I saw this today and thought of your reference to fan fiction recently. Would love your take – is it harder for young writers to get established in a popular genre if the tropes lend themselves to appearing like plagiarism? How does one determine copyright if the ‘original’ fiction was fan fiction to begin with? Or is this all over the top whining from authors who should have known the risks of capitalizing on the popularity of a shared genre vs coming up with something original. It does concern me that fan fiction could really explode at the expense of established authors depending on the outcome of the lawsuits.Rebecca
The article in question: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/23/business/omegaverse-erotica-copyright.html
Long story short: someone wrote werewolf erotica. Someone else copied her tropes. She threw a fit.
There are three separate questions here.
Fan Fiction and copyright
First, fan fiction. The legality of fan fiction is a much debated issue, but at the core it hinges on the concept of derivative work.
According to US Copyright Office, “A derivative work is a work based on or derived from one or more already existing works.” Fan fiction, by definition, is a derivative work. It is set in someone else’s fictional world, it uses characters, setting, and unique aspects of that particular world, and it makes no attempt to hide what it is. Its discoverability depends on it being properly attributed, so it’s labeled as Harry Potter Fan Fic or Twilight fan fic, and so on.
US Copyright Office also tells us that “only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, an adaptation of that work. The owner of a copyright is generally the author or someone who has obtained the exclusive rights from the author. In any case where a copyrighted work is used without the permission of the copyright owner, copyright protection will not extend to any part of the work in which such material has been used unlawfully. The unauthorized adaption of a work may constitute copyright infringement.”
What does it mean? It means that, in principle, because fan fiction is derivative by nature, it doesn’t enjoy protection of copyright. However, things are not always so clear cut.
legality of fan fiction
People who argue for the legality of fan fiction usually invoke “fair use” doctrine, but it’s a layered concept, which deals with the amount of original material in the derivative work and the perceived effect upon the original work’s value, among other things.
Opponents of fan fiction often argue that it diminishes the value of the original work because it changes the readers’ perception of the original characters. If the character is not racist in the original fiction, but portrayed as racist in fan fiction and the readers of fan fiction develop hatred of that character based on fan fiction, this can affect their enjoyment of the author’s original work and therefore lead to reduced sales. There is a counter argument to this, but if we get into that swamp, we’ll be here all day.
Bottom line: the author of the original work can force fan fiction writers to stop producing derivative works if they take them to court.
Fan fiction has its roots in the folkloric tradition. Much as storytellers passed on fables and fairy tales from one generation to another, each adding their own touches, fan fiction writers put their own spin on the existing fictional worlds. Published writers fall into two categories on their stance on fan fiction: those who hate it and those who don’t. Those who hate it really hate it.
We know that a lot of copyright holders hate fan fiction and they have the legal right to stop it, so why don’t people get sued more often?
Taking people to court is expensive, and recovering damages from a fan fiction writer is unlikely. When the copyrighted work is profitable to the copyright holder, they tend to aggressively defend it. If Bob Somedude writes a Star Wars novel and posts it online free, Disney is unlikely to go after him. You bet that if we write a Star Wars novel, Disney will sue us. They don’t need our money, but we have a high enough profile to be made an example of.
A lot of writers are comfortable with fan fiction use of their work, others are not. Anne Rice is not. Neil Gaiman is. We don’t mind, but we don’t want to read it in any way, shape, or form. Not even a paragraph. It is a stance shared by a good portion of fiction writers. Here is an interesting article that goes into detail about different authors’ take on it and Anne Rice’s legal battles in particular.
Takeaway from all of this: the only way to legally profit from fan fiction is to transform it into an original work by changing it so much that it exists independently of the original source material. Some published works that started as fan fiction: Fifty Shades of Grey (Twilight,) City of Bones (Harry Potter,) there is more here. All of these works were substantially revised to file off serial numbers of their fan fiction origin.
So if you’re worried that fan fiction “could really explode,” that train has sailed years and years ago.
Usage of tropes
Plagiarism has a very narrow definition. In fiction world plagiarism requires copying the actual words from the original work. Fan fiction writers don’t typically plagiarize, unless they are copying chunks of the original book. They create derivative works, which infringe on copyright of the original author. A lot of times when people accuse someone of ripping off someone’s fiction, they are reacting to the use of tropes.
Tropes are reoccurring motifs or fictional devices particular to specific genre or type of fiction. They are so entrenched in the narrative tradition that people use them over and over. For example, a man and a woman have a one night stand, woman becomes pregnant, gives birth, and raises the child, then the father discovers the surprise child and now wants to take an active role as a parent which leads to eventual romance and happy marriage is a trope called Secret Baby.
- Werewolves shifting during full moon.
- Supernatural creatures, shapeshifters, vampires, magic warriors, etc, recognizing someone as their soul mate by scent or other characteristics at first glance
- Magic swords, sentient swords, swords that disappear and can be summoned.
- Pack structure: alpha, beta, omega.
When you look at the article, here are the points Ms. Cain views as plagiarism.
Then, in 2018, Ms. Cain heard about an up-and-coming fantasy writer with the pen name Zoey Ellis, who had published an erotic fantasy series with a premise that sounded awfully familiar. It featured an Alpha and Omega couple, and lots of lupine sex. The more Ms. Cain learned about “Myth of Omega” and its first installment, “Crave to Conquer,” the more outraged she became. In both books, Alpha men are overpowered by the scent of Omega heroines and take them hostage. In both books, the women try and fail to suppress their pheromones and give in to the urge to mate. In both books, the couples sniff, purr and growl; nest in den-like enclosures; neck-bite to leave “claim” marks; and experience something called “knotting,” involving a peculiar feature of the wolf phallus.A feud in Wolf-Kink Erotica Raises a Deep Legal Question
These are tropes. Patricia Briggs did Alpha and Omega way before any of this happened. You can’t copyright tropes. You can trademark names and characters, which we have done, by the way, after one author copied our world, including Lyc-V. You can copyright novels. But you can’t trademark or copyright tropes.
She doesn’t have a leg to stand on. You can sue someone because they creates a similar work. You just won’t win.
Our work has been imitated countless times. Sometimes by someone we knew, which did feel like a betrayal. We do examine each instance of such imitation and we vigorously defend our copyright in cases where plagiarism can be proven. But in the end, our work is better, because we created this world and we know it best. When people attempt to appropriate it, they end up with a knock off. It’s not their world; it’s ours. And that’s all there is to it.
Update: Calling other people stupid is not allowed. Express your opinions without profanity or name calling. 🙂
Comments are now locked, because moderating this is eating way too much time.
I have no desire to read fan fiction! I will only read stories by my favorite authors because they know the characters best and where the story is going! I have no desire to read someones knock off.
Thanks!! Really good information, and explanation of tropes!
Yes. Thank you. Who wants WM when u can Blue Bell!!
Mary Cruickshank-Peed says
Read this article the other day in the NYT. I read a lot… the way it’s going, it’s going to be over 200 new books this year. If people were allowed to copyright tropes there’d be … like… 5 authors. (And, oddly enough, Neil Gaiman would be one 🙂
I too read a lot and we readers have to wait on our fave authors to write the next one. It understandably takes a while to produce quality. In the meantime I need my books. Everything can’t be Grapes of Wrath. Fanfic can be entertaining while I am jonesing for another Anita, Kate, Mercy epic. Anyway thanks House Andrews for the education and brilliance. I would tell Ms. Cain to not waste her time trying to police the genre. Just write your ass off girl.
I have never read fan fiction and never will. I believe that the characters created by the original authors is theirs alone and I only want to read their work.
I completely agree. I see no point to wasting time reading can fiction. Much better to discover new original works.
William Shakespeare, arguably, wrote fanfic. He never had an original character in his life. Most of his plays, today, would never have been published due to copyright (he swiped characters, plots, settings from playwrights at neighboring theaters, and they did the sane to him).
Damn my curiosity!… But I’ll like to know who tried to copy you ????♀️ I’m aware that I’ll probably get no answer ???? but I’m asking just in case you decide to write more about it ????????♀️
Same. Personal choice, but I’m not interested at all.
