Fanfic Blowback

Several blogs have weighed in, pro and con and somewhere in-between, on my "Another Day in Fanfic" posting and the ensuing controversy. Here’s a sampling of excerpts:

From Crankywriter:

Fanfic is not taking food out of your family’s mouths, and it’s not
plagiarism. To call it that is an insult to writers who have been
plagiarized, like Nora Roberts, who called her experience akin to mind
rape. And yes, she’s a real writer, and Janet Dailey cut-and-pasted
Nora’s words and claimed them as hers. That’s plagiarism and parasitism
for you.

Nora Roberts doesn’t approve of fanfiction based on her work,  either. For all I know, she calls that "mind rape" and plagiarism, too.

From Banana Oil (a tiny excerpt from a long, long post):

The upshot here is that using others’ characters has a long
tradition among Real Writers, even without explicit consent. This is
not meant as a defense of fan fiction in toto, but rather as a suggestion that even Real Writers do it, so the act itself does not seem to be tainted from the outset.

I think what really bothers Lee are the people who want something for nothing, those who only
write fan fiction, taking other people’s characters and backgrounds,
playing with them like pieces on a chess board, and then proclaiming
“See? I’m a Writer now!” And hey, I’m with him, such people are
parasites and best ridiculed and dispensed with. However, I severely
doubt that each and every writer of fan fiction is such a remora (even
if many or most are), because were I to accept that premise, I must
dismiss a number of my favorite Real Writers as well, something I am
wholly unwilling to do.

From the Creative Guy:

Plagiarism is a very dangerous word to throw around.  Certainly
it has its place, but does it really belong in a discussion (if that’s
the word) concerning fanfic?  According to media tie-in author Lee Goldberg, the answer is yes.
It’s hard to know where to start with this rant, considering how wrong-headed the entire thing is.  Having had some experience with plagiarism, I know there’s a vast gulf of difference between stealing someone else’s work and what fanfic authors do.

From Shannon Stacey:

As a reader, I don’t get it. Writing about the stuff you don’t get
to see—maybe Wonder Woman’s got a dirty old lady thing for the Boy
Wonder?—is not my cup of tea. Why? Because that has nothing to do with
the writer’s story. The actual writer who created those characters
has/had a vision for them, and that fanfic story ain’t it. For
example—the Star Wars movies. I’d have nothing to do with the three
prequels if they weren’t from George Lucas. I’m sure it’s entertaining
for many, it’s just not my cup of tea.

As a writer, I really don’t get it.  It’s copyright violation.  If you’re a writer, how is that not of huge
importance to you? If you write fanfic, and then get published with an
original work, how ironic would it be if you had to defend your
original work against copyright infringement?

24 thoughts on “Fanfic Blowback”

  1. Gotta say I hardly even know what fanfic is, but anything that explores the twisted desires of WW and BW is good with me.

  2. “The ad hominem attack on Meljean and condescending tone aside, let’s talk about the fanfic.”
    I’m amazed at the modifying of the ad hominem to include any criticism at all that might call into question any belief or action. Hell, just keep amending Wikipedia to accommodate anything but Ooh yes, isn’t that wonderful!

  3. Here’s my dilemma, which one of the entries above kind of brought up: I don’t like the idea of fanfic, but how do I reconcile that with being okay with all of the (frequently very good) writers who have used Sherlock Holmes and the world Doyle created in their fiction? Obviously, copyright isn’t at issue there, but is that the only difference? I have a feeling it isn’t, but I can’t put my finger on what it is.

  4. Hey, Mark: yes, I did plagiarize once, when I was a very young teenager, and I carry a deep load of shame around with me concerning the issue. It’s because of that experience and that shame that I know profoundly the difference between plagiarism and the writing of fanfiction. Further, I consider your condemnation of my confessional to be in poor taste.

