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Is fan fiction in any danger?

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by PyramidHead316, May 25, 2007.

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  1. PyramidHead316

    PyramidHead316 Jedi Youngling

    Registered:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Recently I've heard stirrings from the fanfic communities about possible trouble ahead. Mainly it stems from the newly opened FanLib.com and its very dubious practices with regards to fanfic authors. After doing some research however, I realized the problem goes much deeper than them. From what I can tell, copyright infringement is becoming more and more of a serious crime, to the point where even minor offenses, or even an alleged attempt, could land you in a heap of trouble.

    Fanfics have always been a touchy issue, but now it seems like things might be getting worse for everyone very soon. It has me more than a little nervous, to say the least. I don't think it's a stretch to say you guys on this board, and indeed this site, probably know better than the rest of us. So, I ask you, are fanfic writers in danger of reprisal from the courts anytime soon? I don't mean the usual threat of getting Cease and Desist letters, but a real risk of suffering some grave consequences for writing fanfics.

    I realize this may be a silly question to ask on a board full of life and activity. However, as a fanfic writer myself, this has given me cause to hesitate about continuing my stories. It's funny, as if I didn't have enough to keep me from updating, now I have to worry about my own hobby being turned against me. I don't post on this site, but I do post on several different sites, and a few of those are Star Wars stories.

    Is there cause for concern? Should we just continue writing until when or if we finally get the notice that it's now allowed anymore, period?

     
  2. EmilieDarklighter

    EmilieDarklighter Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 19, 2002
    There's not a cause for concern, I don't believe. We're not making any money, so it's not really copyright infringement. I think it depends on the fandom, too. J.K. Rowling, from what I have heard, actually encourages fanfic, as do some rock-and-roll bands. I don't think Star Wars in particular is in any danger, unless Lucas just wants to be a jerk about it. He's already rich enough, and suing a bunch of broke fanfic authors isn't going to make him any richer. In fact, it would probably cost him a lot of money to do so. There have always been murmurings of 'legal threat' in fanfiction communities, but I always take them with a grain of salt. We're having fun, we're not stealing money, and we're actually promoting the Star Wars fandom. I mean, the first Star Wars movie had it's thirtieth birthday today, and we're still going strong. Don't worry about whatever you hear. :)
     
  3. Eleventh_Guard

    Eleventh_Guard Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 17, 2005
    This site is probably safe, at least for a long time. TPTB know about it and tolerate it. Other sites - maybe, maybe not. Honestly, I think that the Fanlib fiasco will blow over, and the only people who will be in real danger are the ones who make money off fanfic. Not just meaning the obvious moneymaking ploys like selling fan fiction; people who run sites with fanfic and get ad revenue are probably more likely to run into issues than those who don't.

    The reasonable worst-case scenario would be that ad-run sites would have to stop hosting fanfic unless the creator/publisher/etc. approves it. I think the JC would still be all right unless Lucas changes his mind. Fanfiction.net might have problems. LiveJournal might or might not; it would have been a non-issue until Plus accounts with ads became available. Sites that run strictly on donations, or that the site operator funds themselves, would be more likely to slip through than ones that run on sales or ad money.

    The most likely scenario is that nothing will happen, although a few more authors might get their panties in a wad now that fanfic is briefly at the forefront again, and come down hard on a few people, then disappear again.

    That's my prediction.
     
  4. Bale

    Bale Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 9, 2005
    Is writing fanfic copyright infringement?
    It depends, but most likely yes.

    Isn't fanfic protected by Fair Use?
    That's really the heart of the issue. Fair Use is a possible defense to copyright infringement. It is generally considered using a four-part test:
    1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
    2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
    3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
    4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

    There are convincing arguments for and against the defense of Fair Use as it relates to fanfics, particularly prongs 1 and 4. However, the receptiveness to allowing it and the application of its components varies.

    Is there cause for concern? Should we just continue writing until when or if we finally get the notice that it's now allowed anymore, period?
    I can't give you any legal advice regarding the matter.