I’ve read the first three Alpha and Omega books by Ms. Cain and they aren’t about weres. They are about a futuristic huminoid culture, what I would call science fiction erotic, certainly not fantasy erotica. Too many space ships. It’s a totally different take on the terms Alpha and Omega and completely, in my opinion, out of synce with the definitions in relationship to shifters. If fact, tbere are no shifters in her world.
I always leave smarter than I came. Thank you for the explanation.
I just just going to say that. I’m always amazed how a reader or “fellow writer” would ask IA a “quick” question, and leave with a multi-page in depth explanation.
+1 really interesting read. Thank you very much.
Me too. Thanks
Tasha A. says
Thanks for this insight. It’s really interesting to hear an authors perspective about fan fiction. I’m kinda neutral on fan fic as reader. I tend not to read it since what i want is more from the author and the world they created so i’m disappointed that it’s not as good as the source material.
Absolutely agree with you. There are a couple of great mystery writers with series that have been extensively “continued” by other authors (most horribly Heron Carvic, who’s wonderfully funny Miss Seeton series has been butchered by countless hacks). It’s a terrible feeling to see a new books and think “OMG, I haven’t read the one.” and then discover it’s somebody’s mediocre rip-off.
Thank you for checking on your imitators and keeping them at least sorta honest.
It’s evidently a never-ending battle to avoid the knock-offs. It happens in books, fashion, even in hand-made crafts. Many folks see no reason that they cannot help themselves to another person’s hard work. All you can do is refuse to buy the fakes. Sigh.
OBTW – This is probably in the list that I have been too lazy to look at. Another famous series that started off as fan fiction : Outlander (Dr Who) That’s why Jamie Frasier is in both.
It’s hilarious to me that Diana Gabaldon’s moneymaker is fanfiction, since she’s been known to be a bit rabid about others writing fanfic of her work. How hypocritical.
I misstakenly bought fanfiction once, never again. I don’t even want to read it, because in most “worlds” that I read, I have a relationship to the characters that I don’t want tainted. Not even after a series has ended which I think is a common reason people write fanfic.
How does the trademarking of character names work? Does that mean no other author can use the name “Conner Rogan” in their original, space opera story?
No, it doesn’t mean that. See: https://www.amazon.com/Fatal-Games-Daniels-Mystery-Mysteries/dp/0062387138
You trademark the character in entirety, so nobody can write an urban fantasy and have a character who looks like Kate, talks like Kate, has Kate’s powers and her sword, and is named Kate Daniels. Here is the precedent of how it might be enforced: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anderson_v._Stallone
This is cool! Thank you! Is it a good idea and fiscally responsible to copyright all of your characters?
I used to work in the entertainment sector, and often times you’d trademark names of characters and certain things. Sometimes you could get that trademarked, even when you couldn’t get protection on your intellectual property title.
There was one intellectual property we shall call it BRANDX that was super, uber aggressive about any merchandise (especially figures) that featured the heroes name. Regardless of if the new figure being released was based on celebrities who were born with the same name, or new fictional characters from BrandY and BrandZ that in no way had any similarities to this one HERO or the world of BrandX in which that character existed.
BrandX bullied others into not using the name on merchandise, because they’d take you to court, even if legally this new merchandise was so distinct (and the worldview of the character on the figure so unique) to have no overlap with the trademark protection. They’d make you fight the legal fees, each and every time. A lot of companies wanting to avoid the legal fight, would release their BrandY figure and just not use the name on packaging, or use a nickname, or title.
On another note, I’ve seen some new copyright legislation proposed (though I think it hasn’t passed, at least not as originally written) that was written in such a way, that put the impetus of copyright protection solely on the intellectual property owner, and that if you were lax and let some uses go without punishment (such as not for profit fan works), that could actually be used to erode protections on licensing. Most of this comes down to, a simple fact: you have politicians, not lawyers trying to write legal code, and certain nuances get missed by the politicians.
Entertainment companies, tech companies and their collective industries have a lot of clout and can lobby for things beneficial for them. Disney tends to really fight to change protections, everytime one of their classic things is about to enter into the public domain.
So copyright law is nuanced, and ever changing. And there’s differences between national copyright, and international copyright too. So an intellectual property that is being sold into countries globally enjoys different copyright protections in each local area, plus any international agreements that area may have signed with elsewhere.
There’s a reason why you have lawyers who specialize only in copyright and trademarking. ^_^
I used to be a lawyer. I used to be a romance writer. One of the things I know from my career (and from being sued, and from being a plaintiff — both of those arose from having owned a house) is that lawsuits are NEVER fun, NEVER easy, and the only guarantee is that the lawyers will get rich before you will. Don’t steal. And if you write an original work, pay the modest fee ($35, I think?) to register the copyright. And if you’re writing fan fiction, be inspired but don’t copy. No cutting-and-pasting, no using specific details. The whole point of writing anything is to make stuff up in your head. So do that.
Bill G says
As an avid reader, I often also make up stuff in my head. About characters, situations, or whatever. And there was a time when another person’s post gave me a sudden thought. I started typing in response, and as I typed it grew. I suddenly stopped, and deleted it before posting; it wasn’t fanfic. Yet. But it would have been the layout for something in the author’s world that wasn’t the author’s work.
I’m still amused by the concept I came up with, but there’s nothing for me to do with it but occasionally take out the memory, polish it up, and laugh at it.
I am curious – what is yours (authors and fans) attitude towards people running homebrew RPG sessions in an established setting?
I feel it is functionally very different from writing fiction, because it is usually not a transcribed experience, but I can also see how it draws parallels to fan-fiction.
If you want to roleplay in any of our worlds, go for it.
If you want to develop a board game/computer game based on our world and sell it, the agent’s information is right here: https://ilona-andrews.com/professional-inquiries/
Now I want an IA world game! Please, please, please to anyone who designs games! ????
Fan fiction can be fun, I’ve written it myself. However, those stories were quietly shared within a very limited group at most, nor would I ever pretend there aren’t based on someone else’s creativity. The majority of my personal work has never been seen by anyone but my husband. I’ve never done anything in any of your worlds, because the inspiration that can trigger a story has never struck.
I have written Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, Shadowrun, D&D, World of Warcraft, and Star Wars The Old Republic fanfics. Probably a couple of other things that I don’t remember right now. It’s a fun creative outlet and I am really particular about following the tenets of the world I’m writing in. Sometimes the story gets into your head and it won’t leave you alone until you do something about it.
I think my closest take is Joan Cusack’s line in Working Girl. “Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna. Never will.” But when I get the urge, I enjoy it. =)
But I enjoy, it’s a creative outlet for me and it’s also highly personal. I am very shy about sharing anything I write.
Mary Beth says
I’m the same way. I used to write fan fic to get through bleak times. Most of it was comedic fish out of water stories that I shared with my husband so he could share the laughter.
When he brought me a few pages back and said “Honey, this is good enough you should start your own novels” I was pretty shocked. Writing classes and Skillshare and Masterclasses later, I’m well on the way to writing my own stories and having a blast. (And tearing out my hair, depends on the day.)
I’m mystified by those who hate fan fiction, and equally mystified by those who demand it’s their right to write it. For me, it’s a coping mechanism that is private and shared with one person.
I just ordered a book that includes this subject which might be a good addition to an authorlords library:
Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook, Second Edition: Updated Guide to Protecting Your Rights and Wallet Kindle Edition
by Helen Sedwick (Author
Should the day ever arrive that I publish, it’s nice to have an idea on what NOT to do.
Vickie H Loftis says
My niece started writing Artemis Fowl fanfic at 10. She also used it as a coping mechanism when her life got to stressful. She also used it as a spring board to learn how to write her own things. I think that for a lot of people learning how to write characters, dialogue, and a world is too much. But when you get to borrow parts you can come up with a good story and gain confidence.
However, like Ilona said, to call it your own you have to change it to be your own.
Thinking about fan fiction as sort of akin to covering a song that someone else wrote is an interesting parallel.