  5. The confessional.

    Because it's such a sore point with me, it took real effort on my part to finally come clean in a public venue about it. And I used my experience to make another point: that plagiarism and fanfiction are not the same thing. I felt qualified to …

  6. Tsk-tsk. James does write real books, not fanfic. And attacking someone because of an admitted childhood incident is tacky, Mark. Perhaps you should go back to fishing?

  7. I do get tired of people talking about copyright when they usually mean trademark. Fan fic writers, for ex, don’t own the characters they use that they didn’t create themselves (the guest star characters), but they do have the copyright to the stories they write with them. Ideas and titles can’t be copyrighted, btw. Movie titles can be trademarked. Book titles can’t which explains all the duplicate book titles there are. and for the basics:
    And since I’m not a legal expert, I’ll leave it at that. There are other issues involved, ie trademarks and licensing and other things I can’t think of right now.

  8. It is possible to trademark the title of a book (same applies to movies), if it aquires “secondary meaning” in the minds of the public. It’s difficult to justify, but is possible. It’s much easier for a series of books.

  9. I can’t help but notice that a great deal of the fanfic out there is written by 12 year olds, or about around that age range with a great deal of imagination. I doubt too many of them care about the lofty ideals of copyright. Being a writer myself, I don’t believe it would bother me if a bunch of amateur, budding writers had fun putting my chars through scenarios of their own. They are in the end doing nothing more than writing out a fantasy of their own, most often as not writing themselves as the lead, love interest, what have you of any given known character. IE, the popular one now seems to be Legolas. Even more mature writers enjoy exploring aspects of characters that I might not have defined.
    They are not out to steal my characters or trying to make a buck doing it. They don’t claim to have created the original characters. Now that I would consider infringment.
    In the example I listed above, I really don’t seriously see going to court on copyright because Suzy wrote her own little story about your character falling in love with hers. Which is pretty much most of the fanfic I see. Just an opinion of my own that I believe needs to be mentioned on the subject fanfic.
    I’m not going to say all of it is harmless, I’ve read some hair raising fanfic that has made me seriously wonder about the sanity of the writer. But in large part, a great deal of fanfic is written by little Suzy or Ralph as their own fantasy.

  10. I gotta tell you, Most fanfic I’ve ever seen has been crap that has random characters having improbable sex with other characters. Although I have some truly great Star Wars,and other fan films on the net, so I guess some of it has value, but mostly it can be ignored, save for legal protection if you lean that way, I suppose.
    The Perfessor

  11. I must say I just love how you’ve picked out only the quotes that back up your end of the argument and leave out all the intelligent ones that happen to support fanfic well.

  12. I am confused. Are you Andy Breckman, the creator of Monk?
    If not, then your Monk novels ARE fanfiction and I don’t understand what all this fuss is about.
    It doesn’t matter who has the copyrights – if you write about something someone did before you, it is fanfiction.

  13. “I am confused. Are you Andy Breckman, the creator of Monk?”
    Nope, I am not Andy Breckman. I work for him. He hires me to write MONK books the same way he’s hired me to write MONK episodes.
    “It doesn’t matter who has the copyrights – if you write about something someone did before you, it is fanfiction.”
    So anyone who is hired to write an episode of CSI or LAW AND ORDER is writing CSI and LAW AND ORDER fanfiction?
    Your argument doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

  14. “So anyone who is hired to write an episode of CSI or LAW AND ORDER is writing CSI and LAW AND ORDER fanfiction?”
    Uh… yes?
    They just happen to have the luxury of direct permission from the creator and actually getting payed from doing it.
    The rest of “us” merely enjoy the reward of delighted readers/challenge/development as a writer/intellectual growth/goofing around etc. And fear for our lives when A.R. freaks out and sues her fans for expressing their love to the characters she created.

