lengthy thoughts on fanfic

If you aren’t aware of the Great Cassandra Claire Fandom Implosion, I won’t inflict my own summary on you. This post will be sufficiently prefaced by saying that the million and one analyses and responses to that situation have sparked me to lay out my own thoughts on fanfiction. This will take a while, so you might want to get a snack first.

Point #1: Fanfic is illegal. Got that? This is the opinion of several people whose legal knowledge I trust, though I’m interested in learning about it for myself, and hope to sit in on a class this semester that will cover those kinds of topics. But you’re borrowing someone’s intellectual property when you write fanfic, and even if you don’t make money from doing so, it’s still against the law. This point is often missed by people who can’t be bothered to pay attention.

Point #2: Having said that, any number of writers (both in print and media) are okay with you writing fanfic. It may be illegal, but it isn’t worth anybody’s time and money to sue you; a cease & desist letter tends to suffice when someone gets upset. And frankly, fanfic is a way for readers/viewers to engage more deeply with a story, and can even serve as a kind of grass-roots publicity, so just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. This point is often missed by people who feel persecuted when you tell them how the law works.

Point #3: The only thing that differentiates what we call fanfic from works such as Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is intellectual property law. Stop and think about it for a moment: they are the same thing. They just fall on one side or the other of the legal divide. In both cases, one writer is taking someone else’s story and doing something with it. Maybe the story’s a fairy tale and doesn’t have a specific author; maybe it was written four hundred years ago and the author’s long dead. Doesn’t matter. You’re still engaging in the same activity. The difference is your legal right to do it. Nothing prevents a work of fanfic from being as clever and witty as R&GAD, but the world tends to pass moral judgment on the former, and not on the latter. This point is often missed by those who want to claim that all fanfic is trash, but Stoppard’s okay.

Point #4: Moving into the realm of opinion, I feel that it’s good manners to respect the creator’s wishes with regards to their intellectual property. If they don’t mind fanfic, go for it. If they do mind, then be polite and stay away. If they don’t mind fanfic but they object to certain kinds (frex, their underage characters having sex), then write about other things. Is there any force that can stop you from writing whatever you want? The same forces that can stop you from writing fanfic at all, which is to say that it probably won’t happen (see point #2). But just because the author is willing to let you climb the fence and swim in her backyard pool doesn’t mean you should pee in it.

Point #5: There is also a difference between fanfiction and plagiarism. The categories are fuzzy ones, of course, existing on a continuum. The small amount of fanfiction I ever wrote was generally of the sort where it took place in a world created by someone else, but involved my own original characters, perhaps with cameos by canon characters. I tended to be more interested in the possibilities of the setting than anything else. Other people write mostly about canon characters, perhaps with a Mary Sue or less irritating original addition. Maybe they cross one fandom with another, producing a Buffy/Highlander crossfic about the two groups of Watchers being the same. Maybe they allude to other fics. Maybe they even quote things. You hit the “plagiarism” line when you’re Cassandra Claire, lifting not just characters, not just quotes, but extensive lines and scenes from other sources and not attributing them (then basking in the praise of people who say your ideas are so original and you write so well). I haven’t followed that whole debate in full (I’m not sure any human being can, and I’ve not really tried, though I’m anthropologically fascinated by it), but what I have read included enough side-by-side textual analysis to persuade me that she did indeed rip off Pamela Dean and other writers far above and beyond what gets winked at in the illegal activity called fanfiction.

Point #6: If you’re writing fanfiction to improve your craft, it will help you — up to a point. You can refine your prose, dialogue, pacing, etc. as much in a fanfic story as anywhere else (provided, of course, that your dialogue isn’t stolen wholesale). But it won’t do much to help you develop characters, settings, and other large-scale elements of the craft. Its inherent intertextuality may get in the way of you learning to write a story that stands on its own. If your eventual goal is a writing career, there’s nothing wrong with fanfic in principle, but there will come a time when you’ll be better served devoting that time and energy to original work. And fanfic publication probably won’t help you sell your own work, with two exceptions: one being work-for-hire media properties (where it may indeed net you a contract, if that’s what you really want to do), and the other being (again) Cassandra Claire, who has landed a novel deal, apparently at least in part on the strength of her fanfic writing. (This, as you might guess, is a source of much of the brouhaha, and I fully expect to see the blogosphere descend on her first book like a pack of rabid weasels, waiting to catch her if she’s plagiarized again.)

