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April 25, 2006

“Fanfic”: force of nature
Posted by Patrick at 12:07 AM *

Teresa says what needs to be said about “fanfic,” but buries it in the comments here. She can’t possibly promote it to the front page. Fortunately, I have no such compunctions.

Storytelling is basic to our species. It’s one of the ways we parse our experience of the universe. Whatever moves us or matters to us will show up in the stories we tell, whether or not we have a socially approved outlet for those stories. It might surprise you to find out how many writers have works of personal erotica tucked away in their unpublished-or-unpublishable manuscript trunks. There’s no good way to get those published, but they write them anyway, because they’re writers, and eroticism is an important part of our lives.

Good fiction gets under our skin. It can change the way we see the world. But whatever its effect, it’s a significant experience. It would be a bizarre thing—unnatural, even—for writers to not engage with that experience. They always have. I could show you stuff centuries old—heck, some of it’s millennia old—that’s fanfic by any modern definition.

Of course, it would have to be a modern definition. In a purely literary sense, fanfic doesn’t exist. There is only fiction. Fanfic is a legal category created by the modern system of trademarks and copyrights. Putting that label on a work of fiction says nothing about its quality, its creativity, or the intent of the writer who created it.

The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this year went to March, a novel by Geraldine Brooks, published by Viking. It’s a re-imagining of the life of the father of the four March girls in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Can you see a particle of difference between that and a work of declared fanfiction? I can’t. I can only see two differences: first, Louisa May Alcott is out of copyright; and second, Louisa May Alcott, Geraldine Brooks, and Viking are dreadfully respectable.

I’m just a tad cynical about authors who rage against fanfic. Their own work may be original to them, but even if their writing is so outre that it’s barely readable, they’ll still be using tropes and techniques and conventions they picked up from other writers. We have a system that counts some borrowings as legitimate, others as illegitimate. They stick with the legit sort, but they’re still writing out of and into the shared web of literature. They’re not so different as all that.

Fanfic means someone cares about what you wrote.

Personally, I’m convinced that the legends of the Holy Grail are fanfic about the Eucharist.

This really is a basic impulse.

Addendum:

In the comment thread, WillA posts in response to “Their own work may be original to them, but even if their writing is so outre that it’s barely readable, they’ll still be using tropes and techniques and conventions they picked up from other writers” :

I’ve got a joke to back up this particular point:

There was once a conjurer who boasted that he had become god-like. One god happened to overhear, and challenged him to a contest.

“Can you do this?” the god asked, scooping up a handful of dirt and making it into a bird. They watched the bird fly away.

“Sure,” said the conjure-man, and reached down for a handful of raw material.

“Hey,” said god. “Use your own dirt.”

Props to any writer who can make a story fly. None of us use our own dirt.

Comments on "Fanfic": force of nature:
#1 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:33 AM:

Personally, I’m convinced that the legends of the Holy Grail are fanfic about the Eucharist.

I think that's brilliant, I think you're right, and I think you need to start accumulating bits from ML to revise for Vol. II of Making Book.

#2 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:53 AM:

Thanks for expressing this so well.

Whatever moves us or matters to us will show up in the stories we tell, whether or not we have a socially approved outlet for those stories.

"But what would happen if...?"

When that question grabs you by the throat, finding the answer is what is important, not whether the context is original.

#3 ::: Sigrid Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:11 AM:

YES! Thank you, Teresa, for saying this so well. And thank you, Patrick, for putting it on the front page for easy finding.

Personally, I’m convinced that the legends of the Holy Grail are fanfic about the Eucharist.

Possibly enough, yes. Something I noticed as a young'n.

#4 ::: kutsuwamushi ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:00 AM:

Another "thank you, Teresa" - this time from a lurker.

I see it the other way around: Believing that fanfic wrongs you and that it should be stopped is where entitlement comes into play. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of fanfiction based on my work, but I firmly believe it wouldn't be right to interfere ... in the unlikely event that anyone wrote some.

#5 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:27 AM:

A great deal of my inspiration for writing things comes from such what ifs, though far more general.

What if characters in this situation acted like real people?

Or, more specifically and more frequently, what if women in this situation acted like real women?

Long ago in the ages of middle and high school a friend and I had a long conversation about a series of books we would write called "Plus one sensible," all of which would be retellings of classic tales with a sensible person either substituted for the main character or as an additional member of whatever cast was involved.

One particularly insane idea was "Ophelia's Oilcan" which was a rewrite of Hamlet with Ophelia as the one sensible character. Things ended pretty much the same (we realized while writing it that "you can't stop Hamlet") but at least someone was present to realize how much things were falling apart.

Of course, this kind of thing is almost omnipresent in modern day parody. Scott Evil from the Austin Powers movies is one of the best examples ever of a fully functional, integrated "plus one sensible."

#6 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 06:13 AM:

A voice of sanity in the Dark, Savage Internet! I applauded this the first time and I ovate the encore.

#7 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 07:08 AM:

To the main post: absolutely. I can't find it now, but I prefaced one of my fan stories with a quote which I found in a promo booklet for Frankie Goes To Hollywood of all places, the gist of which was that once a character is created, it becomes possible to imagine that character in many other situations where the author never thought of putting him or her. No idea who said it, but it's a good quote.

#8 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 08:52 AM:

Not just the Holy Grail, but I'd say all story cycles from pre-literate times are a form of fanfic. I first realised this when thinking about Hercules, of all people. When I look at the Labours and the other bits of myth he's involved in, they seemed to me to have the quality of somebody literate trying to paste up a bunch of stories that others just made up about their favourite hero while gathered around the campfire. Those in the oral tradition can tell tall stories without a lot of regard for continuity or the other fine sensibilities of the literate, because they're more concerned with immediate audience reaction to Hercules' bad-assedness.

But then that applies to all myth cycles. They're stories told for instruction, or illustration, or to excite or otherwise entertain as their primary aim, not as pieces of a grand unified story. If you look at everyone's favourite collection of myth, the Old Testament, the stories don't make a lot of sense all bound together, and even directly contradict each other (two creation myths?).

Or the New Testament, what is that but a collection of Jesus fanfic? Okay, maybe not. Maybe the gnostic texts are more like fanfic, while the New Testament is part of the official Bible Cycle(tm), approved by the authors' heirs.

But it seems to me that fanfic is the natural mode for story-telling in our species, that stories (like most ideas) benefit us by being shared. Once you put an idea in someone's head, it doesn't belong to the original storyteller any more, it belongs to both parties. Trying to control what happens to your story when it's in someone else's head is folly, and trying to control the expression of what's in their head under the illusion that you own it is dangerously close to folly piled on folly.

#9 ::: Sandra McDonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:05 AM:

Hooray for fanfic!

#10 ::: Kristine Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:12 AM:

I haven't read much fanfic over the years. The stuff I have read hasn't been particularly good. I think this is because the characters didn't translate well when written by someone who wasn't carrying all that backstory in their heads. Authorly arrogance here, sorry, but I don't believe anyone writes a character better than the originator. Yes, I've pondered how I would write someone else's characters, but I've tried to pull back from that over the years. They're not mine to play with.

It's the difference between filling in the spaces in a paint-by-number kit and starting from the bare canvas. The thing that's wholly yours is going to contain something that the kit pic never will.

#11 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:15 AM:

I'm also particularly interested in revisionist versions of other works. Brust's To Reign in Hell, of course, or John Gardner's Grendel. I just finished Jacqueline Carey's Banewreaker, which is "Lord of the Rings" told as tragedy. Donald Kingsbury put a brilliant spin on Asimov's "Foundation" books in Psychohistorical Crisis.

All these books do somewhat of what Leah mentioned above: what if these characters were real people? What if these ideas really worked? What would it really be like?

I'd love to have a canonical list of such works in genre. Can anyone else think of any?

#12 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:15 AM:

NelC, not only have I thought, for some years, of the New Testament as Old Testament fanfic, but Jesus is pretty clearly a Mary Sue.

#13 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:17 AM:

Okay--a sour note here. I know of at least two instances where fanfic in modern universes were devastating to the authors, one being Marion Zimmer Bradley. The problems can arise when a fan "owns" a piece of the invented universe and turns around to sue the originating author. Or otherwise harass the inventing author.

I had to ask a couple of fans NOT to make an online game of my Pit Dragon books because we were in the middle of negotations with a movie company (which like most movie deals, fell through) that wanted those rights as part of the deal.

It is true that playing in pd domains are a large part of writing, both fan and fic, whether those domains are biblical (DaVinci code etc.) or Arthurian or Arabian Nights or Sherlock Holmes. But I would think it only polite that if an author who has invented a world asks you to desist SELLING your fanfic or fangames or desist from posting them in an open forum online, that you take your passion for the place and keep it private.

Satire is, of course, something else, and protected.

Jane

#14 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:38 AM:

Personally, I’m convinced that the legends of the Holy Grail are fanfic about the Eucharist.

You are not alone in thinking this. Something of the sort was suggested in Holy Feast and Holy Fast, which is one of the leading works on medieval food practices.

In terms of fanfic, I was taught that there are about 12 basic plotlines, and part of the trick of writing well is making that new again, with twists and turns and charecters who make you want more and more. On the other hand, it means everyone is borrowing their plot from somewhere.

#15 ::: John Blonde ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:38 AM:

I very much appreciate Theresa's take. I wrote my first novel as fanfiction precisely so that I would never try to publish it. Also, since character and setting were given, I had to work on plot entirely. It was a useful excersize, and as a bonus, the few people who have read it seemed to enjoy it.

That said, and as noted, extending other people's stories isn't anything new. Pepys notes in his diary going to see The Tamer Tamed, which was a Shakespeare fanplay. Who knows what Bill thought of it? I'm sure that through the ages story tellers added on to legends and made new stories with the characters. Maybe Hercules only started out with a couple of labors.

Poppy Z Brite has a comment over on the LiveJournal feed in response to this post that I found just as wierdly self-justifying as all the fandom wank. After disclosing that she's written and published what is essentially RPF (real person fic) and retold a Lovecraft story in her writing life, she then goes on to say, "Personally, when a stranger takes the liberty of writing about my characters, it makes me feel as if somebody sneaked up behind my husband and stuck a finger in his butt."

What I find curious is that it isn't her own butt in question, but one removed. If she weren't married, would there be no problem?

#16 ::: Will A ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:07 AM:

Their own work may be original to them, but even if their writing is so outre that it’s barely readable, they’ll still be using tropes and techniques and conventions they picked up from other writers.

I've got a joke to back up this particular point:

There was once a conjurer who boasted that he had become god-like. One god happened to overhear, and challenged him to a contest.
"Can you do this?" the god asked, scooping up a handful of dirt and making it into a bird. They watched the bird fly away.
"Sure," said the conjure-man, and reached down for a handful of raw material.
"Hey," said god. "Use your own dirt."

Props to any writer who can make a story fly. None of us use our own dirt.

#17 ::: Elf M. Sternberg ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:16 AM:

[M]any writers have works of personal erotica tucked away in their unpublished-or-unpublishable manuscript trunks.

And some of us are merely shameless about it.

#18 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:19 AM:

It's the difference between filling in the spaces in a paint-by-number kit and starting from the bare canvas. The thing that's wholly yours is going to contain something that the kit pic never will.

Except that it isn't, of course - comparing fanfic to paint-by-numbers is an analogy that just doesn't hold up. It seems to imply that the author is merely phoning in a piece where the work's already been done, and if you think that's something inherent in fanfic, you'd be very wrong.

(If fanfic has a counterpart in the visual arts, I'd say it's collage more than anything else. But that may be another discussion.)

I get the point you're making with a work being "wholly yours," but it seems worth pointing out (as others in this thread have done) that story is never wholly the author's; it's always remixed from bits of other plots, other characters, other archetypes, other Cool Stuff. Makers of story are more or less in the business of twiddling knobs on existing material to see what happens - fanfic is only, perhaps, the most transparent example of this because the writers haven't bothered to change the names and file off the serial numbers. And, objectively - setting aside for the moment the issue of "ownership" - why should they?

Is Odysseus "mine" to play with? Is Hamlet? How about Fagin, or Ahab? Even if I were to accept that no one could possibly write any of them as well as the "original" author (which I don't, but okay), is that enough reason to not use them as a jumping-off place for a new work? And if every other particular of plot and narrative were (somehow) original to me, is that really any less "mine" than if I changed the names and fine details but more or less wrote Moby-Dick?

#19 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:21 AM:

[W]hat if these characters were real people? What if these ideas really worked? What would it really be like? . . . Can anyone else think of any?

[tiny, embarrassed cough]

#20 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:27 AM:

Jane, I don't think Teresa was trying to say that fanfic can do no harm. I do think, and suspect she does as well, that the vast majority of the problems with fanfic come about because of a screwed-up legal regimen rather than because of the activity itself. There's trouble with it because the law assumes things about creation and distribution that it shouldn't.

#21 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:29 AM:

To echo Jane, fanfic is all fine and good, except when it isn't. Fanfic as a modern phenomena is more than mimeographed sheets shared with people in the neighborhood. Because of today's ease of distribution, it's everywhere, and it dilutes what the creator of the original work has done.

I do understand that copying is the sincerest form of flattery. It's also fundamental: it's how we've evolved. But copyright was invented because copying became easier and easier, and copyright preserved the value of what the creator made for the creator, to encourage more people to invest in what is already a not very lucrative field (for the majority of non-Lucases of the world).

Yes, all writing cribs from previous sources. I also agree that modern changes to copyright laws have put a lock on the growth of the public domain that has been bad for artists. But there has to be a balance between outright stealing what's out there and synthesizing something new out of old. There is a difference.

I'm not sure I'm being very coherent, but in the rush to support a natural phenomena (trying to immitate what we love) I think we have to think about the consequences of wide distribution of the copies of someone else's creation.

Best,
Alice

#22 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:29 AM:

NelC (& Teresa) Yep, I agree — tho you probably say it better than my attempt at it.

#23 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:32 AM:

...it dilutes what the creator of the original work has done.

How? Is literature a zero-sum game?

#24 ::: MaW ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:39 AM:

Fanfic can be a very good way to get people into writing, and I don't think anybody would try and claim that getting people to write is a bad thing. I can see how authors can dislike it though - if I were JK Rowling, I'd be quite upset with some of the fanfic that's appeared featuring the Harry Potter characters in a variety of unlikely sexual relationships (this is of course not unique to Harry Potter).

#25 ::: dlnevins ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:45 AM:

Regarding the Marion Zimmer Bradley incident: I think it's worth remembering that J. K. Rowling recently found herself in a similar situation, when a woman sued her claiming she had invented the term "Muggle" and Rowling had stolen the idea from her. Had Rowling lost that suit, it would have had a severe impact on her ability to continue publishing her work. The litigant in that situation was not a fanfic writer, though, but another professionally published author. I don't think there's any way a writer can ever be completely safe from the possibility of someone popping up and attempting to claim ownership over part of their work.

#26 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:56 AM:

"Authorly arrogance here, sorry, but I don't believe anyone writes a character better than the originator."

As a categorical statement this is plainly false, unless you really want to argue that, for instance, King Leir is superior to Shakespeare's reworking. In fact literature is full of people writing characters better than the originators. The fetish of "originality" is a quirk of the modern age, not an eternal human verity. Maybe it's a good quirk. I'd say the jury's still out on that.

As to whether fanfic can be upsetting or hurtful, why, of course it can. Was Teresa saying fanfic is always wonderful, or that its effects are always benign? Of course not. Her point is that discussions of fanfic and its rights and wrongs could benefit from a broader view of how, historically, people have told stories and made texts. She's suggesting we be less provincial. Arguing with her as if the question on the table were "Fanfic: Bad or Good?" is not engaging with the actual matter at hand.

#27 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:03 AM:

Echoing Dan Layman-Kennedy, I want to better understand what AliceB means when she says that fanfic "dilutes what the creator of the original work has done."

Of what does this "dilution" consist? By what signs can we recognize that it has happened? What are some mechanisms by which it operates? Please give examples.

#28 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:06 AM:

This seems to be the same territory Harold Bloom was mapping when he was writing about the anxiety of influence. (Bloom can be a real dufus but occasionally he makes a good point.) I suppose with fan fiction, anxiety is simply ignored or absent, and all that is left is influence and invention.

#29 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:07 AM:

Avram,
I would say that "the New Testament as Old Testament fanfic, but Jesus is pretty clearly a Mary Sue."
is actually a pretty traditional, orthodox, Christian understanding of the matter.

The traditional claim of Christians wasn't that Jesus was "a nice man who taught us how to live". It was that he was the Author, inserted into his own story, as a Gary-Stu no less.

This makes his fate inevitable, too. Think about it: a Mary Sue is so incredibly annoying in fiction, but in real life...! It's no accident that he was killed.* Now his ressurection - that was necessitated by the plot.**

-r.

*none of his contemporaries disputed that bit, wether friend or foe.
**you know, The Plot.

#30 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:11 AM:

"Is literature a zero-sum game?"

I guess I don't know what that means.

As to what I mean by dilution, let me start with an aside by using comic books as an example. There you create a set of characters, place them in ever-changing environments, and, if you're lucky, the characters last for decades on monthly installments. Well, actually, they don't. The original characters become stale. The story lines repeat. Sales drop. So the owner of the characters hires new talent to reshape the characters, create new sets of story lines that fit these new personalities, and go from there. Success! Until, after a while, that flags too. So, we repeat, ad nauseum. After enough intallments, the current version of the characters bears only the slimmest relationship to the original. This works in the comic book field, because the characters are not owned by their creators, the audience keeps changing, and this is the expectation.

For a book, where the characters do belong to the creator, and the creator has invested in that personality and that world, the constant "what ifs" published by others makes these characters and this world stale. Unlike comic books, the world created by the author is meant to be finite. There may be sequels, but they fit withing the framework that the author has created. The fanfic dilutes the creator's work, because it can become lost in what others have created.

George Lucas, as I understand it, has been pretty good about letting fanfic flourish. But I think it's up to the creator to decide whether it's okay, or not. And given the wide and fast distribution of fanfic these days, I don't have a problem with the base line being: fanfic is not okay unless the creator says it is.

Best,
Alice

#31 ::: melannen ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:16 AM:

I just posted an essay about the necessity of fanfic which came out of this discussion, which is really very long, and more of a parenthentical digression to a digression than a relevant comment. Since lj doesn't trackback, it's here, if anyone's interested.

#32 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:20 AM:

Well before everyone blog-piles on top of AliceB for her "dilution" comment, the arguments about "dilution" isn't too far from the same arguments by those who want to maintain control of their works for life-plus-n years. Mention to some authors the notion that copyright terms should be short enough to the point that they might expire while the author is still alive, and you'll hear all manner of "dilution" arguments. some of them quite forcefully, pounding of tables, etc.

I recieved a number of "dilution" arguments when I suggested a 42 year copyright term. Writers said their original works would be "diluted" if their work went public domain and Hollywood came in after and made the movie version. It would have "diluted" the original somehow.

So, before AliceB is completely scared off by the sharpening of knives and pitchforks, lets be clear that her argument isn't her's alone. It is an already existing meme that is fairly widespread. It isn't personal to her alone.

#33 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:20 AM:

Alice,

So is Robin Hood stale now, because so many authors have written Robin Hood stories? Is King Arthur stale? Is Sherlock Holmes stale? (And btw has anyone read Michael Chabon's brilliant The Final Solution? Which is, of course, fanfic?) Dracula? Romeo and Juliet? Red Harvest?

You actually make the point that when a specific character/story becomes old, the best solution is to bring in new writers. Why is that? Because new authors actually can reimagine works in interesting ways. So in the comic book world, it's well understood that many authors can create interesting versions of the same character. The only difference between that and fanfic is a particular contractual legal relationship that says it's okay.

This is somewhat wrapped up in the issue of "canon," I think. I recall a story in which Frank Miller was asked a convention whether Dark Knight had "really happened." "Of course not," said Miller. "It's a comic book."

#34 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:23 AM:

Patrick, I posted before seeing your post. As an example of "dilution" I'd use Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series. She authorized the publication of short stories by others. As a die-hard Darkover fan, I purchased them. They were, in my opinion, not as good as the original, and usually repetitive of her tropes. The series lost some luster because of it. The additional volumes that have been published after her death have also diluted the story by adding to her world without her specific style and storytelling talent.

I assume that the additional volumes have not hurt sales--I don't think fanfic does. To the contrary, it probably is a great vehicle for advertizing the original. But it doesn't help the original story.

It's a value assessment, not an assessment of volume.

Best,
Alice

#35 ::: dotsomething ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:25 AM:

Because of today's ease of distribution, it's everywhere, and it dilutes what the creator of the original work has done.

Don't mean to pile on here (like Patrick, I'm curious to hear how it dilutes). But I think it's the opposite of dilution. Rather than diluting the original product, fanfiction enhances and intensifies it. One function of fanfic is to analyze characters and offer reactions to what they've said or done. Good, insightful fanfic has made me love and understand the original characters more. It's brought characters to my attention I might otherwise overlooked, or shed light on some aspect of a relationship that I didn't quite grasp. It's multiple conversations going on at once, one between the original writer and the reader, and another between the fanfic authors and the reader. The reader comes away with a lot of intellectual riches. There's no down side, unless the reader is reading bad fanfic, and why would anyone want to do that? (Fanfic, like everything else, has good, bad, and awful. The ninety percent of everything is crap rule.)

#36 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:29 AM:

I can't quite keep up with the pace of the postings, but I'll try to respond once more.

Alex, rewriting characters can be absolutely fabulous. I don't dispute it. However, I think creators should have a say, while they are alive, about whether anyone can do it. I won't rehash what I've said, but I don't think I'm alone, or irrational, in that belief.

Alice

#37 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:38 AM:

"Good, insightful fanfic has made me love and understand the original characters more. It's brought characters to my attention I might otherwise overlooked, or shed light on some aspect of a relationship that I didn't quite grasp. It's multiple conversations going on at once, one between the original writer and the reader, and another between the fanfic authors and the reader. The reader comes away with a lot of intellectual riches."

I had not thought of that, and it's given me something to think about. I guess my concern is that an author may not agree with the fanfic's author's take on the character involved.

See, I don't dislike fanfic, per se. It can, like a lot of things, be both good and bad. But I still think it should be the creator's choice about whether it should be published--and as I have said before, the nature of distribution these days is such that putting in on the web can be the equivalent of a publication (in fact may get more readers in some cases).

Alice

#38 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:38 AM:

By "zero-sum game" I mean that there's a finite amount of something, and not enough to go around; if I take your meaning right, I think you're saying that "quality" (or maybe just "entertainment value") is a resource that can be depleted if too many people use it all at once.

I don't think it works that way, though.

#39 ::: Nabil ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:44 AM:

This is a fabulous quote. I find it really refreshing and encouraging to see people IN the publishing industry who feel the same way I do. *goes back to lurking*

#40 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:50 AM:

My 2 cents CDN here:

'Dilution' is one of those vague terms that can mean different things to different people. For me, it involves first and second impressions.

F'instance, my first exposure to Buffy et al was through sexually explicit fanfic (most of it bad). Ergo, when I finally saw the series (I didn't own a TV during the series' first run) my reaction was not what the original creators intended--or wanted, I'm sure. I found myself wondering when/why character1/character2 so much that the stories took back seat. I lost interest completely shortly after.

I have no doubt I would have the same reaction to other fanfic/original work, so I avoid the former as much as possible. I consider it the only way for me to be fair to the original creator. YMMV.

#41 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:54 AM:

But I think it's up to the creator to decide whether it's okay, or not.

I disagree. Here's an alternative: let the market (not so much the commercial market but the literary market) decide. Those works which find an audience will flourish; those which don't will be ignored.

Now, I think creators have a very strong right to be paid for their creations. But I don't think they have a right -- that is, I don't think they should have a right -- to control what happens to those creations.

Which brings us back to a subject which has been brought up in earlier threads about copyright: mandatory licensing. The precedent here is from music: if you want to record another's song, you have to pay the composer -- but they can't deny permission.

This, I would argue, is clearly what should happen with literary characters and worlds. Anyone who wants to write the starship Enterprise should have to pay a percentage of the take to Paramount. But I don't think that Paramount should get to decide what works get written, get published, get sold or get read.

Bad works, damaging works -- as decided by readers, not writers -- will be ignored. How many revisions of Odysseus there've been -- most of them simply ignored in favor of Homer. But those with some real power (Dante comes to mind) add to our view of the character. (And, of course, this is decided on an individual level -- the literary market just being a sum of the individual decisions.)

Copyright should be a vehicle for making sure artists get paid. But it shouldn't be a vehicle for control.

#42 ::: perianwyr ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:59 AM:

I am rather uncomfortable with the idea that one should have total control over the impressions that one's ideas give, in any form.

#43 ::: Diana ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:02 PM:

"I could show you stuff centuries old—heck, some of it’s millennia old—that’s fanfic by any modern definition."

The entire cycle of stories, plays and poems about Troy is fanfic to Homer, including the Aeneid. And then the ghost of Virgil guides Dante throught Hell. Now there's a fanfic touch if there ever one.

#44 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:06 PM:

I ... don't know.

I stand before you confessing to fanfic myself, only I got paid for it. In my first book, a fantasy, I had a group of travellers who try to cross a mountain range, get turned back by a magically-induced snowstorm, find a passage under the mountain in which they are ambushed and lose one of their number who turns up again later in another guise, revealed as a great magic-worker.

Nobody's ever called me on it. It might be because it was a different group of characters, doing something completely different for a different purpose, and the lost character turns out to be, well, different.

So what? Well, there's something not kosher about using the very same characters that have been created by someone else, to do the very same things in the same way in the same setting to get the same outcome. Is it still so if you change one of those things? I... think not, tentatively. There's a sort of line, somewhere. I know how Patrick feels about boundary conditions, and anyway I'm not up to defining this one, so I can't say where the line is. It's over yonder, somewhere. I don't think I crossed it. I think it is possible to come a lot closer than I did, and still not cross it. But I think it does exist, and it can be crossed.

#45 ::: dotsomething ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:07 PM:

AliceB: using comic books as an example

(Sorry, a lot of posts popped up while I was composing my earlier comment about dilution)

That's a good example, except that it's a hazard of comics as a medium, isn't it? By the nature of their publishing style, characters get so many writers and retoolings over the decades they keep getting reinvented. That's not necessarily a bad thing, except that it makes comics so cyclical that characters that are readable this decade may not be the next even though they have the same name and costume.

I agree that single-creator books are a different situation.

But I still think it should be the creator's choice about whether it should be published--and as I have said before, the nature of distribution these days is such that putting in on the web can be the equivalent of a publication

I think the original creator's wishes do have to be respected. If a creator says outright "please don't write fanfic based on my characters," then I think people need to follow that. A lot of creators don't mind, don't care, or take it as the highest form of flattery. This has more to do with consideration and respect than copyright laws. (fanfiction dot net will not archive works if the author has issued a public statement to please stop doing fanfic.) But that's a separate issue from whether fanfic is intrinsically bad for the original work. I tend to think the original works can stand on their own feet sturdily. The bad fanfic is just so much noise, and the good only adds to the dialogue.

#46 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:11 PM:

It seems to me fundamentally important that we remember that there's more than one argument here. One is about justice: the extent to which we should ensure that creators are compensated, and the rules by which we hope to ensure that this happens. The other is about aesthetics, about how certain kinds of art do or don't change our view of other kinds of art, or our relationship to our own art.

Under the right circumstances, when properly chartered, government can play a positive role in ensuring something approaching justice in the first matter. Its cannot play a just role in the second.

#47 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:13 PM:

Stephen, the problem with "mandatory licensing" or "compulsory licensing" as used in the music industry is that it requires the government to set prices on every little variation of possible use. I'm unconvinced that the government can do what's best here, given their history to date in setting terms and rights etc based on who pays them a campaign contribution. As it is now, there are compulsorary licenses for cover songs, and I believe that is the entire extent of mandatory licensing. There are no compulsory licenses for sampling, derivatives, mixes, and the like. There are also no compulsory licenses for turning a novel into a movie, a movie into a novel, or an original oil painting into a poster. Copyright also covers software, and the idea of Microsoft ever allowing compulsory licenses for software, let alone trying to figure out the pricing that would actually be "fair" is boggling.

Compulsory licenses that would allow paid fan fiction, from a copyright point of view, would mean that two of the most complicated concepts in literature, characters and worlds, would have to be put on some sort of bureaucratic look up table and a price put to it. What percentage do you pay Lucas to put Chewbacca in your shortstory? Or just a wookie? Or to set a short story on Planet-Wookie? A flat rate? All different rates? And if so, how much? What about action figure wookies?

That's one of the actual beauties of copyright: licensing is left to the copyright holders rather than trying to have some bureaucratic nightmare try to create a single look up table to apply to every possible derivation. THe author decides how much they are willing to accept for their works or to license their works.

At that point, this would still prohibit a lot of current fan fic, because current fan fic is by fans who aren't charging money for their works. I don't believe you can use the "compulsory license" to make a cover of some popular song and then give that song away. I believe the original artist must get some money somehow, some way. Which means most current fan fic would still not be allowed by "compulsory licenses".

Compulsory licenses would solve the derivative problem. The only problem is that it would create a nightmare of bureacracy. It's the modern day equivalent of communism being the worker's paradise. In theory, sure, in reality, never.

#48 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:18 PM:

there's more than one argument here

OK. Is the discussion about "dilution" one of justice or asthetics? I was thinking it was about "justice" but perhaps you were thinking "asthetics"?

#49 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:22 PM:

Renee: I've heard that before; people turned off the original work by reading its fanfic first. What I always end up wondering is *why* they end up reading fanfic for something whose original they haven't sampled? (Not critical, just curious. For me most of the appeal of fanfic comes from seeing how it bounces off or resonates with what the original creator meant, so there's no popint to reading even a good fanfic in a universe and among people one doesn't know.)

Greg, you're generalizing writers' motivations on copyright again. I still disagree with you on a copyright term that ends prior to the death of the author, and yet I have no problem with the idea of fanfic. As far as I'm concerned, the term of copyright has more to do with fair compensation than anything else.

Fanfic falls under the debate about what constitutes fair use, and where spin-off works fall. There's a reason it seems to be at least partly the authors' will whether fanfic is a good thing, or a bad thing but not worth pursuing, or acceptable, or flat out not wanted under any circumstances.

I certainly don't think that fanfic, even bad fanfic that misinterprets the characters or the feel, 'dilutes' the original work, any more than a badly-made but legally-agreed-to movie does. If someone is concerned that it will do so, that someone doesn't read the fanfic, or watch the authorized film, for that matter.

There are stories whose fanfic, or even movies or anthologies or other legal tie-ins I haven't perused, or watch/read while mentally rewriting the character names to something saner, because I honestly can't see the connection. (This latter includes bad Arthurian films that make more sense set in Ruritania than even an idealized ahistoric Britain, as well as at least two damn good fanfics which could have worked far better as "original works" than some original works do whose serial numbers were inadequately filed off. Again, not the legal/copyright aspect of fanfic.)

Some works seem to be whole and intact on their own.

But some seem to work best in interaction with other things, with a sort of busy, messy, chaotic whirl of activity. I can't explain why I choose to read the fanfic of some universes but not others, except that some universes seem to be improved by the byplay.

And on those rare occasions a work really does seem weaker and worse after reading its good fanfic, I don't blame the fanfic writers....

(For me, when I fantasize about those far-off days when my own books are out there and some crazy kid writes fanfic, you know what my greatest fear is so far? Reading one that so completely screws up and miswrites my characters and their motivations that I can't stop myself and I say something stupid and mean to the hapless kid. Who won't deserve it, and I'll get a reputation as one nasty -----.)

#50 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:27 PM:

Greg, obviously the "dilution" argument is about aesthetics.

#51 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:29 PM:

As regards comic books...

Yup, single creator comic books are a different animal. For example, in Japan, you have the same writer-artists working (sometimes) for decades with the same pool of characters, with the same basic plot premise. (See: Ranma 1/2, Oh My Goddess!, etc.) Of course, the kind of repetition and variations you get there is different - you can take the same basic awkwardly funny scenario, and treat it in several different ways, and at greater length. (It can be equally bad, as anyone who's ever read Dragonball Z will tell you.)

Our continual retoolings and retconnings in American super-hero comics are as good an example as you can get of the need to arbitrarily change stuff in order to be original. (Combined with a really odd production model that doesn't lend itself to stable creative teams.)

And as long as I am on this tangent, this is probably one of the explanations for why manga is so popular right now: kids love long, complicated stories about their heroes* that are internally consistent. Heroic people + engaging plot + cliffhangers. You know, genere fiction. American comics aren't really good at much outside the cliffhanger bit. I mean, when was the last time Superman saved the world...but it took 36 issues to do it?

*sorry, kids don't like real anti-heroes, Mr. Miller and Mr. Alan Moore. Those are for grownups. Fake anti-heroes are much better.

#52 ::: Shmuel ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:30 PM:

It might surprise you to find out how many writers have works of personal erotica tucked away in their unpublished-or-unpublishable manuscript trunks. There’s no good way to get those published, but they write them anyway, because they’re writers, and eroticism is an important part of our lives.

That would make an interesting anthology. Anonymous works of erotica from famous authors. But we're not telling who.

#53 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:31 PM:

Aargh! Patrick's last (now two) comments weren't up -- even when I deliberately set out to check and read all the posts that came up while I was composing.

Greg, scratch my grumble at the top of my last post: Patricks' Aesthetics vs. compensation is a much better summation of what i was trying to say there. The whole dilution debate here is *aesthetic*. So, I'm sorry about the grumble. If I could write as brief and pithy as he, well, maybe I'd be published.

#54 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:42 PM:

There's another aspect to the argument besides the rights of the author--what about the rights of the culture?

The culture in which you grew up is a big part of who you are, and a big part of any culture is its mythology.

For instance, the Greek heroes were a big part of the imaginative life of 19th-century kids. That's still true to some extent today, but I'd argue that the positions formerly occupied by Zeus, Hera and Hercules have largely been usurped by Superman(TM), Wonder Woman(TM) and Luke Skywalker(TM).

I'm not arguing that creative minds aren't entitled to financial reward for their labors. However, the trend for effectively perpetual copyright seems to me excessive and actually slightly dangerous. When was Superman's first appearance? 1936ish? When did Jerry Siegel die? 1992? I dare you to post Superman fanfic on Amazon--he's got a movie coming out this summer, and the lawyers are liable to be testy.

At this writing, the character of Luke Skywalker has been part of the public consciousness for over a quarter century. He is an important component of the childhood imaginative life of an entire generation. It's darn nice of George Lucas and his minions to have come up with him and I don't argue that Lucas entitled to his share of the wealth and (to a lesser extent) kudos, both of which he has in abundance.

However, at the risk of incurring yet more wrath, I will say that my reverence for the rights of intellectual property holding corporations is somewhat limited.

Bear in mind that when we talk about intellectual property rights, we're usually not dealing with individual human beings, but rather with holding companies. Take Marvel as an excellent case in point. When it emerged from bankruptcy, Marvel comics came back with a stated business model of being a holding company rather than a creative force. Since then they've zealously sued any number of (to my mind) innocent geeks who dared use any of Marvel's characters without permission.

