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Borrowing from other people's work

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by lazykbys_left, Apr 25, 2008.

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  1. lazykbys_left

    lazykbys_left Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 17, 2005
    I have a confession to make. Several, actually.

    I have used other authors' characters in my fics without getting their permission to do so. I have written sequels to their stories - again without permission. I have stolen dialogue, changed characterization, rewritten scenes the way I thought they should be done, and I didn't really care what the authors thought.

    I have no intention of justifying my actions, but my reasons for doing so are as follows:

    1. I didn't think I would get their permission to do the things I wanted to do with their work.

    2. I didn't want their help - back stories, suggestions, what-not - to intrude on what I considered my story.

    3. I didn't think they would find out. And even if they did, they wouldn't care enough to raise a fuss.

    4. I didn't have the guts to call up George Lucas to say, "Hi, loved your character Han Solo. Would you mind if I used him in a fic?" :p

    But seriously -

    I find it interesting that we have two different standards for borrowing from profic and fanfic, and also that the rules are stricter for the latter than the former. Why do you think this is the case? The only reason I can come up with is the extremely cynical one that fanficcers are far more likely to cause trouble.

    - lazy
     
  2. Alexis_Wingstar

    Alexis_Wingstar Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 16, 2006
    You pose an interesting question. Off the cuff, I'd say that most pro-fic writers pretty much only worry about it if the fanficcers try to make money off their work, otherwise it's free publicity for them (with the understanding that the quality of fanficcer's stories vary greatly). Fan-ficcers on the other hand write only for the love of writing and/or improving their writing skills, hoping to get good enough to someday write something original and get published.

    I'm not sure what you mean by the rules are stricter for borrowing from fanfic though... I've never heard of a fanficcer taking another fanficcer to court. :p
     
  3. The Musical Jedi

    The Musical Jedi Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 13, 1999
    I think it's a politeness thing - as well as a strong local standard. If I "borrow" one of Alexis's characters, for example, she can complain to the mods and send me unpleasant emails. The likelihood of a profic author doing that in a fandom that's already been sanctioned okay for fanfic is pretty low. Not to mention that Lucas has given them the okay to use his characters - so in a way they're sort of functioning under the same rules.

    EDIT: Grammar fix. I really shouldn't post at 1:45 in the morning. :p
     
  4. Alexis_Wingstar

    Alexis_Wingstar Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 16, 2006
    I'd be thrilled if someone thought one of my characters was good enough to 'borrow'.
     
  5. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2002
    Me too - I love reading my OC's in other stories - GoldenJedi is one of my favorite people who's 'borrowed' my OC's and gave one of them such 'depth' - ( an aspect of her life I have trouble with as a former pilot ) I actually cried when I read the fic - it was SO true to form and yet a part of her that I had difficulty capturing...
     
  6. lazykbys_left

    lazykbys_left Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 17, 2005
    Alexis_Wingstar: I'm not sure what you mean by the rules are stricter for borrowing from fanfic though...

    From the [link=http://boards.theforce.net/e/b10304/27417441/#Borrowing]Fanfic FAQ[/link]:

    When it comes to story ideas, OCs, names, titles - literally, anything that was created by someone else - you must ask the creator for permission to borrow. Failure to do so could result in anything from a stern warning to a ban.



    The Musical Jedi: The likelihood of a profic author doing that in a fandom that's already been sanctioned okay for fanfic is pretty low.

    Er . . . it hasn't been sanctioned. Not officially, anyway. If it were, the plan to distribute fanfic for free at CIV wouldn't have been cancelled, and the Atomfilms fanfilm contest wouldn't have been limited to parodies and documentaries (i.e., things that aren't copyright violations in the first place).

    LFL is merely choosing to look the other way for the moment.

    Not to mention that Lucas has given them the okay to use his characters - so in a way they're sort of functioning under the same rules.

    I have to disagree. With profic, it was LFL that contacted the authors, not the other way around. It's a subtle difference, to be sure, but a significant one.

    - lazy
     
  7. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2002
    with Profic, it's pretty easy to identify an OC's origins, after all, there's a great chunk of folks who are familiar with the EU. Fan fic OC's usually have a very small following, and it would be all to easy to pass off someone's beloved characters as another author's 'own' so to speak.