Point #7: How do I feel about this relative to my own position? As I said, I used to write a little fanfic, but not much; mostly I wanted to chase my own ideas. I haven’t written any in years, though my mind will occasionally play with it for amusement. If Doppelganger fanfic or something based on a later book of mine starts appearing on the web, I will be flattered by the attention, and I’ll probably let it go unless somebody tries to make money off it. I will not, however, read it, partially because I could subsequently stir up trouble if I later wrote something that resembled said fic, and partially because it would weird me out, watching someone else write about my characters. (No offense to y’all, but you’d probably get them wrong, relative to what’s in my head. It’s the nature of the beast. We don’t see them the same way.)

Point #8: Hmmmm . . . I think I’ve hit everything I wanted to say for the moment, though I may return to this at a later date. Fanfic is a huge and complicated subject, with many byways I don’t find particularly intelligent or attractive, but I issue no blanket condemnations against it. Just the occasional specific one, against specific acts of idiocy.

0 Responses to “lengthy thoughts on fanfic”

  1. kniedzw

    (No offense to y’all, but you’d probably get them wrong, relative to what’s in my head. It’s the nature of the beast. We don’t see them the same way.)Quite so. You encourage me to help you brainstorm sometimes, and I still don’t manage to get it right half the time, presuming what’s in your head is, in fact, de facto truth.

    …which it isn’t, but that’s an argument for another time. πŸ™‚

    • Marie Brennan

      You’re dealing with me when I have a vague, rickety, multi-dimensional web of ideas floating in my head, and I decide on gut instinct whether a notion fits in the hole over there or not (when I can’t even quite see the shape of the hole). It makes for some decisions that look arbitrary from the outside, I’m afraid.

      • gollumgollum

        What K. said. It’s been interesting, in our “metaphorical driving to pick up Mike at the airport” sessions, to watch the ways you run with ideas versus the ones i run with. There are a few times that i offer suggestions about character motivations that you turn down and i get a little sad about–not that i think you’re going in a bad direction, just that my brain’s run off with these characters and i’m trying to turn them into mine. It’s funny to watch, and to me it emphasizes your point–i’d do entirely different things with your characters than you would.

        • Marie Brennan

          But it’s still useful to me, because half the time, the way my brain works is that you (or Kyle, or myself, or some random passing idea-fairy) suggest something, and my brain promptly lights up and says “NO! But you made me think of THIS!” It’s non-linear as hell, and I imagine it can be frustrating from the other side. I appreciate it nonetheless.

          • gollumgollum

            It’s lots of fun. And i wasn’t meaning to imply that i don’t like it when you reject my ideas–i mean, yeah, i wish you and i thought the same way, but if we did you wouldn’t need me, right? (;

            Next time, however, we need better Chinese. *g*

  2. dolphin__girl

    Very good points. But my brain still sees a difference between fanfiction and something like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Largely, I think, because R&G is doing something neat that Hamlet isn’t.

    For the life of me, though, I can’t tell you why I recognize them as completely different things. Maybe it’s a biology thing — if Hamlet is a wolf, R&G is the closely-related, most-museum-visitors-can’t-tell-them-apart coyote, who’s off occupying a different ecological niche than the wolf, and Hamlet fanfiction is a sheep that’s put on some grey fur and pointed ears and is wandering around the wolf’s territory going “arrooo”.

    Or maybe not. Again, this is the point at which my brain starts to hurt.

    • Marie Brennan

      They’re different in degree rather than kind, IMO. R&G centers itself on minor characters; so do some fanfics. That doesn’t make them substantially different from the fics that center on the main characters. Stoppard does a more complex job with his story than most fanficcers do, using it as the launching-point for some kind of weird metaphysical thoughts, but I still think he’s doing the same thing. It’s just that what he’s adapting is in the public domain.