I see perfectly well how Marvel might think its ability to squeeze profit from, say, future video game franchises is affected by existing games that let users tailor the interface to appear suspiciously similar to Marvel's IP--I just don't give a shit.

If we as a culture have gotten to the point where the average citizen seriously values the right of Avi Arad (Marvel CEO) to buy himself a bigger jet over the right of creative kids to express themselves, then we, as a culture, are really dumb.

I'm not going to read Another Hope because the writing is painful. I agree that the author was breathtakingly naive to hope that she could get away with it. But Christ, Star Wars has been part of the public consciousness for close to three decades. It's part of the imaginative life of a generation. When, exactly, does it stop being a @$^%ing felony to play with George's toys?

I would argue that if we, as a culture, continue to insist that the right to profit trumps all other rights then we will inevitably strangle ourselves intellectually, competitively, and spiritually. Actually, I'll go even farther and say that it's already happening.

Software patents, anyone? Grr. Argh (tm)


#55 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:43 PM:

Greg, you're generalizing writers' motivations on copyright again.

Revisting my actual post, adding emphasis where needed:

[paste]
Mention to some authors the notion that copyright terms should be short enough to the point that they might expire while the author is still alive, and you'll hear all manner of "dilution" arguments. some of them quite forcefully, pounding of tables, etc.

I recieved a number of "dilution" arguments
[/paste]

I believe I managed to avoid using the phrase "all authors". And I sprinkled "some" and "a number of" qualifiers in my post. So, I don't believe I was generalizing for "all authors".

That you support FanFic and oppose 40 year terms is your business. But your opinion does not generalize to all authors. Some authors oppose both FanFic and any term less than Life-Plus-70 and defend their views using "dilution" arguments among other things.

#56 ::: Ann K ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:44 PM:

Dave,

I apologize if I misunderstand you, but fanfic isn't writing the same story with the same characters--it's more about expansion.

For example, perhaps I became with enamoured with the idea of the teenage Marauders in the Harry Potter series. Except they are only spoken of in flashbacks. But the imagination runs wild, and I want to know more about the Marauders. So I make up stories about young James and Remus and Sirius and Peter. I'm not writing about Harry finding the Philospher's Stone all over again. Sure, eventually James is going to meet his fate later on somewhere (unless I'm writing alternative history), but that's not what I'm writing about. I'm writing about misadventures of side characters that inspired me.

Or, maybe I follow the line of the original storyline, but deviate somewhere along the way--what it really was Snape working for Voldemort instead of Quirrel? Sure, it's a tangent, even a cannonical change, but why not if that's where my imagination wants to run?

And maybe I don't care about getting something professionally published; I just want to show it to my friends or keep it to myself. It's what I do for fun because the story given inspired me to explore something.

That's what fanfic is generally about--at least in my experience.

#57 ::: Patrick Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:45 PM:

AliceB writes:
Patrick, I posted before seeing your post. As an example of "dilution" I'd use Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series. She authorized the publication of short stories by others. As a die-hard Darkover fan, I purchased them. They were, in my opinion, not as good as the original, and usually repetitive of her tropes. The series lost some luster because of it. The additional volumes that have been published after her death have also diluted the story by adding to her world without her specific style and storytelling talent.

A different Patrick responds:
While I don't necessarily disagree with this, your argument seems to me to have little to do with fanfic generally, and more to do with quality of writing. Some fanfic is horrible, some is absolutely sublime. (A friend wrote unauthorized fanfic based on an anime series. The anime series treatment of the characters was mediocre at best, but my friend's treatment was excellent and fun to read. To compare, I found the authorized prequels of the Amber series published after Mr. Zelanzy's death to be terrible.)

See, I don't dislike fanfic, per se. It can, like a lot of things, be both good and bad. But I still think it should be the creator's choice about whether it should be published--and as I have said before, the nature of distribution these days is such that putting in on the web can be the equivalent of a publication (in fact may get more readers in some cases).

It seems that you are trying to join this argument to the dilution one. However, they seem to be two different things. Even with an author's permission, the fanfic created could be bad and make the series lose "some luster because of it."

#58 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:50 PM:

NelC:

Not just the Holy Grail, but I'd say all story cycles from pre-literate times are a form of fanfic. I first realised this when thinking about Hercules, of all people. When I look at the Labours and the other bits of myth he's involved in, they seemed to me to have the quality of somebody literate trying to paste up a bunch of stories that others just made up about their favourite hero while gathered around the campfire. Those in the oral tradition can tell tall stories without a lot of regard for continuity or the other fine sensibilities of the literate, because they're more concerned with immediate audience reaction to Hercules' bad-assedness.
Or, you could see the "twelve labors" rubric as a fanfic reworking of the earlier material. Same goes for the Iliad. We know that some of those heroes had their own story cycles. It's not unreasonable to assume they all did, which makes the Iliad the first mega-crossover event on record. And the Odyssey? That's the "Okay, but what happened after the story was over?" impulse.

Kristine, if all fanfic were as you describe, I wouldn't be defending it.

Jane, not that I don't believe you, but how can a fan own a piece of the author's fictional universe, unto being able to sue and harass the author?

Making an online game from a copyrighted work is outside anything I'd defend. So is offering fanfic for sale. I won't say I couldn't change my mind later, but for now I'm firmly of the opinion that this stuff belongs in the gift economy.

Sisuile: Thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one who thinks so. It seemed logical to me that the storymaking imagination would move from "real presence in the Eucharist" to "really real presence in the Eucharist."

Will A., that's an illuminating story. Reload the front page.

Alice, I agree that poor-quality imitation can dilute the original, but how is that unique to fanfic? Third-rate Tolkien imitations don't put a dent in my love of Tolkien, but they sure do sour me on second-rate Tolkien imitations. That's exactly the process you're describing, and it's all taken place in the commercial market.

dlnevins, the case you're talking about is Rowling vs. Stouffer, which was discussed here at length. The situation had no resemblance to fanfic. Stouffer was falsely ownership of "muggles" by right of prior use. I absolutely disagree that it's reasonable to conclude, on that basis or any other, that there's no way "...a writer can ever be completely safe from the possibility of someone popping up and attempting to claim ownership over part of their work." Mind, it's a good idea to check and make sure you haven't inadvertently duplicated something; but that possibility aside, if it's original work, it's yours.

Anyway, what's that got to do with fanfic? Most of what I see starts out with an explicit disclaimer that says they don't own the characters or setup.

Melannen, I fixed your link.

#59 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:51 PM:

Which means most current fan fic would still not be allowed by "compulsory licenses".

Of course, most current fan fic is illegal now, too. The only difference is that under a compulsory licensing scheme it could be published legally.

As for the bureaucratic mess... I dunno. I'm not a lawyer. So I could be wildly wrong here. But it seems to me that some fairly simple rules could be established, with some sort of arbitration board to keep costly litigation to a minimum. (Of course, we'd have to guard against creeping elimination of fair use... but that's a big problem now; this would be -- presumably -- part of a more general push-back.)

And again, the question is: as against what alternative? At the moment we have complete control by the creators -- or, all too often, by corporations. I think a bureaucracy would be better than that. I think that some of the works that might be written (or that have been written and might be published) in other's (currently-under-copyright) worlds or with other's (currently-under-copyright) characters might be wonderful -- just as many works people write with out of copyright worlds/characters are wonderful. And I'd like to read 'em.

#60 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:57 PM:

Gift economy. You can give it, but you can't sell it.

#61 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 12:59 PM:

Okay, howabout dilution -
based on your first contact with the world-work*.

If your first exposure to, say, Batman is the sixties tv show, then that can become your framework for interpreting what's good about the premise. The essential "batman-ness" has become fixed in a particular way, which leads to bafflement when you see the movie Batman Begins. Suddenly your understanding of "why people like this stuff" doesn't work. It's not camp, its...something else.

TruFans of course, become endlessly divided over what the real "batman-ness" is, but the problem is that multiple takes on a given work tend to lock people out who would assume that there is only one true way to understand what something is. (Director's cuts anyone?)

Fanfiction presents a special problem: trufans produce it, because they love the world-work so much, but at the same time they are multiplying the possible ways of understanding it.

(Sorry, I feel like I'm not tying this together well.)

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that the Western idea of a one to one coorespondence between the author's vision and the one true authorized work is part of the problem. Its like the Western idea of a one to one coorespondence between any idea and a physical reality, e.g. purity=virginity, democracy=voting, etc.

Right, so the reason why fanfiction upsets us is the reason why we produce it: we fell in love with a particular interpretation of a story-world**, and want that to be the entry point for everyone, or the canonical way of understanding that world.
At the very same time, we love that story-world so much that we want to play with it. (The second case, love producing fanfiction, is misleading, because not all creative borrowing is motivated by love of the original work.)

-r.

*sounds like there should be some fancy German word for that. Any takers for Weltarbeit?
**Story-world? Howabout Geschichtewelt? Anyone?

#62 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:01 PM:

One further note.

One might argue that right now we have de facto compulsory licensing for anything produced by individual creators. And full protection for corporations.

The case I'm thinking of here is the Italian writer who rewrote Lolita from Dolores Haze's point of view. This was bitterly opposed by the Nabokov estate (basically, his son Dimitri), on the grounds that it was a bad novel, copyright violation -- etc. But in the end they lost -- because they don't have money to fight it out with lawyers, because it was a fait accompli in many countries so it seemed ridiculous to ban it in other countries, etc.

I bet the same would not be true of Star Trek, Star Wars or the like. It would've been shut down.

A system of compulsory licensing would be used mainly by individuals against corporate owners -- i.e. precisely against those owners whose claim to moral ownership (as opposed to legal ownership) is weakest.

#63 ::: kutsuwamushi ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:03 PM:

AliceB:

I guess my concern is that an author may not agree with the fanfic's author's take on the character involved.

Interpretation happens every time someone reads a book. Any author who's uncomfortable with that is screwed, because there's no way to stop it.

Of course, fanfic is only one of the ways that a particular interpretation can be spread. I've never seen an author argue that they should have the right to shut down fan essays, reviews, or English courses that are "distorting" their work.

#64 ::: Ashni ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:04 PM:

Regarding comics and dilution:

Alan Moore's Watchmen, arguably one of the best superhero comics ever made, was based on the old Charlton heroes with the serial numbers filed off.

Neil Gaiman's Sandman, likewise on many people's Top N lists, is a pastiche of other creators' comic book characters, folk heroes, and mythological figures.

There are very few American comic book characters that haven't, at some point, had something brilliant done with them by someone other than their creator. I would tend to think of comics as an argument for the potential aesthetics of fanfiction.

#65 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:06 PM:

Ann, in that case you're doing what Tom Stoppard did with "Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead", and it's absolutely, completely legitimate. It's not plagiarism, it's not aesthetically dubious in itself, and it's good if it's good. No argument, no objection, and I would be tickled pink if anyone did it with any of my stuff.

But somewhere there's still a line. On the other side of that line is work that is so dependent upon an earlier source that it retains almost no originality of its own. How much originality must it have before it's legitimate?

As I said, I don't know.

#66 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:14 PM:

Teresa, would you be in favor of making gift economy fanfic legal regardless of the wishes of the copyright holders? Because right now, of course, we have not just a gift economy, but an illegal gift economy. Lucas can shut down all star wars fanfic, not just stuff that gets charged for. Or should the gift economy be at the whim of copyright owners and/or an illegal economy?

#67 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:16 PM:

How much originality must it have before it's legitimate?

As we say in the business, that's a matter of fact for a jury to decide.

If we restrict the conversation to justice for a moment, it's a mistake to try to encode into law the precise barrier between allowable inspiration and infringing derivation. That's why there are juries.

If we turn to aesthetics, then I don't see why originality has anything to do with legitimacy. Then, the question is how original does it have to be to be good?

#68 ::: John Blonde ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:21 PM:

Although Patrick Anderson made my point, I'd like to follow up on the dilution and the relative quality issues.

if the commercial and authorized Darkover stories to which AliceB refers were not good, that's a failure of the editors, IMO. The short stories set in Gaiman's Sandman series were quite good. The stories set in the Aspirin- and Abbey-edited Thieve's World, a shared world with multiple writers, were generally of even quality, though they varied in style. Editing is everything.

OTOH, what first drew me into fanfic was finding stories based in Star Trek Voyager that did a far better job than the series writers with the potential in the characters and situation set up by the creators. What kept me reading fanfic was the same impulse that had me re-reading Dune and LoTR and Heinlein as a kid - the desire to revisit the setting. Good fanfic is like that, with the added bonus of new stories. I don't read some fandoms (Dune, LoTR, Babylon5, etc) because, for me, fanfiction stories generally don't add.

OTOH, I absolutely do not think unauthorized fanfic should be publishable for monetary gain. Many fanfic readers and writers are horrified by the idea of a fan writer asking for money because in general their impulse for writing is quite different from original fiction writers. Some of them are insulted when one suggests they might, in fact, try their hand at original stories.

#69 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:23 PM:

Dave Luckett wrote:
But somewhere there's still a line. On the other side of that line is work that is so dependent upon an earlier source that it retains almost no originality of its own. How much originality must it have before it's legitimate?

I know exactly what you are talking about, and I have seen it. But I can't define it either. I think it is held in common with another characteristic of bad writing that we all recognize. You know, the one where, er... well, for example, for some people the idea of a hero enacting revenge is so compelling that they will read any book that has the revenge plot. Or, if they are a writer, will fill a book with bland characters with no inflection, no backgrounds, no scenery, because the idea of revenge (or love, or sex) is so potent in their minds that it lights up everything else.

Frankly, I was that way about elves when I was 11, and had just finished the Two Towers. Even seeing the word "elven" gave me quite a jolt in the psyche.*

The same motivation comes up in slash fiction, I think - the idea of a certain pairing is so compelling that one reads blindly (or writes blindly). So if you Star Trek fanfiction needs to be about Han and Leia, because it's about them, then you've got a problem. If it's about a princess and a scoundrel, and it
would be cool if it was them, but it doesn't carry all its emotional charge from it being them, then you are okay.

-r.
*in my psyche! I was pre-pubertal, thank you very much!

#70 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:23 PM:

If there is a moral argument for authorial right to control their original materials, it's not the same as the copyright bargain.

Copyright is effectively a bargain between society as represented by government and creative artists (as represented by publishers) wherein to encourage the public good of the creation of art and the addition to the cultural discourse, artists are granted certain limited rights for a set period of time. Society gains in that at the end of the rightholding period, the works become our collective property. Without this bargain, some art wouldn't be created at all. With it, we can count on a continually refreshed pool of cultural artifacts to play with and artists can plan how they and their descendants will be compensated over the commercially viable life of their work.

That's a commercial bargain, a public good for created right, where both sides win. It's not the recogintion of a moral obligation, where absolute control is granted because it is objectively right. However, it's an old bargain and people are emotionally attached to it. It's also become subject to erosion and regulatory capture. Additional protection of (for example) Mickey Mouse was valuable enough to the Disney Corporation that the large amount of lobbying money they spent on retroactive copyright extension was strictly a prudent investment, even if getting the bargain changed was harmful to the culture (in that it was not getting an infusion of public domain art and characters).

#71 ::: Adrienne ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:24 PM:

Another point to think about as far as "legal" versus "moral" rights -- a lot of us have a lot of difficulty respecting that "authors have a LEGAL right to own their creations; OMG you're STEALING THEIR LIVELIHOOD!!!!" when most of them DON'T hold their own copyright. Copyright inheres in the publisher for several years on a lot of authors' contracts, and in the record company forEVER (so far as i understand) on a lot of musicians' contracts. The creators get royalties, but they don't OWN THEIR WORK as far as that goes.

I have a lot of respect for free and anarchic movements (fairtunes.com was the big one, but it got shut down) that try to get illegal downloaders to send money directly TO THE ARTISTS. Their position is that the record labels, not having done any of the "creative" work, don't have any MORAL right to be paid regardless of the legality of their position, whereas the creators DO have a moral right to be paid for their creations.

I understand this is almost certainly a really irritating position to those of you in the publishing industry -- and i'm not saying i AGREE, entirely, with it.

But the sheer magnitude of the legal difference between "who holds the copyright" and "who MADE THE THING" may go some way toward explaining why a number of fanfic authors, illegal downloaders, and other "pirate" consumers of culture don't care much about arguments based on legality.

#72 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:24 PM:

See "Melancholy Elephants" by Spider Robinson as the (IMO) best SF story about the danger of eternal copyright laws.

#73 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:25 PM:

IJWTS that I think ScottH's

If we as a culture have gotten to the point where the average citizen seriously values the right of Avi Arad (Marvel CEO) to buy himself a bigger jet over the right of creative kids to express themselves, then we, as a culture, are really dumb.
--has an admirable clarity to it.

#74 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:27 PM:

if I were JK Rowling, I'd be quite upset with some of the fanfic that's appeared featuring the Harry Potter characters in a variety of unlikely sexual relationships (this is of course not unique to Harry Potter).

JK Rowling seems amazingly level-headed about the (admittedly insane) fandom community which exists around her work. For example, there's one well-known website full of explicit Potter erotica which was contacted by representatives of Rowling's. It wasn't a Cease and Desist, though, just a request that the site institute password protection to keep kiddies from stumbling across the fics. (Of course, by "request" I mean "do this or else we will bust out the C&D," but that's not the point.)

The site locked down its contents and is still running today. So on the subject of Potter porn: JKR knows, and is either unconcerned about it, or bothered yet still willing to let fandom tiptoe into those creepy nooks and crevices. Either way, I'm impressed.

As for me - I was part of a long-running RPG based on Rowling's series, and it has improved my writing by leaps and bounds. All writing flexes the same muscles, and keeping them in shape did wonders for me.

Yes, the general quality of fanfic can be pretty low, but then, most completed manuscripts don't get published, either. What's that saying again? 90% of everything is crap?

#75 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:30 PM:

In Judaism, there's a long and extremely honorable tradition of writing little stories (called midrash) to fill in the gaps that are readily apparent to anyone who reads sacred scripture. One of the best-known midrash is the story in which Abraham's father owns an idol shop, and Abraham smashes all the idols but one and then claims the big idol destroyed the others. This has been retold so faithfully that there are people who are convinced their Bible is defective when they can't find the story in there. In fact, it's a midrash written to explain why God chooses Abraham for the covenant.

I have long thought Milton was basically Christian midrash. But you know, midrash is fanfic, and Milton works much better defined as fanfic. I mean, geesh, he turned Satan into this fascinating sexy (anti-)hero; if that's not fanfic, what is?

I've gotten to speak in schools about writing a few times; once I found myself trying to explain to a bunch of twelve-year-olds why Barry Trotter was legal but fanfic without the consent of the creator was not. It does not, honestly, make a whole lot of sense from a legal perspective, and it makes even less sense if we're talking about the ethics of writing about someone else's characters.

#76 ::: David D. Levine ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:30 PM:

My take on The Fanfic Question is a little different from the comments I've read above. Whether fanfic is (or should be) an intrusion upon the creators' rights or not, whether it is well written or not, I personally don't read or write fanfic because I think it's creatively lazy.

I'm defining "fanfic" here as "new stories about existing characters and settings, written by someone other than the original creator or their designates." So Dave Luckett's snitch of a fragment of plot from Tolkien isn't "fanfic" by my definition.

Fanfic can be a way for new writers to learn their craft by relying on existing characters, character relationships, and settings so they can focus on plot, prose, pacing, and all the other aspects of writing. Certainly, there's no reason that such stories can't be entertaining and emotionally valid. But I find them unsatisfying for the same reason I find most series television (and tie-in novels, and many sequels) unsatisfying: because the characters and their relationships are already established, they can't grow or change much (unless the fic is prepared to violate canon to an extent that most of the fics I've read don't).

Also, many fics are weak because they rely too heavily on the crutch of the existing characters (and the reader's knowledge of those characters), sometimes to the extent of omitting character description completely. The characters become merely labels, or puppets, animated more by the reader's existing knowledge than by the writer's craft.

I'm a plot-focused writer. I want to see things happening -- things with consequence, things that change the characters' understanding of the world. Most fanfic fails for me because it is, instead, focused on the reader's involvement with the characters -- the purpose of the fic is to enjoy another hour or two with old friends, or to deepen existing relationships (often taking a non-sexual relationship to a new or more intense sexual level), rather than to create new situations and change the characters' lives.

So I have no moral objection to fanfic. But it doesn't turn my crank.

#77 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:33 PM:

What I'd like to know is, what is the current legal status of how fanfiction affects a creator's rights?

For a time, there was a notion that if a writer was aware of fanfic, and didn't pursue action, they were in danger of losing rights to their work. I see less concern about that now, but is this still an issue?

I think having one's work ficced is more an honor and homage than otherwise, but are there legal issues involved with noticing and not taking action? (The solution being, of course, to carefully not notice in the first place.)

#78 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:34 PM:

Lenora Rose:

What I always end up wondering is *why* they end up reading fanfic for something whose original they haven't sampled?

Someone recommends it and gushes over it. Or they come to a smallish multi-fandom archive for one set of stories and then explore that archive's other offerings. Or they're asked to beta.

A friend gave me the first two HP books so that I could become familiar enough with the setting to properly beta her fic.

I can't explain why I choose to read the fanfic of some universes but not others, except that some universes seem to be improved by the byplay.

I'm drawn to writing and reading fic primarily in two situations: the setting has room for other stories besides the one the author is telling, often with other characters, or the characters and/or scenes are generally sketchy enough that they practically beg to be fleshed out.

#79 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:34 PM:

Alex, I quite agree that it would be a mistake to try to legislate, and if it comes to law, only a jury could decide whether a piece infringes on another, and only in each specific case. But does this mean that we should not discuss the general principles, perhaps to decide severally on approximately where the barrier lies for each of us?

#80 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:40 PM:

Another point to think about as far as "legal" versus "moral" rights--a lot of us have a lot of difficulty respecting that "authors have a LEGAL right to own their creations; OMG you're STEALING THEIR LIVELIHOOD!!!!" when most of them DON'T hold their own copyright. Copyright inheres in the publisher for several years on a lot of authors' contracts, and in the record company forEVER (so far as i understand) on a lot of musicians' contracts. The creators get royalties, but they don't OWN THEIR WORK as far as that goes.

This is pretty confused. Except in the case of certain very well-defined exceptions (for instance, movie novelizations), book publishers almost never acquire authors' "copyrights". That's why (to choose a random example) the copyright page of Ken MacLeod's Learning the World (Tor, 2005) says "Copyright 2005 by Ken MacLeod", rather than "Copyright 2005 by Tor Books." Our contract with Ken doesn't convey his copyright to us, nor does any aspect of his copyright "inhere" in us for any period of time whatsoever. What our contract with Ken conveyed to us was the exclusive right to publish his book in the English language in a certain set of territories, subject to certain conditions. In effect our contract is a license to make use of his copyright in certain ways. It's fundamental that the copyright itself remains the possession of Ken. This is absolutely bog-standard practice in fiction book publishing. So I don't know how it's sensible to claim that "copyright inheres in the publisher for several years on a lot of authors' contracts" unless we're talking about movie tie-ins, computer-game novelizations, and other edge cases. In the broad middle ground of fiction publishing, we don't traffic in copyrights.

#81 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:40 PM:

Greg, obviously the "dilution" argument is about aesthetics.

but if it was obvious, I wouldn't have asked. And I'm not being flippant in saying that.

I mean, if AliceB thinks that fanfic "dilutes" the original work from a purely asthetic point of view, isn't that like me saying I don't like seafood? I view asthetics as personal taste and you can't really argue with someone about their personal taste. It took my wife, who's father was a lobsterman, a couple of years to stop asking me to try a bite of whatever seafood she was eating at the time. I just don't like seafood.

If AliceB thinks fanfic dilutes the original from a purely asthetic point of view, isn't that the end of it? That's what she thinks. That's her experience of it. To argue with her about her personal experience seems to be yelling at someone for putting pepper on their steak. "My god, why did you ruin a perfectly good steak with all that pepper?"

The thing for me is that when people start talking about fanfic "diluting" the original work or whether fanfic actually "improves" the original work, the original work is owned by the author, and it is really up to the author to decide what is best for his creation. It's sort of like the guy in the restauraunt telling the chef that cooking with a wood fire will make the steak "better". Well, that's the chef's choice at that point.

When we're talking about what a derivative does for the original, aren't we talking about what is "fair" for the original author? What is just? What we should allow and should not allow?

The basis of copyright is that the author is empowered to do what's best for their creation, to get rewarded for their work. To talk about whether a derivative created by someone else is for the benefit or detriment of the original author, even from an asthetic point of view, implies a connection to what is fair for the original author. That's the way I see it anyway.

#82 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:44 PM:

I refer David Levine to my exchange with Cheryl Morgan here. Obviously most fanfic isn't brilliant, but there's a occasional subcategory of it which is anything but "lazy."

#83 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:47 PM:

Posted this in the other thread but I think it fits better here:

Does that mean that a lot of historical novels are fanfic written by history fans? I mean, what's the difference between writing novels about the rifle lieutenant you've made up meeting Wellington, and writing novels about the Jedi you've made up meeting Yoda?
And if you write historical novels in which an invented character sleeps with a lot of historical characters, is that slash? Or Flash?

#84 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:50 PM:

I personally don't read or write fanfic because I think it's creatively lazy. ... So Dave Luckett's snitch of a fragment of plot from Tolkien isn't "fanfic" by my definition.

Which is interesting, because I would have said that lifting a fragment and incorporating it into your own work was more creatively lazy than using an existing framework to tell your own story.

#85 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:50 PM:

Stephen Frug, I go back and forth on the compulsory licensing idea. Your argument there is one of the reasons I do it.

Another thing that gives me pause is the existence of fragile creations. Middle Earth and Bordertown and The Dreaming look like wonderful toys to play with, but they have inobvious and necessary built-in constraints. It wouldn't take much messing-around to break them -- and when you break part of a story, you weaken the rest.

My current sense is that writers will play with such universes, and that it's no great matter if they quietly exchange their stories with each other. Putting the full turbo-charged mechanisms of commercial marketing and promotion behind injudicious additions to those universes could do real damage.

#86 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:52 PM:

And again, the question is: as against what alternative?

42 year copyright terms. Give the author control of their work for 42 years, let them make all the money they can make off of it, then put it in the public domain for all the fanfic you want.

No, it doesn't solve it completely, but it restores a lot of balance in a simple and straightforward way.

#87 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:52 PM:

David Levine, are you by any chance sneaking up on the "if it's good, it can't be fanfic" formulation?

#88 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:56 PM:

Janni asks:

For a time, there was a notion that if a writer was aware of fanfic, and didn't pursue action, they were in danger of losing rights to their work. I see less concern about that now, but is this still an issue?

You probably see less concern over it because people are gradually realizing that it's not true.

You can (under certain rather hard-to-achieve circumstances) lose a trademark by failing to aggressively defend it. Somehow this got warped into a widespread belief that you can "lose your rights" to a literary creation if you don't sic a lawyer against every transgression of which you become aware. In point of fact, under current US law, it's extraordinarily difficult to alienate a copyright.

(You can--again, under very hard-to-achieve circumstances--wind up limiting your ability to collect damages. But tolerating a 12-year-old's web-published fanfic does absolutely no damage to your ability to, for instance, sue a book publisher that pirated your work. Rather, to limit the damages you could collect from that publisher, it would be incumbent on them to show that you'd been engaged in a persistent pattern of letting comparable book-publishers repeatedly pirate your work, and the bar to them establishing any such thing would be roughly 5,271,009 times higher than "you let someone write fanfic on the web".)

Bottom line: It's not true.

#89 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:57 PM:

It's not the recogintion of a moral obligation, where absolute control is granted because it is objectively right. However, it's an old bargain and people are emotionally attached to it.

I think it started in Europe around the time the Berne Convention started. ~1860? I'm guessing from memory. Before that "moral rights" didn't exist anywhere on planet earth. They still don't exist in teh United States the way they do in Europe.

Personally, I think Moral Rights is protection against a modernday boogeyman. But that's just me...

#90 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:58 PM:

if you Star Trek fanfiction needs to be about Han and Leia, because it's about them, then you've got a problem.

Oh yeah ... because you're mixing universes here!

Most of the fanfic I've read has been either new/different characters in an established universe, established characters in a different setting (say, a different ship or different planet) or established characters and situation being looked at from a different point of view (different character or different endpoints in the storyline). Probably legitimate, as far as fanfic goes, and if done well, it's fun to read too.

#91 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 01:59 PM:

TNH, PNH,
As usual, you've said what I would've liked to have said - better.

Right then.
-r.

#92 ::: dlnevins ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:00 PM:

Teresa, I only brought up the Rowling lawsuit as a counterpoint to the oft-made claim that permitting the existence of fanfiction poses some unique legal danger to the author of the original fiction. That it does pose a legal danger is clear (as Marion Zimmer Bradley's situation shows all too clearly). I just don't see how this is a unique danger. There's always a possibility that some author, somewhere, will read a new novel and say "Hey! That was my idea! I wrote it first!" and file a suit claiming prior ownership or copyright infringement. If the author of that new novel followed your advice and checked for any possible inadvertent infringement before the book was published, the chances of the suit succeeding are small - but the author will still be stuck defending himself in court, which is not fun. And there's always a small but non-zero chance he will in fact lose the suit, since it's possible for reasonable people to disagree on just how similar two creations can be and still remain noninfringing.

But I agree that's a tangential point to this overall discussion.

#93 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:05 PM:

P J Evans quoted me!
if you Star Trek fanfiction needs to be about Han and Leia, because it's about them, then you've got a problem.

And then P J Evans said:
Oh yeah ... because you're mixing universes here!

My reply:
Oh good Lord, I am a blithering idiot.
-r.

#94 ::: dotsomething ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:09 PM:

If your first exposure to, say, Batman is the sixties tv show, then that can become your framework for interpreting what's good about the premise. The essential "batman-ness" has become fixed in a particular way, which leads to bafflement when you see the movie Batman Begins. Suddenly your understanding of "why people like this stuff" doesn't work. It's not camp, its...something else.

This may be true, and maybe I've been in that mindset myself. However, my first exposure to Batman was "Superfriends" and the 60's TV series. Batman: The Animated series gradually opened my eyes to another way to portray the character. B:TAS led me to some of the comics. The comics led to more comics. And then more comics, until the character completely shifted in my view from funny and campy to a dramatic, complex character. And that 60's TV show still makes me laugh, I enjoy it even as I feel incredibly sympathy for him as a dramatic character in the comics.

I'm not saying that one portrayal couldn't damage the character's rep. But Batman's part of modern mythology. There are literally an infinite number of stories that could be told about him, and an infinite number of Elseworlds and approaches and tones for those stories, whether they've got the DC logo stamped on them or it's fanfiction done for no compensation and read by a few people.

Fanfiction presents a special problem: trufans produce it, because they love the world-work so much, but at the same time they are multiplying the possible ways of understanding it.

I just don't see a down side to that. I'm a bit of a purist, ironically, so I believe is going to the source material for reference as much as possible. "Canon" matters to me a great deal. Yet starting with canon as a starting point, it's then possible to explore off in all directions.

Of course, canon gets very sticky when you're talking about comic book characters. Multiple corporate sanctioned versions can be considered "canonical" in Batman's case and everyone has a different opinion, as you said, on the "true Batman-ness." But again, I don't see this as a problem, it's just how it is and part of the process of reading stories as a culture.

#95 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:12 PM:

P J Evans,
Well said. The point I was aiming for was that to retain enough originality to be legitimate, you'd need to be able to retain enough quality that you could file off the serial numbers.

I think there's a subtle shift in emphasis here. The motivation to write the fanfic might be "what if these guys were on another planet", but the story needs to have a life of its own that doesn't depend on these guys getting all their emotional weight from some other story that you already have to love.

-r.

#96 ::: Henry ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:12 PM:

Yochai Benkler's new book, The Wealth of Networks is very good on this, as on many other things. See the discussion of a Star Wars fan movie put together by a guy called Cejas here.

The new set of feasible options open to him includes not only the option passively to sit in the theatre or in front of the television and watch the images created by George Lucas, but also the option of trying his hand at making this type of film by himself. Jedi Saga will not be a blockbuster. It is not likely to be watched by many people. Those who do watch it are not likely to enjoy it in the same way that they enjoyed any of Lucas's films, but that is not its point. When someone like Cejas makes such a film, he is not displacing what Lucas does. He is changing what he himself does--from sitting in front of a screen that is painted by another to painting his own screen. Those who watch it will enjoy it in the same way that friends and family enjoy speaking to each other or singing together, rather than watching talking heads or listening to Talking Heads.

Of course fanfic writers have been doing this for a long time before new info technologies made it easier - but I think the basic point remains (and the distinction that Benkler draws between what Lucas is doing and what Cejas is doing fits well with Teresa's argument about this really belonging to the gift economy.

#97 ::: Wren ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:16 PM:

I'm sure there's someone around who can cite this better, but as I recall the MZB lawsuit related to a Darkover novel that allegedly contained plot or character elements similar to a fanfic that was submitted to her magazine, i.e., one that MZB could be assumed to have access to prior to writing her novel.

The moral being, if you as an author become aware of fanfic for a universe you have any intention of continuing to write in, for crying out loud stay away from the fanfic. This is also reportedly why the Babylon 5 newsgroup spawned a moderated subgroup, so JMS could participate with some level of protection against random passersby lobbing episode "suggestions" at him that he would then be obligated not to use.

... *tilts head and tries to parse that paragraph again*

#98 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:16 PM:

Patrick - i'm not sure that the "dilution" argument, particularly when it is being made by representatives of large conglomerates, is exclusively (or even primarily) about aesthetics. I think it might be about misapplication of economics: if price is determined by the intersection of the supply curve with the demand curve, then an increase in the supply of works in a given universe (through fanfic) ought to result in a decrease in the price that other suppliers (the owner of the copyright) can charge for their works.

I think there are serious problems with this model: among other things, works by different authors which happen to be set in a given universe are not necessarily interchangeable for economic purposes; and it is not clear to me that normal supply-and-demand rules apply to works of fiction in the first place.

But I also suspect that this model is operating in the minds of many of those who talk about 'dilution'.

#99 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:17 PM:

It seems to me that, at the core, what copyright is set up to do is to prevent a situation where I, Sarah S., write 5 volumes of a best-selling saga called _The Amazing Adventures of Abigail_ and then, before I am able to roll off the piles of gold dubloons I've accumulated from the royalties and publish the 6th volume, someone else publishes something that claims to be _The Amazing Adventures of Abigail, Vol.6_, but isn't.

If that's done to me, then my right to profit from the labor I've put into the 5 already published volumes and the labor I've put into the not-yet-published legitmate 6th volume has been violated.

To me, that should *clearly* be illegal. If it's not a legitimate part of the series that it's claiming to be a part of, then it's not. And you shouldn't be able to claim that it is. And you *really* shouldn't be able to make money from claiming that it is.

However, if Twyla T. writes "The Amazing Adventures of Abigator" or "The Astounding Adventures of Abby" or decides that it would be fun to write a story (clearly labelled as "not a part of the real series, the characters, setting, etc. are not original to Twyla T.") I might get a bit grumpy up there on my pile of dubloons, but as long as Twyla's not claiming that this stuff is part of my series or (heaven forfend) written by me, where's the harm?