    It has happened I think - there are a couple OC's that have made the jump into commonly accepted 'fannon' where no one really knows *who* actually originated the character.
     
  8. Space_Wolf

    Space_Wolf Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2007
    I have no problem with people borrowing my OCs as long as they let me know and that they don't do anything with them that changes them too much from what I've done with them (i.e. give them children, etc.) That's my job. I wouldn't consider using someone else's OCs unless I knew them well.
     
  9. Corellian_Ale

    Corellian_Ale Manager Emeritus star 4 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Gotta' disagree lazy, the very fact that this site exists would suggest that LFL sanctions it, perhaps just quietly. The amount of material used in the banners' alone is grounds for copyright infringment. I'm pretty confident that from Lucas to Rostini; right on down to most of the authors themselves (which is evident by the accounts some them have here) actually appreciate our labor of love. If they don't, well, they're just smart enough not to be the Metallica to our Napster.

    Actually that's an unfair anology, because Lucas' intrests actually makes money off the publicity we give his products, even from us fanficcers. Case in point, I would have never delved into the RC novels, had it no been for Kudzu and Antilles2001's fic "All In a Day's Work". In the end "ignoring" us is just good business sense for them.


    As to your curiosity about the heavy-handedness of "borrowing" fellow fanfic authors work, well to me it's just about respecting the fellow writers in the community, and everyone playing nice in the sandbox (George's sandbox). I would be hard pressed to find fault with those who wrote similar stories around canon and EU characters to be stealing, if we all watched the same movies, and read the same books; it's natural for some of our imaginations to drift in the same direction. I'm much less flexible when it comes to fanficer's own characters though.

    I used to be big on the local music scene, (help promote shows, get friends gigs, etc) and there was tight-knit community in the rehersal complex those bands played and wrote their craft in. Everyone of them was influenced and even covered songs by Metallica, Judas Priest, Pantera, etc, but they all had they're own stuff too.

    Now let's say one day three of the bands play a show together; they're all part of the same community - watched each other rehearse, provided feedback on each others' progress, and acted as a general support line for each other's work (not much different than these boards).

    The first band on plays their own songs, but then plays some of their fellow musicians' work without asking permission. They don't even credit the originators; how can the song originators then go ahead and play they're own very songs without losing face?

    They're local, unsigned bands so none of they're work is copyrighted. The first band plays for the love of the music, while the other two are more than likely trying to perfect their craft before they try to make money off what they do. Band #1 comes off stage, and not only doesn't apologize for their actions, but shrugs of the offended musicians with an "oh, well". Can the other two bands just throw those songs out and say, "we'll just write new ones," sure, but why should they?

    Again, all three bands are influnced by the same major musicians; enough so you can hear it in their music. None of them are making any money from this show, but together all are trying to cut out their own little niche in the local scene. Can unsigned band #1 who "borrowed" the other two unsigned bands work be prosecuted? Nope. Is the lack of respect any different than "borrowing" another fanfic writer's characters? Not at all.

    The rule is in place to ensure respect for your fellow community members, plain and simple. It's the fact that we would need the rule to begin with that's truly disappointing.


    (edit, really bad spelling and grammar; but I have to get to work so ignore it. I will.)
     
  10. dianethx

    dianethx Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Mar 1, 2002
    I added the bold.

    While I applaud your honesty, I'm rather appalled that you would do that and not care about what the authors thought nor did you even try to contact them for permission. That I think is just awful.

    Fanfic writers of profic work have an unspoken permission to use their characters. LFL could go after fanfic writers but has chosen not to. Tim Zahn has said over and over again that his SW characters are really Lucas's. Whether the other authors have the same attitude, I don't know but it would seem likely. Because of that, fanfic can make use of profic characters - well at least until the JKR case is finalized.

    However, fanfic authors pour their hearts and souls into creating characters - for which they do not receive money and the only payment they get is replies. So in a way, you've stolen the little payment they do get. And you didn't even try to help them get that payment with an acknowledgement of their characters. In fact, people reading your stories would think they were your characters.