      • kleenestar

        I think there’s a hugely important difference between something like R&G and something like most fanfic, though I think that difference doesn’t adhere strictly to the line between “mainstream” countertexts/retellings and fanfic endeavors. The difference, to me, is that most fanfic (admittedly judging from my moderate store of personal experience) doesn’t have much to say to people outside the fanfic community, and that the main reason for choosing to write in a particular universe is because the author likes it rather than because it’s useful or necessary in some way to what they’re trying to say.

        In other words, I would argue that R&G – along with Wide Sargasso Sea, Wicked, and some of the well-written, well-thought-out fanfic that’s out there – deliberately uses a particular world as its setting as part of a larger system of deliberate artistic choices which are skilfully carried through in the rest of the work. Much fanfic – along with that Gone With The Wind sequel and anyone writing in the Rainbow Six universe – is more about expressing the author’s love for the world in question (or building on an existing fanbase) than about using it to convey anything meaningful to the reader.

        Believe me, there’s some BAD fanfic out there about stuff that’s completely public domain. (Weirdly, it’s immediately identifiable as falling on the fanfic side of the line; I wonder whether Jenkins or any of the other fandom scholars have tried to identify the attributes of the genre.) Have you checked the Bible fanfic communities lately? πŸ™‚

        • Marie Brennan

          I could actually buy that as an alternative way of organizing texts — instead of focusing on fanfic as riffs on copyrighted works and the others as riffs on the public domain (which is how it usually happens), you could use the term “fanfic” for those texts that don’t seek to engage with an open audience, and have a separate term for derivative works that try to address people outside that pre-existing community. In other words, I disagree with you inasmuch as I chose R&G as a random example, and had I picked Scarlett instead, your point would not have stood (by your own assessment). But I think your point is a good one in a broader sense.

          Still, when all’s said and done, they’re all works that involve playing in a sandbox someone else built. Which is the point I was trying to make.

          • kleenestar

            Oh, sure, if you’d picked Scarlett I probably would have made rather a different argument. πŸ™‚

            I get your point about playing in other peoples’ sandboxes, I just think it’s also useful to consider the different ways for playing in them.

      • dolphin__girl

        I’m still “seeing” them as a difference in kind and not degree (though I would classify that godaful Oz book as fanfiction. Even if it had been good).

        I can’t describe it. I just look at them and know they’re different. You know how some people see different numbers as different colours, or taste different sounds? Or Karina sees a story as a wonky spiral that wobbles? It’s sort of like that. Fanfic, to me, looks (or feels, or smells, or whatever sense reading comprehension uses) different than works sourced in something previous.

        The problem, I think, is getting into semantics of “what is fanfiction anyway”?

    • kitsune_zen

      A completely unrelated (and probably obnoxious) aside: technically wolves, coyotes and dogs are the same species. They can all interbreed and produce viable offspring. They’ve been classified differently because we like dogs, but we want to kill wolves and coyotes as vermin.

      So, I guess your analogy would work if you said that Shakespeare is a dog (we love him!), Stoppard is a wolf (he may be dangerous, but he sure is cool!), and Hamlet fanfiction is a coyote (Damn vermin! Get me my shotgun…and a pie!)

      • dolphin__girl

        Writing geek is going to cede the floor to biology geek now…

        I’d disagree with you on that one (wolves and dogs is arguable, wolves and coyotes no); if you use only the biological species concept when defining a species, that would make lions and tigers the same species too, as well as donkeys and zebras, cows and bison, false killer whales and dolphins, the ursinae bears, and I’m scared to venture out of mammals. We had to start using additional criteria when charting phylogeny, because the biological species concept alone just wasn’t versatile enough once we started introducing species that wouldn’t ordinarily meet to one another and discovering that they could produce viable and fertile offspring (and was never really useful for species that reproduce asexually anyway).