If the story's good enough (pace Renee) it will weather almost any amount of good, bad, indifferent, G-rated or X-rated fanfic.

If the fanfic's good enough, it might be Mistress Masham's Repose.

#100 ::: Shmuel ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:19 PM:

Quoth Greg London:
The thing for me is that when people start talking about fanfic "diluting" the original work or whether fanfic actually "improves" the original work, the original work is owned by the author, and it is really up to the author to decide what is best for his creation. It's sort of like the guy in the restauraunt telling the chef that cooking with a wood fire will make the steak "better". Well, that's the chef's choice at that point.

This analogy would hold true if fanfic writers were sending changes to the publisher, who would then use them to alter the next printing of the original novel. Nobody here is proposing that.

The chef gets to make his dish his way, but that doesn't mean other people can't add their own condiments, make their own side dishes, or whip up their own home-cooked versions.

#101 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:20 PM:

Drawing the distinction between the legal and aesthetic issues is a crucial point here, if only because it's all too easy to let a personal problem with the latter serve as weight in arguments about the former.

I think there's a parallel here between objecting to fanfic on aesthetic grounds and the idea of "cultural misappropriation" (and indeed, a lot of the same language gets brought in: "That's not yours to use," talk about rights and respect and dilution, and so on). I recently speculated that it's all mostly a way of saying "Don't be tacky and pretentious." But for good or ill, tacky and pretentious are 1) utterly subjective, and 2) almost certainly here to stay. (And turning that impulse into a set of rules about what you shouldn't ought to do is a really excellent way to raise the hackles of hairy little syncretic anarchists like me.)

#102 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:24 PM:

Dave- I'm giggling because I just finished this novel with your name on the cover, and decided to check how the fanfic discussion was going.

Teresa- I think that the gift economy is about the only thing encouraging the arts these days. Artists/authors should be paid, but through the practice of the craft and the gift of those works to the public for critisim is the only way some people have to refine their talent to the point that it is publishable. Oh, and Fast and Feast has a chapter on the change in the perspective about the eucharist.

Randir- I like your terms. Using them.

The one major classical piece of fandom that I haven't seen mentioned yet is a piece of fanart. What is The Last Supper other than an incredibly beautiful piece of fanart, fashioned after similiar works of DaVinci's predicessors, all based on a scene from a really well-known book? Does that painting 'dillute' the story or enhance it?

#103 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:32 PM:

dotsomething,
Yeah, I got into Batman in much the same way. I used it as an example because there are a number of canonical, conflicting, and artistically legit ways of interpreting the Batman mythos.* (Which is one of the things I like.)

You said it well:
I'm not saying that one portrayal couldn't damage the character's rep. But Batman's part of modern mythology. There are literally an infinite number of stories that could be told about him, and an infinite number of Elseworlds and approaches and tones for those stories, whether they've got the DC logo stamped on them or it's fanfiction done for no compensation and read by a few people.

And its precisely that multiplicity that causes (other) people problems. People who are used to fixed categories of how things should be don't respond well to multiple adaptations of the same story. Usually unliterary people are the culprits there, but I've noticed movie reviewers and others who should know better getting baffled by it too. Bad (poor quality) adaptations don't help the matter.

Fanfiction gets caught in that conflict because it seems to have a ready made label of being illigitimate. Perhaps it would be really handy to be able to automatically tag deviant, imagination polluting, diluting stories, but the label fanfiction isn't going to help. I call "category error"! :)

-r.

p.s.
When I said "fanfiction presents a special problem" I meant in the intellectual, "this is a neat situation" sense. I shouldn't mix senses in the same post. Oops.

*when I was a kid, my favorite batman comic was one that was almost solely about Comissioner Gordon and a strange twist of fate that had him chasing down into the tunnels under Gotham the son of a criminal...that he had chased down into those same tunnels as a young patrolman. Batman only really shows up at the end. Hmm. I'll have to look that one up.

#104 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:32 PM:

OG: Re; Why read a fandom you don't know - thanks for the suggestions. I knew there had to be reasons.

Re: Why some fandoms and not others:

I considered the "Big open spaces in the story" possibility, because Buffy has them, and Harry Potter has them, LotR has them (The film-world and the Book-world both) ... but then I realise that many of the stories I like but don't want to see fanficced still have room for other stories, but I want the original author to write them if anyone does.

(Not that I could or would stop anyone writing that fanfic, it just means my chances of reading it drop. But I'm a sporadic reader of fanfic at best, a drop in the bucket of their audience.)

#105 ::: David D. Levine ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:34 PM:

I refer David Levine to my exchange with Cheryl Morgan

Well yes, but if it's good it's not really fanfic.

David Levine, are you by any chance sneaking up on the "if it's good, it can't be fanfic" formulation?

Damn. I've been spotted.

Okay, let me restate and amplify my remarks for the record. Most fanfic fails for me for the same reasons most series television (and sequels, and tie-ins) fails for me: it emphasizes exploring and deepening the reader's existing relationship with existing characters rather than changing and growing the characters. But there do exist exceptional TV shows (e.g. Babylon 5) and exceptional fanfic (e.g. a rewrite of Buffy or Alien III that rewinds the original work and has a completely new take on the plot, avoiding the original creator's stupidities) that do much more than that. These I like. However, because the majority of works in both forms are unsatisfying to me, I avoid the form unless I have multiple personal recommendations for a specific work.

I would have said that lifting a fragment and incorporating it into your own work was more creatively lazy than using an existing framework to tell your own story

I didn't say that lifting a fragment of plot (while making up your own characters) isn't lazy. I just said it didn't fall within my definition of "fanfic." Forbidden Planet isn't, to me, a fanfic on The Tempest, although it snitches the entire plot. But Paradise Lost is a fanfic on the Bible because it is a new take on the established characters.

My attitude here comes from my own personal strengths and weaknesses. To me, plot is easy and characters are hard. So making up a new plot with someone else's characters would be less work than making up new characters for someone else's plot.

Although I say that writing fanfic is "lazy," I can't deny that it's hard work. One of the reasons I've never attempted fanfic myself is that I would have too much trouble working within the limitations of canon -- it's much easier to write in my own universe, where I can change the "laws of physics" if I need to.

I probably shouldn't have used the word "lazy". What I really mean is that I'm more impressed by people who do the hard work of creating a new universe and characters than by people who do the (different) hard work of creating new stories with an existing universe and characters. It's similar to the way that I'm more impressed by people who are really good at designing bridges and buildings than by people who are really good at running and jumping. Athletes certainly work hard, but I don't have as much interest in the results.

#106 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:34 PM:

This analogy would hold true if fanfic writers were sending changes to the publisher, who would then use them to alter the next printing of the original novel. Nobody here is proposing that.

And that wasn't what the analogy was for in the first place, but thanks for the nonsequitor.

The point was that when talking about whether fanfic is "good" or "bad" for the original work it is really a discussion about fairness rather than asthetics.

the chef makes his version, and then whatever people *can* or *cannot* do with that version is a matter of what is fair, not what tastes good

#107 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:39 PM:

The chef gets to make his dish his way, but that doesn't mean other people can't add their own condiments, make their own side dishes, or whip up their own home-cooked versions.

Holy twisted analogy batman. Fanfic is perfectly legal in all cases where the work is never distributed. So, you twisted my analogy so much that it is actually saying somethign true about something completely unrelated: You can write all the fanfic you want, as long as you read it at home.

It's when your "home-cooked versions" leave the home that you start having problems.

#108 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:40 PM:

42 year copyright terms. Give the author control of their work for 42 years, let them make all the money they can make off of it, then put it in the public domain for all the fanfic you want.

No, it doesn't solve it completely, but it restores a lot of balance in a simple and straightforward way.

I agree that if copyright terms were 42 years, this would lessen the problem somewhat, as it would move things into the public domain more swiftly. But it would leave large parts of the problem untouched -- as, e.g., Star Wars & Star Trek would still, to this day, not be available for fanfic. So from the point of view of the actual material we're talking about, it wouldn't solve anything.

(And I'm not convinced that 42, pace Douglas Adams, is some magic number here; in previous threads lots of people have made solid arguments for other lengths, including ones based on an author's life. I know that you, Greg London, seem committed to a circa 40 year term, but even among those who believe in shortening copyright terms it's far from agreed upon.)

The compulsory license idea would grant immediate access -- with copyright length being a separate issue.

Teresa, I guess my question is could the don't-break-stories problem be dealt with with moral rather than legal force. I think we should feel somewhat queasy about the idea of enforcing aesthetic views -- which it seems to me your idea boils down to (don't do this because it will hurt the art) -- with the power of the state.

I do think that writers could and would say, "I am asking people not to publish/buy/read stories by others in my worlds" -- and people could do it or not. For instance, I haven't read, and probably won't read, the Italian Lolita-from-Lolita's-POV for essentially that reason (taking Dmitri to have the moral authority to speak for his father) -- but I don't think it should have been banned. Sometimes, however, one would go the other way -- I don't think that The Wind Done Gone should have to call itself a parody to be legal, and I think that the moral authority of the Margaret Mitchell estate is weaker here (in part due to the racism of the original work). But of course others would judge these matters differently.

Ultimately, I suppose, it is an idea of what should be legally enforced; plus a question of how much aesthetic damage stories by other authors can do to a pre-existing story -- does a badly written Oz story hurt Baum's books? Would a badly written Middle Earth story really do anything to Tolkein's -- particularly if people simply ignored it?

#109 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:44 PM:

Teresa, I only brought up the Rowling lawsuit as a counterpoint to the oft-made claim that permitting the existence of fanfiction poses some unique legal danger to the author of the original fiction. That it does pose a legal danger is clear (as Marion Zimmer Bradley's situation shows all too clearly).

Ah yes, "Marion Zimmer Bradley's situation."

Did anyone actually google "marion zimmer bradley" "fanfic lawsuit", as someone suggested above? Did anyone notice the extraordinary variety of stories thus elicited? In some of which, Marion "lost a book"; in others, she was "forced to sue" to protect an existing work; in others, a contract offer from DAW was rescinded.

This should be a clue that perhaps, just perhaps, this is one of those overheated rumor-mill stories where the truth is perhaps a little more complicated than it's being made out to be.

Then there's this and this. True? Who knows? It seems as plausible as the insistence that "Marion lost a book! Because of fanfic!"

Do I have any idea what actually happened? I do not. Evidently, though, the difference is that I know I don't have any idea. And I know how to recognize the signs of what Mormons call a Faith-Promoting Rumor. Pending more reliable information, I think a moratorium on using the MZB tale to prove anything would be very much in order.

#110 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:47 PM:

Stephen Frug wrote:
Ultimately, I suppose, it is an idea of what should be legally enforced; plus a question of how much aesthetic damage stories by other authors can do to a pre-existing story -- does a badly written Oz story hurt Baum's books? Would a badly written Middle Earth story really do anything to Tolkein's -- particularly if people simply ignored it?

Well, argueably Baum wrote some badly written Oz stories. And Tolkein abandoned his sequel to the Lord of the Rings because it was turning into a banal spy thriller.

-r.

#111 ::: Will A ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:53 PM:

Wow, I made the front page. Thanks, Teresa!

I used the same joke to illustrate much the same point in an academic paper last year, when I set out to poke holes in Rise of the Novel theories (the idea that the novel sprung fully formed from the foreheads of a few 18th century Englishmen, which ignores stuff like Don Quixote, The Golden Ass, and anything written by women at any time before 1750--or else dismissing such things as "romances").

This doesn't have much to do with fanfic - just more evidence of a disconnect between the cult of originality and the way stories actually get told. Also good to know that anti-genre sentiments go way back.

#112 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:59 PM:

I agree that if copyright terms were 42 years, this would lessen the problem somewhat, as it would move things into the public domain more swiftly. But it would leave large parts of the problem untouched -- as, e.g., Star Wars & Star Trek would still, to this day, not be available for fanfic.

Stephen, the thing is that 42 year terms solves numerous other problems far greater than Star Wars not being available for fanfic. fanfic seems to be going along just fine without any legal protections, simply because it usually flies under the radar, no money changing hands, just posted on some quiet corner of the net. I'm not immersed in fanfic though, so if someone can explain how exactly fanfic is stifled by the law, and how this stifling restricts the "Progress of Useful Arts", I'm all ears.

The way I see it is this: yeah, star wars isn't available for fanfic, but if it was released in 1976, and terms were 42 years, then in 2018, it would be, and that's good enough for me. In the mean time, if there are any works that can be made, I'd say let Lucas make them.

Are there any tales of woe that explain why the law needs to be changed to protect and nurture fanfic above and beyond the level that it exists today? It isn't expressly allowed by law, but it is also left to the copyright holder to enforce copyright, which means the authors generally treat their fans with a bit of respect and a bit of slack, yes? Has anyone been thrown into the gullags for a perfectly harmless bit of fanfic?

If so, I'd appreciate a URL so I can get up to speed on it. If not, I don't see a problem with the system as it is such that copyright law actually needs to be changed to fix it.

Allowing noncommercial fanfic might solve one minor problem, but it still prevents plenty of major problems such as infinite copyright preventing commercial derivatives of copyright works, and leaving "Fair Use" and the courts to sort it out on a case-by-case and on a who-has-enough-money-to-go-to-court basis.

#113 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 02:59 PM:

Henry Farrell: Yochai Benkler's The Wealth of Networks certainly looks interesting and, as you suggest, pertinent. I've got a copy and I'm dying to find the time to read it.

#114 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:04 PM:

OK, just to keep things straight, could everyone prelude their posts with a marker saying whether they're talking about whether fanfic is "good/bad" (Asthetics) or whether it is "fair/unfair" (Justice)? I can't keep up.

Here's mine:

Asthetics: I haven't read any fanfic that I really liked. but I haven't read a lot of fanfic.

Justice: I don't think the law needs to be changed to protect fanfic, but then, I don't know of any horror stories of any poor unsuspecting fan who wrote something and then was made penniless by the lawsuit that followed.

#115 ::: Shmuel ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:07 PM:

Greg: you're making my point.

The point was that when talking about whether fanfic is "good" or "bad" for the original work it is really a discussion about fairness rather than asthetics.

The point was that this analogy makes no sense in application to this discussion, and that the existance of fanfic is in no way unfair to the author/chef, as the original work is unaffected. The only place such an argument might be made is in regard to aesthetics (not that I'd agree with it there either). In that argument, it's irrelevant whether the fan-created work is legal, illegal, for profit, or shared with a chosen few.

#116 ::: dotsomething ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:09 PM:

rhandir:

When I said "fanfiction presents a special problem" I meant in the intellectual, "this is a neat situation" sense. I shouldn't mix senses in the same post. Oops.

As soon as I posted, I realized that's what you meant. My bad. You raised a really interesting point.

People who are used to fixed categories of how things should be don't respond well to multiple adaptations of the same story.

As I said upthread, I can be a purist, so I can see how people get locked into "there can be only one" version of anything. But I do believe in reading being a participatory process.

What *really* I don't understand is how a society that shells out money for movie remakes (King Kong, Poseidon, Ocean's 11) doesn't understand why fanfiction is all just part of the story reading/telling/absorbing process?

(Side note: that Jim Gordon comic sounds interesting, I love Jim Gordon-centered stories. Hope you find it).

#117 ::: Shmuel ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:13 PM:

Ohhh. I see. You're misunderstanding the terms here.

OK, just to keep things straight, could everyone prelude their posts with a marker saying whether they're talking about whether fanfic is "good/bad" (Asthetics) or whether it is "fair/unfair" (Justice)?

Those aren't the questions. The aesthetics issue doesn't hinge on whether fanfic or mainstream fic are good or bad; Sturgeon's Law applies to both. The question is whether the existance of fanfic inherently has an impact in the aesthetic appreciation of the original. The justice issue is about legal mechanisms, which are not identical to issues of fairness.

#118 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:18 PM:

I'm personally sort of ambivalent toward fanfic. On the one hand, I've read some truly excellent fanfic (like the Buffy novel PNH was talking about, for instance), and good writing is good writing is good writing, ya know?

But on the other hand, even excellent fanfic can... distract me from my enjoyment of the original canon material. The best example of this is some (really good) Harry Potter fanfic I read before the sixth book came out, which also happened to be slash (i.e. had a significantly different cant on many of the characters from the canon portrayal, to put it mildly).

And then, when I actually read the sixth book, I was intensely annoyed to realize that the fanfic versions of those characters were intruding on my picture of the canon versions. It's not even that the fanfic versions were less compelling or less believable than the canon ones; it's that I wanted to experience what Rowling's take was on the characters that she, after all, had created in the first place. I realized I didn't want other people's interpretations messing that up.

On reflection, perhaps the reason the HP fanfic bothered me and the Buffy fic didn't is because the canon Buffy story is (a) finished, more or less, and (b) seriously flawed in a lot ways, whereas canon Harry Potter is neither of those things (in my opinion, on the second item, of course).

And, um, that's what I had to say about that. To be slightly less tangential to the discussion, I would venture the opinion that fanfic is unkillable and ubiquitous, and always has been, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I have Issues with the notion of changing copyright law to accommodate it.

I think everyone has the right to write any kind of stories they like, based on anything they want; I don't think everyone - or anyone - has the right to make money on/get credit for those stories if they are clearly fanfic. Originality may be difficult to define, but it does exist, and should be protected and rewarded.

#119 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:21 PM:

*sigh*

Aesthetics: a subset of fanfiction is bad writing.
A subset of that subset is bad writing because it is derivative in a particular way: it needs the original story-world to exist to make any narrative/emotional sense.

To test to see if it falls in this sub-sub-category, file off the serial numbers (change the proper nouns) and see if it still makes sense.

Justice:
Authors have a moral right to object to what is done with their work.
Actual rights vary by circumstance. Actual rights are enforced by social pressure: internal moral standards of fans, the implicit social contract between storyteller and audience, reputation, critical discourse, academic institutional stances, legal systems, etc. In other words, authorial moral rights are mediated by our entire society and its behavior!

#120 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:22 PM:

I've got a few theories about the variables that make for an active, fic-producing fandom. Without turning this comment into a dissertation, I think that the world has to:

a) Get enough exposure and be accessible enough for people to know about it. This one's self-evident, and fairness or quality don't necessarily enter into it.

b) Be big and complex enough to support lots of variation and reinterpretation. One of the reasons Harry Potter fandom is so, so huge*, IMHO, is that in addition to the simple question of vast numbers of people being exposed to the books, there's this large cast of characters, all with hinted backstories and family histories; there's a system of magic and a number of locations which are available to be played with and easy enough to add onto.

3) There has to be something the fans feel is _missing_. This isn't necessarily a reflection on the writer; what could be missing is just _more books_ or movies or episodes, or whatever. Which is quite likely not something the creator has total control over. *cough* "Firefly" *cough* Or, on the more-easily-mocked side of things, what they feel is missing could be teh hawt gay smexx. *cough* "Smallville" *cough* But there has to be _something_ fans feel should be there and isn't, to give them that need to fill the gap.

---

* My brother and I have similar tastes in literature and pop culture; as his degree relates to children's lit, he tends to analyse the works we both like from an academic perspective while I dabble in fannishness. Barring the occasional awkward "but those characters _hate_ each other! Why would they have sex?" discussions, it's a good dynamic. Last year he went to the big HP conference in Salem, and I got several phone calls asking, "What does 'OTP' mean?" and "some girl just asked if I 'shipped' anyone. Do I?" Also: "There was a fistfight in the 'is Snape good or evil' panel! These people are _great_!"

#121 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:25 PM:

...and yes, I do realize that the third shifted not only from letters to numbers, but changed sentence structure. *facepalm* I obviously like the sound of my own keyboard too much to pay attention properly.

#122 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:25 PM:

Leigh--

You might also have been bothered because (IMHO) Buffy slash picks up and runs with the many many kinky naughty sexy storylines/jokes/comments/implications/energies of the original Buffy. Rowling, otoh, is quite careful to keep sex out of her books almost entirely, (There's been a little kissing, hasn't there?) so slash fic feels, perhaps, a little less appropriate.

That noted, though, anyone want to weigh in on Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls? Or have I just wrenched the thread so far off course that to call it drift would be a ludicrous understatement?

#123 ::: Shmuel ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:29 PM:

I would point out that, as regards aesthetics, the problems people have with fanfic can apply equally to works by the original creator. I personally refuse to consider Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator canonical with regard to the first book; others feel the same way about Episodes I-III of Star Wars.

That doesn't mean the questions aren't legitimate. I'm just not sure how far authorial intention ought to be privileged in trying to answer them.

#124 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:30 PM:

Regarding the MZB story: if it was licensed publication, it can't have been fanfic. No matter what the precise circumstances, if the other writers sued, it can't have been fanfic.

Personally, I think the existence of this body of folklore grows out of the traditional auctorial fear that someone will steal their work.

(Remember, calling it "folklore" doesn't mean it has no historical basis. It means it's a story that gets passed around, in variant versions, between folks.)

#125 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:31 PM:

This is a great discussion, but I have one request: You're all using "Dilution" to refer to a concept on what PNH terms the aesthetic side of the question. Please, please, please stop. It's an opportune word, but it's also a term of art, a very, very relevant term of art, on the just/legal side of the question.

(You don't have to stop. I'm just complaining because it's been driving me entirely bonkers for 100 posts now. Also, when I get home I want to talk about the issue of how fanfic could maybe-somehow lead to an author losing control over certain aspects of their creation via nonenforcement. Discussing that will hinge on dilution, and I'd like to introduce the idea of that term being overloaded into the discourse now, rather than later.)

#126 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:33 PM:

And I have a thing about all the "Dune" novels after the second being in some other universe from the first two. That change resulted in not wanting to read the things (I did read 'Children of Dune' - as a serial.)

I guess it's a sort of continuity problem.

#127 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:34 PM:

Oops!
I missed an important category when I tried to boil things down to Aesthetics/Justice. Leigh Butler said it well though: some fanfic can impair the enjoyment of the authorized work, even if it is of excellent quality.

So which is that, aesthetics or justice? Probably both. The existance of fanfiction is 'transgressive' because it offers alternative views of the authorized work. It is harmful to reader's ability to respond to the authorized work, but only sometimes. Therefore it is <omninous voice> morally suspect! </ominous voice>

No, seriously. Morally suspect. Just like erotica. Or alcohol. Transgressive plus dangerous to an authorized relationship. I'm not saying that it's bad, mind you. Just that it breaks social norms and can be hazardous to the user.

Just what we should do about such a dangerous substance that is illicitly shared out of public view is, of course, an interesting question.

-r.

#128 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:35 PM:

Okay, BSD, tell us what dilution really means.

#129 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:39 PM:

The question is whether the existance of fanfic inherently has an impact in the aesthetic appreciation of the original.

Alright, so take "asthetics" and split it into two. "Asthetics of fanfic" and "Asthetics fanfic has on original".

"Asthetics of fanfic"

I still haven't read any fanfic that I really really liked. But it's been only an hour since I posted this before.

(I think this is a valid category. Even with Sturgeon's Law, I still don't like seafood.)

Could someone a bit more pedantic give an inclusive definition of what fanfic is, exactly? One straightforward sentence would be nice.

"Asthetics fanfic has on original"

I can't answer this because I haven't read enough fanfic to know. I do know that I try avoid reading about or looking for too much information about a movie or book before actually watching or reading it. I'd rather not have previews on TV or reviews in magazines affect my asthetics of the original, so I'm sure fanfic can do the same.

After I've seen the thing, fanfic about that doesn't bother me. After I see a film or read a book, I'll usually go looking up all the reviews about it to see if I missed anything, to see if I got suckered into some fundamental flaw, etc.

But seeing Saturday Night Live make fun of the Matrix after I've seen The Matrix doesn't bother me in the least. I assume that for me, the same attitude can be extended to fanfic, and that reading fanfic after reading the original is not a problem.

Having read a number of folk here say they read fanfic before seeing a movie, I'm surprised that the fanfic didn't have spoiler alerts or that the fanfic culture in general hasn't adopted some similar type of warning.

But that's just my personal taste. I don't like seafood, and I like corn-fed beef cooked medium rare with no condiments or sauce or spices on it.

But I can't imagine eating something that would spoil what I ate the day before...

#130 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:48 PM:

Re: impact of fanfiction on reading the original:

Reading a great deal of slash as a young easily influenced thing has given me a kind of double vision, not just in relation to (say) Harry Potter, but in relation to any text where characters of the same sex are intimate in platonic ways with one another, especially when the characters aren't all that interesting in themselves.

Which is why I read Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants while thinking it would be much more fun if the characters were lesbians.

But I don't know that that's a bad thing, either. I could argue that it's a good thing inasmuch as it short-circuits the assumption of heterosexuality. I could even say that it adds something even as it distracts; I get two versions of the story, the more obvious reading and the less obvious hawt one.

One of the things that fanfic does is that it adds another layer of interpretation in ways that non-academic readers can understand. One the one hand are papers that advance a psychosexual reading of Louis Sachar's Holes, but there's a relatively small audience for that sort of thing. Fanfic allows you to spin a theory about a story, an interpretation, in a format that's dramatic and engaging. "Here's why I think that Snape isn't evil," the essay, is not going to get through to as many people, or be as persuasive, as a story that dramatizes that theory...

#131 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:51 PM:

crap, two terms, cut in two, gives four:

"justice fanfic has on original"

I don't see the need to change copyright law with regard to fanfic. Fix term-length problem and it fixes a number of (but not all) fanfic problems.

The problem I see with allowing fanfic to be distributed under NonCommercial purposes is that NonCommercial is un-f**k*ng-beliably difficult to define. CreativeCommons has been having a bear of a time trying to nail down what is and is not allowed by their CreativeCommons-NonCommercial license. It's a friggen multipage flowchart you have to step through.

Also, and this is even trickier, is that noncommercial distribution can be used as a loss leader to make money indirectly. So, even if noncommercial is nailed down, allowing non-commercial distribution can create a loophole whereby people make money off of other means from the work.

It doesn't fix the problem, it simply moves it to a location that many people haven't looked at yet.

#132 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:51 PM:

rhandir -- Justice:
Authors have a moral right to object to what is done with their work.

Absolutely. I also have a moral right to object to anything, including Another Hope, the baggage retrieval system at Heathrow, or my dully elected congresscritter. No one is obliged to listen or act on my objection, of course.

rhandir -- Actual rights vary by circumstance. Actual rights are enforced by social pressure: internal moral standards of fans, the implicit social contract between storyteller and audience, reputation, critical discourse, academic institutional stances, legal systems, etc. In other words, authorial moral rights are mediated by our entire society and its behavior!

Exactly! And I would add that they are currently based on implicit social contract that was most appropriate for a society with twentieth century distribution and publishing technology.

#133 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:55 PM:

I was about to say "No time, I'll do it when I get home", but then I remembered that Wiki Loves Me. Follow that link for a not-terrible summary of the more common sort of dilution.

#134 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:57 PM:

Sarah S --

Mmm... I don't...think so. Because the HP fic I'm talking about was what they call a "futurefic" - set years after the projected endpoint of the canon story. In other words, grownups involved only. (Slash doesn't bother me, at least not on principle; pedophilia, on the other hand, is seriously Ew, and I would never have read it if that had been the case.)

Also, the fic was only slash in the sense that two characters of the same sex were involved in a relationship, not in the sense that it was filled with torrid homosexual sex scenes. In fact I would say that what on-screen sex was involved barely rated a PG-13.

#135 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 03:57 PM:

Having read a number of folk here say they read fanfic before seeing a movie, I'm surprised that the fanfic didn't have spoiler alerts or that the fanfic culture in general hasn't adopted some similar type of warning.

I can't see reading fanfic before seeing a movie you want to remain spoiler-free on, personally, but any fanfic writer ought to know to include spoiler warnings in their author notes.

There is a system. Look at those little blocks of text at the top of any fanfic, with the title, fandom, pairing/characters featured, rating, synopsis and the "these characters don't belong to me" disclaimer: omitting that info will get you flamed or very loudly ignored. The reason they wouldn't be included (assuming the writer isn't just a complete n00b...because there's just nothing you can do with some fans) is that the writer assumes that anyone interested in reading the fic would already know about the spoilers. If, for example, the movie was out of theaters and the DVD release was over a month ago. There's an assumed shelf life on spoilers, but the last thing most fic writers want to do is spoil the original for you.

#136 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:01 PM:

Rowling, otoh, is quite careful to keep sex out of her books almost entirely, (There's been a little kissing, hasn't there?)

Sarah S: There's been some kissing, and there's also been just a hint of things here and there. She gets some pretty risque jokes past her editor now and again. (Such as in divination, when Lavender finds Uranus on a star chart, and Ron asks loudly, "Hey, Lavender, can I see Uranus too?")

Ron and Lavender, incidentally, become a couple in book 6, and were seen snogging quite enthusiastically in public and sneaking off to more private locales afterwards. So the series isn't quite as innocent as it may seem.

BSD: trademark dilution was discussed in detail upthread. And if your argument is leading from the dilution concept as defined there, I would say that the Potter fandom has a preponderance of fanfiction, none of which has lessened anyone's desire for the actual canonical works. See, for example, the release information on Half-Blood Prince.

#137 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:04 PM:

in short:

(1) asthetics:

(a) fanfic itself: not much taste for it. Not much exposure to it either, though.

(b) fanfics affect on original: I generally avoid until after I've seen original. After the original, no affect.

(2) justice:

(a) fanfic itself: I see no need to change copyright law to encourage fanfic. I see problems with trying to carve out a "NonCommercial" space for fanfic.

(b) fanfic affecting original work: I don't see current fanfic having much impact on original works, but I'll defer to the original author to decide whether to enforce copyright for their work or not. I haven't seen abuses in this area.

#138 ::: Wren ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:05 PM:

Having read a number of folk here say they read fanfic before seeing a movie, I'm surprised that the fanfic didn't have spoiler alerts or that the fanfic culture in general hasn't adopted some similar type of warning.

Err, it does. For one, it is highly improbable (I know better than to speak of impossibilities, I do) that someone read a fanfic based on a movie or novel with no indication what movie or novel it was based on, as most stories list "fandom" in the header and/or are sorted by fandom category on their archive or website of origin. For TV series or movies-and-books-with-sequels, there's usually a spot for a notation such as "Spoilers: up to and including Clone Wars" or "Spoilers through season 5, episode 4."

I'm surfing at the office and so maybe haven't been reading as closely as I should, but I don't recall where anyone here mentioned reading a fanfic before seeing the source by accident.

#139 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:06 PM:

BSD, that link says "Trademark Dilution", which isn't applicable to copyright as far as I can tell.

#140 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:15 PM:

The concept of dilution may not be applicable to copyright law per se, but I'm not sure that it doesn't have applicability to fanfic. I think BSD is on to something.

If I publish something as "Harry Potter" fiction, it arguably dilutes the public value of the term-in-trade "Harry Potter." Whether or not I have a commercial impact on J. K. Rowling's sales, whether or not I have violated copyright, whether or not my work is any good.

"Star Wars" is, in addition to a copyrighted body of work, is also a brand. As is "Star Trek," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," etc. Trademark law is just at play as copyright here -- perhaps more so, since fanfic *isn't* literal copying or even paraphrasing, but it most certainly is using sets of marks of commerce clearly owned by others.

#141 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:23 PM:

well, if fanfic can cause trademark dilution, then that's one thing. I can't honestly see how it can do that, but I'm not a trademark lawyer.

The way I understand trademark dilution is to use the term "Han Solo" to refer to something other than the character played by Harrison Ford in the Star Wars universe. If the term is used to refer to that Han Solo, then it shouldn't dilute the trademark.

If someone writes fanfic about Han Solo from Star Wars, it shouldn't dilute the trademark.

It is a use of the trademark that would be similar to a movie review that uses the terms and then closes with the disclaimer "All trademarks property of their respective owners. (list follows)"

I am not a lawyer. this is not legal advice. that is a time release lock. I can't open it. please don't shoot me. ACK!

#142 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:29 PM:

Lenora Rose

I considered the "Big open spaces in the story" possibility, because Buffy has them, and Harry Potter has them, LotR has them (The film-world and the Book-world both) ... but then I realise that many of the stories I like but don't want to see fanficced still have room for other stories, but I want the original author to write them if anyone does.

Harry Potter falls into both categories, actually. I've seen quite a few fic writers lose interest in the fandom as the peripheral characters become more three-dimensional.

I can't speak to Buffy, but I've never thought of LotR as being wide open space. It's always felt very finished to me, like a high thread count fabric that's hard to push a needle into.

Perhaps that's why you don't want to see some settings ficced, a sense that only the original author has enough of the world's backstory to avoid "breaking" the world. I've certainly seen some world-breaking stories, along with the drama queen antics that often followed an innocent question about where the foundation for their interpretation could be found in canon.

#143 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:32 PM:

Let's say I have a trademark on a line of children's novels. Call it "Perry Hotter." A guy named Greg starts posting stories on his website labeled "Perry Hotter Fan Fiction" that contain explicit descriptions of minors having gay sex.

I'd be pretty comfortable taking that dilution argument to a jury.

#144 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:32 PM:

(IANAL. But I know enough of them to use disclaimers!)

If I'm grasping the wiki'd discussion of (trademark) dilution correctly, the application is to some existing mark -- eg, let's say Mary Sue's trademarked VioletEye Plot Twister Juice -- to a product in some other area of commerce --eg, Ravyn Darkflayme starts selling VioletEye eye dye. Under other parts of trademark law, this would be fine and dandy, because there's no way the average consumer would confuse Plot Twister Juice with eye dye. But with dilution coming into play, Mary Sue gets to say Ravyn is totally coming on to her mark, the bitch, because VioletEye being associated with some skank ho's eye dye is totally going to bring down the perceived classiness of her VioletEye mark.

Is that more-or-less correct, or is my understanding of this somehow misleading? Because if I *am* getting this concept, I'm very confused by its application to fanfic. Is the argument that Mary Sue's classy original novel Torn in Love's Throbbing Arms is getting somehow blurred together in the reading public's mind with the TiLTA fanfic that Ravyn posted at the Pit of Voles? I mean, if Ravyn were commercially publishing it, it'd be a whole 'nother pit of throbbing love-weasels. But I'm really wondering how it'd be possible to prove that fanfic published online is causing damage to Mary Sue's career. I'm not convinced that people are likely to blur unpublished fanfic with published novels, and I'm not convinced that the fanfic has a demonstrably negative net effect. I'm only one datapoint, but fanart and fanfic got me to shell out for Veronica Mars and Battlestar Galactica on DVD.

Aesthetics: For those who don't believe fanfic can be good, I refer you to A J Hall's LOPiverse, which I was introduced to by the Namarie Sue post on this very blog. (Especially Relly.)

How did I miss hearing about this fistfight at the Witching Hour?

#145 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:37 PM:

G. Jules:

For those who don't believe fanfic can be good, I refer you to A J Hall's LOPiverse

Funny you should mention that one...

#146 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:41 PM:

Let's say I have a trademark on a line of children's novels. Call it "Perry Hotter."

