Sunday, May 24, 2015

Marilynn Byerly On Fan Fiction

This week, a couple of copyright-related topics caught this author (Rowena Cherry's) attention.  Facebook is abuzz (if you know where to look) with a story about someone who might be called a permissionless innovator taking screen shots of other people's photographs on Instagram, blowing them up, allegedly removing any watermarks or embedded attribution, and selling the images for tens of thousands, with no payment  to the copyright owners.  This disruptive enterprise appears not to be in compliance with Instagram's TOS

Secondly, allegedly on there is a discussion of what one might call the literary equivalent, where someone is alleged to have copied works of short fiction written by various authors from DeviantArt and posted these stories under a different name and title. Unlike what has been alleged about Instagram, DeviantArt appears to this author to have a very good copyright policy, and prohibits "lifting".

And so to Marilynn Byerly's advice to published authors about fan fiction. Marilynn gives conditional permission for authors: "As all my articles on copyright are, you are welcome to use it with attribution and a link back to my site." 

Fanfic or fan fic or fan fiction -- stories written by fans using someone else's world. For example, lots of kids write their own Harry Potter fanfic stories. 
Readers and writers of fanfic often ask about the legality of writing stories using media or book characters. 
IN A LEGAL SENSE, fanfic is a copyright violation, but the owner of the copyright can choose to ignore it or prosecute it at their discretion. 
The essential rules of writing fanfic are-- • If the owners of characters in any media are fanfic friendly, it's okay to write and share it as long as it's not for profit. • If the owners of the characters, etc., in any media aren't fanfic friendly, don't share your fanfic in that universe if you don't want to be chased by lawyers disguised as pit bulls. • If the owners of the characters, etc., are friendly to fanfic but ask that you not write slash (heterosexual characters taking a partner of the same sex) or erotic stories, don't write it. Appreciate the creator's generosity in allowing you to use their universe and respect their wishes about their characters. 
Lots of fans like to thumb their noses at the copyright and trademark laws for various reasons, but it boils down to a matter of respect and thanks. If you enjoy someone's work, don't screw them financially, trash their characters, or disrespect their wishes on the subject. 
How does this relate to those of us who write original fiction? 
According to most publishers, we should ask readers not to write fanfic using our characters because it endangers our copyright. If you aren't averse to fanfic, you should check with your publisher before allowing it. 
Copyright violation is much more severe if the violation is in the same media. In other words, fanfic is more dangerous to the fiction writer's copyright ownership than it is to a movie's copyright. 

Marilynn Byerly 

Happy Memorial Day!

Rowena Cherry

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