    That being said, I must confess that when I started writing fanfic, I did write in someone else's fanfic universe (I didn't realize, being a newbie, that it might be a no-no) but I told her about it - sent her the story and abided by her decision that I could not publish it other than on my own website. But I also acknowledge in my story where the original setup and characters are from. I'm not pretending that they are my own.

    In addition, I did do some round-robin work but dropped out because I felt my characters were getting butchered. However, I knew going in that other people would be using my characters and I would be using theirs. So it was my own damn fault.


    I rarely give permission for any of my characters to be used by others. Situations/plotlines/universes are a different story but my characters are like my kids. Not to be touched without permission.



    Edit: and now I'm confused. Lazy, I looked at your list of stories and you give credit for inspiration. Why that and not credit for the characters???
     
  11. Space_Wolf

    Space_Wolf Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2007
    I just think that it's common curtasy to acknowledge where the characters in your fan fic come from if they aren't your own OCs. If I use a canon character that isn't well known (say Riv Shiel, for instance), I'll always say where the character comes from and that it's not my own. I don't see how characters from profic and fanfic can be treated any differently. There was a situation last year among some online friends of mine where this girl had copied plot lines, used their characters without permission and then pretended that she was their friend, when she wasn't. It's all about respect. Obviously, profic writers and George Lucas can't respond to every fan fic writer that asks permission to use Luke, Han, Leia, etc. - they're busy with their own work, but acknowledging the source just makes sense.
     
  12. oqidaun

    oqidaun Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2005
    I was enticed back over here to see who the source of this discussion was and I expected to see some fourteen year old newbie, boy was I surprised...

     
  13. Jinngerbread

    Jinngerbread Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 2, 2007


    However, fanfic authors pour their hearts and souls into creating characters - for which they do not receive money and the only payment they get is replies. So in a way, you've stolen the little payment they do get. And you didn't even try to help them get that payment with an acknowledgement of their characters. In fact, people reading your stories would think they were your characters.



    Diane hit the nail on the head of exactly why it's tighter in fanfic to borrow other people's character creations rather than others. I'd be thrilled if someone asked to borrow my original characters. I'm fortunate enough that I have had people ask me before, and I'm usually only too happy to allow them to borrow. The mere fact that you didn't care enough to contact the author to at least ask first, really troubles me.

    It's not so much that we think we're better than profic but it's the principle of the thing. We get no money or love, like Diane said, except feedback. If you take what little we get, and pass it off as your own without acknowledgment whatsoever, yes, I can see that being problematic. I have characters I've spent a lot of time and energy writing, rewriting, trying to perfect. I'd be really upset if I found out that someone was passing off my characters as their own without any attempt to point them in the direction of the originals, and especially double that without at least attempting to ask and no effort to credit the author.

    Though I admit you do have a point. We do steal from other authors all the time. But usually that's why I almost always include a disclaimer on mine telling me where the characters come from, even originals if they don't belong to me, and I asked to borrow them. Obviously it's not practical to call up George Lucas and ask if we can borrow his creations. :p But it IS practical to politely PM a fellow author to ask permission.



     
  14. Neon Star

    Neon Star Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Mar 30, 2000
    Simply put, what was described is exactly what ff writers do. We steal all the time, point blank, without really any regard towards the original creator. We ripe apart scenes, characters, swipe dialogue, and basically do as we please. Because it?s pro, we assume often that the original author doesn't care, or won't make a big deal about it, and so it's okay. Yet, if one of us were to steal from another, regardless of if it?s our own, or someone else's, ff writers generally freak and cause huge waves about the community. It?s rather hypocritical, we base ourselves on stealing, yet gods help us if a thief steals from a thief.

    Forgive me for restating and all that. But why is this so... there are a lot of reasons, a few of which has already been pointed out. Though, considering, does anyone of us believe that Lucas didn't pour his own heart and soul into his work? Regardless of how much money he's made off it, it doesn't change that he did, with probably as much effort as we do. We don't get paid, but doesn't matter, because we're doing this because we want to, without regards to anything other than our own desires. Same as himself. The reason we hate anyone touching what's ours is because it?s ours. And unlike pros, we have more of a chance of finding it. Most publishing houses forbid writers from reading ff of their own story, so as to reduce chance of unintentional stealing. Or they just don?t have the time to really go after us all, and it more helps then hurts them anyways. Plus, it?s a community based on fans, friends, and otherwise. One person gets upset about someone stealing it, it becomes a personal problem. None of us know Lucas, and are all doing the exact same thing, so we can't put each other at fault. That?s just basically what it boils down to, we are all doing this, therefore we can?t yell at each other for doing this or that to this or that in the SW or otherwise universes. But we can do something about it if the author is one of us, thus the reaction is more severe.