You would probably be unable to do that, since it is trying to be similar to "Harry Potter". That is the point of trademark, to keep the identity of things distinct so as to not confuse the consumer.

You probably couldn't get a trademark for "Appple" computers, or "Samsunng" electronics, either. Again, that is the point of trademark.

(well, you might be able to get them, but you'd lose it as soon as the original copyright holder took you to court.)


#147 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:44 PM:

Mr. London -- exactly right. Not copyright.

And now I feel irrelevant, as Mr. Cohen as made the entire long post I was brewing for later (when I can make a long post) in two lines.

#148 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:45 PM:

A guy named Greg starts posting stories on his website labeled "Perry Hotter Fan Fiction" that contain explicit descriptions of minors having gay sex.

I'd be pretty comfortable taking that dilution argument to a jury.

You could shut it down based on copyright violation alone. It would be a derived work. Trademark dilution doesn't apply. or even if it did, copyright violation would be a no-brainer.

#149 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:46 PM:

How did I miss hearing about this fistfight at the Witching Hour?

*g* Don't know. It was in the audience, not among the panelists, of course...though that would have also been awesome. I understand there was actual hair-pulling.

#150 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:50 PM:

But then, as everyone's said, fanfiction is illegal. I'm not sure why we're discussing the semantics of dilution and copyright violation on that point - I don't think anyone else has said here that it was legal. People were arguing that they could show that this dilution had caused real, actual damage to the brand, and I would question how me writing about two characters in Harry Potter having sex in any way damages JKR's real property and ownership of those characters. And again, it isn't as though the massive sea of fanfiction has made anyone go, "Oh, the hell with canon. I don't even know when book six is coming out." Quite the opposite.

Also, gjules is not going to let me live in peace until I read that story. Not even if I tell her that I'm writing, dammit.

#151 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Mr. London: I think Mr. Cohen was using a hypothetical there -- additionally, please stop conflating copyright and trademark. Copyright is (well, should be, DMCA aside) weak and stupid. Trademark is mighty and cunning. (OK, that's both an exaggeration and an idealization.) (I should really stop making micro-comments, and instead just SHUT UP until I can sit down and say something substantive, substantial, and cogent. Though many would insist I've never said anything that was all three.)

#152 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Well, I live in a state that owes its name to fanfic: California is named after the island of California, home of Queen Calafia, her beautiful black amazons and their man-eating griffins, as all detailed in Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo's Las Sergas de Esplandian, which was the Sword of Shanarra of its day, a highly unauthorized but popular sequel to the much more highly respected Amadis de Gaul, more The Lord of the Rings of its day. At the end of Don Quixote, Cervantes had this to say about Esplandian: "Verily the father's goodness shall not excuse the want of it in the son. Here, good mistress housekeeper, open that window and throw it into the yard. Let it serve as a foundation to that pile which we are to set a-blazing presently."

That being said, Las Sergas de Esplandian was the pulp novel the conquistadores had on board when they sailed around and encountered the Baja peninsula. What's more, when the Portola party went up the coast, thinking the descriptions in LSdE were based on actual travelers' tales, they thought the California condors were Queen Calafia's big black man-eating griffins.

And so on to the present day where California is ruled by Conan the Barbarian.

#153 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:52 PM:

I would say that the Potter fandom has a preponderance of fanfiction, none of which has lessened anyone's desire for the actual canonical works. See, for example, the release information on Half-Blood Prince.
Personal datapoint: my own writing of fanfic* has gotten me to purchase officially licensed products I otherwise might not have (such as a second copy of JKR's Fantastic Beasts book when my original went missing and I was approaching deadline).

I probably shouldn't have used the word "lazy". What I really mean is that I'm more impressed by people who do the hard work of creating a new universe and characters than by people who do the (different) hard work of creating new stories with an existing universe and characters.
Are you equally less impressed by non-SFF writers as compared to SFF writers, for dealing solely in the real world?

Summing up an old essay of mine, writing in an existing universe (whether creating fanfic or historical fiction) isn't easier, it just uses a different set of skills. What the author saves in worldbuilding and character creation is compensated by the amount of research necessary for accuracy.

Oh, and 3rd rec for AJ Hall's LOPiverse -- I was also thinking of reccing that for detractors on the aesthetic level.

#154 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:54 PM:

And I just realized that I should clarify that I'm not in any way questioning the validity of copyright or trademark. What I'm questioning is the use of the dilution argument to say fanfic hurts authors (aesthetically and, through the aesthetic effects, monetarily), because I'm not convinced one way or the other. (The trademark stuff snuck in there because of the mention of trademark dilution as roughly the same concept.)

#155 ::: Benja Fallenstein ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 04:58 PM:

Hi rhandir,

Oh, what fun. Fancy-sounding German compound word neologisms. That's "tiefsinnig klingende deutsche Wortzusammensetzungsneologismen" to you!

"Weltarbeit" sounds more like "world labor" and evokes images of international socialist movements.

You mean "fictional universe as a work of art," right? The translation for "work" you're looking for is "Werk."

A fictional universe can be called "Welt," but "Weltwerk" doesn't sound like this meaning of "Welt" is intended. Hmmm.

Let's try to find a word for "story world" first and then try tacking on "-werk" to the end of that. :-)

Okay, first of all, Geschichtewelt is grammatically incorrect. You're looking for Geschichtenwelt. (This is for "story world;" if you wanted "history world," that'd be Geschichtswelt, even though both "story" and "history" translate to "Geschichte." Languages are funky, aren't they?)

But "Geschichtenwelt" isn't quite right, because "Geschichte" doesn't sound so ... respectable, in German. It has a certain association with "children's story", at least to me. "Geschichtenwelt" sounds a little like a world where bedtime stories take place.

How about "Fiktivwelt"? The German Wikipedia uses the term "fiktive Welt", which fits the bill except that it's not a single word. "Fiktivwelt" sounds like -- hmm -- an imaginary world that someone pretends to be real, perhaps. But it seems ok. And since "fictional" is the translation of "fiktiv" that pretty much all English speakers will default to, I expect, it seems pretty good to me for our purpose. ("Virtual" is a translation conveying a different meaning of "fiktiv," but I expect that English speakers will conveniently not notice that subtlety.)

Ah, and I know what to do about "world-work." "Gesamtwerk," literally "entire work," is actual academic German and means one author's entire corpus; e.g., "Goethes Gesamtwerk." I hereby declare that from now on, it also refer to the entire corpus of works set in a particular fiktivwelt.

[Note that I'm not forgetting to inflect "refer." I'm inflecting it to be in the subjunctive mood.]

You have my permission to use "Fiktivwelt-Gesamtwerk" if you want to make clear which meaning of gesamtwerk you are referring to.

- Benja

#156 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:03 PM:

What was the "excellent Buffy novel" previously referenced? I might pick it up.

#157 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:07 PM:

I remember reading somewhere that the sixth Harry Potter book had a number of subtle references to fan fiction in it. For instance, I've been told there's an infamous fanfic that involves a relationship between Ron and the giant squid in the lake. In the sixth book, after Ron has gotten a bit tired of snogging with Lavander, he describes the experience as being like making out with the giant squid. It could be a coincidence, but I understand that Rowling has been keeping an eye on her fandom. It's likely she knew about the fan fiction and wanted to include an inside joke. In addition to that, there's little shipping moments all throughout the book.

It's an interesting circular situation (but probably not unique): fiction... influencing fan fiction... influencing fiction.

#158 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:07 PM:

Does that mean that a lot of historical novels are fanfic written by history fans? I mean, what's the difference between writing novels about the rifle lieutenant you've made up meeting Wellington, and writing novels about the Jedi you've made up meeting Yoda?

I do make that analogy quite often.

By now I've read over 30 fictional portrayals of Christopher Marlowe (hey, it's a hobby). The variation is impressive. Even when they cover the same period in his life, the interpretations can be quite different. I've read Kits who dabble (or more) in magic, and those who are Doubting Thomases until the end. And both can be justified in the historical record.
I've also seen (though not read) at least three vampire novels involving Kit, and plenty of straight-out smut, given his purported homosexuality.

As far as dilution goes, I also read a lot of Harry Potter fanfic, and haven't noticed it diminishing my pleasure in JKR's novels. [And I started fanfic before Book 5, so I've gone through the comparisons twice.] I do more close-rereads and analysis than I might otherwise have, but I don't mistake JKR's Draco for anybody else's.

For a more... approchable analogy than Marlowe, how many versions of Cinderella have you seen/read? Disney's? Rodgers & Hammerstein's? Drew Barrymore's Ever After? Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted? [Robin Hood is another effective example.] And how much do you confuse one portrayal for another? I can contain multitudes.

Now in these cases, there's not really one true canonical original, as there is for modern copywritten material -- but if I can separate these in my own mind, the same holds true for derivative works.

And if you write historical novels in which an invented character sleeps with a lot of historical characters...
Forever Amber? :D

#159 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:10 PM:

I think Mr. Cohen was using a hypothetical there

hm, did I mention my hypothetical detector went in the shop yesterday?

So, he writes a story called "Cohen's World" (tm) and (c). This loser called Greg writes fanfiction called "Kohen's World, a Fan Fiction Site" dot com, riffing endlessly about all the underage boys in Cohen's World having explicit gay sex.

It is still a copyright violation and he can still shut it down based on copyright as a complete no brainer. It is impossible to be Fan Fiction that isn't based on the original work. that is the point of fan fiction, unless I missed the memo saying otherwise. It is a derived work and he can shut it down by sending a letter to the ISP for the site even. End of story.

additionally, please stop conflating copyright and trademark.

I hadn't. it is an obvious copyright violation. A derived work created without permission, and can be shut down without further adu. (wasn't someone complaining a bit ago about foreign words getting mispelled in english?)


Copyright is (well, should be, DMCA aside) weak and stupid. Trademark is mighty and cunning.

Still, neither one is any match for Rikki Tikki Tavi. Now, be nice or I'll sic my mongoose on you.


In any event, there are the four flavors of asthetic/justice crossed with original/fanfic.

This is all discussing the idea of "dilution" regarding the justice+original combination. and it is clear that fanfic is illegal. its simply left to the author to decide whether to enforce it or not.

The question remaining is the idea of "dilution" regarding the asthetic+original combination. does fan fic impinge on your experience of the original?

#160 ::: Benja Fallenstein ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:14 PM:

(Damn. I forgot how much our "host" hates "superfluous" "quotation" marks. But hey, at least fiktivwelt-gesamtwerk isn't a common English phrase, yet. hp wll b prdnd jst ths nc.)

#161 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:16 PM:

Writing in a genre can also be considered lazy writing. If I decide to write a book about vampires, most of my work has been done for me. Readers already know about vampires, what they're like, how they act. I don't have to invent anything at all. Similarly, if I write a book about a historical personage, the plot has pretty much been settled before I got there. No skill necessary, just fill in the blanks and head off for the book tour. And movie novelizations are the ultimate in writing in someone else's universe; the writer has to stick to the characters and plot.

What makes a work special in fanfic, just as in genre writing or novelizations, is what the writer can bring to the table. New insights, new twists, new interpretations of what could easily be (and more often than not, is) standard fare.

#162 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:17 PM:

Scott H -

A Raising in the Sun.

There are actually three novels (2 completed, one in progress) and a bunch of short stories in the author's 'verse; here's the index.

#163 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:21 PM:

Relly:But then, as everyone's said, fanfiction is illegal.

Have they? I haven't. There are circumstances where it is a civil offense against the copyright laws, and possibly a criminal offense, but there's nothing inherently illegal about it. If the Geraldine Brooks novel listed above is objectively fanfiction, then the Pulitzer Prize was given to an illegal work.

#164 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:25 PM:

Patrick:

The Laura Burchard post you linked to is pretty close to the version I heard via Mercedes Lackey's announcement to her fandom when it happened. I'm not clear at this remove if it was a submission to one of MZB's anthologies or a zine someone sent her as a courtesy, and ISTR it being more a case of GMTA where the fan had written something very close to a part of the outline for the then-current book.

If I had any idea where my GEnie archives snuck off to, I'd dig up ML's original post. I'm afraid I remember the upheaval in the Tregarde fandom over the new disclaimers, the disappointment over the ending of the Darkover anthologies, and the hysteria that seemed to tinge the whole incident better than the details of the actual case.

#165 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:27 PM:

Greg London:

The question remaining is the idea of "dilution" regarding the asthetic+original combination. does fan fic impinge on your experience of the original?

And the obvious and unhelpful answer is: it depends.

Because it seems clear that that is such a completely subjective judgment call. In my case, as I pointed out earlier, the answer was "yes" for one fandom and "no" for another. So what does that mean?

#166 ::: Mrs_TD ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:27 PM:

Just a quick observation that is implicit in much of what is being said. Fanfic may be how many young people learn to become writers; it is also how many become skilled readers of stories. As a parent of a young child, I watch how my daughter's imaginative pretend universe circles around characters (from books, movies and stories she loves); she becomes a character, and acts out different stories in which she can participate in being all that character is. Or pretends to be a character not present in that story, in order to participate more fully in a particular exciting world. (I remember doing this as a child with the original Star Trek, inventing non-existent female characters, since the ones there felt awfully limited). As an adult, although i do not write fanfic, I often (in my imagination) rewrite characters and the ends or plots of movies and books to make them more satisfying to me personally. As such, fanfic appears to me to be a byproduct of the essential process by which we align fiction with our own reality and psychological needs in order to appreciate and enjoy it. This process of playing pretend can be part of what it means to be a good reader, and learning to be one.


#167 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:29 PM:

OG: I can't speak to Buffy, but I've never thought of LotR as being wide open space. It's always felt very finished to me, like a high thread count fabric that's hard to push a needle into.

Well, for me I'd agree on that without reservations for the books, though the movies have more straggles. But I was using Lord of the Rings for Tolkien's entire created world; I've noticed that it seems like he kind of fen who write non-slash LotR fanfic have taken the Silmarillion and the Lost Tales as their springboards (Of which I've read about one, so I may be overstating. I've just noticed their presence).

#168 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:33 PM:

Fanfic writers appropriate other people's characters. Legally, they do not own the appropriated characters, should not feel practical entitlement to them, and may not attempt to profit from the appropriation. However, all this gets clouded by emotions.

Writers have an emotional investment in their characters. This may lead to a defensive and rabid protectionism, especially if they see or are afraid of fanfic writers taking a character in directions that are offensive to them.

But if the characters are well-written, readers end up with an emotional investment too, and this can lead to a kind of emotional appropriation of the characters.

It is when a sense of emotional entitlement gets conflated with practical legal entitlements that things get really messy, and respect and basic courtesies (legal or otherwise) get lost.

As pericat said to me, another factor is that fanfic readers and writers reinforce each others' emotional investment until that sense of entitlement achieves a life of its own. I've seen fans froth at the mouth about the direction that authors take a TV character in, because they Know That It is WRONG. (Think of what are to begin with only mildly irritating characters in a TV show: in the fan world, that irritation can be reinforced and amplified into a hatred of them that can develop until the fans are incredibly resentful toward the writers. Why hasn't this !@#$% been axed?—we TOLD you to get rid of them, why didn't you, you idiots?) That kind of self-perpetuating emotional miasma in a self-contained world can lead to a situation where fans feel nothing but anger and contempt toward official writers... and, of course, vice versa.

Emotional factors like this can generate a great deal of stupid and/or bad behaviour on all sides. But they go a long way to explaining why the urge to extend stories is so strong and so hard to suppress.

#169 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:35 PM:

There are circumstances where it is a civil offense against the copyright laws, and possibly a criminal offense, but there's nothing inherently illegal about it. If the Geraldine Brooks novel listed above is objectively fanfiction, then the Pulitzer Prize was given to an illegal work.

sigh. it is so nice of you to be pedantic right up to the point of discerning the differences between civil and criminal law among other things, but then failing to acknowledge the simple fact that Louisa May Alcott died in 1888 and therefore her works are all Public Domain, at which point, copyright don't apply no more. i.e. the pulitzer prize was given to a book based off of another work that had entered teh Public Domain, so legalities don't enter into it...

#170 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:41 PM:

Mr. London:
When asking you not to conflate, I was referring primarily to this comment.

And to answer your closing question, no. Leaving aside legal concerns and moral concerns regarding creator control of creations, I consider, say, Sally P. Fangirl's magnum opus "Sallia P. Witchypoo Goes to Hogwarts" to be fundamentally equivalent to Grant Morrison's upcoming stint on Batman (the internal quality of those two works aside).

#171 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:47 PM:

Wren said: as I recall the MZB lawsuit related to a Darkover novel that allegedly contained plot or character elements similar to a fanfic that was submitted to her magazine.

That sounds familiar. This is why when I tell someone I'm writing a story about, oh, ferinstance, deep-space goat farming, and they respond "oh! cool! You know, Vonnegut wrote a story about deep-space goat farming too (although it's not actually that Sci-Fi stuff you write, it's, you know, literary), and it's cool and you should read it," I immediately make a note to not read that story until long, long after my own is finished and rejected.

#172 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:49 PM:

Lis Riba: For a more... approchable analogy than Marlowe, how many versions of Cinderella have you seen/read? Disney's? Rodgers & Hammerstein's? Drew Barrymore's Ever After? Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted? [Robin Hood is another effective example.] And how much do you confuse one portrayal for another? I can contain multitudes.

Now in these cases, there's not really one true canonical original, as there is for modern copywritten material -- but if I can separate these in my own mind, the same holds true for derivative works.

I can separate them, but I've also noticed a tendency in msyelf to eventually choose one work as *my* version of that story. So, for Example, I've read dozens of stories based on Rumplestiltskin, including Jane Yolen's superb Granny Rumple and others... but "The Girl who Spun Gold" (Virginia Hamilton and The Dillons) is Canon.

I think the human brain is trained to imprint on particular versions if we run into a multitude of takes on the same thing. This might be part of the problem with reading fanfic first. One imprints on the "wrong" take on the world, and therefore the oen everyone else accepts as Canon reads wrong.

#173 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:50 PM:

Lis Riba:

Are you equally less impressed by non-SFF writers as compared to SFF writers, for dealing solely in the real world?

C.A. Bridges:

Writing in a genre can also be considered lazy writing. If I decide to write a book about vampires, most of my work has been done for me. Readers already know about vampires, what they're like, how they act. I don't have to invent anything at all.

These are the points that I'm finding most interesting when people refer to fanfic as "training wheels" or "lazy" or in some other way not up to the level of "real" original work.

See, I write fanfic based on RPG settings. I don't use characters already written into the seting: I don't feel comfortable writing someone else's characters, and besides, it's more fun to make my own. (Making characters is always the easiest part of writing. Plot's the tricky bit...) What I get out of the setting is exactly that, the settting. A handy-dandy supernatural world where someone's already worked out how all the fiddly bits work, so that I don't have to do it myself. And it's usually modern fantasy, so I end up doing research on everything from the spring weather in a particular part of Colorado to how a particular power worked in the book.

I've also occasionally written stories written in the "real world". These generally take as much, or sometimes slightly less, research to make plausible. Which means in my experience, writing fanfic is exactly as hard as writing historical fiction, modern "real life" fiction, or "well, everyone knows what vampires are like so I don't have to explain it in the story" fiction.

I suppose one might argue RPG fanfic is a different type than fanfic based on movies or books, as RPG settings explicitly encourage you to go make your own characters and stories in the setting. (This becomes more complicated when one is using an RPG that's based on a series of books or a television show...) Still, I'd strongly object to fanfic being categorically marked "easier" or necessarily requiring less creative effort on the part of the author than "real" fiction, unless we include all fiction based on the real world in the same category.

#174 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:51 PM:

Greg,

Sorry if I'm appearing pedantic. The act of writing a fictional account of another author's work is legal in some circumstances (such as when the work is in the public domain) and illegal in others. The Louisa May Alcott example was TNH's. She said "Can you see a particle of difference between that and a work of declared fanfiction? I can’t."

I can't either, and yet I was responding to a commenter who was convinced that everyone agreed that fanfic was illegal.

I probably should have left the civil/criminal part out, as it wasn't immediately relevant to my point. Noncommercial fanfic is a derivative work, and when that is illegal it is illegal. It's just not criminally illegal.

#175 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:52 PM:

When asking you not to conflate, I was referring primarily to this comment.

"this comment" doesn't actually link to anything....

#176 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:53 PM:

Michael,

don't mind me. I'm still a bit of a grouch today.

#177 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 05:58 PM:

As pericat said to me, another factor is that fanfic readers and writers reinforce each others' emotional investment until that sense of entitlement achieves a life of its own. I've seen fans froth at the mouth about the direction that authors take a TV character in, because they Know That It is WRONG.

You don't have to write fanfic or even read it for this to happen, however. There are several movies on a list my husband & I call "Hit Stop Now" — movies that are great up until a certain point, after which it all just goes horribly, horribly wrong. ("Horribly wrong" meaning untrue to the spirit of the movie, inconsistent and incongruous with what's already happened.)

For instance, in the movie Strange Days, when Lenny looks in the mirror and says, "Does this shirt go with this tie?" just HIT STOP. Whatever ending to the movie you make up, it'll be better and more satisfying than the just. plain. WRONG. one the moviemakers chose to use.

And I've never encountered any Strange Days fanfic. I don't even know if it exists.

#178 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 06:07 PM:

So what? Well, there's something not kosher about using the very same characters that have been created by someone else, to do the very same things in the same way in the same setting to get the same outcome. Is it still so if you change one of those things? I... think not, tentatively. There's a sort of line, somewhere. I know how Patrick feels about boundary conditions, and anyway I'm not up to defining this one, so I can't say where the line is. It's over yonder, somewhere. I don't think I crossed it. I think it is possible to come a lot closer than I did, and still not cross it. But I think it does exist, and it can be crossed.

This explains why we have developed the legal definition of "fanfic." Taking one scene, as you did, and using it for a different reason was not over the line, even though you got paid for it. As so many have said, writing involves using bits of what has gone before. Yours was just a larger bit. For an example of crossing the line, one needs only read Brook's Sword of Shannara. Had he wrote that as an honest (unpaid) fanfic exploration of LotR done in low-epic style, it would have been interesting and even enjoyable, instead of merely infuriating.

#179 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 06:09 PM:

Mr. London --

Oops. I was referring to, and attempting to link, the comment in which you talk about Appple Computer and then talk about "Copyright Holders".

#180 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 06:16 PM:

the comment in which you talk about Appple Computer and then talk about "Copyright Holders".

Mr. Cohen did speak of "children's novels. Call it "Perry Hotter."" I believe "copyright holders" is still an appropriate term and doesn't neccessarily imply a conflation of terms...

#181 ::: Patrick Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 06:21 PM:

Alex Cohen wrote, I believe related to BSD and Greg's commentary:
Let's say I have a trademark on a line of children's novels. Call it "Perry Hotter." A guy named Greg starts posting stories on his website labeled "Perry Hotter Fan Fiction" that contain explicit descriptions of minors having gay sex.
I'd be pretty comfortable taking that dilution argument to a jury.

I am not 100% sure it would even get to a jury on dilution. Dilution requires commercial use of the allegedly diluting mark, and unlike normal trademark infringement, the courts seem to be more strict on making sure the allegedly diluting mark actually is used in commerce, i.e. selling some good or service.

Further, it requires the allegedly infringed upon mark to be famous. I'm not willing to stipulate that "Perry Hotter" is famous, although I don't know that you can question "Harry Potter"'s fame, at least with regards this topic.

Yes, dilution is a term of art in the trademark arena, but most of the legal concerns of fanfic are within the copyright arena, and the two do not necessarily interjoin.

#182 ::: Will A ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 06:21 PM:

OG I can't speak to Buffy, but I've never thought of LotR as being wide open space. It's always felt very finished to me, like a high thread count fabric that's hard to push a needle into.

I likes the fabric image, and Rings gives me a similar feeling of completeness. On the other hand, Tolkien set out to create a living & breathing mythology that others would subsequently contribute to and expand (though I think he had music and poetry and dance in mind rather than Gollum/Smeagol slash fic, and I doubt the ol' professor would approve of scandinavian orc bands).

#183 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 06:36 PM:

Michael: My comment was in reference to the ongoing discussion BSD is having about dilution, copyright violation, trademarking being Mighty, and whatever else is going around in that particular subthread. In that context, I was using fanfiction in its colloquial sense, meaning, the fics you would find online regarding Buffy or Harry Potter or Star Trek. No one yet in this thread has said that Jane Doe's Mary Sue fic is completely legal and that she should sell it on Amazon with Lori Jareo's reworking of Episode IV.

That's what I was referencing when I said that fanfiction is illegal, and that no one here was disputing that. Not the works that can be considered historical fanfiction - just the stuff which is commonly referred to by that name. That's all.

#184 ::: David D. Levine ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 06:44 PM:

Are you equally less impressed by non-SFF writers as compared to SFF writers, for dealing solely in the real world?

Yes, actually. I'm one of those genre readers who finds "realistic" fiction boring. <irony>I mean, how much can you really say about the human condition without the extended metaphors available in SF/Fantasy?</irony>

Writing in a genre can also be considered lazy writing. If I decide to write a book about vampires, most of my work has been done for me. Readers already know about vampires, what they're like, how they act. I don't have to invent anything at all.

There's a certain amount of truth to that (as in the joke upthread, we are all building our birds from the same dirt). And those works that simply use the existing tropes, without adding anything new to them, are not as exciting as the minority that take the existing tropes and twist them unmercifully.

#185 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 06:45 PM:

For the purposes of legal arguments, "fanfic" should refer to amateur stories using characters and settings drawn from copyrighted works of other writers.

For the purposes of literary merit or justice, drop the "copyrighted" part. "Amateur" is to indicate a writer of unpaid, unrequested stories, not "inferior."

#186 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 07:08 PM:

A few overly lawyerly comments…

(1) At 0917, Jane Yolen said:
Satire is, of course, something else, and protected.
I must beg to disagree, lovely lady. I wish it were not so; but the courts have, in their infinite w/i/s/d/o/m/ folly, determined that "parody" can be a fair use, but that satire cannot be a fair use. (Then the courts nearly inverted the definitions, but that's an argument for another time.) The best example of this is The Cat NOT in the Hat, a 1995 book on the OJ Simpson trial done in the style (visually and verbally) of Dr Seuss. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that this was at best "satire," and therefore was not fair use.

I don't defend the courts on this; I think they've got it wrong; but, nonetheless, that's the law.

(2) At 1045, dlnevins invoked the notorious Scholastic v Stouffer matter. That's actually a much more insidious comparison than it might seem, because:
* Stouffer's books were vanity/self-published
* Stouffer was sanctioned by the court for submitting forged documents to the court as a critical part of her case
* It was more a trademark matter than a copyright matter.

(3) May I respectfully suggest that y'all stop using the term "dilution" in this manner? The concept of dilution is a technical aspect of trademark law, and has no place in a discussion that veers off into copyright. (I think trademark is actually a better framework for understanding fanfic than is copyright, but that's a 15,000-words-plus-footnotes-long argument.) If you keep throwing that word around, you're just going to end up confusing things at some point. May I suggest using a term that does not have a specific meaning in another area of law, such as "undercut" or "vitiate"? Please? I'm afraid that if I were to weigh in here—using "dilution" in the course of my comments, since I'd inevitably end up somewhere near trademark law—we'd all end up more confused than we started.

Sadly, though, "dilution" in the trademark sense is exactly what is at issue. "Dilution" occurs when an infringing trademark use could cause an unsophisticated consumer to transfer his/her conception of the quality and characteristics of the infringer's goods or services to the markholder's. In this context, it means that an unsophisticated consumer would evaluate Star Wars fanfic, decide "this is bad," and therefore decide that all Star Wars fiction must be bad. This is distinct from "disparagement" only through the infringer's intent; but that's something we really don't want to go into.

The problem that Jane described—the fanfic potentially blocked the markholder's ability to enter a specific market niche—is not strictly a matter of dilution, but is more generally a matter of unfair competition. That makes it no less a trademark issue; it's just not "dilution."

#187 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 07:16 PM:

And then, mere minutes before I head for home, C.E. Petit says everything I wanted to say.

(Well, except I'd bring in tarnishment as well as disparagement, but as Petit says, it's a longer, more involved argument.)

I'll probably end up chiming in again soon. I have a novel/horrible idea about the patentability of worldbuilding concepts, but that's another discussion entirely.

#188 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 07:28 PM:

Kevin Andrew Murphy may be amused to note that his comment above leapt to Making Light's "Sidelights" sidebar and thence to BoingBoing in about twenty-five minutes flat.

#189 ::: Peter ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 07:29 PM:

pnh says "Props to any writer who can make a story fly. None of us use our own dirt."

Kipling said it too:

When 'Omer smote 'is bloomin' lyre,
He'd 'eard men sing by land an' sea;
An' what he thought 'e might require,
'E went an' took -- the same as me!

#190 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 07:44 PM:

This is one of the many places where Patrick's comment about the distinction between the legal and the aesthetic comes into play. (Arguably we're discussing three things here, actually, not two---the legal, the aesthetic, and the ethical---but that's another matter.)

I don't think most of the people here who are using the word "dilution" are trying to use it in the sense of trademark law, nor that they're using it because they incorrectly think it has some meaning in copyright law. I think most people are using it as part of the aesthetic discussion. It may not be a great term, but I do think it describes a real phenomenon and I don't think we've come up with a better term for that phenomenon.

#191 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 07:50 PM:

Thank you for rescuing that from the comments. Quite true, though I confess to a dislike of writing that uses other peoples' characters, real or imagined. I nearly dropped the Baroque Cycle when Newton made his appearance.

Certainly none of us has their own dirt, but there are degrees.. John Gardner's Grendel seems to me fair use, where Brooks' novel is distasteful.

#192 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 07:52 PM:

Kristine, authors who take too long to get out the next book in a series must expect that people will speculate.

#193 ::: Leanne ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 07:56 PM:

AliceB said:

I guess my concern is that an author may not agree with the fanfic's author's take on the character involved.

Once a work is finished, the author's 'take' on a character is of little consequence to the life of the character/book/story. After the initial creation of a character, the author has little control over how a character is received/interpreted by the reader and therefore, it would seem to me that it's the readers take on the character that becomes important.

#194 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 08:20 PM:

To hop back to an earlier topic, in the whys and wherefores of fanfic - well, other than the obvious, which is, some days there's a specific plot bunny that keeps hopping around your head until you write a cage for it to play in - what I'm intrigued with is the idea that some fanfiction exists to plug holes.

Not that those holes are missing, per se. The author goes down this path but not that one, and obviously, the author can't tell every story in every framework, or the shortest book would be an encyclopedia. But sometimes, your mind pipes in with, yes, but what's over there?

Example: Just before Hamlet begins, Queen Gertrude marries her dead husband's brother. Why? Did she love him? Did she fear losing the throne? Did he threaten her? Seduce her?

Example: What happened at Romeo and Juliet's joint funeral? Did the clans blame each other, or pledge to start over through their tears? Did one side hold out an olive branch and the other trample on it?

Example: Did the third little pig know that the other two were going to crash at his pad all along? Did he roll his eyes and make up the spare bedroom, or was he honestly ticked that they hadn't listened to him when building the house?

Any of those could turn into an interesting fic. Because sometimes you just want to peel back the curtain and see what's happening offscreen, and if no one will tell you, you'll just have to write it yourself.

#195 ::: Tilt ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 08:20 PM:

In my case I sort of went bass ackwards -- the encouragement and feedback I got from my fellow fanfic writers gave me the gumption I needed to "go legit" and write original material.

I want people to do fanfic from my stuff. It means they're reading it and they care enough about it to want to play in my world. A six-figure contract and a major publishing house can't buy you fans. All it does it put your books on the shelves.

#196 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 08:36 PM:

Mr. Austern,

Those of us asking everyone not to use "dilution" are asking because it makes things terribly confusing. It's like complaining about the margins of a book being to small and calling this "poor spelling" (ok, the metaphor's not perfect, because dilution is actually quite a good term for the phenomenon being discussed, but I think it makes my point.) The word's overloaded, not wrong.

#197 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:15 PM:

"Once a work is finished, the author's 'take' on a character is of little consequence to the life of the character/book/story. After the initial creation of a character, the author has little control over how a character is received/interpreted by the reader and therefore, it would seem to me that it's the readers take on the character that becomes important."

"...what I'm intrigued with is the idea that some fanfiction exists to plug holes."

What makes a good novel is more than just believable characters, a cool world and a good plot. The style of writing, the quality of the storytelling, the details chosen, all those things that make up the author's voice are part of the book as well. (This is also true for movies, but I'm less fluent in movie jargon.) An author choses what to say, and also what to omit. It's part of what makes the whole story.

Once this book is published, the author has no control over how people read it or understand it--that's between the reader and the book. However the author retains the way in which the characters, world and plot are presented: s/he wrote them, and the presentation s/he gave is the one that exists.

Fanfic changes this. Now new authorial voices chime in with the same characters/world/and/or/plot. The presentation is not the one the author devised. I can see how someone wouldn't want that to happen, especially if it's widely distributed.

#198 ::: Michael Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:17 PM:

Relly: thanks for clarifying that. I think it's been stated by several that Jane Doe's Mary Sue fic is completely legal until she attempts to distribute it, for profit or not. That's where the law and the consensus hasn't really kept up with post-20th century publishing technology.

What I'm really hoping to get at is the difference between the moral and ethical arguments.

I think there's an ethical case for a difference between fiction based on Public Domain works and protected works, but I don't know if there is a moral case.

If there's a moral case, then there's shouldn't be an arbitrary time limit. Something can't magically turn from right to wrong because it's now 2006 instead of 2005. Brook's Pulitzer Prize winning novel based on the late Ms Alcott's characters and setting shouldn't be different from Jareo's no-prize lusing novel based on Mr. Lucas' characters and setting. Phillip Jose Farmer's Riverworld uses Alice Liddell as a central character. "Kilgore Trout's" Venus on the Half Shell was written by Vonnegut's fictional author, without Vonnegut's permission. What's the difference, in terms of moral rights?

#199 ::: Farrell J. McGovern ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:32 PM:

Derivative works are the foundation of today's art and science! Not being able to create things based existing works would stifle creativity and research.

#200 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:32 PM:

Adrienne wrote:

"Another point to think about as far as "legal" versus "moral" rights -- a lot of us have a lot of difficulty respecting that "authors have a LEGAL right to own their creations; OMG you're STEALING THEIR LIVELIHOOD!!!!" when most of them DON'T hold their own copyright."

i can only guess you are referring to work for hire, a small subset of fiction writing. MOST fiction writers do own their own copyright. Not sure where you are getting your "facts."

And how would most people feel if they were told that their family farm or business or house would--after 20 or 50 years--suddenly be taken from them and given to whatever squatters wanted them? My books ARE my family farm. I work/toil there daily. I want to leave it to my children who can then decide to work it, rent it out, or sell it entire.

Jane

#201 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:34 PM:

Peter writes:

"pnh says 'Props to any writer who can make a story fly. None of us use our own dirt.'"

Appropriately enough for this thread, pnh didn't in fact say that. WillA said it (follow the indentations) and TNH appended it to the original post as a quotation.

That's some complicated dirt.