I should add, I have never written AS a major character in any universe. I write my own characters that live in that universe. I actually try to avoid major characters, but I’ve broken that rule on more than one occasion when the story has called for it. In Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, I have a dragonrider I have created myself, given her personality and backstory, then run with it. Same thing in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar as a Herald, or in WoW or SWTOR. Insert universe here, but the main character is always my own invention. =)
Following that link…so many twilight fan fics why dear god why? Also I am ashamed to admit I think I own a few of these because they showed up for free on bookbub. I check bookbub every day and if it’s in one of my genres and free I’m more likely than not to download it. Doesn’t mean I’ll actually read it. Still why all the twilight fan fics?!
Propably because the Twilight world was not very developed imo, so there was the possibility to run wild and a lot of room for improvement 😀
Don’t feel bad about these books and that they used to be fanfic. They might still be good works with original twists and turns after they were turned into their own book.
I think lots of writers nowadays take their first steps in fanfic and grow there before releasing their own novels. Nothing wrong with this imo. Saves all of us from spending money on the beginner mistakes 😀
Mark N. says
“But in the end, our work is better, because we created this world and we know it best” — not to mention that you are a very talented writer. Urban Fantasy is an exploding fiction field, but your work is a step above (maybe 2-3 steps?) in quality. IMO, the quality of your writing continues to improve as well.
I would also add that most Fan Fiction is not intended to generate revenue, but is rather an appreciation of the original work. Plagiarism is essentially stealing someone else’s work product for personal gain.
“I would also add that most Fan Fiction is not intended to generate revenue, but is rather an appreciation of the original work. Plagiarism is essentially stealing someone else’s work product for personal gain.”
Exactly. That’s why we don’t mind fan fiction. We don’t want to read it to preserve integrity of our own work, but if people want to write it, more power to them. 🙂
This is why when I’m writing contemporary romance, I DO NOT READ contemporary romance. I think it’s too easy to unconsciously steal from another author in the same genre.
Kara Rogers says
Thank you for the information! As the Mom of an artist, respecting intellectual property rights resonates strongly in our family. I’ll buy generic at the grocery store, but have no interest in doing so with my books!
While its obviously a very complex issue, the link you shared indicates that the fanfiction fiasco (at least in the case of Rice) coincided with the larger debate on copyright/piracy that exploded with the widespread use of the internet. After all, its not simply about how much can one control things online, but for how long!
Kat M. says
I’m just amused by the idea of a train that’s sailed, and then I learned about something called a “sail bogey,” and now my life is that much more complete.
clara brotherton says
Ummmm… I really hate to say this, but there are a lot of mistakes here.
It’s not werewolf erotica. It is omegaverse, which is a totally different thing, and it’s not anywhere near the same thing as Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega.
Omegaverse came out of the world of fan fic, primarily out of Supernatural. It started out as MM, generally with mpreg. Now there is MF, but there wasn’t much, if any, MF omegaverse published on Amazon prior to Addison Cain’s first book. There was some on Archive of Our Own. There are tens and tens of thousands of o-verse books on AO3. Addison Cain is very supportive to new omegaverse authors, and promos the work of many authors. (Including Zoey Ellis’ book when it first came out.)
The case isn’t about the omegaverse trope, which Addison Cain has never claimed to create or tried to copyright. It’s strictly about Born to Be Bound and Crave to Conquer. There are significant similarities in between the two books. I can post a breakdown of the two, if you would like.
There is so much more that the NYT article didn’t go into, glossed over, and got outright wrong. It is very, very onesided.
I’m happy to go into more information, for anyone who wants it, with the caveat that there are some things that I can’t say because reasons.
The two relevant questions here are:
Did Zoey Ellis copy Addison Cain’s fiction word for word?
Did Zoey Ellis use Addison Cain’s characters complete with their names?
Unless the answer to either of these two questions is yes, Addison Cain doesn’t have a case. Similarity is not enough. The characters have to be developed with enough specificity for the similarity to become borrowing. I sympathize with Ms. Cain, because it sucks. It sucks being ripped off, especially by someone you encouraged. But unless she can demonstrate a clear infringement, she won’t win her court case.
Other Barbara says
My question is would those endless Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy novels be copyright infringement if Jane Austen were a contemporary author?
I would say yes since copyright lasts 70 years past the author’s death. So if Ms Austen was still alive a lot of them would probably not have been published in the first place.
P BM says
Personally, I hate fan fiction for many reasons, but next to cheating original authors, I’m basically offended by it because it is so badly written. Nobody can capture the characters and world like the original writer and result is painful.
Tim McCanna says
Years ago, my ex was getting established as a professional graphics artist (circa 1995) . We ran a forum on AOL and as part of that she created clip art for web pages. Someone went through the whole forum and copied all of the artwork and sold it on CDs. We ended up getting a copyright lawyer and the main case we had was the selling of her work. Luckily for us it was handled for us by Lawyers for the Arts and I think they were based in San Francisco.
I don’t know if the law works the same for writing and how much intent to capitalize on someone else’s works.
I write fan fiction all the time — in my head, where it stays. It’s usually just excess world building (my Mercy Thompson’s world melding with Iron Druid’s world has its own PowerPoint to explain how that works, and you KNOW how hot readers get for PowerPoint presentations in the middle of a book. Or that *are* the book).
When I was very young, and long, long before Orson Scott Card outed himself as someone whose politics I find revolting (#1 reason why I have a hard and fast rule against knowing anything personal about artists I like (which I have totally broken with House Andrews)), I read an essay he wrote in which he said if you are writing fan fiction, you’re not writing your own fiction. And despite the source, I’ve really taken that to heart. I’m not saying I’ll ever write anything, but if I do, it’ll be something I created.
Speaking of money, doesn’t that come into it somewhere? As in, if IA were to write said Star Wars novel, but release it entirely for free, would Disney be able to sue? Or, to take a significantly less resource-rich example (let’s face it, Disney could lose and still bankrupt you, and the court fees for them would come out of petty cash), if you were to write a story about showing my PowerPoint to Bran & Charles & Anna while Atticus pops in, and release it for free, would Patricia Briggs and Kevin Hearne have grounds to sue? You not only haven’t profited off of it, you’ve probably driven their sales among your non-overlapping fans.
And finally, I don’t know how EL James managed the trick, since I have been told by those who read the books that there are entire scenes exactly copied, but since I refuse to give my money to books that promote abuse (I read a borrowed copy of Twilight, so I could say that I had read it and yes, it promotes abuse, and that’s as far as I could make myself go), I can’t do the comparison myself. Would the court battle have been between Meyer & James or between their publishers?
Other Barbara says
I did an equally sleazy thing, to see what Fifty Shades was about..I found pieces of the original fanfic piece online. “Master of the Universe” I think is title.
I got way too tired of people telling me that I didn’t understand Twilight because I hadn’t read it, so I did. And yes, it’s absolutely horrible on every level. I can read 1-2 books/day, depending on what else I have to do. It took me a WEEK to read Twilight, because it was so bad. And that was just the writing, not even counting the absolutely awful way it sells stalking and abuse as true love.
Siobhan, you did better than I. I, too, am an avid reader who can really devour the books (and I”ll read them more than once, too!) but I could NOT make myself finish “Twilight”. I had a relative who as AGHAST that I had never read it, and she gifted every single one of those books. I got about 70 pages into the first one and I’ve never so much as cracked the cover on any of them since. I never understood how anyone could get so excited about it, either
Oddly enough, I’ve read all the 50 Shades books more than once. It’s one of the advantages of having an e-reader because no one can see what it is you’re reading. LOL. Also crap, but I couldn’t even tell you why I can’t stand to read the one and the other is OK
Read the first Twilight book.
I was working in my dissertation on werewolves and one of my committee members (still known as the “Special Committee Member”) saw Twilight in an airport bookstore on the way back from a conference. Knowing nothing about it, s/he suggested that I should do a chapter on it because “it’s popular and has werewolves”.
So, I read the first book solely to explain to this individual, in-depth, why that would not be happening.
The only fanfic I read are obvious parodies of the work in question. (See “Oh God, Not Again by Sarah1281). I enjoy the humor. Humorous fiction is hard to come by.
