anybody is going to finish her abandoned story...it's going to be me (so far I haven't received permission to do so. She's going to finish it one day :rolleyes:).
    Last edited by Jedi_Lover, Jul 2, 2013
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  7. Iverna Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 20, 2008
    star 4
    Well, that's fair enough. I should probably clearer on the first point. That's how I see it. That's why I wouldn't have a problem with other people borrowing my characters, although I'd want credit where credit's due, much like we do with fanfic. That's distinct from the legalities, for me. I don't care if they/I can legally do it or not, I just think, for me, I'd feel hypocritical if I played with other people's creations and then took every step possible to deny other people the pleasure of playing with mine. If that makes sense.

    But taking the actual story is a step further again. I think really, the fundamental principle is ask them. It's the internet. There's usually a way to contact the author, if you do a bit of digging or asking around, and it's not hard to ask. And then you'll know, one way or another.

    I think the same holds true for the OC thing, by the way. Legally, sure, you can use whatever you want because who's going to sue you? But it's common courtesy to ask, and I think most people are fine with loaning characters if they're given credit. But that's common courtesy, and it's distinct from the legality of it. George Martin doesn't approve of fanfic at all, I believe, but people still write it, and he can't stop them. I do think that if someone who goes against the explicit wishes of the original creator and writes Game of Thrones fanfic, for example, then complains if someone then uses their OC in one of their fanfics - well, that kinda falls under "what goes around, comes around", for me. :p

    But yeah, in general I think the rule should be ask, and give credit where credit is due. It's really not all that hard to do, either. Most people are pretty nice about that sort of thing, especially within a fandom.
  8. Jedi_Lover Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 1, 2004
    star 5
    That's true. You really don't have the high ground to make an argument as much. I once found somebody took a photomanipulation I had made for a fanfic cover and used it for advertising at a small Star Wars event. I wasn't too upset because I had snagged all the photos off of the internet. Now, if it was a drawing I did from scratch I would be highly irritated, even if it was fan art.
  9. Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Feb 25, 2010
    star 5
    That's kinda what I was asking. If a story was clearly abandoned, and there was no way of contacting the author (in the case I'm talking about, I've looked and tried and there is no way - the last time they logged in was in 2003 and there is no email) and you gave the author 100% of the credit for starting the story, could you finish it (AGAIN, I HAVE ZERO INTENTION OF DOING THIS). I wouldn't mind (though I have no abandoned fics of my own), if the fic was clearly abandoned and if there was no way to contact me. If there was a way to contact me, of if I had clearly stated in the last 2 years that I did have intentions to finish it, then I might feel differently.

    I think it's interesting, even in the scholarly world, you don't have to ask for permission from the author of a paper to use X many words in your own work, as long as you give them credit, you're golden. Yet in some respects, it is easier to contact professors then it is to contact fanfic writers. So is it right that you HAVE to have permission from a fanfic author in order to quote their story?

    But this is all fanfic etiquette. Legally, there is nothing stopping me from taking that story. And it's not plagiarism if I give them credit.

    As a bottom line: if you can, ask. If you can't ask (or you never get a reply) just move on to your next idea.
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  10. TrakNar Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    On Star Wars Fanon, we have a policy regarding "fanon stealing" as it has been a problem more than once. We have specific templates that we could use, should we want to make our article subjects available for anyone to use and add to. And homages are just fine, as characters borrow surnames from each other quite often. But, taking someone's OC (not their Luke) and calling it their own? Or editing that character's article so that the story reflects something totally different than what the original author intended? It's "fanon stealing."

    Any fanart that people put up also falls under that policy. I've had a few of my OCs' pics used by other people for their OCs. Usually, I just let it slide if the image is generic enough, but if the likeness was something I intended for my character only, I will remove the image from the other article. Even my category has a banner at the top requesting that people ask me before usage. More often than not, I'll be okay with the usage.
    Last edited by TrakNar, Jul 3, 2013
  11. Iverna Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 20, 2008
    star 4
    People ask me fairly often if they can use my art - fan art and original - as images for their role-playing characters or whatever. I'm fine with that. Even if I specifically drew/painted it to be MY character, well, someone else's using it doesn't change that.

    If you want to quote someone's work, that generally falls under "fair use", especially in an educational context. That's distinct from plagiarism, and I don't think you can plagiarise if you clearly state it's not yours.

    But I agree with you, @Briannakin. If I'd abandoned a story 10 years ago and was completely out of contact, then I've probably abandoned the fandom altogether and I certainly wouldn't care if someone else finished the story.
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  12. mavjade It's so FLUFFY! Fanfic Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Sep 10, 2005
    star 6
    Personally, I think if a fic has clearly been abandoned for quite some time and there is no way of getting a hold of the author, then I wouldn't have a problem with someone finishing the story as long as the original author got clear credit for what they wrote.
    If that author ever wanted to go back and finish their story, they probably had a diffrent idea as to how it went anyway, so the finisher would just have an alternate universe ending of the 'actual' story.

    There was a universe in the House fandom that had a ton of stories by quite a few authors. It was written off a terrific one-shot by another author who had no intention of making a universe out of it, though I'm pretty sure she was contacted about all of them. Most of the writers did stories as to what happened after the original one-shot and it was really facinating to see how all the authors did with the same base materials (the canon material and then the story from the one-shot).