    Keep in mind that some actions are probably more likely to provoke action by the copyright holder, e.g. attempting to gain financially from the endeavor such as by charging viewers and/or downloaders money to read fanfic or receiving or attempting to receive money or prizes based on a fanfic from awards, contests, etc.

     
  5. PonyTricks

    PonyTricks Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 25, 2003
    The official Star Wars site, Starwars.com, is currently posting online and encouraging fan created SW movies. Fan-made movies are no more or less 'stealing' than SW fanfic. I can't see LFL cracking down on writers since they are promoting home movies. It would make no sense at all. I wish the official Star Wars site would create a special area on their site to post fanfic, too!
     
  6. SithGirl132

    SithGirl132 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 6, 2005
    I don't think we have anything to worry about. we are not trying to get any money from fanfic- we are writing because we like it, and we don't try to publish any of it or sell it. It's a fun thing. I don't really think legally, we have any concerns.
     
  7. DarthGaul

    DarthGaul Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2004
    As long as you don't try to sell it, call it your own work and/or trademark/copywrite the fic (including your characters...because technically if their under the Lucas banner..they are his. It's related to star wars there for you cannot own that character you created.)

     
  8. divapilot

    divapilot Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Whoa. So your OCs are George's too? What about the plots of your fanfic? If you come up with a clever scenario or conflict, is that George's if you post?

    [face_thinking]

    Suppose you remove all SW references and place it on Earth. Would it still belong to George since it started here?
     
  9. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 31, 1999
    This site is no secret to those at the LucasFilm Empire and we're tolerated, though not supported to the extent that Fanfilm is.


    As far as reprisals from vengeful authors, I wouldn't lose a moment's sleep over that. The first course of action in this sort of situation would be for TFN to receive a Cease & Desist order to remove the content.

    This site has been here for almost nine years and that hasn't happened, so I'd say we're pretty safe. [face_mischief]
     
  10. NYCitygurl

    NYCitygurl Manager Emeritus star 9 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2002
    Finfic here is perfectly safe; they know it exists here and haven't stopped it.
     
  11. LLL

    LLL Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 16, 2000
    I am entering mainstream writing competitions with my fic.

    However, the first one I entered had a category especially for fan fiction.

    It seems to me that if they are offering prizes with considerable monetary value (which mine was), and you accept them, it's on them, not you. It's not like the category wasn't specifically for what I submitted.

    For the ones with no fan fiction category, I send a letter when I enter specifically saying that I realize I can make no money. If I win, I either refuse the prize or donate it to charity.

    Edit: Pyramid: Can you point those of us less informed to where some of this info is on the web? I'd be interested to read. Thanks!

    If they're offering publication as a prize ... that's a tricky matter. I haven't looked closely at what to enter next, but I have a feeling I'm probably going to skip these contests. What to do if the fan ficcer places is just going to be too much of a headache for everyone.
     
  12. DarthGaul

    DarthGaul Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2004
    If your writing about the SW universe then of course it will be a property of GL. Take all the Star Wars stuff out of it and place it on Earth...yours. Mind you...if it's "almost" like Star Wars in any way shape or form....there might be some legal backlash. But that only if GL's lawyers feel so. (how lucky do you feel?) It's like making a title of a book..if a famous book already has that title and has © and/or ? on it...can't do it. Yet if you alter it slightly (Example "THE BOOK" change to " THE REAL BIG BOOK") it might pass with no backlash. If the content is different and is in no way related to the other...bingo...yours to keep.

    If you read about trademarks, copywrites and ownerships of creatively owned property...it might shed some light on what you can and cannot do on someone elses work.
     
  13. Pallas-Athena

    Pallas-Athena TFN Fan Fiction Archive Editor star 4 VIP

    Registered:
    Nov 29, 2000
    I would go so far as to say the whole copyright infringement thing has cooled down in the last couple of years. When the internet became mainstream, it introduced fanfic to the masses: there were many more writers and readers than ever before, and it easily came to the attention of the original creators that their work was being (ab)used in such a way. Some reacted violently, like Ann Rice, others liked it it, like Rowling.