        And some of us don’t want to kill wolves and coyotes, and would rather reintroduce them into extirpated areas so we don’t have to trap and kill as many beavers, which are flooding and destroying entire habitats without a predator to keep their numbers in check. ;o)

        Heck, though, I can always change the analogy to moose, caribou, and… um…. wallaby-with-moose-antlers-tied-on-its-head going “uuuururrrggOOOOOhhhhhhh!!!!” [/bad moose call]

  3. drydem

    I would say this. Fanfic itself is not illegal. It becomes illegal when it is distributed in some way. It gets into the difference between private and public performance, as in, it’s perfectly legal for me to watch my copy of Love Actually at home or with friends, but should I show it publicly, then it is a violation of copyright. Same for fanfic, writing at home, sharing with nobody but private friends, you are not violating property rights, because you are not claiming property, placing publicly, you are.

    This from a nitpicker extraordinaire. But hey, it’s the law, it’s designed for that sort of thing.

    • Marie Brennan

      Okay, so what I wrote wasn’t illegal fanfic, because I didn’t ever share it with anybody. But for the vast majority of what we mean when we say the word “fanfic” (i.e. the things shared on internet communities), it holds.

    • kurayami_hime

      I think the “illegal” is muddling things. Instead of saying that fanfic is illegal, another way to look at it is to say you do not have the right to create a derivative work of a copyrighted material. Whether you keep your fanfic to yourself or share it with the world, you have no right to create and you have no rights in your creation (fair use, permission, and public domain aside).

  4. wadam

    If you’re writing fanfiction to improve your craft, it will help you — up to a point. You can refine your prose, dialogue, pacing, etc. as much in a fanfic story as anywhere else (provided, of course, that your dialogue isn’t stolen wholesale). But it won’t do much to help you develop characters, settings, and other large-scale elements of the craft.

    I’m not sure that I agree with this statement. I’m not a fanfic writer. I actually find the idea a very little bit creepy — just over the bound of too enthusiastic about a given fictional universe. That said, as an avid watcher / reader of many fictional universes created by others (yours included), I’ve found that sitting down and looking at a piece of fiction, whatever the media, analytically, is a great way to improve at developing characters, settings, and other large-scale craft elements. How better to learn about the elements of character- and setting-building than to look carefully at how it was done effectively by someone else? And this seems to be very much what is going on in the fanfic writing process. Writing in someone else’s universe, if it’s to be done well, requires sitting down and thinking hard about their setting, their characters, and the mechanics of how said universe works. And in doing so, if the writer were so inclined, lessons learned from writing in said universe could be fruitfully applied to the writers’ own, original work.

    • cheshyre

      That was the passage I wanted to comment upon as well.

      I often analogize fanfic to writing historical fiction about historical figures. [Such as stories about Kit Marlowe in Elizabethan London.]

      Sure, you’re saved the task of creating a character and setting from scratch, but you make up for that in required research and a need for authenticity.

      Original characters are more pliable. But if I can’t get (frex) Hagrid’s voice right, I can’t just give him a Boston accent instead.

      In these fanfic discussions, I often sense an almost fetishization of the skills involved in worldbuilding. But truly, that’s a feature of the SFF genre. But most fiction is set in the real-world present or past. So I think folks have to be careful with those arguments. [I’m not saying you’re doing this, , it’s just something I frequently see.]

      • Marie Brennan

        Most fanfic (that I’m aware of) is SFF. There’s non-speculative stuff, of course, but I get the impression it’s the ghettoized genre in the mainstream of fanfic. <g>

        To let myself use value judgments for a moment, I agree with the above comment: to do it well, one has to put a lot of work into research and mimicry. But I’ve heard enough complaints by fanfic readers/writers to believe that a lot of the people out there either don’t try, or don’t do a very good job when they do. (Which I think might be more prevalent in slash, where the point is to get two characters into bed who aren’t canonically involved. It seems that violations of characterization are common there.)

        Now, to make up for saying that some fics suck at authenticity <g>, I’ll grant that fanfic, when done well, requires a specialized set of skills. I just don’t think they’re as perfect an overlap with the skills needed for original writing as some people believe. The textual evidence for Kit’s character is thinner than the evidence for, say, Hagrid’s, and readers don’t necessarily expect my Kit to sound like eBear’s; therefore, while there are similarities between the two, I wouldn’t say they’re the same.