#202 ::: Michael Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:42 PM:

Jane:And how would most people feel if they were told that their family farm or business or house would--after 20 or 50 years--suddenly be taken from them and given to whatever squatters wanted them? My books ARE my family farm. I work/toil there daily. I want to leave it to my children who can then decide to work it, rent it out, or sell it entire.

That's exactly the economic bargain that copyright protection offers. In exchange for [56/life+70/52/some fixed and therefore predictable] years of your control over the use of your farm, you agree to turn it over to the public domain at the end of the period, where Dover Thrift Editions and Project Gutenberg can keep it alive or not, but your literary heirs can't stop them.

This may be bad for you, personally, but it's the collective bargain that exists.

#203 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:47 PM:

Ah, Charlie, my darling, i never seem to get the difference between satire and parody right. They kind of smoosh together in the middle for me. What an awful confession for an English lit major to make, but there you have it.

Thanks for the clarification. (Which I shall promptly forget and need reminding of a day or two hence in some other discussion.)

Jane

#204 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:53 PM:

"And how would most people feel if they were told that their family farm or business or house would--after 20 or 50 years--suddenly be taken from them and given to whatever squatters wanted them?"

I dunno. How would you feel if we had a system of permanent copyright, and it turned out that dozens of Jane Yolen's stories and novels infringed on the rights of the heirs to (for instance) Hans Christian Anderson?

I suspect you feel there's a reasonable middle ground between those two conditions. So do I.

#205 ::: John Blonde ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:55 PM:

AliceB: Fanfic changes this. Now new authorial voices chime in with the same characters/world/and/or/plot.

The key here is that they're authorial voices, but not authoritative voices, and most of fandom knows that. They treat canon (the copyrighted and trademarked product, which they shell out money to buy) very seriously. Are there idiotic and vocal exceptions? Sure. I don't believe they compise the majority.

#206 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:56 PM:

Well in that thought Michael all forms of ownership are a collective bargain with society. How society decides which ownerships will be permanent, such as hereditary titles, or temporary like copyright is another matter.
My relationship with my worlds and characters is more parental (even if abusive); they are my children so yes, I get testy at thought of strangers touching them.

#207 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 09:58 PM:

Except, of course, that your made-up worlds and characters are not, in fact, children; rather, they're made-up worlds and characters.

You're entitled to use amped-up figurative language, but you can't really expect the rest of the world to play along to the extent of granting your literary creations the same level of social protection granted to, you know, actual living breathing children.

#208 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:12 PM:

I'm getting a little upset at the turn the tide is taking. But I know that's silly. I don't need any justification.

I'm a fan-fic-reading PBEM*-playing writer of reverse-license** stories. (And published original stuff.) And I'm going to defend the right of other kids and folks to do exactly what I'm doing. Especially if they do it badly.

Because I have not seen much published hide nor hair of the writer of my source material since 1999...and the other stuff I got paid for.


~
* PBEM stands for play-by-email, and it's a type of fan-run role-playing-game.

** a reverse-license is what my editor said I had when she paid me to write about her characters.

#209 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:13 PM:

Speaking of making your own dirt, when I wrote fiction using words that were entirely of my own invention, I kept getting mystigrammic reactions from people who just couldn't inposculate it.

#210 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:16 PM:

And even children grow up.

#211 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:22 PM:

Where does heavy allusion shade into fanfic revisionism? Transfic: rewrite a classic in a different world, translate high fantasy to science fiction.

Ken MacLeod's Newton's Wake makes intense allusion to / satire of Harrison's Viriconium novels: Harrison deploys Scottish place-names in The Pastel City, so MacLeod brings us to the real Scotland which has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland. There are other twists, but I won't spoil MacLeod for you.

Paul McAuley's Confluence trilogy is a transfic of Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun (including Urth), often with what seem to be deliberately parallel episodes, but SF instead of "science fantasy."

If I wanted to translate LoTR into a Indiana Jones setting, as SF, does it become an independent work and not fanfic?

#212 ::: Wim L ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:28 PM:

Can someone please explain to me the legal theory under which fanfic is not legal? It doesn't match my understanding of IP laws. Fanfic is usually stated to be a copyright violation, but what's being violated? Doesn't copyright only apply to things "fixed in tangible form", which would include actual textual excerpts, but would not include a character or a setting (too abstract)?

@jane: In the analogy, the only reason you had the farm in the first place is copyright. You (or your ancestor) didn't buy it, although you did put a large amount of labor into making it a productive farm. Copyright gives you the land, lets you work it, and when you die, it takes the land away and gives it to someone else.

#213 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:32 PM:

If I had wit left at the end of the day to think out search terms, this would be more concrete, but fwiw - the story I heard was that Gary Gygax tried mightily hard to claim that the fantasy RPG format and details thereof were his intellectual property, until he heard from the Tolkien estate about the Orcs...

I'm all in sympathy with using anything that inspires you as grist for your creative mill. I'm less in sympathy when you try to sell something you don't own.

#214 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:36 PM:

Yes, it's always amusing when annoyingly litigious second-raters wind up getting their clock cleaned by a Galactus of litigiousness. Which the Tolkien estate certainly is.

#215 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 10:45 PM:

There’s quite a difference between using standard tropes and techniques and writing fanfic. One is purely derivative by definition, the other is making use of the basic stock storytelling elements of our language and psychology to tell a story. I’m not dismissing fanfic altogether, it serves a vital role in the creative ecosystem. I just don’t buy the argument that Virgil, Dante etc. are antique fanfic. That broadens the definition to the point of uselessness. Even if I could get behind that idea, we don’t live in antiquity, where every variation on the Hercules story is a valid expression of creativity. We live in the modern world where companies with deep pockets and mean lawyers protect their entertaining property. It strikes me as self serving of fanfic authors to try and ride the coattails of giants into better company.

#216 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:02 PM:

Wow, that was almost completely logic-free.

#217 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:09 PM:

There’s quite a difference between using standard tropes and techniques and writing fanfic. One is purely derivative by definition, the other is making use of the basic stock storytelling elements of our language and psychology to tell a story.

One could argue that fanfic writers are simply more honest about their sources.

Or one could take the perspective that the real differences relate to the quality of the fiction, whether it is defined as "original" or "fanfiction".

#218 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:11 PM:

...And then there's the recent trend in some anime fandoms (and perhaps some others; I haven't checked) to write fic that completely changes the basic setting and premises so that the only things retained are the character names, some of their personality traits, and whatever underlying relationships the author wants to emphasize. As an example, envision the merry jinks at a modern American high school where the star athlete, Eomer, has been suspended because of the machinations of the sleazeball teacher Wormtongue, who has gained the confidence of the principal Mr. Theoden while hitting on Eomer's sister Eowyn, who could take his place on the lacrosse team if only those darn boys would let her-- and then the dashing new transfer student Aragorn arrives, exposes Wormtongue's cahoots with the rival coach Saruman, and so on.

#219 ::: hmph ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:15 PM:

Hey, Keith: Which type is Geraldine Brooks' March?

#220 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:23 PM:

Patrick--

Very amused by that. I've actually sold a couple stories set on the Isle of California, one of which is currently reprinted on Fictionwise, The Croquet Mallet Murders, as well as A Formula for Chaos, the novel I started in high school, finished in college, and shelved lo these many years ago.

#221 ::: Relly ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:28 PM:

It strikes me as self serving of fanfic authors to try and ride the coattails of giants into better company.

Which might apply except for the fact that most fanfic authors I know aren't going "Behold, I am following in a mighty literature tradition, and now the grown-ups will let me sit with them." We're not riding coattails to anything; we're not interested in sitting at the Legitimate Important Writers table, at least not while wearing these hats.

Most fanfic authors I know are going, "I write smut where Hermione Granger services Professor Snape under his potions desk. No, it serves no Higher Purpose. I just like me some smut. Wanna see?"

#222 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:35 PM:

Ursula Vernon, professional illustrator and webcomic artist, has something similar to say regarding the Gospels of Judas, the Bible, and fanfic.

In many ways, I've always thought the early gospels resemble Jesus fanfic. You all get one character who was cool, and some canonical events, but how it proceeds after that was up to the individual writer--virtually all of the gospels were written long after the historical events, so historical reality didn't neccessarily intrude much on art. And eventually the New Testament was assembled when a bunch of people got together and read everything over and said "Oh, hell no, Jesus/Judas is totally NOT canon!"* and threw it out. They did this for a LOT of writings. This is not neccessarily a bad thing, because if all the early Christian texts were incorporated in the Bible, it'd be the size of a Robert Jordan compendium and you'd need a handtruck to wheel it around.

*We will assume the slash here stands for a totally platonic disciple relationship. Put down the torches.

#223 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:36 PM:

One might, in Kieth Kisser's post above, search-and-replace "fanfic" with "fantasy," to illuminating effect.

#224 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2006, 11:37 PM:

And how would most people feel if they were told that their family farm or business or house would--after 20 or 50 years--suddenly be taken from them and given to whatever squatters wanted them? My books ARE my family farm. I work/toil there daily. I want to leave it to my children who can then decide to work it, rent it out, or sell it entire.

so, the first and foremost problem with this "family farm" metaphor is that a farm is physical land that is also a zero sum game and so, when you start with a physical property metaphor, you end up with a physical property conclusion for intellectual works.

And the problem with that is that intellectual works are abstract and the complete opposite of being a zero sum game and therefore also the complete opposite of property.

So, if you want a metaphor that honestly portrays the abstract thing that writers create, you need an abstract metaphor. Writing, as it happens, is actually a service industry, not a manufacturing industry. Writers don't manufacture physical property like automobiles, they provide a service through their labor and the nature of their labor is such that the labor immediately benefits everyone (without artifical legal entities, of course)

So, the closest and most simplest metaphor for writing is actually told in the story of "Bell that Cat". A cat is terrorizing a group of mice, and the mice figure that the cat is too stealthy and the way to fix that is to put a bell on it. So, one brave mouse puts some time, energy, and risk into sneaking up on the cat and tieing a bell around its neck.

Once that is done, every single mouse immediately benefits from the act.

This reflects the abstract nature of written works. Once written, it is almost no cost to put it on the web and transmit it to the world.

So, copyright is a reward system to encourage writers to write, the way the mice might design a reward system for mice to go out and bell new cats as they arrive on the scene.

Copyright rewards the author by letting them make money off their work for a fixed period of time. This repays them for the time they invested in creating the work in the first place.

And arguing that copyright on a single book is like a family farm to be passed down from generation to generation for all eternity is like a mouse arguing that he and his heirs should be paid a monthy sum for all eternity for belling a single cat.

If you start with a physical metaphor like farmland, you end with a justification for treating copyright like a physical thing that it isn't. If you start with a metaphor that more accurately portrays the abstract, labor-involved nature of writing and the works it creates, then you actually end up with a fair copyright reward system.

#225 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 12:08 AM:

Yeesh. Lots of traffic on this topic.

Lenora Rose: OG answered your question about 'why read fanfic before the original'. I'd like to add that when everyone around you is gushing "OMGit'sthebestthingsinceslicedbreadwithpeanutbutter!" you begin to a: feel left out, and b: find the culture changing around you. People refer to characters you've never heard of, let alone are familiar with, and events/places/things which you have no access to. It can be like walking into a room that you think is full of friends and find them all speaking Merovingian French. You end up with a strong incentive to find out what's up for sheer survival's sake. In my case, without a TV, the only ingress to the Buffy-verse I had was through fanfic.

It wasn't a good ingress. The signal to noise ratio in fanfic is crappy (I blame the lack of editorial oversight, not any individual works.) Your later comment about imprinting is cogent here; the fanfic was my introduction and therefore was my strongest impression of the 'verse... and it wasn't a positive one. Also, by the time I actually saw any episodes much of the character suspense had been spoilered out for me (Who is this mysterious handsome stranger? That's just Angel who's gonna be Buffy's SO and she'll stab him and he'll come back to life for his own series....)

I agree with Greg London that reading fanfic after you've seen/read/experienced the original is much less damaging. That's what I want for original authors: I want them to have the right of the first impression. I want them to have the opportunity to show their audience *their* take, unfiltered through other people's preconceptions and wish-fulfillments and blather. It's theirs; they thought it up. Let the audience see their creation as it was intended to be seen. That's fair.

Fanficcers are wannabes. Their draw is reliant on the original creator's draw--without that crutch, would anyone read them? Should anyone? Just because you want to practice your writing with an audience doesn't mean you deserve one--especially one that someone else has assembled. It isn't truly fair to the original author--even if it doesn't damage him.

All this said, no, I don't advocate banning fanfic entirely. It has its good sides--bringing fans together, keeping them interested in the fictional world between books/movies/whatever, letting them practice writing skills. I refuse to take it seriously though--it doesn't matter how good the piece is. It's cribbed.

I don't take cribbed essays seriously, either. YMMV.

#226 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 12:09 AM:

Julia notes:

"until he heard from the Tolkien estate about the Orcs..."

More likely hobbits. Hobbits were called just that in early editions of D&D. Later, they were referred to as "halflings." The description of the race, in recent editions of the "Players' Handbook" is not very much like Tolkien's creatures.

There have been orcs in there all along.

TSR had several licensing run-ins. The first edition of "Gods, Demigods, and Heroes" has Lovecraftian beasties. I had this and foolishly returned it to the store!

There's an even more fabulously rare set of TSR rules for simulating miniatures combat on Barsoom. (The reference page that came with the original D&D rules has stats for thids and such.) There was a line of Barsoom martians and monsters too, I forget from whom.

#227 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 12:18 AM:

Most fanfic fails for me for the same reasons most series television (and sequels, and tie-ins) fails for me: it emphasizes exploring and deepening the reader's existing relationship with existing characters rather than changing and growing the characters.

That's partly personal taste (who is a deep, and who a wide), and partly just untrue; Potter/Snape was certainly growing the characters when it was new.

Illustration: what's the advantage that a tie-in has over fanfic? It's approved as fitting the originator's model of the universe (e.g., including all of the behind-the-scenes pieces that were implied or not shown at all). What's the advantage of fanfic over a tie-in? The fanfic isn't filtered for approval, which lets it illuminate weaknesses the originator would cover up, go for logical consequences the originator would prefer you not think about, etc. I've heard Mike talk about his tussles with Paramount when he wrote two ST books that damn near broke the mold; IIRC they resulted in much text added to the "bible" (prescriptions for the tie-in writers), and I specifically recall a scene he was ordered to take out and did, but pointed to in a way they either missed or couldn't/didn't object to.

One of the interesting things about the original-ST tie-ins was the number of mainstream SF writers who wrote them, and the obvious differences between people who already knew how to put a story together and the ones who were learning (or even not learning) their trade on Paramount's nickel. I've read very few tie-ins since then, at least partly because very few of the authors I respect do tie-ins; I don't think much of Karen Traviss's attitude in her Emerald City article, but I thought enough of her work that I \might/ try one of her SW books.

I don't sneer at fanfic, but I'm not fascinated enough by the idea to give it much time. (People's fascination with the familiar varies; I don't think I was the only person in my chorus who looked at a schedule 13 years ago and said "Beethoven's 9th? Again??") I've got well over nine yards of unread mostly-originals (I'll admit to following Benjamin January) already, not to mention what happens when Amazon actually sends me the results of the 4-for-3 sale mentioned here a few months ago.

#228 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 12:32 AM:

Oh, there are all sorts of hereditary rights. People who are descended from Mohammed get to wear a green turban, for example, and people descended from folk who did a great service to the British crown get to call themselves all sorts of funny titles with various rights and privileges attached.

We don't have to respect those rights unless bound by law or social custom, the same as we don't have to respect any other rights unless bound by law or social custom. Your right to own the proverbial "family farm" and hand it off to your heirs is based on a legal nicety called a property deed. Giving someone perpetual copyright to a piece of literature is messier to define and harder to enforce than a parcel of land, but isn't much different in concept.

#229 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 12:52 AM:

There's an interesting article from an entertainment law journal some time back that makes an argument that fanfic could be considered fair use based on various legal precedents. Of course, the theory has never been tested in a court of law.

It's also interesting to note that as late as the early 20th century, the practice of writing pastiches and unauthorized sequels (including crossovers) was fairly widespread. Garrett P. Serviss wrote Edison's Conquest of Mars, an unauthorized "sequel" to War of the Worlds, with nary a repercussion. Maurice Leblanc cheerfully wrote Sherlock Holmes into his Arsène Lupin novels (completely botching his characterization, I might add). When Conan Doyle objected, he simply changed the character's name to "Holmlock Shears" or "Herlock Sholmes" and kept right on writing.

Not too much further on, the early comic books shamelessly cribbed from pulp novels. Superman was Doc Savage with maybe half of the serial numbers filed off (Man of Bronze, Man of Steel; both had an arctic Fortress of Solitude; both were super-scientists (in the pre-retcon versions of Superman); both had a female cousin who fought crime with them, etc.); likewise Batman was just a little less psycho version of the Shadow and/or the Spider (who was himself a rip-off of The Shadow). The Shadow had a sidekick reporter named Margot Lane whereas Superman had a sidekick reporter named Lois Lane. (Who was subsequently played by Margot Kidder, but that's just coincidental. As is the fact that Ron Ely has played Superman (in an "infinite worlds" episode of the Superboy TV series), Doc Savage, and Tarzan, the latter two of whom are "related" via Philip José Farmer Wold Newton biographies. But I digress.)

It's only been recently, with the rise of the corporation, the extension of copyright, and so forth that "fanfic" has become more derogatory. If fanfickers today had lived a hundred years ago, writing about the franchises that had been around then, they would very likely have been publishable instead of sueable.

#230 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:03 AM:

Oh, and those Wold Newton books? Fanfic. Pure fanfic, even more fannish than most of the stuff that's circulating on the Internet. I mean, come on, it displays the fannish impulse for making connections by tying together pretty much every major character in popular literature for the last several hundred years by blood relation. It's like a precursor to Undocumented Features. The only difference between those books and the stuff on the 'net today is that Farmer somehow managed to get permission from Condé Nast.

(Oh, and Farmer wrote those Vonnegut's-character books that someone alluded to above, but according to author's notes in his Riverworld short story collection, he did it with Vonnegut's knowledge and permission.)

#231 ::: Penny ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:11 AM:

Fanficcers are wannabes. Their draw is reliant on the original creator's draw--without that crutch, would anyone read them? Should anyone?

Yes, they would - just like many people read King Lear or the Aeneid without caring about the original stories they're based on. There are plenty of people who read fanfic regularly, and even write fanfic, without actually liking the original very much. (Try taking a poll in the currently-thriving Stargate fanfic community of how many people actually think the show is good. From the conversations I've seen on livejournal, I'd guess there's a substantial portion of them who started watching and/or continue watching the show only for the sake of being able to read or write the fanfic. If that's true, then it's the original show that's reliant on the fanfic community for its draw.)

All that can be said about fanfic writers is that they probably saw something interesting about the source material. It could just be one minor character; it could be that they hated the original so intensely that they felt driven to prove they could do something interesting with the characters. And faithful readers don't even always need to have seen the source to enjoy fanfic.

#232 ::: Michael Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:18 AM:

Robotech_Master: Upon checking my 18 year old copy, you're right, Farmer did have permission, although apparently Vonnegut regretted it (for reasons having nothing to do with the literary value of the novel).

#233 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:19 AM:

I did mean "right" in a non-legal sense, of course. Which doesn't make any sense, technically, I know. I just think people should be allowed to do something that makes them so happy, unless of course it hurts someone. But we seem to be having an interesting time trying to prove that it really does, hurt someone.

And I really don't think this is related to my age. My generation, maybe. But I really don't want to grow out of this (upthread) belief.

ok. Hiding my head in the peanut gallery again.

#234 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:23 AM:

Thanks, Patrick, for the clarification on fanfic and copyright (versus trademark) protection.

#235 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:58 AM:

Whoa, I've had too much chocolate ice cream and bananas with caffeine. Knocking some rattling thoughts lose.
It would seem which art endeavors are perceived as being ok to let the consumer personally modify comes and goes like fashion.
Some art fields (most of the entertainment ones) the artist is supposed to be flattered by the consumer modifying the original vision after all you inspired them. If you are insulted by them mucking around with your creation there is little sympathy and often mocking. In other fields if the artist is insulted the sympathy is with them and the consumer is seen as a twit; I keep getting the asking for ketchup after being served by a gourmet chef cliche; though part of me wants to do a painting analogy.
Fanfic is a consumer personalization of an art product. The fashion trend is to make it acceptable if not legally, at least socially. Still taboo to ask for ketchup though? I keep seeing an underlying class issue in culture for which kind of artists it’s ok to run wild with and which ones you don’t.
I think I need more chocolate. Won't change the fact that some artists will feel personaly insulted by consumer modification, humans are funny that way.

#236 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:31 AM:

Fanficcers are wannabes. Their draw is reliant on the original creator's draw--without that crutch, would anyone read them?

Well, first of all, I'm aware of contingents within at least one TV fandom where the vision of the original writers was ultimately rejected and the show was no longer watched by a substantial number of disenchanted fans (an attitude and practice I did not share, but there it is). Those fans created an alternate self-contained universe, given form through fanfic. So in that case the original creator's draw simply did not exist for a large number of people.

But hang on, more to the point... wannabe whats? What are fanfic writers trying to be? Wannabe writers? Good writers? Entertaining writers? Those are all the kind of "wannabes" that apply to any writer, presumably. And for which success is determined by the writing, not the wanting.

Wannabe "authors?" In the sense of recognized, published, royalty-earning, respected in the wider literary world? Ironically, although other kinds of writers can be want to be "authors" in this sense, that is the one thing that fanfic writers are disqualified from being—and that disqualification is generally recognized among them—by virtue of the fact that the characters are appropriated and the distribution generally fits within the "gift economy".

Wannabe storytellers? Yeah, I'd go with that one. And a few (as in the larger writing world) do a fine job of it.

#237 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:41 AM:

But it seems to me that some fairly simple rules could be established, with some sort of arbitration board to keep costly litigation to a minimum.

Arbitration is not free. And if we could all happily agree to follow simple rules, we wouldn't need lawyers in the first place.

#238 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:52 AM:

Fanfic changes this. Now new authorial voices chime in with the same characters/world/and/or/plot. The presentation is not the one the author devised.

Actually, I would contest this. If I were to, say, write a fusion of Farscape and Casablanca in which John Crichton takes the Ingrid Bergman role, that story has no effect on what actually did happen on the show. The dvds won't change; John and Aeryn did their thing and Braca never shot Grayza or teamed up with Crichton to fight off the Nazis--er, the Nebari.

The show is still the show. The canon is unaffected by anything I write, whether I write well or poorly.

This is not to say that I can have no effect on the audience--but I can't touch the canon. And the bulk of the audience, believe it or not, is perfectly capable of distinguishing between my entertaining bit of fluff and the story that was told by the Henson Company and the rest of the cast and crew. The canon remains untouched unless the producers themselves bring the fanfiction into it.

Fanficcers are wannabes.

That's something of an overgeneralization. Many ficwriters write fic not because they want to be television writers (yikes!) or because they want to be novelists, but because these are the stories they like to tell, about these characters. There's nothing "wannabe" about it.

Which is not to say that some ficwriters don't want to become professional writers--but everyone has different reasons for what they do, and it's impossible to assign valid motivations to such a vast group of people with very varied agendas.

#239 ::: Cija ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:56 AM:

Fanficcers are wannabes.

What do you think they want to be?

Just because you want to practice your writing with an audience doesn't mean you deserve one--especially one that someone else has assembled.

I don't read fiction to reward the deserving, I do it to reward me.

It isn't truly fair to the original author--even if it doesn't damage him.

Joss Whedon has said, I believe, that people not only can but should write Buffy fanfic. Perhaps he is being terribly unfair to himself, but I think maybe he knows what he's doing.

#240 ::: Azalais Malfoy ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 03:44 AM:

I disagree. Here's an alternative: let the market (not so much the commercial market but the literary market) decide. Those works which find an audience will flourish; those which don't will be ignored.

Now, I think creators have a very strong right to be paid for their creations. But I don't think they have a right -- that is, I don't think they should have a right -- to control what happens to those creations.

Which brings us back to a subject which has been brought up in earlier threads about copyright: mandatory licensing. The precedent here is from music: if you want to record another's song, you have to pay the composer -- but they can't deny permission.

This, I would argue, is clearly what should happen with literary characters and worlds. Anyone who wants to write the starship Enterprise should have to pay a percentage of the take to Paramount. But I don't think that Paramount should get to decide what works get written, get published, get sold or get read.

Amen, yea verily. Frankly, there are a fair number of fanfiction writers who do a better job than the original writer. The Harry Potter universe is full of inconsistencies and moral ambiguities--and many longtime fans found the latest installment repulsive.

Are they her characters? Yes. Should she receive credit for them and a share of any money that's made using them? Absolutely.

But her lawyers are scary and her really committed fans are scary and I don't want to see things like [link deleted at commenter's request] go away because there was boykissing in them, or because somebody actually dared to question the morality expressed in the books.

(By the way, in future posts I'll be calling myself Azalais Aranxta; I've mostly left the HP fandom.)

The other thing that I want to bring up is that a lot of original novels basically are fanfiction with the serial numbers filed off. It might be nice to be able to acknowledge that and credit the sources of one's inspiration, even after putting all the characters through Witness Protection, rather than having to hide it and pretend it doesn't happen.

#241 ::: Edmund Yeo ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 05:43 AM:

Well said. Incidentally, a rebuttal posted by my guestblogger against fantasy writer Robin Hobb's anti-fanfic rant was posted on my site last November. Did submit it to Boingboing, but never had the privilege to be featured. So please give this a read if you're interested in this subject, we agree mostly with most of the points in this article.

#242 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 05:53 AM:

Fanfic - A modern tale in three parts

[Part one, in which a person posts a defence of Fanfic on teh intarweb, a place where fanfic flourishes, and fanfic writers defend themselves and their lifechoices]

[Part two, in which fanfic writers read the defence of fanfic, and post their agreement. Any dissenting voices are comfortably drowned out by the overwhelming sound of mutual backslapping]

[Part three, in which everyone involved lives happily ever after, and nothing changes in the world]

#243 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 06:22 AM:

Renee:

fanficcers are wannabes.

And you're not? I don't mean that as an attack; I just wonder whether you are at the top of every field you are involved in, both for work and for your hobbies. Say, do you play a sport? Are you Olympic quality at that? No?

That's what I want for original authors:

Presupposing that there is such a thing as an original author, but.

I want them to have the right of the first impression.

Ah. So, you never read reviews of works you go to see? You never talk to others about works?

Cause, see, if you do, then the author isn't getting their first impression.

I want them to have the opportunity to show their audience *their* take, unfiltered through other people's preconceptions and wish-fulfillments and blather.

Well, there's always going to be one person's preconceptions and wish-fulfillments and blather in the way: yours. At the very least, you are not them, and you will never see what they saw. Of course, this presupposes a single creator. In the case of TV, there are dozens of people involved with the work, each with their own blather to go with it.

It's theirs; they thought it up. Let the audience see their creation as it was intended to be seen. That's fair.

So, we should never look at most of Lichtenstien's works, because, after all, Takka Takka will pollute your viewing of the original panes of that strip.

And do you always view art works hung as the artist intended? And, if you do, what do you think of the curator's art and craft?

What about short stories? Afterall, something published in Interzone is going to have a different feel if it is republished in an anthology; should the book use the particular font that was used by the author on their computer? The font used by Interzone?

I don't take cribbed essays seriously, either. YMMV.

Let me take a maths researcher, working in the foundations of maths, specifically in defining axioms, and what you can and can't prove with those said axioms. Would you expect him to prove Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem, in every paper of his that mentions it? Or do you let him take that, and work from there?

It's cribbed.

So is all of civilisation: Is there any thing whereof it may be said, see, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

Keith:

There’s quite a difference between using standard tropes and techniques and writing fanfic. One is purely derivative by definition, the other is making use of the basic stock storytelling elements of our language and psychology to tell a story.

Purely derivative? So, if it is purely derivative, then how come the characters act in original ways?

I’m not dismissing fanfic altogether, it serves a vital role in the creative ecosystem. I just don’t buy the argument that Virgil, Dante etc. are antique fanfic. That broadens the definition to the point of uselessness.

Well, it is stretching the definition a bit, esp. in the case of Dante. Not that much however. And Homer was writing fanfic, by any modern definition. (Which, as Teresa says, would have to be a modern definition.)

Even if I could get behind that idea, we don’t live in antiquity, where every variation on the Hercules story is a valid expression of creativity.

I'm sorry, but `valid expression of creativity'? There is no invalid expression of creativity! Did you miss Dada, and Pop Art? Did not Duchamp display his fountain? There is no `invalid' art. There is good and bad art, but none of it is invalid.

We live in the modern world where companies with deep pockets and mean lawyers protect their entertaining property.

In 1901, women didn't have the vote in most parts of the world. Didn't make it right.

It strikes me as self serving of fanfic authors to try and ride the coattails of giants into better company.

Heh. Do you know any fanfic writers trying to wrangle invites to posh New York cocktail parties? On the whole, they aren't trying to `ride' any coattails', they are just telling stories. (Oh, and read Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier on `highbrow literary authors. Chapter 10, Pages 143-145 in my Penguin edition.)

Just a final question: What do people think of Lichtenstein, in terms of `fanfic'? After all, he was surely just as bad for `cribbing' as anyone else.

And, David, I'm not a fanficcer, but I know that quite a few people who comment here are. I also know that quite a few professional prose authors, editors, and poets comment here. I believe that most people here just want a free and frank and polite exchange of ideas. I don't think that Making Light is intended to be an exercise in groupthink.

#244 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 06:24 AM:

[Sequel, in which holier-than-thous make snide but ultimately content free comments in order to show that they are Onto Us and Our Justifications but in fact prove that they, at most, skimmed the comment thread.]

#245 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 06:27 AM:

I have NEVER said that copyright should be in perpetutity, but (as PNH rightly guesses) should be the life of the author plus some years after that. Maybe 50? Maybe 75. So the heirs can help guide things for a while. Also it is all I can leave my children in way of an inheritance.

But I want someone sheparding my stuff after I am gone who understands what I want done with it. Sort of like a living will.

Insurance. If I drop dead today, there's a shorter time. If I drop dead in thirty years, bringing me close to 100, those who want to profit from running my farm or turning the land into highrise emporia or put Disney rides all over it, will either have to pay my heirs or wait another 50 years. It is still tillable, but for a price. After that, my work (my farm) goes into the public domain.

I have, myself, often written a kind of fan fiction (in the broadest definition), reworking folklore, Arthurian, even Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland for short stories. Some parodic (is that a word?) and some more serious. And some both at once.

The problems arise, methinks, when money and ownership bang heads. When big corporations and small-holders are put in the same shopping bag. When fans cross the creation line (a kind of moveable Maginot line.)

I don't have solutions. Mostly questions and a long-held passionate belief that I should have ownership in my own creations for a solid piece of time. Otherwise I really am writing for hire. And short hire at that.

Jane

#246 ::: Mercedes Lackey ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 07:42 AM:

Patrick et al
I actually am privy to and part of the "Marion Zimmer Bradley situation" and I can state with confidence the facts of the matter.

Marion had begun to write a Darkover book about Regis Hastur. She liked the "take" a particular fan author had on the situations and asked to use that spin on things for her book in return for the usual acknowlegement in the front of the book. She had done this before with other fan authors (even though she didn't have to, after all, you can't "own" an idea).

However in this case, the next party heard from was the author's agent, who demanded cover credit and co-authorship, or there would be a lawsuit.

Now, having been a party in a lawsuit myself, I can tell you that when you sue or are sued, the only people who win are the lawyers. Even if you win the case, you lose; time, effort, your sanity...in my case, before the suit was over (we were sueing our insurance company to get them to pay over my husband's studio fire) I was on three Prozac a day and hadn't been able to write for six months. And that was just a civil suit over stuff.

This would have been over Marion's baby, her pride, her joy, her universe. She felt passionate about Darkover.

And she, too, had been involved in lawsuits by that time, so she knew what she would have faced even if she won.

She elected not to finish or publish the book. So that book will never see the light of day.

In her shoes, I'd have done the same thing.

Thats the facts, Jack.

That said, I am in favor of not-for-profit fanfic. I just have to protect myself by making it policy that I never, ever, ever read any fanfic based on my work. If it gets sent to me, it's returned unseen my me. But I got my start writing the stuff, and I managed to get a lot of lousy writing out of the way by doing so.

Though I am sure that there are some who would say that last statement is debatable. There are days when I would say so myself (grin).

#247 ::: Katy ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:18 AM:

Joss Whedon has said, I believe, that people not only can but should write Buffy fanfic. Perhaps he is being terribly unfair to himself, but I think maybe he knows what he's doing.

As a Buffy fanfic writer I heartily agree with what Joss has done. There had been Buffy fic from the beginning. Joss has known there was fic out there and always acknowledged it. He even poked fun at it and used inside jokes from it in Buffy and Angel. He knows that the fans write fic out of love for his show. Without the fans there wouldn't have been a show, heck the fans petitoned for a 5th season of Angel! Joss knows that fans are what got him to where he is and acknowledges all the various possible ships with what he calls the Bring Your Own (sub)text philosophy.
As fanfic writers in the Buffyverse, we all acknowledge the characters are not ours, but we bless and thank their creator for allowing us to play in his sandbox.

#248 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:24 AM:

Legal theories on fanfic:

(1) I can't recommend the article Professor Tushnet cites (and cited in a comment above that I'm too lazy to pinpoint—just look for "Tushnet" and read that entry) as either a well-considered analysis or an accurate assessment of the various doctrines underlying "character protection." That's a matter of disagreement, nothing more. My own take on it is at Fan Fiction, which distills a series of entries from my blawg.

(2) The basic copyright-based theory of how fanfic infringes an author's rights descends from Tarzan and Sam Spade. In those terms, fanfic (or anything else in which a setting or a character is "borrowed") is a derivative work, and therefore violates one of the exclusive rights authors have under the Copyright Act. The obvious problem is that almost all of these decisions fell under the 1909 Copyright Act, which did not have a specific fair use privilege in it as does the 1976 Act at § 107. This is rather like using everything one has learned in basic trig about tan rigidly to calculate tanh; there will be some points of congruence, the process is the same, but the actual values one obtains after the calculation vary pretty wildly over the range of input values.

To say the least, there is little consistency among the courts, or even from case to case, on what constitutes "fair use" of another author's characters/setting. Compare the 11th Circuit's decision in SunTrust (parody/satire of Gone With the Wind—fair use) with the 9th Circuit's decisions in Air Pirates (underground comic depicting various Disney characters as participants in drugrunning—not fair use) and Dr Seuss Enters (satire of the OJ Simpson trial done broadly in the style of Dr Seuss—not fair use). Then try to find an iota of consistency in the actual reasoning, even though these three cases all cite some of the same authority! Now throw in the 2Live Crew decision (Campbell v Acuff-Rose Music)…

(3) What makes this really complicated is that, all too often, we're also looking at a "transformative use". One transforms the Star Wars characters from film depictions to pure prose in writing Star Wars fanfic. Transformative uses are more likely to be fair uses than are "straighter" reuses; one interesting possible exam question asks whether there would be a difference if everything else was identical, but the fanfic form was the same as the original (the original is also prose, or the fanfic is done as a short film).