I’m sorry someone you know copied your work. A random stranger would be hard enough, but from someone you know, that would be very upsetting. ((Hugs))
Wait there’s an actual legal battle about a/b/o fanfiction going on right now? And this is the first I’m hearing about it? I feel cheated!
I really feel like the fact that AO3 alone has *checks* 73,323 fics tagged “alpha/beta/omega dynamics” should really say something about the pervasiveness of such tropes in some circles, and thus the ridiculousness of trying to claim plagerism.
clara brotherton says
Not about the o-verse, but about books written in it.
Lynn Thompson says
Thank you, Ilona Andrews for the educational post. Interesting.
Thanks for the information, it is interesting read.
Strangely, it never occurred to me that people would write fan fiction for universes that writers are actively writing in. (Why would you do that??)
I have read fan fiction for things that have no new work forthcoming (like 9th/10th Doctor stories in Dr Who, or Sherlock, sadly) and they are very clearly marked as ‘all characters are property of the BBC’.
Donna A says
I don’t see that anyone has said this before me so I will just own it – I have read fiction of the omegaverse variety, generally m/m. It has been around for a good long while now. I read the article (New York Times makes you go through loops!) but I have not read any books by the two ladies in question. However I’ve definitely read both published and unpublished works of almost exactly the same seeming style (albeit featuring two males) which is basically the exact definition of the omegaverse basics anyway, AND I have read it before 2016 which is when Miss Cain apparently first legally published her work. It’s ridiculous that she would complain of copyright infringement for this reason. If she can prove plagiarism, good for her. If she had somehow created omegaverse from scratch, then hell yeah. But she published a book written in an established underground but otherwise newly developing subgenre and now wants to complain that someone else did the same thing. Smacks of massive hypocrisy to me.
clara brotherton says
She wasn’t trying to copyright omegaverse and has never claimed to create it. That’s one of the biggest misconceptions about what is going on with the case.
Kristen Painter must have set up some kind of fan fic “Universe” for her Nocturne Falls series where a bunch of people have written books in that universe and the book covers say Nocturne Falls Universe and the covers look a lot like Kristin’s covers for that series. I think I read one and wasn’t too impressed and I think that’s when I realized it wasn’t actually written by Kristin. There have been so many of them released and they always show up in the “books I might be interested in” and I’d click on the description only to realize it’s one of the fan fics. There have been sooo many that it’s actually turned me off the original series.
There are several “shared world” series out there. At least one (“Everlasting”, I think) had 4 different authors for the first 4 books. They were all established, known authors and I have to think of the series as an anthology of books set in that world.
Also, Amazon had “Kindle World” series for a while. Basically, an author with an established world would allow others to write in that world. I kept seeing some of my favorite series on the cover and then noticing the author was not the original. Very disappointing.
I am sure there were rules about what one could do to the characters (No killing, maiming, marriage, etc.), but I’ve no idea what they were, since I didn’t trust these people to know what they were doing and never bought any..
Amazon has stopped showing me most of these, but I still see random “Miss Fortune / Sinful, LA” titles go by and Jana DeLeon is still writing that series. (She writes the most amazing slapstick in her books!)
Shared worlds used to be fairly common, particularly in the 80s (Robert Asprin/Lynn Abbey’s Thieves World, Larry Niven’s Man-Kzin Wars, C.J. Cherryh had one the name of which eludes me). They’re also pretty popular in children’s/YA fic (39 Clues, for instance).
Well written and a great explanation. I used to write fan fic, but stopped because (a) it wasn’t satisfying me; and (b) I got a very nasty email from one author when a piece I wrote became popular.
As a writer and university student, I can understand the contention some writers feel about this topic even though I do not agree. I have been writing fanfiction since I was thirteen and I’m thirty-three now. I believe that as a young writer, being able to ‘play’ in the ‘sandboxes’ of our peers help us hone our skills. We learn as go, reinventing established worlds in new ways.
I don’t know what I would have done during my teenage years without fanfiction. I made online friends and critics, with their support or lack thereof, helped me grow as a writer. Because of this unique opportunity, I have learned to appreciate not only the orginal authors, but my fellow fans as well.
And while there will always be those who disagree, you can never ban something like this. You can threaten, you an sue, you can destroy one amateur writer at a time, but the fans will find a way. They will find a way to share no matter what blocks are put in their way to stop them (even at the height of Ann Rice’s ban, you could still find Vampire Chronicles fanfiction).
In the end, its easier to embrace the creativity than attempt to crush it. I know that when I eventually get published, I may have gained fanwriters of my own and I will gladly invite into my sandbox and hand then a shovel.
You’re entitled to disagree and do whatever you like when you’re published.
What you may not do is dictate to other authors while stating that because it benefitted you they might as well accept it. You believe something to be true because you personally enjoy it.
It does not follow that all authors should sit back and allow it nor is your reasoning, flowing as it does solely from personal preference, in any way persuasive.
As a reader I enjoy well written fan fiction. My sister writes very good fan fiction “vignettes” and short stories about characters and universes she enjoys, but only where the author has made clear that they are OK with fan fiction. I asked her once if she had ever considered writing professionally and her answer was essentially, “Why? I already have a job I love, and that would make an enjoyable hobby into work.”
Interestingly, for characters I am really invested in (Peter Whimsey, Eugenides, anything by Lois Bujold, and more) I’m not interested in fan fiction because only the author’s voice rings true to me. I don’t even need to read it necessarily, although I always want to. I once asked Lois Bujold on Goodreads whether she could see a way for two characters to overcome their hurdles and get together. She said yes. It hasn’t been written, and might never be written, but I’m happy knowing that she sees a path. It is her universe.
Donna A says
Exactly! If you love the authors voice and you love the character, anything less doesn’t match up. However I have never seen Sherlock but I enjoyed some fanfic for it. I have seen Marvel films and enjoyed them well enough and enjoyed some fanfic. I saw there is fanfic of some authors whom I love and I was actually repulsed and steered clear. You can’t fake a Michaelangelo but you can copy a Velvet Elvis.
When I was much younger I read tons of fanfic (mostly media –Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, etc–and not book based). I think the urge/need to create and read most fanfic comes not from someone thinking they can get rich or famous ripping someone else off, but from fans falling so in love with a fictional universe that they want to live with the characters a bit longer and share with other fans. That kind of fanfic can be fun. The other type I consider parasitic. If they’re such good writers they would create their own characters and worlds.
I read a lot of fan fiction for those worlds as well. Not these days. 1. In those days it was hard copy sold at convention I’m not sure where to find then today.
2. On reason I read them is that ther was nothing new coming out that was Star Trek, star wars, Dr. Who. So I was hungry.
3. My favorite stories are crossover ones. The Dr. On the Enterprise for example. But then you get weird stuff like the K/S stories.
I’m of slightly mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, I’m a strong believer in intellectual property, be it in literature or music. On the other hand, there’s a strong argument that, if it weren’t for fan fiction (and professionals using the universe created as settings for their own work), Star Trek would have faded into the mists after the original series was cancelled.
I could be wrong, but I think the difference lies in recency. Is the original author still writing, using the setting, characters, etc? If not, how long ago did they stop using it? If they’re dead or retired, then it’s open season. If it was a one- or two-and done (Patty Briggs’ Raven and Hurog duologies come to mind) whose themes haven’t been revisited in close to 20 years, then it’s a grey area. If it’s something they’re still writing in, or it’s recent enough they can plausibly be said to be taking a break from it to keep it fresh, then it’s absolutely off-limits.
DOROTHY SIZEMORE says
I must admit I read some Twilight Fanfiction. For me though I like the ones who may use names of characters but put them in a totally different world. These stories if the writer would choose to could be legitimately published with very minor tweaks such as the case of Fifty Shades. It’s Fanfiction beginning used names but not the supernatural aspect.
Horacio Serrano says
At it’s core copyright/patent law arises as an answer to a specific economic and social situation, as with all law it was meant to protect interests (in this particular case, the ability of the creator to profit from its invention). At the time at the time of its conception, very few people had the means to mass produce what inventors/writers created. This obviously created a massive power imbalance, where the factory owner (at the time) could essentially disavow the inventors/writers involvement in the creation of a product and they had no recourse.