        And the point isn’t which one is less work; it’s just that the one does not train you for all the work of the other.

    • Marie Brennan

      Yes and no. (I was trying to be something in the neighborhood of concise, or I might have addressed this. Maybe I’ll put a longer version on my website.) Certainly trying to write someone else’s character can teach you a lot, in much the way that taking apart a piece of machinery can teach you about how it works. But I don’t think all fanficcers do this, given what I’ve heard about disagreements between people who try to stay true to characters and people who don’t care much about it. And regardless, there’s a point at which you have to learn how to build your own compelling character, instead of mimicking someone else’s.

      Or, to put it in other terms, I believe that it was/is a common teaching technique to have painters copy masterpieces. But that will only get them so far; eventually they have to strike out on their own.

  5. gollumgollum

    I think there are a couple of distinctions that are important.

    First is the aforementioned published vs. non-published. The first part of this is “self”-publishing–you can write all the fanfic or blatant rip-offs you want, and as long as you don’t stick it up on the internet, or bind it into a book and try to sell it/give it away, etc, you’re totally in the clear, legal-wise. And frankly, as long as you don’t try to make any money from it, you’re probably okay. The second part of this is publishing-house publishing–one of the biggest differences between Rosencrantz & Guildenstern or Wicked and Draco Sinister is the fact that a publishing company, with, y’know, lawyers and stuff, looked at the books and said “Yes, this is legal and publishable, or if it isn’t we’ll get the appropriate rights taken care of, and Tom, here’s your cash.” Unconsciously, it’s part of why you or i looks at R&G as acceptable and anything published on the internet as sketchy–it doesn’t take much to publish on the ‘net. Besides, we’ve had it drilled into our heads now that published = legit, internet = wrong (unless it’s on Wikipedia, right? ;).

    Another difference i see between R&G–or, to take something you and i were discussing earlier, Eaters of the Dead–and fanfic is the fact that pretty much all of the books i’ve seen cited at this point (with the exception of Scarlett) were retellings of a story, not additional stories placed in the context (or world) of another story. Ultimately, Stoppard had a rather convoluted way of doing it, but he wasn’t changing the story of Hamlet all that much–sure, you find out more of what R&G get up to, but it’s not like Ophelia was suddenly carrying on with Fortinbras or anything. The same is true of Eaters of the Dead–it’s a twist on the Beowulf story, with a bit of historical fiction tossed in for flavor.

    I’d love to see someone take Harry Potter and the Something or Other and retell it–from what i’ve seen, fanfic (especially HP) seems to be more about what the authors wish was happening in the HP books rather than trying to look at an already told story from a different point of view. I’m fairly sure there’s no hawt Snape/Sirius action just waiting for one of the kids to stumble on it in any of Rowling’s books. It *would* be interesting, however, to see things from Ginny’s point of view instead of Harry’s, or to retell the whole series but with Vikings (and an Arab) instead of British kids. (;

    Finally, i think it boils down to the fact that we have a bunch of people trying to come up with original ideas…by ripping off someone else’s world and characters and ideas. Which, yeah, is plagiarism. And yeah, a lot of people (myself included, although i’ve never written it down, much less published) do it. And i think there’s a distinction between using something else to tell new stories, or telling old stories in a new way (R&G, Wicked, EotD) instead of taking something you like and making changes that suit your preferences. I don’t think anyone would accuse Stoppard of trying to *change* Hamlet or force interactions that Shakespeare never would have allowed (Hamlet/Laertes slash, for instance). Fanfic, on the other hand, seems to breed people who want nothing more than to change what another author wrote. Which is really a shame, because a lot of energy goes into fanfic instead of the next Great American Novel.

    Anyway, it’s still a pretty grey distinction–there are some people out there who write fanfic that is every bit as good as R&G or EotD. But there’s also good reasons, to return to my first point, why very little of that novel-length fanfic out there has been optioned by Publishing House X to make millions of Beeg Amer’can Dollarz.