  15. You wrote: “It doesn’t matter who has the copyrights – if you write about something someone did before you, it is fanfiction.”
    I wrote: “So anyone who is hired to write an episode of CSI or LAW AND ORDER is writing CSI and LAW AND ORDER fanfiction?”
    You wrote: “Uh… yes? They just happen to have the luxury of direct permission from the creator and actually getting payed from doing it.”
    Marta, either you are a fraud and your comments here are a practical joke….or you are a moron.
    Assuming, for the hell of it, that you are real and just dumb, I think you meant to say “paid for doing it” not “payed from doing it.” Learning how to spell and how to write are a big plus, no matter what you are writing.

  16. My apologies. I do not speak fluent English and prepositions have indeed been my “Achilles’ heel” ever since I started learning the language.
    I do consider myself to be a bit simple sometimes, but calling me (or anyone) a moron is rude and unnecessary, especially when talking about difference of opinion.
    Fanfiction (fanart, fanflick etc.), as in its most usual form (yet there are many other motives to write it), is a person’s way of saying: “I love this story. I think these characters are marvelous.”
    Stephenie Meyer said it well:
    “They write fanfiction. Thousands of pages of fanfiction – because the characters matter to them as much as they matter to me.”
    Surely it is not a same thing to write an episode of CSI, that I do admit, but then again, where can the line be drawn?
    As I see it, maybe your books aren’t fanfiction. I just don’t understand how they differ from it.
    If Geraldine McCaughrean had written “Peter Pan in Scarlet” for her own pleasure, perhaps publiced it on her website, it would have been, without any doupts, fanfiction.
    Plagiarism is a chapter of its own. I agree with Crankywriter, fanfiction is or should be non-profit and comes with _a disclaimer_ attached.
    The problem isn’t fanwriters thinking they are as good as publiced authors, but the authors thinking they are better than their fans.
    Again, I apologise for the errors on my spelling, grammar and vocabulary. I hope it is still understandable what I am trying to say.

  17. There are a lot of people who clearly have no idea of what fanfiction is or not experience with it at all. It is NOT plagiarism, all fanfics writers add disclaimers giving credit to the originators. It is NOT a way to spitting in the faces of the author’s who wrote the original, saying that you did this wrong and I think you can do it better. If it was then there wouldn’t be authors who write many extremely stories based on the same original idea. It is NOT only putting two improbably characters into a sexual situation. Many fanfics don’t include sex or romantic relationships at all. Fanfiction is just a way of exploring the possibilities of a story. Obviously all things can’t happen in the original, but sometimes you kind of want to explore the idea of what might have happened if one character had done something a bit different. Like I read a fanfic, where an author explored the idea of what would have happened if instead of Pettigrew bringing Voldemort to the Potters, if he’d brought Harry to Voldemort and left the Potters alive. Also a lot of aspiring writers use fanfic as an opportunity to hone their craft. They don’t want to put their original stuff out there, for fear that someone might steal it before it’s published, but they want to get a general response to their writing style. In a lot of cases, though, it’s just for enjoyment plain and simple. Yes, there is a lot of badly written fanfiction out there, but there’s also some REALLY good ones, and I think people shouldn’t stereotype and entire group, based on a few bad seeds. And of the author’s who condemn fanfics, I think they need to look at fanfics objectively, outside of their own bad experiences or stereotypes they’ve developed in their minds or the general beliefs the Americans have about intellectual property. Personally, I think the Japanese have the best mindset. They will often allow people to write and publish what they call doujinshis, based off of original works and allow the author’s to be paid. Because even if they didn’t come up with the original idea, it still takes creativity and talent to write a fanfiction/doujinshi. And also, it sends attention back to the original. Anyways, that’s about all I have to say.

  18. All of this arguing and such makes no sense to me. Copyrighted or not, all the fanfic writer’s are doing is writing a story with their favorite characters. Intead of using original characters, they’re just plucking out their favorite ones and letting their dreams or thoughts after the movie or book to leak out onto type. Why not right? The chances that the fanfiction artist is anywhere close to the original is slim. So the authors really shouldn’t put up a tantrum. Remember, the fans paid to see their creative works, why can’t the authors just grow-up and realize that their fans are just as mesmerized as they were with the characters and plot? Sheesh.


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