The answer to this was to create a registry of concepts/ideas/inventions and assign OWNERSHIP of the concept to a person/entity. This is a relative new development in human history.
Definition: “A derivative work is a work based on or derived from one or more already existing works.”. This is the story of human evolution.
Personally i am rather against the whole copyright concept, i find it is rather counter human evolution. This was the “best” solution to a specific problem in a specific situation. Situations change. Having said that i do not know that the situation has changed enough for a better alternative to be available.
As a side note, copyright is not eternal, most copyright legislation (varies country to country) assign a specific length of time for ownership, after which it enters the public domain. In 2024 Disney’s rights to Mickey Mouse expire. Are they just going to let it go? is Disney’s wallet going to allow them to have “more rights” than other authors?. Are we defacto going to eliminate the public domain?
Copyright law allows me to put food on my table without other people taking advantage of my labor. Since we’re playing with historic concepts, fiction I create is mine alone, for, as Locke put it, “Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself. The labor of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his.”
Your post sounds very similar to the rationale ebook pirates use to claim that all books should be free and what they are doing isn’t stealing. Do you like my fiction? If the copyright stops protecting it, I will stop writing because it will no longer pay my bills.
Horacio Serrano says
“Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself. The labor of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his.”
With all due respect Locke was Wrong (and a quack, but that is beyond this scope). I’m more of a Hobbes man.
I kindly invite you to go ahead and sell a lung and a kidney and prove me wrong. Furthermore Conscripts for whatever reason, have existed long before and long after Locked lived. His ideas are “nice” and certainly in tune with modern American Capitalism, but demonstrably false. At best they are true, “some” of the time.
As i stated above, Copyright is the “best” solution we have right now. To assume this will always be the case is a bit naive. The ability for you to put food on the table would not change, the way you do it would. They ownership of a concept and the ability to profit from it, are not necessarily the same thing. I am not arguing against you profiting from your creation, i am arguing against the how.
But again, i am not stating we are there yet in fact i pretty much admit we are not. To recognize they need for the institution does not take erase its flaws. The Order of Merciful Aid comes to mind, deeply needed and deeply flawed.
Horacio Serrano says
First im a Hobbes man, Locke, while his ideas are very in tune with “modern” American Capitalism, many are flat out demonstrably wrong. I invite you to try selling your kidney and prove me wrong. And Don’t get me started on his state of nature and the purpose of the state.
As to my post, i am not arguing against authors profiting from their work, i am arguing against the how. But i will freely admit that we currently do not have a better alternative, this does not take away from it’s flaws thou. The Order of Merciful aid comes to mind, deeply needed and deeply flawed.
(Pd: this is a repost of my answer because i did not see it, don’t know if it was deleted or denied, if either was the case, i apologize for the inconvenience of doing it again).
For those who hate fan fictions… As a teacher, we use fan fiction as a writing technique in the classroom; we just don’t call it that.
Many times we ask students to “rewrite the ending” or “put yourself in the characters shoes, how would you have handled that scene?” At the core, fan fiction can be seen as “training wheels” for amateur writers. It creates the opportunity for people to explore their own ideas in a familiar environment. As they continue to create fan fiction, their writing skills will improve. Eventually, they will be confident enough in their “writing voice” to start creating their own worlds.
It could also be very generational. I am 33 right now and I was just a bit older when the whole fan fiction wagon started. I was in College, so I never dove too deep into those waters. My sister, on the other hand, is 10 years younger than me. She was finishing elementary and starting Middle School at that time and she dove in head first. I teach Middle School students and all of them love fan fiction to varying degrees. When I taught High School, fewer students kept up with fan fiction; either moving on to traditionally published books or dropping reading completely in favor of other forms of entertainment. Accessibility is also a major factor here as well.
I’m another non-fan-fiction reader. It disturbs me a bit that my 13yo is so into it, partly because I have zero insight into it, partly because so much of it is sloppy writing and I want her reading well written, meaty stuff, and partly because that’s the majority of what she reads. It challenges my “let them read whatever they want” view.
But what strikes me is that there is *so much* reading material of all sorts available that of course there’s going to be overlap. I have KU, and the number of any one of the sub genres is astounding. Read one BBW bear shifter novel, here are 20 more. Prefer witch detectives? Reverse harem? Reverse harem bear shifters? Overlap seems inevitable. Even in well established authors and series. I just did a reread of Patricia Briggs, and kept waiting for thing that actually happen in Eileen Wilkes. They are in no way derivative, just similar.
There’s some really bad published stuff out there. I remember as a teen reading a book and thinking, “This can’t be as bad as I think it is. It’s so hard to get published. It has to be better than I think.” Decades later, the author was brought up in an online discussion of terrible books, and I felt so vindicated!
I’ve also read some amazing fan fic. And, I’ve read some fluffy, fun fan fic. I’ve read novels that started out as fan fic. There are plenty of beloved authors who started out writing fan fic. (There are some beloved authors who STILL write fan fiction under pen names!) It’s one way for new writers to write a LOT of words without worrying about getting published. They can get feedback from strangers without having to show their (potentially embarrassing) effort to someone they know IRL.
Writers write, and some writers write fan fiction. Readers read, and some readers read fan fiction. I’ve seen a lot of disparaging comments about both in this thread, and that’s unfortunate. Just because something’s not *your* cup of tea, doesn’t mean someone else shouldn’t enjoy it.
Jo l says
My mildly dyslexic 13 yr old read very little despite my best efforts until she discovered rainbow harry potter fan fiction. Now reads huge quantities of it. Like you I don’t read any. Some of it might be generational. At 43 I haven’t stumbled over it and would have to Google to find it. Which I haven’t bothered. I just keep returning to house Andrews BDH recommends post for new reading. But FF seems to take up a huge amount of space in the teenagers head as she spins next generation stories in her mind (or spouts them at me) and occasionally on paper.
For me is simple if the fanfic is free (the writer doenst make Money on it) its ok if not you must have the original author permition (cursed child)
I’ve read fanfiction quite a lot. Some of it is really good. Some of it is quite awful. I’ve even written some. I also sound you’re staying a authors right to protect their work. I’ve never attempted to sell my FanFiction as original work. It was an exercise to experiment with my own creativity. Some people have jumped from the fanfiction world into commercial publishing, and I think that is where the questions start coming up. E l James is one author who did this. In all honesty I thought her work was derivative and poor. That is my opinion. Many people love those books. And she laughed all the way to the bank.I’ve often thought her success had more to do with women owning their sexuality than with the quality of her writing. But an account with what makes a runaway success? Fanfiction is pretty much here to stay and I don’t think there’s much that authors can do about it. Personally I wouldn’t bother with them unless they blatantly take something obvious commercial ( as in start selling a straight rip off). In many ways it’s a compliment. a shows that fans love the work so much that they actually want to live in it.
Fanfic thought me how to read, write and think in english.
At school I was orrible in English, (constant F) I really was hopeless.
Then I found out that an ended Tv-show had fanfic (1998), I started to read them, to be able to read 1 page I needed a whole afternoon, i had to look for pretty much every words. Thanks to those story I met a lot of fans (yeah dear old mIRC days) who I’m still friend with. After a while I even wrote some (mind you the English was aweful and the story very simple and cheesy and I needed beta reader -an angel- who translated all my sentence in a proper English).
But it thought me so much. I changed several fandom, but I still love o read some.
It’s like comfort food.
Of course there are bad one, there awful ones, but there are some gems who made me laugh so hard I couldn’t breath! [Naked quidditch everyone!]
And then there are world like IA’s where I don’t feel the need of reading fanfic because everything I want to see, is done.
If it wasn’t for the Fanfic world I’d never discovered tv-show undubbed, or Ilona Andrews. so… Thank you fanfics!
Sorry for the length of my post.
Your work is better not just because it’s your world. It’s better because you’re good writers who have worked hard, for a long time, becoming better writers. There is talent, and there is effort, and there is time spent. Fanfic writers would be hard put to raise all three to your level. Once they did, they’d much more likely be writing their own stories, though maybe with a little inspiration from you.