    (As an aside, one of my biggest problems with the Highlander TV series is that too much of it ends up being fanfic instead of tv episodes. But that’s neither here nor there.)

    • bakkhos

      we have a bunch of people trying to come up with original ideas…by ripping off someone else’s world and characters and ideas.

      Hmm, in the fandoms I follow, that doesn’t seem to be the case (or, at least, doesn’t seem to be the case with the good stuff that is out there.) This may have something to do with the fact that I only read fanfic for authors of manga, not novels.

      I do think there is a distinction between manga fanfic and novel fanfic. In manga, or anime, you never really get the opportunity to see inside of the character’s minds the way written stories allow. Part of the fun, then, is to imagine the characters’ thought processes in the first place. So although fanfic authors are using someone else’s world and characters, they get to explore a side of those characters that the medium of manga just doesn’t allow. So elaboration of motivation, internal dialogue, and all of that good stuff the written word allows actually can increase a character’s depth (when done well.) In that same vein, with series that aren’t finished yet, fanfic can speculate as to what might happen in the future given the events that are known.

      So not all fanfic is about changing what the author intended, or trying to insert original ideas into established worlds. It can be about exploring an avenue not allowed in certain mediums.

      • gollumgollum

        Right on. I will be the first to admit that i’ve never followed fanfic and i’ve read very little of it, and most of what i’ve seen has been fairly stereotypical. I didn’t know about manga fanfic, and it sounds pretty interesting.

  6. kurayami_hime

    Disclaimer: The following is not legal advice.

    I should reply directly to many of these comments, but I’m not. I’ll try to hit all the points here and not be too redundant.

    Points One and Three: You are correct. Fanfic, or rather, derivative works, are not legal unless you own the copyright in the underlying work or have permission from the owner of the work. R&GAD is a derivative work. The important difference here is that Hamlet is in the public domain. THAT IS IT. Have whatever arguments you like about why R&GAD isn’t “fanfic” like the Harry Potter/Inuyasha/Star Trek slash fest you read because it has some underlying literary, social, or cultural value or one is a retelling and the other is a new story. They are both still derivative works; only one is OK under the law and the other one is not (unless you somehow actually managed to get all the appropriate permissions for the HP/I/ST fic).

    Point Seven: Derivative works of the fanfic variety are not copyrightable (with some exceptions). Therefore, if you, , did write something resembling a Doppelganger fanfic, the author of the fanfic would not be able to sue you for infringement. My case in point was going to be that one of the Rocky or Rambo movies was lifted wholesale from a fan script, but I can’t find anything to back that up at the moment. I’m still pretty sure it was though.

    Fair Use: No one brought up this term that I noticed, but it is crucial to most all copyright discussions. What is fair use depends on a 4-part balancing test (and potentially what jurisdiction you happen to be in, but that may be just for cases involving music sampling). It’s not only commercial use vs. non-commercial use; the 4th prong: “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work” would probably be very important in an argument against fanfic fair use. Parody is generally fair use; satire and fanfic are not.

    Other general copyright stuff, not necessarily relevant: Publication isn’t necessary for protection. You just have to fix it in a tangible medium. Except in the case of most fanfics (i.e. derivative works), fixation in a tangible medium does not provide protection because you have no right to create the derivative work in the first place. Also, for copyright purposes, publication means “the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display, constitutes publication.” Just so everyone’s clear on the terminology.

    • Marie Brennan

      Thanks. If and when I put an extended version of this up on my webpage, it will include all the relevant crunchy bits of the IP angle. I don’t actually think the copyright status of the original work is inherently relevant to the discussion of the derivative works as texts — there’s plenty of variety in how they approach their source, what audience they speak to, authorial attitude toward the original, etc. But it’s important to put it up there, because I think a lot of ficcers don’t understand the actual legal framework.

      Now that I think of it, you can answer one of my questions for me: since I’m under the impression that copyright governs the right to make copies of the words I wrote, how exactly does that apply to fuzzier things like characters and settings? Copyright obviously doesn’t protect ideas broadly, or fiction as we know it would be dead, but at what level does it mean my concepts belong to me?