If this isn't sounding overly technical and highly unsettled, I haven't communicated very successfully. Suffice it to say that fanfic is almost always a bad idea because the consequences of winning a copyright suit are almost as severe as would be losing…

#249 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:32 AM:

Um. Hi, Ms. Lackey... (That STILL gets me about this place. The regulars you get sort of used to (until they mention their series of Pit Dragon books (which I was a huge fan of when I was in the agerange, and still think of fondly) or something), but it's still something when a name you recognize pops up) (But that's not my point) (though she's right about The Lawyers Winning).

My point was to echo Robotech_Master (which, by the way, brings up an interesting point about Robotech -- it's certainly licensed, but how does it differ, functionally, from Macross/Mospeada/Southern Cross Fusion Fanfic? (Fusion fanfic being v. popular in anime fandom: Not "What if Ranma met Sailor Moon", but "What if Ranma Were Sailor Moon?" and exploring the funny/interesting implications thereof (transformation sequence involving spinning and a bucket; "Ukyou looks sort of like Makoto!"; a Tuxedo Kamen who can't ever find his way to the fight.))

Even MORE interesting, if you bring up Arsene Lupin, Monkey Punch was NOT licensed by the estate when he created Arsene Lupin III (The half-japanese grandson and successor to the original), and this would up causing quite a few problems when his creation was first licensed for US release, but it's a NATIONAL TREASURE in Japan (also notably, two other major characters in the series, Zenigata and Goemon, are quasi-RPF, being the descendants of fictionalized real people).

Even MORE interesting is the habit of say, DC and Marvel (and Wildstorm, both before and after its absorbtion by DC) to endlessly riff on each others major players in a way that I can't really call "Parodic". Guardians of the Galaxy? Parody, maybe. Kriegstein's (KRIEGSTEIN) Avengers and X-Men parody in Authority? Probably. Supreme? The Four? The three "chances" killed by The Four? The thing in the "0" issue of Planetary? Or even Doc Brass and his group, when compared to the pulp heroes? Can't really call those latter ones Parody, because they're played straight, and you certainly couldn't call them fanfic, and they're more than homage. So WHAT ARE THEY? (Leaving aside any legal arguments, which make my head throb on this particular issue)

In preview, I realized that the above post could use a lot of explanation of examples. I'll do it if requested, but I'm sure there are plenty here who can hit each if need be.

#250 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:42 AM:

On the other hand, I've just been and looked at the biggest Harry Potter site on the web, and discovered that you can order up a story the same way you order a hamburger - in a class joint, mind.

"I'll have a Ron/Hermione with moderate magic, easy on the passion. Hold the spoilers."

"Sure. You want violence with that?"

I dunno, as I said before. Something about it is giving me the creeps.

#251 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:46 AM:

The following bit was posted by WillA and is reposted here for your convenience:

There was once a conjurer who boasted that he had become god-like. One god happened to overhear, and challenged him to a contest.
“Can you do this?” the god asked, scooping up a handful of dirt and making it into a bird. They watched the bird fly away.

“Sure,” said the conjure-man, and reached down for a handful of raw material.

“Hey,” said god. “Use your own dirt.”

And I want to thank WillA for this because it made me realize something this morning: The fundamental problem with the "family farm" metaphor applied to copyright is that it presumes that the writer created his own dirt.

If folk insist on the "working the farm" metaphor, the thing to remember is that they did not create the dirt that is the farm. The farm metaphor applied to writing would have writers working as sharecroppers, working a season, a year, or a few years, to grow a crop. They created the crop through their labor, and copyright is a system that rewards them for the labor they used in raising that crop.

Eternal copyrighters, and those who kid themselves that Life-Plus-70 isn't eternal, are basically arguing that having sharecropped a single season, having created one crop, they argue that they now get to own the land for all eternity. One finite amount of labor does not translate into ownership for all eternity. You write one book, and you want to make money off of it for all eternity.

The money you make on your "crop" is to pay you for your labor needed to make that crop. no more, no less. And copyright is meant to encourage folk to go in and work the land for a while and reward them for whatever they grow and people want to eat.

But to argue that working the land for a short time grants you and your heirs that land for all eternity is to invoke the Okloahoma Land Race, which results in the land being treated as permanent property. You must move off the land at some point, because you did not create the land.

And before you argue again that you aren't relating to your writings as permanent property, my question for you is this: In turning a written work into a legal piece of property for a finite period of time, what is copyright rewarding you for, if not for the labor you used to create it?

No creation of art, no matter how dear to you, took more than some finite amount of time to create. Why should you be paid so far and above that amount that you could spend a couple months writing a short story and get to control that writing for 150 years? (you write the story when your twenty, you live to a ripe age of 90, and you get Life-Plus-70 years copyright terms)

#252 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:50 AM:

And how would most people feel if they were told that their family farm or business or house would--after 20 or 50 years--suddenly be taken from them and given to whatever squatters wanted them? My books ARE my family farm. I work/toil there daily. I want to leave it to my children who can then decide to work it, rent it out, or sell it entire.

Jane: what you're proposing here is the death of the concept of public domain. Which is already occuring under current copyright law--the public domain has essentially been "frozen" by recent copyright extensions.

What I think will actually occur going forward, should this continue, is that this will result in the death of PRO fiction entering the public domain, and the concept of the public domain will change. It will become more of a quasi-legal entity than the legal entity it has been. It will be a mish-mash of work released by authors/estates who feel that they are filling the end of the bargin they entered into when they originally obtained copyright, and of work that cannot be attributed or traced to a owner. Ironically, fan fiction may play a large part in that. Authors of derivative works (here, fan fiction) DO have copyright in those derivative works (the original copyright holder may sue them for damages, but cannot claim or use those derivative works without permission). But many authors of fan fiction do not always have interest in that copyright, or in using the "protections" offered by copyright. They're content to let their fan fiction float around cyberspace, allowing others to find and find pleasure in it for free.

And you may think that the death of the public domain for pro fiction is a "good" thing. It's possibly a good thing for a very limited amount of pro fiction. If the heirs of Jane Austen still had her copyright, they'd be f*ckin' rich. Or maybe, high school students around the US and UK wouldn't be 'forced' to read her work on a yearly basis. We don't know what the result of the never-ending copyright would be, because it's not existed before.

I suspect that for a limited number of works, especially those with strong commercial backing (Disney!) never-ending copyright would mean that the works would remain forever available, and forever commercial. For your standard novel, take a look at the rare book world to see what's already happening with post-1926 works. There are novels with limited numbers of fans, novels that no publishing company has seen the demand to reprint, or that publishing companies have been prevented from reprinting (you know, by the heir that refuses to allow republication unless the company ALSO publishes their horribly written sequal--which PNH can speak on), that are dying. The fans aren't looking for a first edition or even an edition in "good condition"--they're looking for ANY edition, in ANY condition, as long as it's readable. And the community continues to decrease in size, as those who were only half-heartedly invested in that author or that novel decide it's not worth the effort. I believe this is going to be the more common outcome of never-ending copyright for non-highly-commercialized works: the work will die. And more quickly than I suspect people are willing to admit.

#253 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:53 AM:

Re the Marion Zimmer Bradley story: You can find assorted versions of What Happened here, and some further pertinent history here.

That first linked page is interesting, for a collection of hearsay. What it tells us is not that fanfic is inherently bad or harmful, or that any author who condones it risks losing control of some part of their creation. In my opinion, it doesn't teach us anything at all about fanfic, because that's not what was going on.

Here's something you don't usually hear in the circulating versions of the story: the disputed events took place twelve years after the publication of the first Darkover anthology, a collection of stories by other authors that was published by DAW and edited by MZB. In the intervening time, there'd been a new anthology published each year.

So we're not talking here about some clear-cut, well-defined situation where some uninvolved author discovers one day that her fans are writing fanfic on their own. Neither is it a lost-Eden scenario where kindly ol' MZB was letting her fans play with her toys, until one of them ruined it for everyone.

MZB was writing and publishing Darkover novels at the same time that she was editing anthologies of original Darkover stories written by other authors. She was reading all the submissions to those anthologies, and she was reading other Darkover fanfic as well. It shouldn't have taken a lawyer to tell her that that setup was courting trouble.

MZB solicited other authors' professional participation in the Darkover franchise. The disputed story had been published in its author's own fanzine, but that hardly matters; the first Darkover anthology was drawn from material that first appeared in fanzines. It was not unreasonable for other authors to feel their own stories had a certain amount of legal standing. Nothing could have been more predictable than the dispute which subsequently developed.

When this tale gets told, why do we refer to the Darkover stories by other writers as fanfic, and its authors as fanwriters? Because that's how MZB described them in her own version of the story. Fans of her writing will, I hope, forgive me if I point out that she had an interest in depicting the situation that way.

Do you see why I argue that fanfic is a legal not a literary category?

Two more observations:

First, something every author knows is that non-writers and some amateur writers have an exaggerated sense of the relative importance of idea to book. Who hasn't had someone tell them they've got a great idea for a book, so they'll contribute the idea and the author will do the writing, and they'll split the take?

I do not assert, but I suspect, that something of that nature was in play. Hey, that's an interesting idea, mind if I use it in the book I'm already writing? is not justification for demanding a shared copyright. It is, however, what fulsome acknowledgements, waivers of all further rights, and one-time flat fees were made for.

Second: the other thing this episode teaches us is that MZB couldn't or wouldn't write around the problem. A more satisfactory solution might have been for her to come up with other ideas that not only avoided the idea under contention, but knocked the other writer's work clean out of canon. It's what Blackburn would have done.

#254 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:57 AM:

Mercedes Lackey, this is what I get for taking more than an hour to draft a comment. Mine was, of course, not meant as a response to yours, and I thank you for your further illumination in this matter.

#255 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:58 AM:

Mercedes Lackey said, "That said, I am in favor of not-for-profit fanfic. I just have to protect myself by making it policy that I never, ever, ever read any fanfic based on my work." I've noticed this is the official policy of many-a-creator, and I think it's one that mostly works. It protects the originator, but also protects the fans(and fanficcers), in a way. I think it's sad that it's neccessary, but understandable in the modern litigeous culture we live in.

I've been following the discussion with fascination, because I come to it as a fanfiction reader, not writer, barely an original fic writer(as in, barely finish anything). To put forward my view, especially on the topics of the 'harm' it does to canonical works, I have gotten into more fandoms through fanfiction than out of them. I have stayed in them longer because of fanfiction than without. I also believe that it has helped me to deepen my understanding and enjoyment of the original by seeing these different takes on things that I did not (at first) see. I don't always agree with those takes, but it forces me to see why someone would and why I don't.

Fanfiction also, like in the case of Harry Potter, provides a sort of stop-gap of frustration while waiting for the next installment. Whose theories will be closest, whose most out there, etc.? I think this is a good thing. It keeps interest high, while without it interest might wane in the long breaks between installments, or between seasons, or even after a series is done. In addition, there are always unanswered questions, even in the most well done books, television series, and movies. Fans want to see those questions answered, those holes filled.

I just know that should my stories ever get (a)finished and (b)published, I would be ever so thrilled to know people were writing stories about my creations...that means they've read them and that they were engaged enough to do something about it. Rarely do you see fanfiction without a worthy canon. People just wouldn't care, and I think that's the goal of most authors: make the audience care.

#256 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:02 AM:

As your average copyright troll, I respect jane's position but I must point out that 50 years, in our age of lightspeed communication, is an awfully long time. If scientists had to wait the same amount of time to expand or rework a theory previously exposed by someone else, we would probably still use steam engines.

Authors have all the rights to make a decent living and be spared the sight of their work being altered or distorted, but I don't see how this privilege should survive them for such a long time, especially if it's linked to companies or corporations and becomes just another tool to stop other people from making a decent living out of writing/playing/composing.

#257 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:06 AM:

Thinking about the public domain has brought up another issue for me. Above, I mentioned authors or estates that are fulling their original bargin by releasing work to the public domain. I believe that is occuring--specifically at/by the request of Project Gutenburg--because some post-1926 "classics" have begun showing up in their archives with oddish disclaimers on them.

I'm not, right now, a published fiction writer. I am a published essayist. And I am also "published," to the degree a blogger and fan fiction writer can be published. And I am someone that does believe that by creating and "publishing," I have entered an agreement with the public good that's embodied in copyright. But I am distressed by the lengths that agreement has been taken to in recent years (I'd prefer a 40-year copyright term).

My current method of dealing with that distress is that my casual writing is explicitly released to the public domain upon publication. (I'm sure that someone out there is now considering the legal ramifications of placing "this work is released to the public domain" on a piece of fan fiction--legally, from what I've researched and the advice I've been given by IP lawyers and professors, that the statement applies specifically to the situations I have placed down on paper, and the exact words I have used to describe those situations. So while I am releasing my exact representation to the public domain, it does not affect anything else within that work.) For my more commercial work, I was considering a blanket release to the public domain to be placed in my will. But in a conversation on MK a couple of weeks or months ago, Jo Walton mentioned that, at least in the UK (I think?) that cannot be done, because it ends up in the estate losing value on your death. Has anyone else considered this issue in the US?

(Yeah, I know, I need to go talk to a probate attorney and an IP attorney. I'm just not sure I have enough commerical work that I own the copyright on--too much work for hire--to make it worthwhile right now.)

#258 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:15 AM:

Drawing analogies between literary rights and other real-property rights always gets wonky. That said, Jane surely has a right to her own work.

Prudence might dictate that authors never read fanfic based on their own work, but if you knew people were doing that, could you resist having a look? I know I couldn't; it would be just too good a source of information on how I was being read. Perhaps the real solution is for authors to never, ever admit that they've read it.

#259 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:23 AM:

With all due respect to everyone, we don't want this thread to become a forum for re-fighting an old war. Neither Teresa nor I know exactly what happened between MZB and the writers in question, and we certainly aren't equipped (or inclined!) to conduct a discovery proceeding. Also, we're entirely aware that people of good will can wind up with what seem like entirely contradictory views of the same events, without anyone setting out to deceive.

The point I was trying to get at is that the MZB story is obviously a lot more complicated than the simple fable it's been turned into in the fannish folk process. As Teresa observed, it's obvious that

[...]we're not talking here about some clear-cut, well-defined situation where some uninvolved author discovers one day that her fans are writing fanfic on their own. Neither is it a lost-Eden scenario where kindly ol' MZB was letting her fans play with her toys, until one of them ruined it for everyone.
Quite the contrary, it's obvious that MZB had a complicated and engaged involvement with a whole bunch of writers whom she'd encouraged to write in her universe, and who almost certainly had expecations of their own. Did someone run mad and develop expectations of "ownership" beyond anything they could reasonably argue they'd been promised? Maybe. Maybe not. I have no way of knowing and neither do most of us reading this thread. What I can tell, though, is that the more one starts looking at this story in more than a sentence's worth of detail, the less it tells us about "fanfic" and the more it looks like a complicated human story of clashing expectations and understandings in which "fanfic" plays only a minor role. Which is why I repeat my suggestion that we stop deploying "The Tale Of How A Fanfic Writer Ruined Everything For MZB" as some kind of would-be argument clincher.

#260 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:27 AM:

There's certainly a "first read" effect, but it's not limited to fanfic. I was talking with a friend yesterday, and noted that I almost always avoid movies based on books I've read and liked and vice versa, because whichever I read or watch second will feel wrong.

Some fanfic is people thinking "Hmmm, I wonder if..." on things they reasonably know that the original writer isn't going to answer--for example, I've read some fanfic based on McKillip's Riddlemaster Trilogy, filling in odd bits of what the High One's past might have been like.

Personally, if I like a writer/their work and they say they don't want fanfic, I won't read it. That's what feels right to me. I have no settled opinion on whether that should have legal force, or even whether other people shouldn't write it, or shouldn't make it available, because of that request. I do think it would be nice if they didn't mix it in with fanfic from authors who haven't objected, or with non-fanfic, on a single Web page (i.e., not even "click here for fanfic of X") because that makes it harder for me not to start reading it.

Saying "that should be decided by a jury" is basically pushing the question off, rather than providing useful guidelines: if something actually gets to a jury, the judge is supposed to provide guidelines on what the law says, and the jurors then decide about the particular case, based on that and the facts as presented during the trial. A jury can no more decide a case without there being some relevant law than it could do so without any facts.

I suspect that "order up a story" Website is closer to walking into a library and saying "I'm looking for a book on modern Chinese history" and the librarian asking what you mean by "modern" and whether you'd rather have an adult or a sixth-grade-level book, and then giving you the appropriate work from the existing collection.

#261 ::: Kristine Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:31 AM:

As to whether fanfic can be upsetting or hurtful, why, of course it can. Was Teresa saying fanfic is always wonderful, or that its effects are always benign? Of course not. Her point is that discussions of fanfic and its rights and wrongs could benefit from a broader view of how, historically, people have told stories and made texts. She's suggesting we be less provincial. Arguing with her as if the question on the table were "Fanfic: Bad or Good?" is not engaging with the actual matter at hand.

Except that the broader view tends to obscure what to some pro writers are the primary issues, namely the possible detrimental impact that fanfic might have on their livelihood and the sense of intrusion/invasion that may be felt when one sees one's income-producing creation spun off in ways one never intended and may not be thrilled with.

And the use of terms like "less provincial", tend to imply, whether meant to or not, that those on the other side of the argument are at best ignorant and at worst smallminded and unwilling to see the light.
I personally have never seen the term used in a benign manner except when describing certain types of decorating styles.

#262 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:40 AM:

Benja Fallenstein wrote:
"Weltarbeit" sounds more like "world labor" and evokes images of international socialist movements.
Do’h! I thought that sounded familiar, and not in a good way.

You mean "fictional universe as a work of art," right? The translation for "work" you're looking for is "Werk."
Do’h x2! Yeah, I used to know that word too. Somebody take away my license to use my vocabulary!

[stuff omitted]
But "Geschichtenwelt" isn't quite right, because "Geschichte" doesn't sound so ... respectable, in German. It has a certain association with "children's story", at least to me. "Geschichtenwelt" sounds a little like a world where bedtime stories take place.
Yes, that might be a bit too specific, but I like it.

How about "Fiktivwelt"? The German Wikipedia uses the term "fiktive Welt", which fits the bill except that it's not a single word. "Fiktivwelt" sounds like -- hmm -- an imaginary world that someone pretends to be real, perhaps. But it seems ok. And since "fictional" is the translation of "fiktiv" that pretty much all English speakers will default to, I expect, it seems pretty good to me for our purpose. ("Virtual" is a translation conveying a different meaning of "fiktiv," but I expect that English speakers will conveniently not notice that subtlety.)
I think it adds a nice connotation: fictive is pretty close in meaning, often used in the sense of “we will treat it as if, but it’s not really. In anthropology, you can talk about “fictive kinships”, i.e. my Aunt June, who is not actually blood-kin.

Ah, and I know what to do about "world-work." "Gesamtwerk," literally "entire work," is actual academic German and means one author's entire corpus; e.g., "Goethes Gesamtwerk." I hereby declare that from now on, it also refer to the entire corpus of works set in a particular fiktivwelt.
[Note that I'm not forgetting to inflect "refer." I'm inflecting it to be in the subjunctive mood.]
You have my permission to use "Fiktivwelt-Gesamtwerk" if you want to make clear which meaning of gesamtwerk you are referring to.
- Benja

Yay! That’s excellent! I shall definitely use those!
Now for Anglo-Saxon.
-r.

#263 ::: Mercedes Lackey ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:50 AM:

Back again. This is as irresistable as double-chocolate fudge chunk ice cream and about as bad for you. I should be writing paycheck prose...

Theresa and Patrick; yes indeed, you have good points. Marion operated on some assumptions that might have held back in 1950 in the Golden Age of Fandom but certainly were not in operation at the time of The Affair, and believe me, I am the first to agree to that.

I like fanfic. I like it in the way it lets people ask "what if" and "what then" questions. I like it that it gives people who may become pros a place to concentrate on *one* thing--plot--or maybe two--plot and character--without having to invent a universe of their own. The latter reason, by the way, is why I like to write urban/urban-historical fantasy, since everyone knows what "our world" looks like. I like that it gives people who want desperately to tell a story a built-in audience. OK so it follows Sturgeon's Law of "90% of everything is dreck" but what doesn't? And OK, the idea of some people taking rather...extreme...*ahem* liberties with my stuff does make me go a bit ewwwwwwwww (sometimes more than a bit ewwwwww) but as long as they lock it down into a place where theoretically only 18-and-over can go...

But I really, cross my heart, am not that curious about what they're writing. It's a bit like the reason why I don't read Amazon reader reviews of my books. I don't want to know. Sometimes it gives you a swelled head and sometimes it makes you want to reach through the screen and strangle someone and neither reaction is good for you.

I cannot, for the life of me, see how it can really hurt anyone. But then, I have a kind of complicated relationship with my books. They are my babies right up until the point where they leave my hands.

Then they become something else, and that something else is different to everyone who reads them. I can't control that. It's stupid to try. All I can really do is tell the best story I can, and what happens after that is out of my hands. The babies have grown up and become independant, and like a wise parent I do my best to let go.

And that includes all the "what ifs" and "what thens" other folks imagine.

#264 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:54 AM:

"Except that the broader view tends to obscure what to some pro writers are the primary issues, namely the possible detrimental impact that fanfic might have on their livelihood and the sense of intrusion/invasion that may be felt when one sees one's income-producing creation spun off in ways one never intended and may not be thrilled with."

I like writers; I work with them every day. I'm not unaware that many of them have these concerns about the matter at hand. I even agree that these are, in some instances, real things to be concerned about.

What I don't buy is the notion that because these are "the primary issues" for writers, they ought therefore to be the primary issues for everybody else. It takes all kinds of people to make a worthwhile civilization. As far as I'm concerned, a pink-collar service worker's moral claim on a healthy cultural "public domain" is every bit as important as a professional writer's claim to just compensation.

#265 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:59 AM:

Just want to throw out a couple more examples of "Literary Fanfic:" 1. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. It revolves around minor characters and takes place in the spaces left for them in the primary text.
2. The King Must Die by Mary Renault. It's a retelling of the Theseus myths from Theseus' point of view, without any magic or divine intervention as such. (fabulous book, btw)

#266 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:00 AM:

Mercedes Lackey writes:

I have a kind of complicated relationship with my books. They are my babies right up until the point where they leave my hands.

Then they become something else, and that something else is different to everyone who reads them. I can't control that. It's stupid to try. All I can really do is tell the best story I can, and what happens after that is out of my hands. The babies have grown up and become independent, and like a wise parent I do my best to let go.

This is an extremely sensible articulation of an understanding many writers have had to work to achieve.

#267 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:11 AM:

(1) The more-fedora-wearing of our marvelous hosts said:

Drawing analogies between literary rights and other real-property rights always gets wonky. That said, Jane surely has a right to her own work.
(emphasis added) This points out the fallacy of the "created from dirt" example. The dirt is real property. Intellectual property is not real property; it is personal property. And, although we keep using the word "property" for both, that's a linguistic mishap; the "rules" regarding personal property are much closer to simple contract law than to those regarding real property.

A better example might be this:

There was once a conjurer who boasted that he had become god-like. One god happened to overhear, and challenged him to a contest. “Can you do this?” the god asked, chopping down a tree and carving a branch into a bird that promptly stood up and flew away.

“Sure,” said the conjure-man, and reached down for another branch from the same tree.

“Hey,” said god. “Harvest your own tree.”
My point is that what a creator does is so distinct and removed from the purported "raw material"—and it's raw material that is constantly growing, and new uses for that raw material are constantly arising—that analogies to real property fall apart of their own weight. Consider, for example, the roll-top desk. Contrary to what the uninitiated in furniture-making might think, one cannot simply take the plans for a drop-front desk or table and substitute a roll-top; the stresses, materials, dimensions, etc. are so different that one must ordinarily even choose different woods to make a durable one!

(2) One of the most-common arguments against extended copyright terms is that "in this Internet age, everything moves faster, and therefore the term should be shorter, not longer." Although the premise is true, the conclusion leaves a lot to be desired, because it neglects something else that happens in "this Internet age": Authors and other creators are living longer and longer, and with much less predictability. Perhaps the ultimate balance will tip toward shorter terms; however, the failure to acknowledge the opposing force robs the "short-term Internet" argument of much of its force.

(3) One of the real conceptual problems that most of the "copyleft" camp has refused to acknowledge: It is now vastly easier, cheaper, and more accurate to make copies in the first place than it was at the time the Statute of Anne was introduced in 1610. Keep in mind that presses, at that time, were run by muscle-power; that there was no photography; that there was no audio recording; that all color work was hand-painted (the multicolor press process wasn't perfected until 1628). In the end, this means that the increased ability to copy has led to an urge to use that ability.

However, technology continues to change even the perception of a copy; there is a world of difference between seeing a photograph of, say, the Brandenburger Tor that someone else has put into an art-history book and looking at one's own photographs, even if one's own photographs are (with no false modesty, marginally) less technically adept. One's own photographs are also memory-keys in a way that a third party's can never be. Similarly, when reading even a brand-spanking-new copy of Through the Looking Glass I cannot help recalling the experience of reading a second printing at the British Museum. My not-quite-overtly-Proustian point is that copying is not a perfect and complete replication, and so this argument is as much about what is "close enough" as it is about copying at all.

#268 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:16 AM:

Mercedes Lackey said: They are my babies right up until the point where they leave my hands. Then they become something else, and that something else is different to everyone who reads them. I can't control that. It's stupid to try. All I can really do is tell the best story I can, and what happens after that is out of my hands. The babies have grown up and become independant, and like a wise parent I do my best to let go.

I like this! It reminds me very much of the dichotomy Tolkien develops in The Silmarillion between Aule, a creator god who had a similar attitude, and the elf Feanor, whose possessive love of the Silmarils he created caused great evil lasting through generations of his descendents.

#269 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:21 AM:

But, for software, which is where a lot of the copyleft ideas originate, the copy is just as good as the original. There is no difference.

#270 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:22 AM:

Medieval fan fic -- picking up from Teresa's original "I’m convinced that the legends of the Holy Grail are fanfic about the Eucharist," the entire medieval Arthurian industry, post Geoffrey of Monmouth, is fan fic, and it seques right through Malory (who was pretty clearly writing fan fic) to Mary Stewart, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Sarah Zettel, and modern Arthurian lit in general.

You even see the same kinds of fannish behaviors in medieval Arthurian lit, the character who's favored in one alternate fannish universe, say Gawain, is totally trashed in the work of another fan. I've often thought Lancelot began as Chretien's "Marty Stu" character.

#271 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:22 AM:

take a look at the rare book world to see what's already happening with post-1926 works

Something I thought of after the fact: also look at the economics of the rare book world, and the fact that while prices on these copies may be extraordinarily high (one of my friends gave up looking for copies of books by a favorite childhood author when poor condition paperback-type editions starting fetching $800+; unfortunately I cannot remember the author's name because I'd never read her/heard of her) the author or the author's heirs are not benefiting from this market. So, the works are in the process of dying (losing what little audience they have left), yet the market's in the process of a price explosion, and the people who are profitting are those that are packrats or have extremely good luck at yard sales.

#272 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:23 AM:

If I might bring a different perspective on Deutschesvokabeln in…

Geschichte has multiple connotations depending upon its context. In a colloquial context, it does indeed shade toward the "children's story" end of things; in a "serious" context, though, it means more like "received history" (as distinct from "academic history"). In fact, one frequently finds legal philosophy texts distinguishing between Geschichte des Arbeitsrechts (history of labor law) and Entwicklung des Arbeitsrechts (development of labor law). I think there's little chance of this being construed as "children's bedtime stories"!

Perhaps my own fondness for compound nouns is showing through, but I think the most-effective term would be das Fiktivweltanschauung, because the whole point of fan fiction is one of shifting perspectives. Fiktivweltgesamtwerke connotes "authorized" to me in a way that makes this argument even sillier than it already is. But that's just me.

#273 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:33 AM:

But ooh, what pretty words.

#274 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:39 AM:

I wonder whether any of the advocates of "fanfic is third-rate writing by people who can't muster the creativity to work in their own universes" feel up to tackling the question of successful professional authors who take to writing fanfic.

The ones I've heard describe the process talk about it much the same way any other fanfic writer does: a story popped into their head, so they had to write it out.

#275 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:40 AM:

Except that the broader view tends to obscure what to some pro writers are the primary issues, namely the possible detrimental impact that fanfic might have on their livelihood and the sense of intrusion/invasion that may be felt when one sees one's income-producing creation spun off in ways one never intended and may not be thrilled with.

Which is certainly a valid concern, and one that fanficcers will generally honor with authors who have expressed it. But I think the possible detrimental impact is minor, and should be weighed against the possible benefits of increased fan community and interest in the original work.

#276 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:44 AM:

Or, more to the point, if I buy a Ford F-150 and paint it bright purple with "Girlchaser" on the front and add blinking headlights and a speaker system that can crack masonry, I doubt many people would confuse it with Ford's original product. They would likely see me and think "What an idiot." Or they might think, "Hey, I wonder what I could do with my truck..."

#277 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:48 AM:

BSD writes:

[I]f you bring up Arsene Lupin, Monkey Punch was NOT licensed by the estate when he created Arsene Lupin III (The half-japanese grandson and successor to the original), and this would up causing quite a few problems when his creation was first licensed for US release, but it's a NATIONAL TREASURE in Japan (also notably, two other major characters in the series, Zenigata and Goemon, are quasi-RPF, being the descendants of fictionalized real people).
Yes. It's even more interesting than that, really. Lupin III was created at a time when Japan did not honor trade copyrights, not being a signatory to Berne or the like. So at the time he was created, he was perfectly fine under the laws of Japan.

As I go into in my downloadable MP3 commentary track for Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro, there are even more fanfic connections than that. Cagliostro is filled with references back to the original Arsène Lupin novels—and not just the ones in which he faced off against the evil Countess Cagliostro either. There had been Arsène Lupin novels involving massive government-backed counterfeiting schemes (involving the discovery of a huge stash of fake Franc notes created by the Germans during World War I to destabilize the French economy) and a hidden treasure at the bottom of a lake as well—both elements that played important roles in Castle of Cagliostro. As it had been the popularity of Leblanc's works in Japan in the 1960s that led to Lupin III being created in the first place, I doubt those similarities are coincidental.

In turn, Arsène Lupin was filled with examples of RPF—both Real Person Fic and Real Place Fic: the Cagliostro stories involved a descendant of a real-life alchemist, Freemason, and all-around con man, Count Cagliostro, who was involved in events leading up to the French Revolution; another Arsène Lupin tale involved past Kings of France and subsequently Lupin himself hiding stolen treasures within a natural rock-spire formation that would have been well-known to Leblanc's native French readership of the time.

So, Lupin III, and especially Castle of Cagliostro, was a fanfic of a fanfic (or at least a work that did a lot of the same sorts of "borrowing" that fanfic does today). Interestingly enough, Lupin III is not the only work to have borrowed from Arsène Lupin. One of the Arsène Lupin novels involved an unsolved murder that turned out to have been an act of God instead—a micrometeorite striking someone in the head in such a way as to resemble a gunshot wound. This device was later borrowed (or, admittedly, it could have been independently conceived, but it seems unlikely) by Fritz Lieber for one of his Change War short stories.

#278 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:54 AM:

Or, more to the point, if I buy a Ford F-150 and paint it bright purple with "Girlchaser" on the front and add blinking headlights and a speaker system that can crack masonry, I doubt many people would confuse it with Ford's original product. They would likely see me and think "What an idiot." Or they might think, "Hey, I wonder what I could do with my truck..."

And part of the argument I see being argued here is that people believe that FORD should have the right to stop you from painting it bright purple with "Girlchaser," etc, because other people might think "Hey, I wonder what I could do with my truck . . . "

(But then we get into the mess of rights over "real" hard property versus rights over ephemeral and intellectual property, and everything falls apart once again.)

#279 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:54 AM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden wrote:
I wonder whether any of the advocates of "fanfic is third-rate writing by people who can't muster the creativity to work in their own universes" feel up to tackling the question of successful professional authors who take to writing fanfic.

Well, I am defintely pro-fanfic, and I definitely don't think that it is third-rate writing.

I did read a really excellent bit of fanfic called Ishmael, which is authorized pro-fic Trek, but is also an "intentionally silly" crossover with a 1960s TV show called "Here Come the Brides. which not coincidentally featured Mark Leonard (Sarek) playing one of the main characters.

#280 ::: Mercedes Lackey ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:55 AM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:39 AM:

I wonder whether any of the advocates of "fanfic is third-rate writing by people who can't muster the creativity to work in their own universes" feel up to tackling the question of successful professional authors who take to writing fanfic.

The ones I've heard describe the process talk about it much the same way any other fanfic writer does: a story popped into their head, so they had to write it out.

EEP! I've been outed.

I....shuffle mumble shuffle....still write fanfic. Of all darn things, fanfic set in a superhero MMORPG, City of Heroes

It is my brain candy. I admit it, it's mostly rough-draft prose, but it's the sort of thing I don't get to do for a paycheck.

It is extremely collaberative (to the point where I often use a piece of software called MoonEdit that allows several people to be writing the same piece of prose at the same time). The joy of it is that people take the things I put down and by their reactions send the story in a direction I would never have considered. It's turning out to be very useful, in that it's exercising my writing muscles in different directions.

And yeah...I had to do this. I started out just being a role-playing gamer, but these characters came alive just like all my book-characters do and they started demanding real stories out of me.

#281 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:00 AM:

Mercedes Lackey,
Wow! That's enlightening! *stunned 2d6 rounds*
-r.

#282 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:01 AM:

Jane:And how would most people feel if they were told that their family farm or business or house would--after 20 or 50 years--suddenly be taken from them and given to whatever squatters wanted them?

and

Copyright ... should be the life of the author plus some years after that. Maybe 50? Maybe 75.

I'm not sure I follow these two statements. Would your answer to your own question be "I would feel as if I got what I wanted."? Or are you arguing against the shortening proposed by others here?

I'm not sure what the expected future value of a work of fiction is 71 years after the death of the author. I don't have any of the Inside Baseball publishing knowledge that it would take, but I wonder if you'd be better off selling the rights to someone and buying them lottery tickets. Guessing popularity beyond the author's life has historically been a crapshoot.

Jane:The problems arise, methinks, when money and ownership bang heads. When big corporations and small-holders are put in the same shopping bag...

I think you're dead on here.

#283 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:09 AM:

I....shuffle mumble shuffle....still write fanfic. Of all darn things, fanfic set in a superhero MMORPG, City of Heroes

And performs the occasional play in Atlas Park.

#284 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:15 AM:

C.E. Petite:

Perhaps my own fondness for compound nouns is showing through, but I think the most-effective term would be das Fiktivweltanschauung, because the whole point of fan fiction is one of shifting perspectives. Fiktivweltgesamtwerke connotes "authorized" to me in a way that makes this argument even sillier than it already is. But that's just me.

"Die Fiktivweltanschauung" (note female grammatical gender) includes "Weltanschauung", which is roughly "ideology", and probably not what you're aiming for.

Also, "Gesamtwerk" is singular unless you mean the complete works on several worlds.