One thing I’ve always appreciated about you both is the amount of free fiction you share with your readers. It’s incredibly generous and I’m so sorry that people have done the wrong thing in taking ideas and work that don’t belong to them.
I can understand the fanfic. I’ve loved KD so much and I’m THRILLED we are able to enjoy more of Julie’s story. I can see how a person would want to dive more deeply in to that world through writing or reading fan fiction. I’ve looked for several from stories I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to and I was always disappointed. You can borrow a world but you can’t recreate an author’s voice, so I always left disappointed. Now I’m content to let a series live in my head or in a re-read after it’s conclusion. Far more satisfying that way!
As long as fanfic writers aren’t harming the work they’re modeled after have fun. I’ll never growl at more creativity in the world and I’m happy there are ways people can practice writing and hopefully develop ideas of their own. They just need to make sure that work doesn’t harm the creator they seek to emulate.
The question in my mind is why the hell anyone would read “fan fiction” anyway. I am currently re-re-re-reading the KD series, and it has reminded me of why I started reading everything you published. The research that went into all the gods and goddesses and histories and Biblical verses and powers and faiths is, once again, blowing my mind. You have Kate rattling off all this data casually as things she learned as a child, and it’s totally fascinating that you then turn around and make the priests, priestesses, witch, and wizards into real people as they go about their duties to their whatever’s. I laugh very time I imagine Thantos as “Teddy Jo” with his flannel shirts. Yes, artistic license is there in that Roland is all the bad people history ever produced, but still, it blows my mind that you had to gather all that information and stir it into a mix, roll it out, and cut out the cookies for us to consume. Then I imagine someone else trying to keep it all straight to produce some kind of story in that world, and I wonder why anyone would bother to read it. If you enjoy the original work, stick with the original authors who wrote it.
The other thing I wonder if why, if the writers of all the “fan fiction” want to write, they don’t come up with their own worlds to entertain the masses. I will never write a book because I’d have to come up with my own world and why it’s the way I want it to be. I can imagine a lot of things I’d like to see happen in worlds others have created, but you can’t really write in that exact world without totally understanding it, and it’s IMAGINARY, so only the person — or in this case, people — who came up with it know enough about how it has to work to exist. I love your works, so don’t get me wrong when I say this, but it’s not worth the time it would take to obsess over the world itself enough to write something that happens within its boundaries.
Still, there are legal definitions of plagiarism and copyrights for a reason, and you can’t stop people from imagining things and writing them down, but why on earth anyone would even consider reading something by someone who is trying to add to a published work that stands on its own is beyond me.
I love your works, so don’t get me wrong when I say this, but it’s not worth the time it would take to obsess over the world itself enough to write something that happens within its boundaries.
Very well said
Thank you for this post. As always it was very informative.
The only fan fic I’ve read was for Merlin tv show. It ended so badly I went searching for answers and found many ppl felt the same. The fanfic gave me the closure I wanted ????
I can’t imagine reading fanfic in any other situation.
Britni Patterson says
Oof. I owe you an apology. I’d left a comment with an “intended to be funny” piece of fanfic on an old post somewhere. I didn’t know your feelings on it, and if I remembered where it was, I’d delete it, but I can’t find it now. (It was Arland and Maud, is all I remember,) If you do know where it is and what I’m talking about, please feel free to delete it.
I do find it interesting to hear this perspective, as I, and several friends, started out writing fan fiction, but are now working together to help each other write original pieces (mostly short stories). Writing fan fiction helped us by giving us characters and worlds that we didn’t have to invent, and didn’t struggle to explain, which allowed for more effort to go into the plot, and improving our skills.
I don’t really read fanfic, but I recognize its importance in terms of it being a sandbox, really. I’ve had so many (college) students tell me that they used to write fanfic in high school and that’s how they became enamored with writing. They were so inspired and involved with someone’s world that they wanted to play there. The play became serious and a launching point. As they are digital natives, they are used to instantaneous communication and exploration of alternate universes. I think that’s all fan fiction is to most of them. No more Harry Potter books? OK, wait, here’s more – and they are fully aware its not Rowling’s work. It goes into a different category. I doubt anyone who wrote K/S Slash fiction back in the day made any money on it nor intended to do so. But – they did further Trek fandom and for some readers, that was their way into that universe. Trek fans respect the ‘official’ Trek universe 1st, and then play in their universes second (with their own Star ships and Trek weddings, homage videos and fan fiction). They are not making money and they are, one hopes, aware that they are not Gene Roddenberry. So, fan fiction has a place.
“ But in the end, our work is better”
Yes, it is, which is why I will buy anything with Kate, Curran, Andrea, Maud, Arland, Nevada, or Conner, because you create awesome characters, with great plots, and fabulous action scenes.
A video game in the Kate Daniels universe would be pretty awesome. The whole idea about switching from magic to tech and back would make for a very interesting mechanic in an RPG style game. The addition of various mythological creatures and the complex magic system would make the gameplay really cool. Really hope someone makes that game.
Going back to the topic at hand, I personally have read fanfiction before. It can be fairly entertaining. Most of it is absolute crap but sometimes you do stumble on some that are amazing. I remember reading a few and thinking that person should for sure become a professional writer. That being said, I am completely against anyone making a profit from it. It’s incredibly unfair to the original author who put their blood, sweat and tears into their work. It’s basically stealing in my opinion.
Delia Grace says
This is fascinating to me. I’m published in a very small time way (like I think I’ve sold less than 5,000 copies of my books total :)), but am always curious what constitutes as plagiarism and what is unavoidable similarities.
Side note: I’ve been listening to audio books lately and can not get enough Ilona Andrews. Nothing else in the urban fantasy genre Is coming close. Thank y’all so much!
Katie R says
I’ve been binging one of your recommendations: Will Wight’s Cradle series. (Thanks for the rec. by the way, It hits the spot.)
Anyway, it has so many tropes I’ve seen before. The protagonist being a child who has no “magic” while everyone else does. A magical caste system. Apprenticeships. The surly travel partner. The infuriating but lovable master. The crusty old mentor. Magical sword. Internalized memories of a past master. Objects of power. And so many more. It only adds to the enjoyment for me. I’d love to see this series animated for streaming.
The description of the werewolf kink book seems like pretty much every other werewolf romance I’ve ever seen. I wonder if the lawsuit is actually a form of advertising. Just my cynical side coming through.
Again, thanks for the Will Wight recommendation! I am looking forward to reading more of his work.
Hello fellow Cradle reader! I agree! LitRPG (like Omegaverse) is a subgenre with all its own conventions that makes it a subgenre. A reader picks a litRPG expecting, WANTING, those conventions! I know I do! When I décide to read a M/M shifter romance, it’s because I feel like reading about mates and growls and instincts and stuff ; if I want world discovery and weird genitals, I’ll pick up an alien sci-fi romance; if I want to read about fights, underdogs and gaining power, I’ll read a litRPG or a super hero academy tale.
Honestly, when there’s a fad with readers clamouring for more and lots of authors jump in the pool, the stories kinda blur together. I can understand how an author in there would feel copied — in popular niche genres and at a certain writing level (when authors pop a new book every few months, there’s not much time spent on plotting novel ideas or on polishing writing…), the stories often look the same.
But back to Cradle: have you read the last 2 books, in which Will Wight shares “blooper scenes”? They’re hilarious! The “kaaaa-meee-ha–*SHUT DOWN!* comes to mind, considering the topic 😉 (full disclosure: if my sons had not gone on a Dragon Ball binge bcs of quarantine, I’d never would have caught the joke)
Gaëlle from France says
I’m not against fanfic, but I don’t read it. I tried once a very long time ago while the original series was not finished, and it was very confusing afterwards (while reading the next book) to distinguish the fanfic’ s events from the series’ events. I couldn’t remember exactly the author’s framework.
I ‘ve never tried again.
I understand more when fans write fanfics when the original work is over. It is a lot less confusing. But it’s just not my thing I guess..