    I think the early part of this decade served as a feeling-out stage between fandom and creators. Creators may not have been sure of how fan fic could affect them or their works - financially, yes, but many were worried about things like out of character writing affecting the perception of their work. Many creators swiftly came to the conclusion that fic was a necessary evil: killing it can kill a fandom. Just look at Ann Rice: I know no one that's a fan of hers. Maybe because she alienated a lot of potential fans or maybe because fan fic serves as an active discussion of the work, and if no one talks about it, it's forgotten.

    You have to remember that fanfic isn't a new thing. Fanzines have been published for decades. And, since some of them were sold (usually at the cost of production), they blurred the line far more than internet-published fic usually does.

    For now, I wouldn't worry about it. Like others said, Lucas isn't going to do anything. Other authors might, so you should look that up before writing in another fandom. Even if they do, though, it would just be a cease and desist. Chances of you being sued are slim to none.
     
  14. DarthGaul

    DarthGaul Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2004

    Agreed. So long as you don't publish it and sell it...you don't have a thing to worry about. If it remains free...they can't do squat. Many of them don't do anything...heck, it's free publicity to them. It not only fuels the fandom, it also gives their fan base a means to communicate and continue the franchise ever forward.
     
  15. 1Yodimus_Prime

    1Yodimus_Prime Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2004
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJn_jC4FNDo (10 minutes; Dir - Eric Faden)

    This is a...colorful...explanation of copyright and fair use.
    I recommend it.
     
  16. Luton_Plunder

    Luton_Plunder Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 15, 2006
    ^^ also recommending people look at that video. But you have to listen carefully :p

    In response to the original post, I think people can be fairly assured that fan fiction - at least at places like these boards and on the big repository sites - is quite safe. Shutting down and prosecuting copyright violations on something as big as 'the internet' falls well and truly in the too hard basket. Despite the way it seems to mystify some people who are supposed to be knowledgeable of media, the internet is almost impossible to censor without over the top blanket regulation that would (in a country like the US) violate the 1st amendment.

    Every so often an original author will get their hackles up and denounce fan fiction, going on about copyright violation and whatnot. But if they actually did anything about it, they wouldn't have time to write any of their precious original works ever again. And such a thing would be a PR nightmare. Not even Prentiss & McCabe would take up a client that had single-handedly smacked down his or her reader base in such a way, and they can put a spin on anything.

    In short, Fanfic will be just fine ;) Though a few vocal supporters in mainstream media wouldn't hurt, I guess.
     
  17. PyramidHead316

    PyramidHead316 Jedi Youngling

    Registered:
    Apr 21, 2006
    What about characters that weren't created for Star Wars? I have a crossover with a character from my own original stories, and this is one of only two Star Wars stories he'll appear it. It's also not a character Lucas would use because although it's not made overtly obvious, the character is from Earth (albeit an alternate Earth vastly different from our own). Would a character like that be safe from being considered Lucas'? The character type is already prevalent in the EU (a mix between a soldier/mercenary and an adventurer, basically), so I don't think Lucas' writers need to borrow any ideas from these stories, especially since it involves something that would never happen in the canon.

    I would still change the name and some background details if I ever wanted to sell original fiction with this character (simply because I'm getting tired of the current name; heh), but I'm curious as to how far that control extends. Can LucasFilms claim ownership of a character that already existed prior to that Star Wars fanfic? I don't think they could copyright the name itself, since it's something that's already shared coincidentally among countless real life people.
     
  18. Dantana Skywalker

    Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Apr 7, 2002
    Technically speaking, no, because then Lucas would gain the rights to all the LOTR characters, the Sailor Senshi, Mulder and Scully, and any other characters that have been crossed over with Star Wars.

    Since you're changing the name and some of the background details, it's not strictly the same character, anyway, and as long as the story hasn't been previously published (posting online in more than excerpts and samples for a private writers' group), and only contains your own characters, there's no reason why you wouldn't retain right to it.