     
  15. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2002
    But on the flip side, there ARE authors who encourage fan fic - even in the mist of all the touble, JK Rowling *STILL* allows fan based websites AND fan fiction. She understands that it IS done out of love, and that her characters now 'belong to the ages' (as long as fan fic doesn't cross into the realm of actually making money.

    Where do you draw the line? Fan fic? Fan ART?* Coustumes??? We are very lucky that George and co don't take the Robin Hobbs approach, and try to make fan activities something dirty...

    *there ARE fan artist who have managed to cross over in to the relm of actually working for LFL - take the artist Thom Hodges who started off making icons like my own) and LA actually DOES sanction some fan fiction - "What's the story" is PURE fan fic....

    PS - I STILL find it incredibly tacky to use someone else's OC's (fan fic or otherwise - but at least with a profic book, there's an easy way to find out) without acknolwlegement for Profic and permission (in the case of fan fic, the author is almost always a quick PM away).

    As I have said before, if I have created a character that lives and breathes so much that YOU are compelled to expand on him or her, for the love of the Force, at least pay me the coin of fan fic and give me a heads up -
     
  16. lazykbys_left

    lazykbys_left Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 17, 2005
    Er . . . the first half of the opening post is entirely about profic. I apologise for being ambiguous on that point. I was hoping Reason #4 was enough to make it clear, but obviously it wasn't.

    So, to put the offending paragraph in proper context:

    I've used SW characters (Luke, Leia, Anakin, etc.) without asking Lucas and the EU writers for permission. I've written sequels (in other fandoms, though I have a few post-RotJ EU-contradicting stories on the back burner) - again, without permission from the copyright holders. I've copied the dialog verbatim from the movies, taken the characterizations of the droids in strange directions, written AUs -

    And at the time, I didn't care what Lucas, Zahn, Anderson, or the other profic writers might have thought about it. I still don't, actually.

    Yet at the same time, I worry excessively about stealing from fanfic writers. The grey zone between "inspired by" and "stolen from" is very wide in my mind, not to mention vague. When writing, I sometimes wonder if my OCs are actually other people's, only with different names, faces, and pasts - or that my fics are merely adaptations of existing works. That's why I give credit for inspiration when I know for sure where my fic originated.

    So why don't I feel the same way about profic?

    Why do I feel entitled to write SW characters at all, let alone any which way I choose? Why don't I feel guilty about changing the outcome of a scene just to satisfy my personal whims? Why do I treat SW like a box of Lego blocks?

    - lazy
     
  17. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2002
    Lazy, I don't see how you can say the post was about 'profic' - honestly, not only have you been around these boards long enough to know how to turn a phrase, and yet only a few post down you address the very issue (borrowing from fan fic v profic) without clarifying your opening remarks:


    [blockquote]Alexis_Wingstar: I'm not sure what you mean by the rules are stricter for borrowing from fanfic though...

    From the Fanfic FAQ:

    When it comes to story ideas, OCs, names, titles - literally, anything that was created by someone else - you must ask the creator for permission to borrow. Failure to do so could result in anything from a stern warning to a ban.



    The Musical Jedi: The likelihood of a profic author doing that in a fandom that's already been sanctioned okay for fanfic is pretty low.

    Er . . . it hasn't been sanctioned. Not officially, anyway. If it were, the plan to distribute fanfic for free at CIV wouldn't have been cancelled, and the Atomfilms fanfilm contest wouldn't have been limited to parodies and documentaries (i.e., things that aren't copyright violations in the first place).

    LFL is merely choosing to look the other way for the moment.

    Not to mention that Lucas has given them the okay to use his characters - so in a way they're sort of functioning under the same rules.

    I have to disagree. With profic, it was LFL that contacted the authors, not the other way around. It's a subtle difference, to be sure, but a significant one.