#285 ::: Edmund Yeo ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:17 AM:

OMFG! It's Mercedes Lackey! Man, there are so many comments here that I can't even find my previous one that I posted few hours ago. Man, I'm going to spend another few hours reading through all these.

On the other hand, I had gotten into a pretty intense debate with a few published writers in this mailing list regarding fanfiction back in February, which, might interest you guys as well since we're still in this subject.

#286 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:18 AM:

It's important to note, by the way, that City of Heroes is protected from the sort of legal indemnity that was such a problem for MZB and that caused JMS to retire to a moderated newsgroup to prevent possible contamination: a click-through license when you play the game says that you agree to assign ownership of characters and properties you create in the game to NCSoft. Thus protected, NCSoft has authorized fanfic as long as it's not sold for profit. So City of Heroes fanfic is creator-kosher.

#287 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:19 AM:

Sorry. It's C.E. Petit, no "e".

I know there's an internet law that there will always be a typo in a post correcting spelling, but having it happen in someone's name...

(lurks back into lurkerdom)

#288 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:19 AM:

The ones I've heard describe the process talk about it much the same way any other fanfic writer does: a story popped into their head, so they had to write it out.

Teresa, it's wonderful when it's screaming to be let out, even if it's bad. Sitting in the back of the classroom, writing it down because If I didn't, it wouldn't shut up....

Rhandir: 'Ishmael' is one of my 'keepers'! (Half the fun was trying to identify the various other people wandering through.)

#289 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:27 AM:

Kristine Smith:Except that the broader view tends to obscure what to some pro writers are the primary issues, namely the possible detrimental impact that fanfic might have on their livelihood and the sense of intrusion/invasion that may be felt when one sees one's income-producing creation spun off in ways one never intended and may not be thrilled with.

On the first issue, it's certainly been proposed that this is possible. There may be anecdotal evidence that it's happened. There's been discussion of the related trademark law principle of dilution, but I'm not convinced you could show actual damages from fan fiction as practiced by the responsible creators of it (Lori Jaroe excluded, naturally). It's probably easier to quantify the financial damage an author could do to himself by being surly to fans in a convention hospitality suite.

On the second issue, you may have a sense of intrusion/invasion (as Ms. Brite did, at a remove). However, it is not the job of copyright law to protect you from bad feelings. Even if I sympathize with you, I don't know what you want us to do with regards to how you feel. I don't want to stifle someone else's creative urges to protect you from an unpleasant sensation, and I certainly don't want that precedent set in law.

#290 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:28 AM:

Speaking of the fears of authors about dilution of their work

In the webcomics industry* it is common to see a really close relationship between author and fans, with fanfiction and fanart being posted in the forums on the same site. The whole question of derivative works endangering ownership is generally not engaged.

There are some hard boundaries. Fred Gallagher (Megatokyo) has a real problem with hentai (pornographic) fan art, and has directly said that he'll stop the comic and move on to other projects if he comes across it.

I will quote bits of his more lengthy explanation here:

A fan community represents an extension of the lives of the characters in a story. For instance, Fanfiction, doujinshi and other fan-based works extend the lives of characters beyond the set bounds of a show or manga and not only exists as 'continuations' or 'paralell worlds' but is a rather remarkable recording of how these characters and the story has affected the readership.
For instance, it disturbs me to no end that Hoshino Ruri, a rather wonderful and droll character from Nadesico, who's deadpan cuteness knows no bounds, should be subject to the seemingly endless horror of brutal rapes, incest, sodomy and other horrific happenings (cripes, i dont think i've ever even seen a loving description of 'sex with ruri' - almost all are variations on some kind of pedophilistic rape) *I* refuse to accept it as something that i have no control over.
I don't have control over what fans do. If you must know, i encourage things like fanart, fan fiction, and even use of MT characters in people's own comic works. The only think that i ask is that you treat the characters with the same respect that you would treat real people. Why won't you see Kimiko naked? Because it would comprimise the character's integrity for the sake of a small moment of perverse release.
Trust me, nothing would make me feel more ill than to see my characters being abused. Also keep in mind that many of the characters are loosly represented by real people. If something happend that made me or my characters feel threatened, you would see things change here real quick.

For context's sake, it is important to know that Fred is as humble, kind, and self-effacing in person as in print. This is not the agressive posturing of an alpha-nerd.

Fanfiction as a record of how the characters and story has affected the readers. I like that.

-r.
*poor phrase, but it will have to do.

#291 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:35 AM:

They are my babies right up until the point where they leave my hands. Then they become something else, and that something else is different to everyone who reads them. I can't control that.

I like the way that publication of an album is referred to as "releasing" it. It seems to make this lack of control explicit.

#292 ::: Lurker 23 ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:38 AM:

...And then there's the recent trend in some anime fandoms (and perhaps some others; I haven't checked) to write fic that completely changes the basic setting and premises so that the only things retained are the character names, some of their personality traits, and whatever underlying relationships the author wants to emphasize.

This phenomenon exists in pretty much every fandom I've been even tangentially been a part of. It's usually called Alternate Universe (AU) or sometimes Alternate Reality (AR) fanfic. I think it started* with the Xena fandom around 97-98. The tv show did an episode The Xena Scrolls which featured the descendants of Xena and Gabrielle. The descendants, Melinda and Janice respectively, had the primary characteristics of the main characters reveresed. Mel was like Gabrielle and Janice was like Xena. This** inspired a whole bunch*** of AU fic where people wondered "What if Gabrielle was like this? And if Xena was like that?" And from there it spread to fandom far and wide.

*I seriously doubt if Xena was the first fandom to have AU stories, but I think it was the first where AU fic was such a huge part of fandom.

**It wasn't just that episode but nobody wants to hear all the details of the genesis of Xena AU fic.

***I could fill a book with just essays written about AU Xena fanfic.

#293 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:38 AM:

And how would most people feel if they were told that their family farm or business or house would--after 20 or 50 years--suddenly be taken from them and given to whatever squatters wanted them?

Maybe I missed it, or maybe everyone's taking it as obvious, but I haven't seen anyone make the obvious point here: that intellectual property is not like a business or farm because using it doesn't take it away from anyone else. If one person copy's another's idea, the first person still has it -- no squatters in sight. (If I had it on tap, this would be where I put that nifty Jefferson quote about borrowing ideas.)

Copyright is really less 'property' in any sense than it is a government-issued monopoly -- on speech and ideas no less. Now, I think there is a good rationale for it -- "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" as some document or other put it. But it's a rationale that needs to balanced against other interests -- including the interest of the public in a public domain.

#294 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:38 AM:

...and there will always be a gender error in any post suggesting alternate terminology from another language. Especially since I don't get much speaking practice with German, essentially being restricted these days to reading.

In any event, Weltanschauung means "perspective" as much as it means "ideology," and in the academic and legal German I've been reading usually leans toward the former. That's what I was striving for—something in between.

#295 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:41 AM:

I haven't seen anyone make the obvious point here: that intellectual property is not like a business or farm

yeah, up here.

#297 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:44 AM:

Stephen Frug at 1138 today invoked the "rivalrousness exception" that has been offered by some economists to explain why intangibles aren't really property. Leaving aside that this is hardly a completely accepted theory, it's a one-way definition. That is, one can say that some property displays rivalrousness, but not that a res (tangible or not) must have rivalrousness to be considered property. Consider, for example, electronic bank deposit records—a far clearer example of intellectual property.

Then, too, "rivalrousness" is not absolute in any event. For example, there's an easement for the power company to come and trim the power cables in my back yard, and the power poles are in my back yard. I'm allowed to anchor a clothesline to that power pole; I can't damage it. Similarly, the power company can't modify the power pole without explicit permission. Nonetheless, the power pole occupies the same space for both of us. That is nonrivalrous property. (Or, at least, semirivalrous property.)

This is actually a raging argument in intellectual property theory; nobody should rely upon it, and I could cite about a dozen law review articles on each of the several sides of the debate.

#298 ::: Heidi ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:51 AM:

I've missed a lot of the intreresting discussion, but I wanted to pop in to answer Wim L's question about why some argue that fanfiction isn't legal.

There are two ways in which fanfic is alleged to be illegal - under copyright law, and under trademark law.

Trademark law generally only applies where there's a series (Harry Potter, How Do Dinosaurs..., Spiderman, Spiderwick, Anne Rice's Vampires, etc.) or if there is merchandising related to the book. And a blend of common-law, state law and the Lanham Act (federal law) can create a trademark infringement situation if the unlicensed/unauthorized use is likely to be confused with the trademark owner's products. This is the sort of thing that bars bints from selling their Star Wars fanfic on Amazon. It is also possible to trademark a character - Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Captain Jack Sparrow - they're all trademarks of the corporations that own them (not the authors, in these particular cases, but sometimes the authors do own them) - but, say, Justin Finch-Fletchley or Millicent Bulstrode are probably not WB trademarks, or copyrighted characters, which leads to the second type of alleged illegality marker...

And that is copyright law. Sometimes, a fanfic writer will use a phrase from the source material (aka canon) but that is never copyright infringement, as you can't copyright a phrase.
However, you can copyright a character, although it's not easy, and really, copyrighting a literary character (ie not a filmed character) has only been clearly viable since 2004. The Gaiman/McFarlane cases make it clear that copyrighting a character is a complex trick of description and distinctiveness. So it's not that one is taking the words from another author's creation - it's that one is taking the copyrighted characters that created the allegation that it is an illegal act.

The thing is, it isn't necessarily illegal to write and distribute fanfiction. Of course, a parody fic is always acceptable - look a the published Barry Trotter book, or the Movies in 15 Minutes book by Cleolinda Jones. But even if it's not a parody, if a fanfic is primarily commentary on or criticism of the source material, then it would also fall under the definition of a noninfringing work. And, finally, fanfiction is not illegal if there is an implied contract between the copyright and trademark holder(s), and the fan-creators, which is what has happened in many, many fandoms at this point. Look at The L-Word - they had a fanfic-writing contest! And Cartoon Network is featuring fanart of characters from their shows that's been created by kids and teens. But even if the original author does not want any fanfic created of his or her work, there is no way to bar all of it, because of the parody and criticm exceptions - and there's a lot of fan creativity that can fit under those two banners!

#299 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:52 AM:

**It wasn't just that episode but nobody wants to hear all the details of the genesis of Xena AU fic.

If they do, they can read about it (and subgenres) here:
http://www.whoosh.org/uber/whatuber.html

#300 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 12:10 PM:

No discussion of fanfic would be complete without a reference, however arbitrary, to the guest-scripted Girl Genius short story Fan Fiction.

-r.
p.s. *sniff sniff* Nobody wants to talk about Fred Gallagher's take on fanfiction? Me sad. :(

#301 ::: Brian Ledford ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 12:16 PM:

Is there any way to separate derivative use and public domain? Because they feel like very different things. Writing a story that's set explicitly on Dragaera but doesn't involve any of the characters in the books or uses a morganti weapon can't be the same thing as selling electronic copies of the books without permission. Could you have some sort of staggered allowance? maybe after 5 years, specific unique objects can be used (light sabers, morganti blades, etc.), 10 years lets you use settings/institutions explicitly, 30 years lets you use characters, etc. As far as Buffy fanfic goes, for example, what does Joss Whedon own? Filling in the gaps in the character's history isn't allowed, but is the general concept of the watcher/slayer, into ever generation etc also his? If you wrote a story with Joan of Arc as a Slayer, with the appropriate historical personage as her watcher, are you in trouble? or do you only have problems if an otherwise unnamed dark haired man with an unconvincing Irish accent appears?

#302 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 12:33 PM:

Greg: right, missed that. Oops.

C. E. Petit: fair enough. Point taken.

#303 ::: Benja Fallenstein ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 12:39 PM:

Yes! Very pretty words! Lots of fun! :-)

rhandir, I didn't know the word "fictive." Cool. Multiple people learning pretty new words in multiple languages. :-)

If you like the children's stories connotation, Geschichtenwelt works, IMHO.

C.E., you have a good point about gesamtwerk. Werk sounds like something created by someone in particular -- for Gesamtwerk to include fanfic, you would have to imagine the author and fan community as a whole as the creators of this "work." In a way, it's simpler to mentally plug in the author / copyright holder as the creator, and have Fiktivwelt-Gesamtwerk mean the canon.

You're certainly right that Geschichte can mean different things depending on context. I suppose that in the right context, it would mean literary short story, for example -- or the fully general meaning, as in Teresa's "story is a force of nature," "Geschichten sind eine Naturgewalt". The example you give uses the "history" meaning of Geschichte, though, not the "story" meaning. (As you know, Bob, the two are homonyms in German. As usual with homonyms, there is indeed very little chance that one is mistaken for the other, given enough context.)

Naturgewalt. That's another very pretty word.

If anybody needs some genders for following this discussion, here are some: Die Geschichte, die Welt, das Werk, die Anschauung, die Arbeit, das Recht, die Entwicklung, die Natur, die Gewalt, die Perspektive, der Kommentar, das Blog, male, female, other, genderless, bigendered, trigendered, transgendered, intersexed and genderqueer. Hope this helps.

I agree with inge's points. To me, ideology is the default meaning of Weltanschauung. Using it to simply mean "perspective" works in a metaphorical context, I guess: depending on your world view, you might argue that fanfiction is not in violation of copyright (metaphorially using "world view" to mean "legal theory"). Want to dig up some quotations to pick apart?

The German Wikipedia article on Weltanschauung explains the non-metaphorical meaning in detail, if anybody's interested.

Be all this as it may: Fiktivweltanschauung is without a doubt another very pretty word!

But -- what it conveys to me is fictional world view / ideology. Or, if we've established the neologism "Fiktivwelt," it conveys a fictional world view or ideology in a fictional universe. At least that would be the default meaning to me...

---

So. Umh. What were we looking for, again?

A word for the entire body of works set in one geschichtenwelt / fiktivwelt, right?

Or was it, the geschichtenwelt/fiktivwelt considered as a work of art?

Aw, I don't have any good ideas now. I give up. This is fun, but I've been slinging enough words for now. :-)

- Benja

#304 ::: Will A ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 12:47 PM:

This is an oft-repeated quote in other posts, but worth repeating:

I have a kind of complicated relationship with my books. They are my babies right up until the point where they leave my hands. Then they become something else, and that something else is different to everyone who reads them. I can't control that. It's stupid to try.

Beckett once freaked out over a production of Endgame that futzed with his stage directions. The director, Robert Brustein, responded to this attempt at absolute control of artistic interpretation (even the sanctioned, and necessary, interpretation required by the medium of stagecraft):

''a purist rendering of this or any other play...not only robs collaborating artists of their interpretive freedom but threatens to turn the theater into a waxworks.''

Is every theatrical performance a species of fanfic? Dunno, but I'm not much of a fan of rigid taxonomy (and Darwin's whole thing is that differences between species, and differences within species, is just a matter of degree). What I do know is that every act of reading (& performing) is an interpretation. Are reading and writing different in kind, or in degree? Does writing = extremely active reading? Fanfic seems to be. Tolkien & Lewis complained that the kind of books they would like to read didn't exist, so they were obliged to make them.

PNH: thanks for setting the record straight on the joke, though I find it fun and fitting that it got crooked. Dirt everywhere.

#305 ::: Penny ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:12 PM:

Is every theatrical performance a species of fanfic?

Specifically, it has a lot in common with a fanfic genre called a "remix" - where one author will rewrite another fanauthor's story (usually with permission, since the fanfic community is small enough that it's fairly easy to obtain), either from a different character's perspective, or in a different narrative voice, or with some plot details changed, or whatever. It's an interesting comparison.

It's worth noting that as far as I can tell, most fanauthors don't feel that remixes of their stories are violating their vision or providing an alternative that might take precedence over their own story; they see it as a way to shed new light on the story, and take it as a compliment. (And the elements that are changed in a remix are usually details that originated with the first fanauthor, not those that come from canon - so I do think it's a somewhat valid comparison.)

#306 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:29 PM:

hp wrote:
I suspect that for a limited number of works,
especially those with strong commercial backing (Disney!)
never-ending copyright would mean that the works
would remain forever available, and forever commercial.

Actually, ownership of the work allows Disney to manipulate its availability.
Think of the infamous Disney Vault...

[ This links to a a Cartoon Brew posting
   about Robert Smigel's Journey to the Disney Vault.

   The post says: Disney got Oswald from NBC-Universal -
   now NBC gets revenge in this brilliant parody telecast last night on NBC's Saturday Night Live.
   Watch it now before Disney sues SNL, and NBC yanks it fron Youtube.

   Don't know if anyone got sued,
   but it is no longer available on Youtube.

   There is a more recent posting
   featuring a link to a 1998 piece by Smigel for SNL
   titled Conspiracy Theory Rock ( in the style of Schoolhouse Rock ).
   This only ran once on TV, but is available now. ]

There is a deliberate intent to manipulate availability
to create a collectibles market.

In a bit of a tangent to literature,
but still in the domain of characters,
I had been talking with the owner of a local comic book store
about how some action figure are sold.

For some of these, he cannot order specifically what he would want:
he has to order a quantity, and hope (given the odds)
that he will get specific characters.

In that case, he has assume the uncertainty,
but he can at least give his customers what they are looking for.

In other cases, such as with HeroCliks figures, what he has to sell are sealed boxes,
and the customer cannot know for certain what is in any one box.

I thought this was a strange economic transaction:
when I go to the supermarket to buy some product,
I have an expectation that packaging describes the product;
I don't have to buy a box which promises a 10% chance it will be cheese.

He offered collectible card packs as the classic example of this sort of marketing.
Again, you buy packs of cards, and hope (given the odds)
that you will find specific cards you're looking for.

It struck me that originally collectible cards were premiums sold with gum.
That is, you were buying gum, and the card was a bonus.
Now, you don't know what you're buying...

So if free market economics is our dominant religious belief,
why are these unsymmetric manipulations of markets allowed?

    . . .

Bringing it back (I think) to the fanfic thread, I've picked up a copy of a classic.
I'm trying to get started on: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.


#307 ::: Captain Slack ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:36 PM:

I like Tolkien's term "Secondary World", myself.

And Misty? (May I still call you that after all this time? Austin Loomis here, veteran of several Coastcons.) Is your fic on the CoH forums? And what server are you mainly on? (Due to an underpowered graphics card that can't handle large numbers of mobs, I've lately been concentrating on Baron Cimetie, my necro/dark MM on Victory.)

#308 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:38 PM:

[Trivial tangent: By an interesting coincidence (or not), I actually just two days ago found a Certain CoX RPG Group's Forums, and was like, "Wait, Mercedes Lackey? Really? Heh, cool."

So, apparently I share a hobby with an author whose books I own by the bucketful. Life is interesting that way.]

More topically: As far as fan-fic being written by third-rate authors go... sure, a lot of fanfic is poorly written. It's why I don't go randomly surfing for it and generally only read what I'm specifically pointed to by someone whose taste is similar to mine.

But there's a lot of poorly written blogs, too. Does that mean all bloggers are third-rate writers? Or does it just mean that a lot of people just aren't good (or polished) writers?

And, well, there's a lot of official tie-in novels written by people who aren't the creators of shows (for instance, see my personal library, which contains nearly every Buffy tie-in novel in existence). That's just fanfic that's been officially sanctioned and published.

#309 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:43 PM:

It's worth noting that as far as I can tell, most fanauthors don't feel that remixes of their stories are violating their vision or providing an alternative that might take precedence over their own story

A minor correction: most remixes are done as part of a yearly Remix challenge, and authors sign up to be remixed and to remix others' stories. Those that are done outside the scope of the Remix challenge are generally done with the agreement of the author of the original story.

Yes, I'm aware that the fan-to-fan relationship is different than the fan-to-creator relationship. There are reasons behind that, although not all of them stand up to close examination.

#310 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:48 PM:

Rob:

Actually, ownership of the work allows Disney to manipulate its availability. Think of the infamous Disney Vault...

Yeah, Disney is well-known for doing that. I didn't get off on that tangent because I don't think that Disney's ever let it get to the extreme I was thinking about: when a work is truly unavailable and at risk of remaining forever unavailable.

Disney could chose to do that with one of its works, but I don't think we're (culturally) at much risk of losing much Disney ;)

#311 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:50 PM:

I just did a search and found the Disney parody still available here:

http://www.transbuddha.com/mediaHolder.php?id=1706

It's wonderfully wicked.

#312 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:53 PM:

hp: I didn't get off on that tangent because I don't think that Disney's ever let it get to the extreme I was thinking about: when a work is truly unavailable and at risk of remaining forever unavailable.

You should look at some of the collections of censored cartoons that are out there. Lots of things are removed from distribution by copyright holders, including Disney. Disney may never create a DVD of Song of the South, for example.

#313 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:56 PM:

I was going to post something about the doujinshi/professional/fanish productions surrounding the Takeuchi/Togashi marriage, but the fact that I deleted it and gave up, deciding instead to point everyone at that link, helps prove TNH's point that parcelling creative product out as fanfic/original is kind of silly.

Instead, I'm just going to mention my hypothesis that the Copyright Term Extension will be harmful to Disney revenue in the short-to-medium term (I have no proof as yet, and need to do some math to even refine they hypothesis), as they find that their historically favorite (and most profitable, I believe) well of stories for animation is being limited.

#314 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:07 PM:

Silly query, Is there a fanfic for poetry or is this entirly a prose thing?

#315 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:14 PM:

Yes, there is fan poetry. Most of it is (very very) bad. The only person whose fan poetry I trust is Brighid E. Stone's; she mostly writes Stargate SG-1 slash, although she's got sundry other pieces as well (link to her fan writings on her header).

#316 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:16 PM:

Instead, I'm just going to mention my hypothesis that the Copyright Term Extension will be harmful to Disney revenue in the short-to-medium term (I have no proof as yet, and need to do some math to even refine they hypothesis), as they find that their historically favorite (and most profitable, I believe) well of stories for animation is being limited.

Is the cost of buying the rights to a book really that significant for Disney? I would have guessed that for most books it would represent a small fraction of the film's budget (wildly successful books would be the exception, but then the film has a better chance of being wildly successful as well).

#317 ::: heidi ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:18 PM:

Disney may never create a DVD of Song of the South, for example.

In the US, that is. They did release it a few years back in Japan, although I'm not sure it's still available.

I remember seeing it at one of those summer Saturday matinees when I was a kid, in the 70s. What a difference 25 years makes!

#318 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:19 PM:

I've seen poetry and songs written about anime characters posted on fanfic sites. Whether or not that makes it fanfic, I guess you could argue about, but I presume that if it uses existing fictional characters and/or settings and tells a story, you could consider it fanfic.

On the other hand, I wrote a piece of poetry about (but not mentioning by name) Londo Mollari, and I do not consider it fanfic. Mainly because it doesn't tell a story, so I don't consider it fiction. So, uh. *shrug*

(I think most people are talking about prose when they say 'fanfic', though. Even if you include poetry in the definition, broadly, I would expect most people aren't thinking about it.)

#319 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:26 PM:

I've seen (...somewhere, he said, searching his faulty memory...) a piece of what might be called Bush/Hussein slash.

Or maybe not. It was more like the beginning of a cheesy romance novel, with Bush in a little frock, blushing prettily at the suggestion that he might like to dance with the Iraqi dictator.

Certainly it contained no Saddamy. Dinosaur or otherwise.

The Xopher is implacable and pitiless.

#320 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:28 PM:

Cofax, I mean in the sense of someone takes a poem and rewrites it from a differnt perspective.
Fer example doing The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner from the albatross' point of view.
Or as the husband has suggested as funny: Ozymandias as slash.

#321 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:33 PM:

Of course, the basic purpose of the term "intellectual property" is to confuse the issue, to make it seem as if what we're talking about is property in the same sense that my shirt or your carton of eggs or the house-he-built-with-his-own-two-hands are property.

What we're actually talking about are chartered monopolies, but to use that kind of language tends to remind people that this stuff is contingent, that it's part of a transaction between creators and the rest of society which is supposed to go both ways. So naturally Disney and Microsoft prefer calling it "intellectual property."

#322 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:40 PM:

I'm an infrequent commenter here, simply because a lot of the discussion is fascinating, but the more in-depth comments tend to whing right over my head. I know what all the words mean separately... Anyway, if what I'm about to post has nothing to do with the current cant of the thread, I'm sorry.

As an unpublished writer, I'm constantly swinging back and forth between thinking, "hey, this is good, right?" And "Oh, crap, anyone could take this and make it better."
And there may be where some of the anxiety with fanfic comes in. My world, though incomplete, has boundaries and an arc in my head within which I intend to write a series of books, and the thought of someone "misinterpreting" it is discomforting. It's sort of like how you get pissed off when the guy on the cover looks nothing like he does in your mind, and even though you read the book, internally whine, "but that's WRONG!"

That said, my inherent duality as a writer and a Libra lead to also thinking Fanfic is a massive complement, whether I agree with their interpetation or not. In my opinion, really wonderful writing allows enough leeway for a reader to partially envision the story and setting in their own way, placing their own stamp on it so it's more personal, and that's beautiful. Does it hurt the original work--I don't thinks so. Can it lead to a plaintive "but that's MINE!"--sure.

On to Teresa's trunk of unpublished erotica, I have to admit I do a sort of Fanfic of my own characters when my creativity is in the toilet, or the story stalls and spirals out. I've stopped deleting it after I'm finished out of embarrassment (like I'm sneaking a piece of cake after I've already had a human-sized piece) because I lost a lot of really good ideas that way, and they never come back to me in quite the same form. A lot of of my writing starts out extremely explicit, then I go back in and start hacking, trying to decide what's gratuitous porn that does nothing for the story, and what a potential reader would appreciate me leaving in.

About the dumbass who put her fanfic on Amazon so it was easier for her friends and family to find, or whatever--for the love'a Gawd, just don't.

#323 ::: Shmuel ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:45 PM:

Cofax, I mean in the sense of someone takes a poem and rewrites it from a differnt perspective.
Fer example doing The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner from the albatross' point of view.
Or as the husband has suggested as funny: Ozymandias as slash.

Absolutely. There have, for example, been innumerable takeoffs on "Casey at the Bat," some about later games Casey was in, and at least one from the pitcher's perspective.

#324 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:47 PM:

Is there a fanfic for poetry

a plotbunny just ran through the room:


once upon a midnight dreary
while I pondered weak and weary
over the headless body that lay on the floor,
while I pondered, nearly napping,
suddenly there came a clapping
as lightning round my body wrapping
as it had done each time before.
"There can be only one," I muttered,
"As it says in the book of lore.
"Only one, and not a single more."

#325 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:50 PM:

Cofax, I mean in the sense of someone takes a poem and rewrites it from a differnt perspective.

I believe one would call that "filk". And yes, I've seen plenty of it, and it seems to have less derogatory connotations than fanfiction does.

#326 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:59 PM:

"Of course, the basic purpose of the term "intellectual property" is to confuse the issue"

Actually, if Wiki is at all correct, the term "intellectual property" predates industrialization, and the idea has been kicking around since the Talmud.

Alice

#327 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 03:02 PM:

Cofax, I think filk's social aceptance is due to it's longer history with the oral traditions and that it is usally satire/parody. Few make money or earn a living off filk unless you're Weird Al.
Filk is rooted in the bardic/music traditions not literature so the expectations are different.

#328 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 03:19 PM:

It's great to see that copyright law is now being increasingly debated in a civil manner over the internet. Too bad that "official" political parties don't really give a toss about it yet. Any Sonny Bono/Cliff Richards/OldMummyWithNoMoneyAndNoShame can still come up and dictate the law of the land. Pro-writers (and their lawyers) need not to worry.

#329 ::: Icarus ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 03:27 PM:

Fun stuff.

I know this is the historicist in me, but so many of these fanfiction stories are a conversation between different writers -- one person portrays Character A as a big meanie, the next responds with a more nuanced version -- that I'd love to see a chronology. When a book is published you have a clear date of publication, but with fanfic this gets a little blurry as stories are moved from site to vanishing site.

Also, the internet is so ephemeral that I'd like to see some of these stories collected by those active in each fandom, especially the earliest and more influential ones (and wow, deciding what's influential, wouldn't that cause a squabble?). Fanfiction's already fascinating and pings a lot of questions about the definition of literature, copyright, and who is a writer. We're going to regret it if we don't record and anthologize these now.

Icarus

#330 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 03:32 PM:

Cofax, rewriting a poem does not make it a filk.

However, if you did rewrite a poem and set it to music it *might* be a filk. That's rather dependent on the subject matter of said rewrite...

Lori Coulson
ConChair, Ohio Valley Filk Fest 22

#331 ::: Roundy ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 03:42 PM:

Xopher: The Bush/Hussein reference you're thinking of comes from Neil Gaiman's musing on the phrase "Hussein is not disarming."
Alas, no sodomy. Or dinosaurs.

#332 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 03:48 PM:

Because agreeing on the meaning of words in a debate is important.
Filk is a young word isn't it? But does it represents the very old habit of filching(borrow, swipe, steal) in the bardic traditions?
I have an urge to rename fanfic prosefilk because I feel it represents it better.

#333 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 03:59 PM:

When did people start calling Wikipedia just plain "Wiki"?

AliceB, that Wikipedia entry says the phrase "intellectual property" was coined in 1845. How does that predate industrialization?

#334 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:01 PM:

The word "filk" actually comes from an unnoticed typo of "folk" on a con schedule some time ago (the "o" and "i" being right next to each other on the keyboard and all); it doesn't say anything about "filching" at all. As such, "filk" really isn't all that different from "folk" music, it's just a bit of a more focussed subgenre of it. It can refer to parodies, to writing original songs based on books (such as the Honor Harrington filk that appeared on Baen's first freebie CD), or simply to singing music "straight" that was featured in a book (like the Pern series). And I have no doubt that the folk singers were doing parodies and satires, and writing songs based on stories, well before they adopted the "filk" name for the subgenre.

Let's not forget that at least two of Lewis Carroll's most famous poems, "How Doth the Little Crocodile" and "You Are Old, Father Williams," were actually parodies of treacly poems that rather annoyed Carroll...

#335 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:04 PM:

Avram: I believe she's referring to the part of the article that says,

The first codification of intellectual property can be traced to the Jewish laws codified in the Talmud, which declared a prohibition against "Gnevat ha daat", literally the theft of ideas. The type of ideas subject to theft and further explanation may be found in the Shulkhan Arukh. Both texts precede the Statute of Anne by a few hundred years.
#336 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:04 PM:

AliceB writes: "Actually, if Wiki is at all correct, the term "intellectual property" predates industrialization, and the idea has been kicking around since the Talmud."

I clicked through to the link, and the article I read states that "The earliest use of the term appears to be from an October, 1845 Massachusetts Circuit Court ruling in the patent case Davoll et al. v. Brown" and that "The use of the term to describe these statutorily granted rights has increased markedly in recent times, though it was rarely used without scare quotes until about the time of the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980". Nothing about the term "predating industralization"; quite the contrary, this article backs up my sense that only in the last couple of decades has the term been in common use.

#337 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:06 PM:

Teresa said:

Prudence might dictate that authors never read fanfic based on their own work, but if you knew people were doing that, could you resist having a look?

Heh. Exactly.

I've heard actors/directors claim that they never read reviews of their stuff, and I've always assumed they were lying through their teeth, most of them. How can you go through all you have to go through to put a creative work in front of people, and then not care (or at least be curious) about what anyone thinks of it? The mind, it boggles.

Slightly tangentially, one of the most amusing fan-pro interactions ever, in my opinon, was how Cassie Claire's Very Secret Diaries managed to find their way into the hands of most (if not all) of the LOTR actors in the Fellowship. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when/if Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellan read those...

#338 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:09 PM:

Robotech_Master, your explanation to Avram makes no sense. Avram isn't challenging the idea that the Talmud says people should have something like "ownership" in ideas that they originate. He's challenging AliceB's specific assertion about a particular phrase.

I happen to think that people should have something like "ownership" in ideas that they originate. I'm also critical of the phrase "intellectual property," because I think it conceals as many issues of justice as it reveals.

#339 ::: HP (capitalized, not lowercase) ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:18 PM:

Greg, you've inspired me:

The Moody Old Drug Addict
by A. Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I fluttered, weak and weary,
Over many a grub and larva I had thought to store,
While I flitted, barely flapping, suddenly I saw a shimmer,
Like the moonlight, only dimmer, gleaming near my insect store.
" 'Tis some shiny thing," I muttered, "gleaming near my insect store;
To make my nest less of a bore."

#340 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:22 PM:

One particular flaw in the idea of "intellectual property" is that the various types of law that are grouped under that umbrella -- copyright, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, and a few lesser fields like the right to publicity and identity -- are very, very different creatures. So, even aside from the troublesome metaphor collision that comes with the use of the word "property," it still has severe coherence problems.

Just for example, you still infringe a patent even if you invented the idea entirely by yourself having never seen the original invention. But if you take a cool idea from a book and right about it differently, you (probably) haven't infringed the copyright.

#341 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:29 PM:

Avram: I was going to point out that 'wiki' has been a term since before Wikipedia, but that doesn't really answer your question, since, well, just saying 'wiki' doesn't say which wiki. So, uh. Good question!

Patrick: I don't like the phrase "intellectual property" because I'm torn between the concept that you can't own an idea at all (though you can own an expression of it) and the concept that an idea, once had, can't be stolen (though it can be replicated), barring, you know, brain damage. 'Property' seems to be a rather odd term for it given those things.

Also, the term has always struck me as snooty, but I expect that's just my personal feelings about the way the word 'intellectual' is often used.

Unfortunately, I don't really have a better term for it handy, other than "my idea", which suits me but not everyone.

#342 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:29 PM:

As I said, it's a hypothesis. I may be entirely wrong, but I suspect that the value of the rights to Steamboat Willie retained over the extended period, as distinguished from the rights and the value of the control otherwise retainable by Trademark law, might be less than the cost increase in source material due to works no longer being public domain or longer/larger royalty agreements for works used while still proprietary.

#343 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:35 PM:

Crap, the plotbunnies are multiplying... Ack!


No man is an original, intire of itself. Every man is a piece of the Prior, a part of the public domain. If a blog be washed away by the (C), the internet is the less, as well as if a proprietary were, as well as of a work of thy friends or thine own were: Every man's derivative contributes to me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know on whom the eternal copyright tolls, it tolls for thee.


with sincere prostrate apologies to John Donne....

#344 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:40 PM:

Thank you Robotech-Master. The point I was trying to make was that the idea of intellectual property is an old one. However I was wrong in stating that the terms "intellectual property" predate industrialization--my bad, they seem to have arisen amidst it. I apologize. However my point remains: the concept of ownership of ideas has been kicking around well before Disney, in fact before industrialization, and I don't think it's right to ascribe the words "intellectual property" to some sort of plot by big corporations. It trivializes ideas that aren't new.

[As an aside, the concept of what "property" is has varied a great deal both over time and between cultures. Once upon a time, in some parts of of the world, all property was owned by the crown. People were assigned rights to use areas of property, but under certain conditions. To put it in Patrick' words, they were given chartered monopolies which were contingent.]

#345 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:42 PM:

Roundy: That's it! Thanks.