      • kurayami_hime

        You’re right. IP law has nothing to do with discussions of the works themselves. I (perhaps somewhat biasedly) just think it’s important to keep in mind the larger universe the texts exist in. And people in general, not just ficcers, don’t understand copyright law. Just read the Copyright Office FAQ to get a feel for the rampant ignorance/misinformation out there.

        Copyright does not protect ideas. Patents protect ideas. Instead, copyright protects “original works of authorship” (read: expression of ideas). The problem with giving you an actual answer is that there really isn’t one. It’s much easier to point to other things and call them infringement than to clearly delineate what expression cannot be copied. You’re really asking about derivative works, and what is yours and yours alone in this case will be decided during a lawsuit. Outside of actual “black and white” copying, much of copyright law is very, very grey.

        I do have one definitive answer! Characters are copyrightable in and of themselves (as decided by case law, in the 40s or 50s I believe).

        • Marie Brennan

          Do you have to take specific steps to copyright characters separately, or are they covered by the copyright for the work in which they appear?

          • novalis

            You don’t have to take any steps. Copyright acts on “works” (that is, specific expressions); characters are only protected insofar as new works which include them are derived from the original work that they appeared in.

    • novalis

      Rocky. The case is Anderson v. Stallone.

      • kurayami_hime

        Thank you! I should have realized it was Rocky when the number “4” kept tickling the back of my mind.

        Of course, now remembering “Stallone”, the letter “R”, and the number “4” won’t be enough . . .

  7. princess706

    get down with the quickness

    I’ve never really thought of Bryan’s novel as fanfic, though I guess it is a derivative work, though one he has extensive permission (from Warner Bros) to use. I think, no I’m pretty sure, that if someone dismissed his work as “fanfic,” I’d be totally infuriated.

    But what do I know? He still won’t let me read it. πŸ™‚ I hear print date is December.


    Doppelganger obviously did not have nearly enough of “Teh Sexx0r” that I look for in the plot of my soft-cover books. I wanna go write some hawt girl-on-girl fanfic pr0n, but I can’t figure out if that’d be incest, twincest, or masturbation.

    Mebba I should ask the author?


    Totally kidding… Actually, it was kinda refreshing to have a male/female team without all the silly boobie tension.

    • gollumgollum

      Re: get down with the quickness

      …And i think that made me want ’em to get together even more!1 Poor Eclipse. He’s ultimately the one whose brain gets turned into jelly (note, not Jell-O™ πŸ˜‰ by the logistics of things, and ultimately he goes “*shrug* Okay.” I wanted him to get some nookie just to make up for all the crap he goes through. πŸ˜‰

      To answer your earlier question, , i believe that if you can point to someone ripping you off wholesale–if, for instance, CassieClaire’s next fic had a passage that came straight out of Doppelganger except with “Mirage” and “Eclipse” removed and “Hermione” and “Draco” in their places, well, that’s copywrite infringement. If someone uses your basic plot in their own novel, that’s copywrite infringement. If someone has a character who has a doppelganger, or twin of some sort…well, that gets fuzzy. And that’s why we have big court cases to settle these things, because usually you *don’t* have people straight ripping off others.

      But i’m most definitely *not* a lawyer.

      • Marie Brennan

        Re: get down with the quickness

        A doppelganger or a twin, no, especially since twins are a real-world phenomenon and doppelgangers come from folklore. But I was curious just how copyright protected Mirage and Eclipse as name-descriptor-behavior conglomerates, and doppelgangers as non-evil mirror halves of witches (i.e. not what they are in folklore).

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: get down with the quickness

      The term “fanfic” is really only useful as an identifier for unauthorized derivative works based on sources still under copyright (i.e. its usual, casual usage). If you want to address the other angles other people have brought up, it would probably be more effective to find a different set of words. So I wouldn’t “dismiss his work as fanfic,” but that isn’t the same thing as pointing out that it, like fanfic, is a derivative work based on a media property originally created by someone else. (Make sure to strip the negative connotations from “derivative” in these discussions, btw.)

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