    From a mod POV, At least on here, I would ask that someone ask us before doing something like that because we ocassionally have a little more info and can look into it. And with our strict no-plagrism rule, I wouldn't want anyone to get in trouble. :)
    Last edited by mavjade, Jul 3, 2013
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  13. Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Feb 25, 2010
    star 5
    That is my stance on this. And as Iverna said, if a story was abandoned 10 years ago and the author hasn't logged in since then, I'm pretty sure the person has left the fandom. I highly doubt that they would find out, let alone care, that I finished their fic (of course I'd still give them credit). And if they did by some odd chance find out and did have an issue with it, I would have no issues deleting all the contents of the posts.

    Thanks for the mod POV. The rules are pretty clear:

    I know this is to prevent fights, I know if I was still an active member of the boards or atleast still easily contacted, I'd be pretty pissed if someone took my story and changed it without at least trying to contact me, but the case does change if the person has been MIA for 10 years.

    If I ever were to really want to finish this unfinished fic, of course I'd contact a mod. But as it stands now, I have other plot bunnies biting my heels.
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  14. VanishingReality Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 21, 2013
    star 3
    Someone I know wrote a complex 50+ chapter fanfic featuring a cast of the most creative, interesting OCs I've read in my life. I consider the plot and characters far superior to the canon series. (I find it extremely impressive in a fandom where even slightly decent OCs and fanfics are extremely rare, sues are rampant, and the majority of fics are beyond horrible.)

    I asked if I could write a 'fanfic of their fanfic', to answer some plot holes and questions his story created. He refused because he had the entire story planned out, and those questions would be answered later. He just had to write it, requesting my patience. The fic isn't what I would consider abandoned, he's very dedicated to it and updates at a faster rate than I ever could.

    Now he's my go-to person whenever I need OC advice in any fandom. He will never entirely create one for me- instead making me ask "Will x work for this character?", so I have to already bring to the table my own idea and he'll just weigh in. This way I can still capitalize on his gift for writing OCs.
    Last edited by VanishingReality, Jul 3, 2013
  15. Space_Wolf Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 13, 2007
    star 3
    I would say that the best thing to do would be to try and contact the author if someone wanted to do something like that. I wouldn't have an objection if someone tried to obtain permission, but if there is no way to contact the author, or if they don't reply, then I would say that it would be best left well alone.

    I've come across fan art on sites like Deviant Art with Shistavanens in them, and I often wonder if I influenced their idea in someway. I even came across a werewolf Jedi which was made by one of my favourite artists yesterday, and I wondered if my stories had influenced them. I've never confronted anyone over it but sometimes the back stories do appear to be similar, (the characters aren't exactly mine, though, been renamed, etc) but I can't tell for sure if they have been borrowed (I think is a better term than stolen - for something to be stolen, to me, it would have to be an exact copy ) or if they just happened to come up with it on their own. In someways it is flattering and in other ways, not.
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  16. Kahara Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 4
    Personally, I always liked the Shistavanen from the cantina scene. I haven't written any Jedi or other characters of that species yet beyond "maybe use someday" profiles, but I'm definitely aware of their existence. Some of these other writers might have also been inspired by canon. But it's possible some of this was inspired by your work (not in my case, since I only read your story recently -- though I liked it and wish there were more of it.) As long as the resemblance is vague, I don't know that I would worry about it myself, but can see how that would be uncomfortable. Still, I don't think we should count a species/canon character/planet/whatever out as a subject for fanfiction just because someone has already done it.
    Last edited by Kahara, Jul 9, 2013
  17. JediMaster_Jen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2002
    star 4
    Seems to me that stealing is stealing, whether intellectual property rights apply to fan fiction or not. Stealing is just rude no matter how you slice it.
  18. Kahara Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 3, 2001
    star 4
    Of course, I just mean that people can be inspired by the same piece of canon and I would not consider that stealing unless it was unambiguously the same in other ways too.
  19. JediMaster_Jen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 3, 2002
    star 4
    True, Kahara, you're right about that.
  20. Iverna Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 20, 2008
    star 4
    All artists and writers "steal", though, depending on your definition. That's how inspiration works. That's how you get new ideas - by taking stuff you've experienced, seen, read, watched, heard, etc, and combining it in new ways to create something new. That's the definition of creativity. It doesn't work without external input. Sure, stealing is stealing, but not every instance of taking something from someone else is stealing, and not every instance of two people having the same idea is stealing. If it were that simple and if there was no middle ground and no shades of grey, then all of fanfic and fan art would be stealing, and we shouldn't be doing it at all.

    You can't own ideas. You can own your own specific incarnation of an idea, but if someone else has the same idea, or even takes your idea and does something else with it, then they will own that specific incarnation. That's not stealing.
  21. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    I agree with EJF and JL and Iverna. There are for instance-- in the Saga era, Anakin Skywalker doesn't become Vader, but the when and the how all differ, and it's not stealing when different authors jump off of a similar premise. I love L/M amnesia fics BTW. :cool: And Anakin Solo doesn't die at Myrkr stories too. :) I, personally, have taken OCs from other writers, with permission, and with deep love. I've incorporated them into viggies and/or short stories that take into account the histories the other authors have already written, so that mine fits in like another in a series of episodes or sequels. :D
  22. Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Feb 25, 2010
    star 5
    If it were that simple, 95% of profic out there would not exist. If people hadn't of copied the model of vampires in The Vampyre we would not have Dracula, let alone Twilight or True Blood.

    Stealing is stealing, but copying ideas and making it your own is different than stealing. For example, I just got an idea for an original story featuring Grim Reapers. I can write it, because no one person owns the idea of Grim Reapers (just like no one owns the idea of making Luke paralyzed or giving him amnesia), I just have to avoid making it too similar to the short lived TV show Dead Like Me and other media like it.
    Last edited by Briannakin, Jul 11, 2013
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