    - lazy [/blockquote]

    In fact, you seem to try to be justifying that you see no difference between borrowing from Pro-fic and fan fic.

    I reiterate what many others have said, the coin of the relm of fan fic is simple acknowledgment and in the case of borrowing OC's from fellow fan ficcer's, at least giving the author a chance to know about what's happening with their children.

    In fact, I think it would be an AWESOME challenge to have people write stories featuring other people's OC's... with full blessings given by the authors to see how other people view them...


    ETA: this is NOT a bash on Lazy, whom I've had nothing but respect for for many years, but simply MY observation on how the posts have come across.
     
  18. Space_Wolf

    Space_Wolf Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Interesting. Just how do you think we should go about this?
     
  19. Alexis_Wingstar

    Alexis_Wingstar Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 16, 2006
    Actually, there has been a challenge given in the past to take another author's OC with their permission. One of my fics was a result of it... it wound up to be an ongoing story (which I really need to update soon :p ).

    I wouldn't be adverse to a new challenge like that.
     
  20. Space_Wolf

    Space_Wolf Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Is the challenge still running?
     
  21. The Musical Jedi

    The Musical Jedi Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 13, 1999
    My ears are perked. We should probably talk to OCs Anonymous or the other OC group. :p
     
  22. Alexis_Wingstar

    Alexis_Wingstar Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 16, 2006
    It was issued as a holiday challenge in "The Essential Guide to OCs" toward the end of last year. I don't think it was an ongoing challenge, and I believe the deadline was sometime in December IIRC.
     
  23. Kidan

    Kidan TFN EU Staff star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2003
    Actually, when I read that initial post last night, I clearly understood that he was talking about pro-fic during the first portion of the post, and then used that as a launching point onto the prime topic of discussion which is:

    [blockquote]Why is it okay to steal characters/ideas from professional work, yet it's a bannable offense to do the same to a fanfic[/blockquote]


    You claim that it would be an AWESOME challenge to have other folks write stories featuring other people's OC's, but then feel the need to clarify that with a permission exception. Does the challenge loose that awesomeness if permission wasn't required? If it does, I have to wonder just how awesome you'd consider the challenge in the first place. If it doesn't, then why does it need the permission requirement?

    Lazy's point is that we don't get permission to write about, say Denning's OC's or Zahn's OC's (Saba and Mara respectively) yet it's a matter of getting the pitchforks and boiling oil if someone takes an OC from another FF writer.

    Hypocritical much?

    Fundamentally, the question is why is writing fanfic of published works honky dory but writing a fanfic of a fanfic is worthy of a ban.


    And just to be on the record--I would not care one iota if someone did write a fanfic of my fanfic. I'd be thrilled, not wanting to go forth and find the nearest mod to pull out said ban-stick for a proverbial beating.
     
  24. DarthBreezy

    DarthBreezy Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2002


    First, I stand by my assertion that the point was NOT clear in the first post - I'm not the ONLY person who felt that way, and I stressed that it was simply MY observation that the point wasn't clear.

    No, I DON'T it hypocritical that I feel that there is a very distinctive line between 'Fan fic' and pro-fic, and that common courtesy* for fan ficcers is the law of the land here, and thankfully always has been.

    And I ALSO stand by my idea of writing OCS with permission/acknowlegement (as that IS how fan fiction writers get 'paid') us a nice idea, as fan fic OCs rarely get much recognition outside of their small circle of stories /readers, it would be a nice way to expand on the readership.

    Wow, imagine that.


    Ok... I'm just going to stop here. I'm not going to get into a pissing match over a simple idea or a mis-interpreted post, nor go into the rights and wrongs of copyright or the thin blurry line that fan fic encompasses.

    All I ask that if ANYONE uses my characters, just let me know, OK? I don't make money, and the small amount of love that I get for my OC's is something I cherish.


     
  25. The_Face

    The_Face Ex-Manager star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Feb 22, 2003
    For the record, I completely understood lazy's original post and smirked at the reveal. It's an exercise in eliciting opinions and making us think about the way we act as a fanfic community. Not a opening for discussing specific fanfic writers. By that I mean, as with all discussions, make sure not to make it personal. [face_peace]


    I think ale's local band metaphor is very apt, regardless of grammar. ;)
     
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