    Legally speaking, the franchise writers are not allowed to read fanfiction specifically because of the problems entailed therein, with the potential for fans to say, "Hey, that's mine!" That's also why they don't accept unsolicited manuscripts or screenplays.


    Dana
    Dana
     
  19. DarthGaul

    DarthGaul Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    May 25, 2004
    Crossovers are pretty much franchises intersecting with one another. I think many of those creators don't like seeing that stuff at all. Fans trying to merge their works with others...prehaps that is where the protest is coming from. You know this is really all just subjective...they're not going to do anything. If it remains free and your not selling copies to gain profit at the expense of the orginial creator...you've got no worries. They can't stop someone using their imagination or writing more stories for their own personal amusement, that's a violation of a person's freedom. Sure it annoys writers who don't like to see their works put in some other light...but that's their right to complain. It would be like them working on a book of yours and doing whatever they pleased with the characters/stories/situations. Whether you liked it or not is your choice. But if they tried to steal it as their own work and published it for sale...you'd want to take legal action and stop the money flowing to the wrong person for building on something that belonged to you.


    Keep it free...and nothing will happen.
     
  20. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 31, 1999

    To be blunt, Lucas isn't going to want your character. It's as simple as that. If the Flanneled One (or, better put, an EU author) needs a new character for a new novel, they'll just create one of their own.

    It's not like you're going to have some copyrighted SW character that he'll "steal" for his own use.


    For a time, the official site had space for fan sites that could be used to host fanfic stories (or anything else the fan wanted, within reason). When creating the site, the user had to agree that he/she waived any rights to any characters or plotlines that were posted there.

    This wasn't because Lucas wanted to 'steal' the ideas of his fans, but it was a legal CYA to prevent the hassle of some fan trying to sue for having any ideas stolen.
     
  21. NYCitygurl

    NYCitygurl Manager Emeritus star 9 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2002
    I wouldn't recommend posting anything online that you would ever want to get published. There can be huge copyright issues and you could lose a lot of money. It's something we have to really warn people about in sffbc if they ever post excerpts to original stories.
     
  22. LLL

    LLL Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 16, 2000
    OTOH, there HAVE been ppl who made book deals because a publisher discovered them online and liked what they saw.

    (Not many. I'm just saying.)


    *sigh* In screenwriting, they deal with this so simply and easily.

    It's called a RELEASE FORM.

    Apparently book publishing has never heard of it. :rolleyes:
     
  23. Space_Wolf

    Space_Wolf Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Mar 13, 2007
    I've recently heard of this. I have to question the founder's motivation behind it all as it looks really dodgy to me, not to mention that it gives fan fic writers the false impression that they can get their fan fic published by a real publisher. (As if Del Rey and Lucasfilm would let them do that LOL!) They didn't really research it all well either because most of the authors on there wouldn't even get a look in at getting their stuff published anyway, as it's low quality. Corporate greed is in the air!

    I've written a more detailed response to this [link=http://jedigirl.infopop.net/2/OpenTopic?a=tpc&s=653099134&f=5453064947&m=5821015051&r=4621085051#4621085051]here[/link], under my user name of Emimar. I also find it intriguing how they targeted the gulable, young teenage fans with it who would have little or no knowledge of the legal issues surrounding copyright.

    As for Lucasfilm getting ideas from my stuff, I wouldn't mind it anyway as I'd think it'd be rather cool, but then I'm not greed orientated. LOL.
     
  24. Dantana Skywalker

    Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Apr 7, 2002
    I said unsolicited. Yes, there are release forms for submissions, but to get one, you kind of have to have an implied solicitation for your screenplay or manuscript. If you just send them something, they're not even going to bother reading it. They may not even bother sending it back, and just toss it. This is true of production companies and publishing houses.

    Dana
     
  25. LLL

    LLL Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 16, 2000
    I guess what I'm saying is, they won't even let you query them so you CAN sign a release form. They just go, "We'll get sued," and that's that.
     
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