I listened to a podcast recently about fanfiction. They pointed out that it’s a good way to train writers for television writing, where you have to write about established characters in an already created world. I can understand why writers don’t read fanfiction about their work, but I don’t know why some have such hate for it. It’s a way for readers to interact with a world that they loved, and it’s not like they’re profiting from it.
I’d say if you want to fanfic, respect the author. Most authors are easier to contact these days, so before you post your work somewhere just ask them how they feel about it.
I have a love/hate relationship with fanfic; I loved the one fanfic I read so much that it lead me to the original series, which I still re-read on occasion. Another fanfic completely ruined an entire book for me, I just can’t get the image I built up from it out of my head. Its because it started so well, and I really got into it… Ah well…
cherylanne farley says
Concise and brilliant as usual. When I started working on my PhD in Comparative Mythology with Joseph Campbell or learning how to say “Would you like fries with your order?” in both Klingon and Elvish– ahem—the fokloric tradition of tropes was top of the list. Boiled down to who is making money??? Are you sharing around the fire or trying to sell movie script of stolen ideas.
Omar Mtz says
Please read the article is so fun. I keep imagining the author’s learning for the first time all the meanings and type of stories that the Omegaverse has. 🙂
Thank you so much for explaining this in such detail, and clearly stating your stance on it. As just a reader, I had opinions based on not enough information. My wish for fanfic apparently is more complicated than it seemed.
I don’t enjoy most fanfic as usually the writing is poor and the tropes are sexual. Ie.. I wish Character A had chosen Character C instead of B. I find that fun in my own mind but not when interpreted by someone else. To me that’s the fun of reading. The only time I don’t mind someone else working in an Authors’ world is when an anthology is being made using a bunch of other professional writers and they have the permission of the original content. (IA yes this is my personal dream to have you guys and Jeanienne Frost collaborate on fiction. What can I say… I’m greedy.) Otherwise I find fanfic annoying and losing much of the plot in favor of sexual fantasy gratification. I enjoy reading erotica on occasion so I am not a prude I just want a story where sex is a natural development and not the point unto itself.
There is so much condescension for fanfiction here and that’s quite uncomfortable. I’m guessing that the comments section wasn’t intended to be an arena of slandering fellow fans of a variety of work. One (or more, even) bad experience can not apply to the millions of fan works present on the internet. I absolutely respect anyone’s choice not to read it, but maybe don’t be so insulting toward the again, millions, of readers and writers of it. What a way to build a hostile environment. Different people get and want different things from books and fanfic. That doesn’t make fic as a whole less quality. Plenty of writers cut their teeth writing fanfic and plenty others just want to share something they enjoyed. And plenty others have written more than published authors (the one that comes to mind has over 500 works and they’re regularly the size of novels or epics) and write better. Just because a work is published, that doesn’t mean it’s high quality. That means the publisher thinks it will sell. Taco bell isn’t high quality Mexican food, but they’re still in business. It’s a mixed bag, like literally everything in life.
I am also going to point out that the biggest fanfiction site completely disallows any hint of money making. This extends even to an authors completely unrelated ventures, such as a link to an Etsy shop where they make bracelets. Nothing is allowed, because they’re well aware that some authors would seize upon the chance to shut the entire thing down. Also, before this site it was standard to write a disclaimer basically saying “this is not mine, I make no claim on it, and I am making no money from it”. Just to firmly cover their bases and make it clear for any copywrite claims that there was no case to be had. Because that was is no way the goal of their writing.
Fanfiction, as it’s core, is about sharing and extending the joy you found in the original. There’s nothing bad about that.
And to touch on the actual topic, trying to make a copy write claim over tropes is ridiculous. While I think it’s in poor taste to be so similar in how you execute those tropes, there’s no legal case there.
“Plenty of writers cut their teeth writing fanfic and plenty others just want to share something they enjoyed.”
Yes. Meljean Brook, one of our friends, started in fan fic. She is a wonderful writer.
Grace Draven says
Come sit by me, Meljean! I started out in fan fiction too!
Donna A says
I made a second comment myself in response to the sudden denigratory subtext appearing in the comments, it hasn’t yet appeared but seeing your comment now appear is reassuring. If someone else has noticed the condescending tone then I wasn’t misreading the signals.
I think that there is a lot of misconception as to what fan fic is. Like with any fiction, there are standouts and there is also garbage.
The first fan fic of our work featured a violent m/m rape with our characters. The writer emailed to me and wanted my “critique.” I spent a whole day exploring my legal options and that’s when Gordon and I made the decision to limit our exposure to fan fiction of our work.
Another time a fan ran up at a convention and shoved a notebook at me and basically begged me to look at her story set in our world. I looked at it, because her hands were shaking and I thought she might pass out. It was good and I told her so. Side note to whoever is reading: please don’t do this if at all possible.
So there are all sorts of fan fic stories out there. Talent is still talent, no matter if it’s applied to fan fiction or original work. I’ve recommended Forthright on this blog before, because her work is undeniably high quality. As far as I know, she still writes fan fiction from time to time.
Donna A says
There are some good anime and manga inspired works out there too, I think maybe some people believe they know what fanfic is without actually having any idea of the huge scope and range of genres and bases it encompasses.
PS Please will you read my short story / novella / manuscript. . . 😉
PPS That was a joke. It’s actually a trilogy.
Though I can’t imagine ever approaching an author with something written within their own world. Sounds oddly ungrateful. I get giving paintings and crafted goods inspired by an authors worlds as that’s not their profession. But then again I don’t write fiction so maybe it’s still meant to be complimentary. Or maybe they just want free editing.
clara brotherton says
This is a better breakdown on everything about this case. http://goldeniangel.blogspot.com/2019/03/copyrights-dcma-abuse-and-lawsuits.html
Donna A says
This seems very biased in favour of Addison Cain and also doesn’t address the main principles of the problem which aren’t even really about these people per se and whether you find their behaviour ethical or otherwise. Amazon are not the only publishers in the world (yet) so to say no other books were published on Amazon with those beats is disingenuous; heterosexual pairings are not the only plagiarisable ones – if Miss Cain acknowledges her own work is highly derivative of prior homosexual works why cannot Miss Ellis be also? The idea that her more general content is copyrightable is of course highly problematic as it means a sliding scale of similarity will have to be used in every new case. How many times for example have you read a historical romance which follows essentially the same story? Will every new book be subjected to scrutiny by every prior author? Just because omegaverse is an emerging popular genre does not make it an unestablished one with well known tropes and themes already portrayed numerous ways. Unless clear examples of plagiarism can be shown it seems a questionable takedown order was made at the beginning which has now backfired and escalated. However this is my opinion as a genre reader and not having read the books in question only the pertinent articles provided – which do not anywhere provide samples of clear plagiarism to my layman’s mind.
I have read fanfiction before. I have not ever found one instance that was in any way comparable to the original authors stories.Which is why I no longer read fanfiction.
Donna A says
I made an earlier comment when I thought the main point was just the legalities and I jokingly ‘owned up’ to reading fanfic but since I can see there is actually some genuine bias and disparagement coming out against fanfic I feel I should revisit this.
I don’t really feel the need to ‘own up’ to anything, I will always read whatever I want to without excuses or embarassment and so should all people read whatever they like whether it’s badly formatted and edited (it does suck sometimes and I can be a real pedant!) because there is no ‘better’ or ‘worse’ there is only preferred. The validity of a piece of fiction should lie within the enjoyment of the reader. Just because I personally do not enjoy something does not make it lesser. The Canterbury Tales was frequently banned and expurgated over the years for it’s salacious content and much as it still amuses today is more helpful as a primary historical source than a piece of writing (the content having aided it’s endurance no doubt!). Similarly The Tale Of Genji was oft viewed as being immoral. In his lifetime, Dickens works (whose style as a writer I personally dislike but acknowledge his popularity) were the equivalent of a beach read being serialised in the weekend newspapers and were hardly high class literature of the time. I think you shouldn’t base your choices on what is considered to be better or worse and if you have a preference then fine but don’t imbue it with a higher virtue than others and don’t judge since it’s likely that within the context of one’s lifetime you can never know what will later be considered a ‘classic’.
On a different note all the plagiarism vs copyright vs learning from experience got me thinking philosophically. It’s almost impossible not to have empirical knowledge of what a novel is in order to write one. By definition of being a human it will draw on human experience. Every novel has to have a beginning, middle and end. There are a finite number of words within the English language, there are minimum rules of syntax, grammar and punctuation that must be adhered to in order to convey coherent thought. There are as we know storytelling tropes common to humankind and lesser themes therein more associated with cultural identity but we are an expanding species on a single planet that are assimilating global trends rapidly.
Are we going to run out of new ideas?
Have we already run out of new ideas?
Is all fiction essentially based on what’s gone before but just looked at from a new angle?
Consider fantasy novels which so often have references, both overt and discreet, to mythology. Consider science fiction which often speculates based on current technology what the future may convey. Consider the romantic progression of a character which is almost always apparent in a work of fiction. Consider the darker elements of psychological horror exposing the vulnerable psyche.
Authors convey their thoughts through their experiences and then through fiction but they are all human and can only ever know life through the common filter of humanity. We read books through that same human filter of experiences.
Can anything ever be truly original and if it was would anyone even want to read it and could they understand it?
(And then I suddenly remember why I had to get away from existentialism because I start to drift into realms of reality and despair and freak the eff out!)
Kelley Donaghy says
Thank you for this concise description of copyright, plagiarism and tropes.
Jessica A says
There is an episode of Midsomer Murders where a couple’s son is killed by a car. In the same village, a boy around the same age goes missing. He was tortured and half drowned by a group of bullies, then presumed dead and thrown down a well. He crawls out and is found by the grieving couple. They take him, hide him, give him their dead son’s name, and make him theirs. That’s how I feel about fan fiction: you can take someone else’s baby, rename it and call it your own. But it’s not. It’s just a damaged parody of the real thing. And it may one day become a village serial killer with identity issues.
Lori Ryan says
I remember reading another Lyc-V book and thinking, “wow, is that a trope?” and after reading many, many, many other series thinking, “nope, not a trope.”
Great conversation! Thanks to IA (and everyone else who commented) for your perspective.
Fan fiction often makes sense in the video market. I find it weird when it’s unsanctioned from the written world, though there are writers like Mercedes Lackey, who create anthologies to allow other writers to write in her worlds. Tropes are definitely found in a lot of popular fiction and what makes them interesting is the writers’ storytelling of a trope in an interesting/captivating way. When i find a great writer, i always try to support them by buying their books, regardless if their work is full of tropes or not. That being said, when you do find a good writer, the rip-offs usually aren’t that good. And, TBH, for IA fan-fiction – i don’t think i could read that unless it was completely new characters that were set in the world. If the fan fiction had current characters from the IA series, I’d be able to tell it wasn’t the original authors and would find it really cringe worthy.
“But in the end, our work is better” Truer words never spoken!
I don’t read fan fiction… not that I have an issue with fan fiction, but I don’t want to muddy ‘my’ authors world with another person’s view point.
Personally I think fan fiction is a fun little niche for those people who want to write but don’t have a muse telling them cool and awesome ideas to write about. Like the uninspired mans writing club… I’d belong to this club, if I actually wrote… and didn’t feel skitchy at the thought of ‘borrowing’ someone else’s world to tell a story.
Anyway, it all really boils down to one single fact… your work is better.
I am surprised on a regular basis when some IP owner reveals they have no idea what it is they own.
I’m glad to hear that the Andrews team does not deny fan fic creation, as my personal views align on the topic. I’m also very tempted to explore the game design topic so glad to hear that avenue is also accepted.
Regarding the blog topic…I attended a fantasy author panel last year with some well published authors which touched on this topic. I was surprised to learn one of the more prolific published authors was very pro fan fic and claimed 100s of stories. They also claimed that it gave them the experience that was the start to authordom. Unfortunately, later topics in same panel completely soured my opinion of said author, so overall very informative. There was some discussion regarding the lawsuit as well and most have stated where that landed (i.e., is it plagarism or just trope re-use). I read somewhere that all of the worlds’ literature could be traced down to like a couple dozen tropes at the core so I think we are doomed to repeat ourselves regardless of what anyone wants to believe regarding originality.
Thank-you as always for your writing!
Grace Draven says
Ilona, attorney Marc Whipple has an excellent legal breakdown of the plagiarism/infringement arguments presented by Cain. I thought his mention of Scène à fair was especially appropriate to the elements in this case.
A professor once asked me why there were so many footnotes in a paper I wrote for his class. I said “This is my first semester studying this subject, how could any of this be my original research?”
Always credit your sources, don’t steal someone else’s work. If it holds for academics, it should hold for writing and publishing as well.
Speaking as a professor (and writing tutor), academic writing isn’t only about research, it’s about your original thoughts on, and analysis of, the subject.
As I tell my students: If I wanted to read Smith’s argument on the subject, I’d go read Smith. I want to read *your* take on the subject, using Smith to support your ideas.
Deb S. says
I’ll admit it. Yes, I’ve written fan fiction. But not on books or movies but on television series. So often shows are cancelled at a cliff hanger and your only satisfaction is to do it yourself. So my writing will come in, for me to either finish things up in my tidy little mind or to rewind back to before the show jumped the shark and take it in a different direction. (writer’s strike anyone?)
I’ll fanfic out of love of character, world and frustration– with no infringement intended.
Intent is the biggie for me. When someone lifts from a story with the intent to profit and deceive– that is theft. And I’ve dropped authors over it.
I’d agree Ilona – I’ve read a lot of urban fantasy that included tropes and elements that I immediately recognised as being derived from KD, in particular, and they’re usually pretty pale imitations. As a reader it’s frustrating to find yourself having paid for crap that’s just ripping off an author you love rather than taking you somewhere new, but it’s also disappointing because I think that it’s considered OK to do in genre fiction somehow, which sucks.
You can plagiarize fan fiction, even if the author has no legal leg to prosecute you. You can find examples of direct plaigairism all over the net ( copying word for word) A good example is the Gundam Wing / Highlander hooplah that happen in the 90s when both fandoms were hugely popular. One Author took a Highlander story word for word and just changed the lead characters names from Methos and Duncan to Heero and Duo. Fans that read in both fandoms saw it and knew which story came first. Turns out that GW author plagiarized many other authors across 4 or 5 fandoms. It was a real mess before the culprit was chased away from the GW fandom and totally changed her identity so the tech savvy fans could track and harass her. Another example that worried and still worries fan are the sites that copy stories and art then sell subscriptions to the site changing the creators names. Hard to catch, harder to fight, they worry fan creators, because fandom manages to exist because it doesn’t collect money on their creations
I’ve read about the case and, in my opinion, she doesn’t have a leg to stand on. You cannot copyright tropes. I think she knows this, but fanfic being such a gray area (or not regulated in big part) she wanted to give it a go, law being so very specific and all that. It’s about the money.
Love your stance on fanfic of your work. <3
Susan Tuckett says
The only fan fiction I read is that published in anthologies edited by the creator eg Valdemar anthologies edited by Mercedes Lackey or Darkover anthologies edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley and later by Elisabeth Waters and/or Deborah Wheeler. In these the quality of the writing tends to be excellent and either follows the original author’s accepted canon or puts an acceptable (to the editor) spin on said canon.
Another reason authors may not sue fanfic writers is PR.
Years ago, Scholastic started sending out cease & desist orders to Harry Potter fanfic sites. Rowling, very publicly, told them to stop. Partially, she wanted to encourage budding writers. Partially, she realized what Scholastic didn’t: that threatening to sue 11 to 17 year olds (the primary users of the sites they targeted) for creative fanfic was terrible PR for a children’s/YA publisher & author.
Rita Webb says
My daughter (17) has been writing fan fiction since she was little. I think it could be a good place to start for a kid … or really any budding writer. So I’ve encouraged her writing. She loves happy endings, and whenever a book or movie doesn’t end the way she wants (like Cowboy Bebop), she writes her own. Mostly, I think she doesn’t want the story to end.
I am hoping that someday she’ll turn these stories into something unique.