T.W.: Robotech_Master has explained the typographical etymology of the word 'filk'. But a word's etymology is not its meaning (see rants about 'gafiate' and 'gourmet' elsewhere); these days the word appears to refer to songs about fannish or stfnal topics, set to well-known tunes. The lyrics are generally original, and the term especially applies when the lyrics parallel or even parody the original lyrics.

Of course, like all such terms it's squishy around the edges, and a 'filksing' could contain the Tolkien words to "Elbereth Gilthoniel" sung to the tune of "Lovely Joan" (not original words or terribly well-known tune), the song "The Amazon" (which while amusing to fans is quite old, with both original words and original music), someone singing "Mack the Knife" to the tune of "Clementine," and even a wholly original song or two about some novel or movie that had no songs.

Purists will grumble, and try to exclude some or all of those from the sacred category of filk. But I'd rather enjoy the whole squishy mess than cut myself up on the edge cases. Therefore I beat my inner purist into submission with the Delany-Nielsen Hayden Anti-Definition Stick.

#346 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:43 PM:

Anyone else ever read your own post and picture Fleegman from GalaxyQuest saying "Oh that's not riight!"

#347 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:48 PM:

Xopher wrote: But a word's etymology is not its meaning (see rants about 'gafiate' and 'gourmet' elsewhere)

I realize it's a tangent, but I'd be interested in reading those rants, if you've got readily available links.

And too bad that the online OED's free week expired a few days ago, so we can't look up the earliest citations for "intellectual property"...

#348 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:54 PM:

the concept of ownership of ideas has been kicking around well before Disney, in fact before industrialization, and I don't think it's right to ascribe the words "intellectual property" to some sort of plot by big corporations. It trivializes ideas that aren't new

But corporations and their influence have vastly changed the term of "ownership." From a term of 14 years for copyright, to a term of 28/renewable+28 (mid-century), to a term of life+50 (1970s) to a term of life+90 (1998).

#349 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:56 PM:

term of life+90 (1998).

Oops, that should be life+70, right?

#350 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 04:59 PM:

Xopher, I'm someone who does the song House Carpenter to Gilligan's Island tune. At first by accident but then the earworm got stuck ....
In the SCA song book filk chapter the illustration is very appropriate. A drawing of a donkey looking in a mirror and seeing a unicorn.

#351 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 05:20 PM:

hp, I agree corporations have abused intellectual proprety rights. I don't like what's happened to copyright or trademark. But vilifying words doesn't help keep things clear.

#352 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 05:27 PM:

hp, I believe it's actually life+75, with Disney and friends pushing to stretch that limit again, one way or another. Once post-mortem "virtual" copyright is set for a couple of generations, nobody will remember that things used to be different, and the concept of "eternal" copyright will pass easily.

Speculation abunds on how a company could sue the first person to reuse work on which copyright has just expired, go to court with a "reasonable" judge, and get some sort of compromise for which the company maintains at least a slice of the pie. This could even be done by the family of some smallish author, that would "kindly" be assisted by interested parties, and it would quietly set a precedent. After all, laws have to be interpreted...

#353 ::: Patrick Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 05:52 PM:

Giacomo:
Its life + 70 for the term of copyright for a work created by an individual author.

17 U.S.C. Sec. 302:
(a) In General. — Copyright in a work created on or after January 1, 1978, subsists from its creation and, except as provided by the following subsections, endures for a term consisting of the life of the author and 70 years after the author's death.

The statutes can be found at:
http://www.copyright.gov/title17/

#354 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 06:00 PM:

The earliest use of which I'm aware of the term "intellectual property" is in the debates over renewal of the Charter of the Company of Stationers in 1692-94, which is definitely "preindustrial." Some evidence indicates that John Locke actually wrote some of those speeches for at least two MPs; and that would be consistent with the second Treatise, but that's a long and involved argument itself.

#355 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 06:01 PM:

Robotech_Master: The first appearance of the word 'filk' was in a fanzine in the 1950's not in a con schedule. I believe the article was written by Karen Anderson.

TW: It has nothing to do with 'filching' and lots to do with folk.

Please people, writing parodies is only one way to create a filksong. Most of the material performed today is -original-, as most filkers don't have deep enough pockets to withstand being sued...

#356 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 06:03 PM:

But vilifying words doesn't help keep things clear.

No one is villifying words. Some folk are villifying the Government Enforced Author Welfare system that our current copyright system has become. When Walt Disney made SteamBoat Willie, he was promised a 28+28 year copyright term. When that term was about to expire ~1980, Disney Corporation paid a lot of politicians a lot of money to extend copyright terms to 70 years. And then they paid them a lot of money again when SteamBoat Willie was about to go Public Domain in 1998.

They got paid their due in 1980. Now all they're doing is using the Government to Fix Prices to turn copyright into a consumer paid Welfare System.

Walt agreed to make the movie for a 28+28 year term, but when that was about to expire, his corporation whined "That's not enough time! Look at us poor beggars! We're practically in the poor house! We need longer copyright terms or we'll starve! Think of the children! Waa!"

And bribing politicians to pass laws that are against what's in the best interest of the Public Good is pure villany. It seems to be more and more rampant, but it's still wrong.

#357 ::: otherdeb ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 06:50 PM:

"Fanfiction presents a special problem: trufans produce it, because they love the world-work so much, but at the same time they are multiplying the possible ways of understanding it."

Thank you, rhandir.

#358 ::: otherdeb ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 06:57 PM:

From OG:

"Lenora Rose:

What I always end up wondering is *why* they end up reading fanfic for something whose original they haven't sampled?

Someone recommends it and gushes over it. Or they come to a smallish multi-fandom archive for one set of stories and then explore that archive's other offerings. Or they're asked to beta."

Yes, and that can expand the fandoms one joins. I had been asked to beta a friend's Sentinel fanfic, and got so into what she was writing (she happens to be a very good writer) that I went and watched every episode of the series I could get my hands on from friends or the video stores in the area. And, I know I am not the only fan to whom this has happened.

#359 ::: otherdeb ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 07:10 PM:

From dotsomething:

"What *really* I don't understand is how a society that shells out money for movie remakes (King Kong, Poseidon, Ocean's 11) doesn't understand why fanfiction is all just part of the story reading/telling/absorbing process?"

I would take that one step further, and note that most folks who go to see Broadway musicals are, in essence, paying to see fanfic. Two examples: is a retelling of Pygmalion; Fiddler on the Roof is an amalgam of Sholom Aleichem's Tevye stories.

#360 ::: zvi ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 07:25 PM:

rhandir said:
I think there's a subtle shift in emphasis here. The motivation to write the fanfic might be "what if these guys were on another planet", but the story needs to have a life of its own that doesn't depend on these guys getting all their emotional weight from some other story that you already have to love.

But you denigrate one of the pleasures of fanfiction. It is precisely because the story cannot be read in isolation, because the character's most obvious personal characteristics are not reiterated, because you have to be a member of the club in order to follow the story that a large number of people like to read fanfiction.

And it's not easy to do this such that a large number of people will buy into your interpretation. It is a completely different set of skills than worldbuilding, but it is not unskilled work.

And I have to say, I don't enjoy original fiction where the characters are generic and the author puts no thought into making their cranky detective a particular person, and not just the distillation of a bunch of film noir. Equally, I dislike fanfiction which fails to write a story about Nero Wolfe, specifically, as opposed to some grumpy fat guy who solves mysteries.

AliceB said
Once this book is published, the author has no control over how people read it or understand it--that's between the reader and the book. However the author retains the way in which the characters, world and plot are presented: s/he wrote them, and the presentation s/he gave is the one that exists.

Fanfic changes this. Now new authorial voices chime in with the same characters/world/and/or/plot. The presentation is not the one the author devised. I can see how someone wouldn't want that to happen, especially if it's widely distributed.

I'm sorry, but what I'm hearing you (and some others say) is that fanfic makes you think differently about the original work, and that is problematic.

I refuse to accept that putting into the world something which causes thinking (unless it is thinking of, "I'm going to get up off this couch and immediately do harm to another human being") is bad.

I also do not see how my fanfic story has altered one word of the author's original story. It may have made one read the author's original story differently, but any thing can do that. I once saw an extremely well-reviewed performance of Hamlet by a theater company I like a lot with a very good actor in the lead to which I had no emotional or intellectual response except irritation, because I was in the mood for a tale of decisive action. I didn't like Pride & Prejudice because I'd read category romances for over five years by the time I was assigned to read it in college. The author's control over the reader's experience is...illusory at best.

I also find it...amusing that your complaint presupposes fanfic of a written work. Most fanfic coming from mediafandom (by which I mean that subculture descended from Star Trek appreciators of the sixties, which has repeatedly cross pollinated with science-fiction fandom and comics fandom) is based on television shows or movies. Your arguments about style are entirely irrelevant there, since I can't make, for instance, David Duchovny appear magically on your computer screen as Fox Mulder. (Assuming that, for the purposes of discussion, fanvids and fanfiction are separate entities.)

#361 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 07:43 PM:

Since I've been handed the black hat. . .

"Some folk are villifying the Government Enforced Author Welfare system that our current copyright system has become..."

...because, as you can see, authors are just rolling in dough...

#362 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:02 PM:

Of course, the basic purpose of the term "intellectual property" is to confuse the issue, to make it seem as if what we're talking about is property in the same sense that my shirt or your carton of eggs or the house-he-built-with-his-own-two-hands are property.

What we're actually talking about are chartered monopolies, but to use that kind of language tends to remind people that this stuff is contingent, that it's part of a transaction between creators and the rest of society which is supposed to go both ways. So naturally Disney and Microsoft prefer calling it "intellectual property."

I read that as saying that there is a purpose to using a descriptive set of terms ("intellectual property"), and that purpose is to confuse us.

I hear those same set of words and understand it as a large body of law that has been described by a useful catch phrase that, although imperfect, is much less obnoxious than, say, "environmental defense", which refers to someone defending polluters. But even "environmental defense", obnoxious as it is, is a catch phrase. And it's easier to discuss how someone is abusing environmental defense, with specifics, and understand what I'm talking about than creating a whole new language that requires thinking things three times over to make sure I understood what's being said. And if I am to advocate against some environmental defense tactics, it's especially useful for me to use the term of art, because that's the term whoever is going to make decisions about it understands.

#363 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:18 PM:

`"Some folk are villifying the Government Enforced Author Welfare system that our current copyright system has become..."

...because, as you can see, authors are just rolling in dough...'

As are most welfare recipients...

#364 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:23 PM:

Fair enough, AliceB.

I'm reasonably aware that most authors aren't "rolling in the dough." And it's overstating things to characterize all uses of the term "intellectual property" as intentionally deceitful.

What I keep wanting to come back to is the fact that this state-enforced monopoly is supposed to be a bargain, between the monopoly's beneficiaries and everyone else. Obligations are supposed to run both ways; it's not supposed to be a license to collect rent until the end of time. I think most people in this thread, even the defenders of contemporary copyright practice, do in fact understand this. I think a lot of people in the larger world don't, and I think the phrase "intellectual property" helps enforce that misunderstanding.

#365 ::: Mercedes Lackey ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:23 PM:

OK. Skip this if you don't give a hoot about one silly pro-author's gaming/fanfic.

Captain Slack ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 01:36 PM:

I like Tolkien's term "Secondary World", myself.

And Misty? (May I still call you that after all this time? Austin Loomis here, veteran of several Coastcons.) Is your fic on the CoH forums? And what server are you mainly on? (Due to an underpowered graphics card that can't handle large numbers of mobs, I've lately been concentrating on Baron Cimetie, my necro/dark MM on Victory.)

Yep, call me Misty. Call me Ishmael. Actually, don't call me Ishmael, I don't want to encounter any more White Whales than I have to.

Um er....bearing in mind that the stuff is rough rough draft quality, and that there is a LOT of RP that went on between the published story bits that might make the stuff a bit confusing...and that bits also got cross-posted into other peoples' story arcs....

www.rpcongress.com and www.cccpgroup.us

Everything got posted at rpcongress under VictoriaVictrix. At www.cccpgroup.us, it went under the specific character.

characters in question: Belladonna Aura, Victoria Victrix, Althea Nagy, Seraphic Flame, Astra Kyne Murdock, and snarky asides from Waitron9000

Mostly I'm on Pinnacle and Virtue, mostly on Pinnacle, where my 50 (Bella) is. (For the uninitiated but mildly curious a "50" is a 50th level character, the highest you can currently go in the game).

#366 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:27 PM:

"I also find it...amusing that your complaint presupposes fanfic of a written work. Most fanfic coming from mediafandom (by which I mean that subculture descended from Star Trek appreciators of the sixties, which has repeatedly cross pollinated with science-fiction fandom and comics fandom) is based on television shows or movies. Your arguments about style are entirely irrelevant there, since I can't make, for instance, David Duchovny appear magically on your computer screen as Fox Mulder. (Assuming that, for the purposes of discussion, fanvids and fanfiction are separate entities.)"

Actually, I realize that a large segment of fanfic is from tv and movies. But, I think you had better grant me that it's also from books (e.g. Harry Potter, works by Mercedes Lackey, Jane Yolen, and many others). My comments refer to the written works because that's the only fanfic I've ever read (and very, very little of it).

In regards to the written work, where there is (usually)only one author and no visuals, and the words written are kind of... crucial for world building, effect, general appreciation of the resulting work, then copyright protects the actual words. An author cannot stop bad reviews, other immitations, even better works, word of mouth, angry fans, or anything else that put what s/he has done in a bad light. Except, however, copyright provides that if someone starts copying the work s/he's done, then yes, s/he can put a stop to it. The reason for doing it is, truthfully, irrelevant--greed, an inflated sense of self-worth, being a super control freak, the fear that the words will be ruined, whatever. I will not stop arguing that there is no entitlement to use someone else's words while those words are under copyright. No matter how laudable that use is. Whether it is wise for an author to stop the other works is an entirely different discussion--there has been a lot said here that makes me think it may in fact be a good thing to have a healthy fanfic community. But if an author choses to be unwise, so be it. That's the way copyright works.

#367 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:34 PM:

Patrick, y'know, until someone handed me this stupid black hat, I agreed with you and Teresa.

[Takes off the hat.]

Pax.

#368 ::: otherdeb ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:45 PM:

Grumble. My prior comment should have read, "I would take that one step further, and note that most folks who go to see Broadway musicals are, in essence, paying to see fanfic. Two examples: My Fair Lady is a retelling of Pygmalion; Fiddler on the Roof is an amalgam of Sholom Aleichem's Tevye stories.

#369 ::: Mercedes Lackey ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:45 PM:

In re the ongoing discussion:

The quotation "Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins" has been attributed to Heinlein, Stallhman and Oliver Wendell Holmes, but regardless of who said it, it really does apply here. Now, that metaphor can extend to hurt feelings of having been "swung at" as well as the very real hurt of having a broken nose...my personal take is that hurt feelings over having had one's world and characters "used and/or abused" is a waste of time and energy. But that is my personal take, and hurt feelings are very real concerns to other people; if it violates their sense of self and self-worth, then it's fundamentally the same as a broken nose to them.

So...really, it's kind of up to the individual to decide. And also later to change his or her mind.

Come waltzing into my house, grab my stuff and make yourself at home--for instance, by creating, licensing and selling "City of Valdemar" MMORPG, thus helping yourself to all my hard work and giving me not one thin dime for it...then we are talking lawyers at 50 paces.

#370 ::: Diana ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 08:49 PM:

Most fanfic coming from mediafandom

See this point is something most pro writers should recognize: unless you are JKR, the issue of fanfic is almost entirely academic. Most of the characters and universes that have captured the imaginations of people are from current movies and TV shows. A century ago, the little fanfic there existed was of Sherlock Holmes (which I have read, in professionally published books, as the copyrights have long since lapsed) and Jane Austen. Nowadays, it's Buffy, The X-Files, Star Wars, Star Trek, Superman/Smallville.

And here I will go even farther, that the industry that has created these works, Hollywood, is far more understanding of fanfic and less protective of its characters than pro writers because in many ways, it's a colony of fanficcers. They work in a manner closer to fanfic than of pro-fiction; a lot of movies and TV shows are of derivative material, and media work is intensely collaborative. Even a writer/director such as Woody Allen needs a DP, make-up people, location scouts, producers, etc. The act of creativity is never solitary. Or entirely original. Francis Ford Coppola made one of the greatest movies perhaps ever made in this country, based on a script he co-wrote with Mario Puzo, the original author of the potboiler novel. I've skimmed the novel, and it has very few of the pleasures or power of The Godfather movies. And while I think of Coppola as the primary "auteur" of his movies, what would they be without Gordon Willis (his cinematographer), or Brando, Al Pacino, De Niro? This is a case that can be made even moreso with TV shows. Joss Whedon wrote or co-wrote ONLY 20+ episodes of the entire 140+ run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Of course he can understand the position of ficcers -- he employs a writing room full of people doing the same under his direction.

And if you think literate copyright is stringent, you should be so wary of media copyrights, most of will probably be everlasting. And most media corporations are willing to look the other way about fanfic, and not b/c they're so understanding or kind. The websites that DO get habitually shut down are sites which host video clips or images. Just recently, NBC lawyers asked youtube.com to take down clips from SNL. And there used to be a site which hosted every single script from Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- not transcripts, mind, but the shooting scripts which got shut down as well. Most of the protective impulses of media corporations are focused on people pirating their product (downloading or buying knock-off DVDs) and rightly see fanfic as a basically harmless fan-activity that acts as free advertising. They also recognize the stupidity of needlessly pissing off some of their most ardent fans. If Warner Brothers or NBC or Paramount thinks fanfic is basically commercially harmless, then it really is, b/c those corporations don't mess around.

As for my own personal take: I'm a reader of fanfic, and what I get from it is something I don't get from original fic, namely slash. Now see, I can't get that from published lit: homoerotic and romantic fiction with varying degrees of detailed eroticism. In the pro world, every act of creativity is mediated by corporations and businessmen. They decide what can reasonably me expected to make a profit and make the ultimate decision about what can and cannot be published/released. And while I love the media corporations for the sheer amount they've done to make art and entertainment commercially available, I also love that the world of fanfic is free of corporate approval or meddling. In the world of fandom, a story gets written because person A conceives of it -- she writes it, shares it with her friends, gets it "betaed", i.e. edited for content and form, does another draft, it gets posted the next day, and receives comments from the wider community. That direct sort of reader/writer communication is impossible in the commercial world, and better yet, she can write whatever she pleases, even if it's from an out-of-the-way fandom, even if what she writes is deeply disturbing and outre, even if she herself knows that very few people will want to read it. There is no commercial censorship, and to keep it that way, I don't think the world of fanfic is looking for recognition or approval from the legit media world. It operates in murky legal waters and I like it that way.

Except, however, copyright provides that if someone starts copying the work s/he's done, then yes, s/he can put a stop to it

True. Much as Anne Rice did, back in the day. Sic'ed her lawyers on fanfic writers, who obeyed the cease and desist, and the fandom has been dead ever since. I think this reality goes hand-in-hand with the joys and rights of operating on the edge of legitimacy, and most fanficcers are OK with it. Why? Because the overwhelming majority are writing in media fandoms where the creators are far less... delicate about their creations, and there's a long history of freedom, back to the days of Star Trek fanzines. There has not been, to my knowledge, any media fandom that got shut down by either corporate or creator displeasure. We don't need legal protection; the transgressive present reality of how we operate now works for us.

#371 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:00 PM:

That was a deep draught of the real! Thank you, Diana.

#372 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:12 PM:

The author's control over the reader's experience is...illusory at best.

Just thought that bore repeating.

Of course adapted and derived works affect the way you engage with the original. It's hard to see Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead (a fanfic on two levels, as it uses characters from Shakespeare to reimagine Waiting for Godot) without thinking, the next time you see Hamlet, "Ah, they're off to play Questions now, even if we don't see it."

What I don't see is why that would make the existence of R&GaD in any way regrettable; I suppose YMMV.

Of course, if the goal is to eliminate anything that might affect the way the audience approaches an original work, a good place to start would be to do away with the entire field of criticism altogether. It's a harsh move, but you can't make an omelette....

#373 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:15 PM:

Gaming curiosity-Is a level 50 character still, well, fun? My husband is an ex-DM, and he says he used to reset his characters after a while because they became indestructable and pretty much able to stop Armageddon over breakfast without even setting down their English muffin.

#374 ::: Mercedes Lackey ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:25 PM:

Yep. I have great fun with Bella. First of all, there's the RP and the fiction. One of my prose co-conspirators and I just wrecked the zone known as King's Row. Oh, we didn't, the bad guys did it but...you know how it is. Secondly there's still stuff at the 50 level I haven't done. And thirdly. there's a very nice feature that allows you to reset a character to match the level of the people you're playing with, limiting you again to what you had at that level. I do that a lot too, as do most of the people with 50s that I know.

#375 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:34 PM:

Melissa: Also, after several recent rounds of nerfs (decreases in power effectiveness), even once-invincible characters are now rather more on the vincible side. My 50 Fire/Fire Tanker is no longer the uber-powerlevel-bot that she once was, sob sob.

I have three level 50 heroes (and two level 40 villains), and one of the fun things about having them is that you can do pretty much anything you want to without having to worry about dying—after all, you're level 50, debt just means more progress toward the next debt badge.

#376 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:37 PM:

Media fandom has been impacted by creator interaction with fen in terms of their giving out of cease and desist letters, actors not being comfortable with material being written about their characters, etc.

The biggest example of corporate interference in a fan fiction community is the Star Wars one. The corporate people at Lucasfilms. (And because I'm feeling some what lazy... rather than retyping, large chunks of what is below are from my personal fan fiction history wiki...) They managed to severely stifle their fandom repeatedly.

By 1981, the Star Wars m/m situation got to the point where Lucasfilms Ltd. felt they needed to act to protect their interests. The community was primed and this year would be the one remembered. In May, Guardian #3 was published. This fanzine contained two version of a story called “A Slow Boat to Bespin.” One story was by A. E. Zeek. The other story was by B. Wenk. While both of these stories featured heterosexual pairings, Zeek’s story contained material that would, in today’s society, likely garner an R rating. This story was the reason that the publishers of Guardian #3 likely received a cease and desist letter from Maureen Garrett, the first president of the Star Wars fan club. Several other zines during the same period, including ones that had published slashed, received similar cease and desist notices. In response to the demand for clarity on what was acceptable to publish and not publish, Maureen Garrett promised guidelines. None came until October. When they came, they were not viewed as being particularly helpful. The guidelines were nothing more than a statement saying Lucasfilms Ltd. would not tolerate pornography, vulgar material, and material that was excessively violent or gory. (Langley) The net effect of this incident was that it shut down almost all production of slash in the Star Wars community. This created an increase of people from other communities where m/m and f/f was more prevalent but who did not like this material joining the community. Fen who did not leave or who were active in both also began campaigns around this time, trying to convince the powers that be in their fannish communities to crack down on m/m and f/f, like Lucasfilms Ltd. had done.

This attitude of hostility towards adult material and fan control over fan works led into the 1990s, with the official Star Wars site trying to lay copyright claim to all fan creations uploaded to their StarWars.Com fan site. The community also generally balked at adult and slash material. The major exception to this was the Masters and Apprentice list. Fan fiction sites, like TheForce.Net generally continue to be leery of adult fan fiction and slash even now.

Around the time that Lucasfilms was cracking down on adult material, some fen were leaving Luke/Jan stories on Mark Hamill's property and his kids stumbled upon it. Hamill did not react favorably. This probably did not help put the fannish material in any better light from the perspective of the professionals.

One of the other examples of a media fandom being basically shut down was Babylon 5 and jms. He cited the Marion Zimmer Bradley incident as one of the reasons for his keep the material out of his view, away from him, so he could not accidentally stumble upon it. There were enough fen in the fandom back during the show's initial run that were connected to him or other stars on the show that they were basically able to enforce this fan fiction is under ground thing. And it stuck with it. This did not shut down the fannish activity but it shut down or hid most of the fic. (This hide the fan fiction issue was coupled by the CDA which was also helping to keep adult material out of public spaces on the Internet during that period.)

Other corporate interaction in a negative light for fan fiction writers includes the following examples:

The Highlander was not one to escape threats of legal action. In 1996, a Highlander fanzine recieved cease and desist letter. (Farmer, V. (1996, October 30). Having my say. Message posted to alt.tv.highlander)


Anne McCaffrey had been aware, based on interviews, of fan fiction since 1985. As fan fiction moved on-line, she, in consultation with lawyers, created a licensing policy for people who wished to write fan fiction in her universe. On her official site, this policy was explained as one required because of contracts related to Anne McCaffrey's books having been turned into video games. Given all this, it does not come as a surprise that in 1997, a Dragons of Pern fan fiction site recieved a cease and desist letter from McCaffrey's legal representatives.

On November 23, 2003, Duck's Fan Fiction Archive, a Buffy: the Vampire Slayer fan fiction archive, recieved a cease and desist letter. (http://www.denialbubble.com/ducksfanfic/new.html) There was some controversy regarding this as the show's creator had been an avid supporter of fan related activity in his fandoms.

The Caroline in the City fan fiction community, though small, was not spared from recieving legal threats. One fan fiction site recieved a cease and desist letter from CBS in 2004. (Chilling Effects) That same year, sg1archive.com, a Stargate fan fiction archive, received a cease and desist letter.

William Shatner considered going after slash fic but was talked out of it by his lawyer during the 1970s.

A nephew of Allison Janey was upset by characterizations of the character Janey portrayed on West West as gay and kerfluffled over that.

The Lord of the Rings fandom of that era also had issues in trying to decide if it should follow tradition of pastiche or following the science fiction fandom's zine traditions. The early community was also stymied by J.R.R. Tolkien's ambivilence towards fan fiction. An early example of this attitude dates to 1966 when a young writer named Joy Hill sent a note to J.R.R. Tolkien asking if the writer can have permission to write stories using the names of characters from Lord of the Rings and write a sequel. J.R.R. Tolkien responded that he would forward the request on to his lawyers but, basically, it was not going to happen. (http://www.khazaddum.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-1866-p-2.html)

There are probably more examples that aren't fan favorable in terms of media (as opposed to author or real people) corporate interaction but those are the ones I can immediately cite (or copy paste the bits I've researched.)

#377 ::: Icarus ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 09:40 PM:

I'm not a lawyer, but from my law classes I understand that fanfiction is in a strange place legally.

To prosecute fanfiction writers you have to have an actionable case. You have to be able to prove there is some harm from that 13-year-old's "Dragonrider" stories.

That's the big leap from law to reality.

It's easier to just send Cease & Desist letters and hope the kid will drop her stories, than to try to prove the harm.

#378 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:11 PM:

Makes me want to try D&D again! The first time I got frozen into a room, and the whole game lasted 15 minutes. The second time I did better, but I was so ignorant my poor husband was torn between exasperation and falling over laughing. I only survived my encounter with the Powerful Scary Spell-Hurling Archmage because my cleric/mage landed a lucky punch and broke his nose.
(I loved creating the characters, but I hadn't a clue what to do with them in game terms. It was still fun-and lured me into my only attempt at fanfic. Pink baby-powder breathing dragons, anyone?)
What's a debt badge, BTW? I have a feeling I've just dated myself-our games were D&D First Edition.

#379 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:20 PM:

Branching off a bit here: One thing that surprised me when I discovered it a few years back is the thriving fandom grown around the live-action musical Disney flop Newsies.

I'd been wondering how much it overlapped with the SF and anime fanfic communities; clearly some, because they use the common vocabulary. But I don’t know how much crossover occurs with other fandoms.

#380 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:35 PM:

rhandir: I was amused to find that Ishmael was double fanfic (not to mention pulling in real people like Emperor Norton), but I've heard that the HCtB side was \not/ authorized and caused some trouble.

Robotech_Master & Lori: the typo explanation of "filk" is obvious, but I've never seen an image of the piece of paper in question; it sounds like such a plausible explanation that humans (being explainers) would accept it regardless of truth. (There's also the explanation that "a filksong is a fannish song in the ilk of a folksong", which sounds too good not be to be post-facto.)

otherdeb: I would take that one step further, and note that most folks who go to see Broadway musicals are, in essence, paying to see fanfic.

I think that's stretching (compressing) the term farther than it can go. Using new tools to tell the same story happens in filk all the time (cf Randall Garrett's summaries of The Demolished Man et al, which technique he admitted to borrowing from a mundane) but most of the posts here have spoken of fanfic as having \some/ orginality in the story/setting/characters/..., where South Pacific, The Fantasticks, Promises, Promises, Your Own Thing, The Phantom of the Opera, Spamalot, et multa cetera are more like the bardic liberties that leads to suggestions that Shakespeare, Dante, Homer, et al wrote fanfic. (It could also be argued that this is an economic necessity in Broadway musicals -- anything too unfamiliar will be unable to find a large-enough audience -- but that leaves out Hair. OTOH, it's been almost 40 years since Hair; Sondheim has gotten respect for Company, Follies, and Assassins, but his only real moneymaker was Into the Woods.) I expect there are examples of a muddled middle ground -- Into the Woods, perhaps, with four established fairy tales, a new one (in the interstices, like R&GAD to bind them together), and a completely new story in Act II -- but I don't see a continuum.

Mercedes Lackey: Heinlein used the fist/nose metaphor in "Coventry", but I strongly suspect he he was consciously borrowing; I get the impression he was relatively well-read. (Damfino from whom; I associate Holmes more with the line about shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater, but he came from a line of aphorists and probably had more than one good line in him.)

#381 ::: Michael Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:38 PM:

Misty: my personal take is that hurt feelings over having had one's world and characters "used and/or abused" is a waste of time and energy. But that is my personal take, and hurt feelings are very real concerns to other people; if it violates their sense of self and self-worth, then it's fundamentally the same as a broken nose to them.

So are we discussing a moral obligation never to hurt someone's feelings? Or a legal responsibility? I don't believe in either and I think there's a difference between the wrong of hurting someone's feelings and breaking their actual nose.

If I said you hurt my feelings and I felt violated because of your continual use of my personal initial, the letter 'M', in your writing and even in your name, neither you nor anyone would consider your actions to be the equivalent to punching me in the nose, even if I said it was. Perhaps that falls under a "reasonable person" definition, so I'll try another circumstance. George Clooney said some things about Jack Abramoff's name that made Jack's daughter cry and probably hurt Jack's feelings, too. They were unkind words, but George did not commit the crime of assault by saying them.

Come waltzing into my house, grab my stuff and make yourself at home--for instance, by creating, licensing and selling "City of Valdemar" MMORPG, thus helping yourself to all my hard work and giving me not one thin dime for it...then we are talking lawyers at 50 paces.

Absolutely. That's where IP lawyers have fun, writing the "even if you were not legally in the wrong for the three reasons stated individually in paragraphs one, two, and three-six, you are also infringing in the following manner." IP lawyers with slam dunk cases are like happy Rottweiler puppies.

#382 ::: Icarus ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 10:59 PM:

Laura, thank you, that's a fascinating and helpful history.

I could throw in an example from the Harry Potter fanfiction community. The Restricted Section in January 2003 was sent a letter of concern from the attorneys at Raincoast Books that explicit stories might be accidentally found by children (I read a copy of it; it was very mild). The Restricted Section instituted a password system where one had to become a member to read the stories. A similar letter was sent to the Potter Slash Archive, which did the same.

Do you know of any case law pertaining to fanfiction? So far it seems there hasn't been much beyond C&D letters. The fans seem to have been cooperative, whether through intimidation or loyalty I'm not sure.

I remembered the case cited as an example for actionable suits. The State of Alaska instituted an equal housing ammendment stating you couldn't discriminate based on someone's married status (i.e., you had to rent to single, unmarried, or gay couples).

A landlady didn't like this, so tried to sue the State, claiming it contradicted the State consituation. The State said, so what? What harm have you experienced because of this?

She said that, hypothetically the situation might arise that a married couple might not get....

The State threw it out. No harm, no foul.

As one can see from this thread, it's really hard to find the harm in fanfiction.

Icarus

#383 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:07 PM:

hp: I didn't get off on that tangent
because I don't think that Disney's ever let it get to the extreme I was thinking about:
when a work is truly unavailable and at risk of remaining forever unavailable.

Michael: You should look at some of the collections of censored cartoons that are out there.
Lots of things are removed from distribution by copyright holders, including Disney.
Disney may never create a DVD of Song of the South, for example.

Exactly. The animation afficionados at Cartoon Brew
had been hoping for a re-release of Song of the South,
but reported recently:

      It was definitely on the schedule to be released as one of the “Treasures” series,
      and Bob Iger, new head of The Walt Disney Company, recently sat down and watched it.
      It’s definitely not on the schedule any more.


Re: Robert Smigel's Journey to the Disney Vault no longer available on Youtube.
Kevin Andrew Murphy: I just did a search and found the Disney parody still available here

Thanks for finding that!
Song of the South is one of the things parodied
as remaining locked up in the vault (along with the frozen head of Disney).

This weekend, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE is airing an entire episode
dedicated to the Robert Smigel / J.J. Sedelmaier animations
(although that animation will not likely be included).

#384 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:26 PM:

Lots of babbling.

The Harry Potter fandom stuff I knew about. There are a couple of book related fan fiction communities which have had issues. (Was Steve Stirling's community the one where he actually encouraged people to write it and posted their erotic fiction on his web site? Or am I thinking some one else?)

I haven't heard of any specific case law because most fen step down when they are asked to stop what they are doing and fan fiction fen themselves generally acknowledge that their work is illegal or in a legally nebulous gray zone where it might be possible that it is illegal. (And when fen start rationalizing that it is legal based on reading essays, trying to defend morally questionable behavior, then you get incidents like the fan fiction writer who put her self published Star Wars fan fiction novel on Amazon.Com. The fan fiction community isn't always good at teaching new members history of their culture and genre, nor at passing on definitions of terms.)

If "real person fic" is defined as fan fiction (which I like to define as a genre AND a culture), the there is some precedent in favor of that particular branch. I haven't heard of anyone who has wanted to put up the big dollars to defend the material, nor the creator who wanted to actively pursue fen to the extent of taking them to court. Normally, fannish demands for conformity would deter that and the creators, depending on how they step in, also help to quell that stuff. (plug of fan fiction policies of people but hasn't really been updated since 2002)

What I think kind of vaguely hurts both sides if anyone decided that there was a serious need to litigate is that they'd have to prove some sort of monetary damage as a result of fan fiction in order to get well... damages. I haven't really seen any large study of that either. :/ And I haven't stumbled across any large scale discussion or heard of a large scale discussion regarding this though I've heard loudly repeatedly since about 1998 or so and continuing to date that if a creator were to do a crack down, they'd be less likely to buy related products. (I know I'm less likely to buy media products from one fandom because of the fen and I am not ever going to buy books by a certain author because of that author's treatment of fen.)

But the closest thing I've heard of pertaining to legal issues surrounding media fan fiction was the case of the Wind Done Gone which ended being settled out of court, with the author of the Wind Done Gone retaining the legal rights to make a movie based on her book.

If I was to ask some one about the legal status of fan fiction, the people I'd peg as most knowledgable on the topic would be the folks over at Lucasfilms, ltd.

#385 ::: David Hodson ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 11:39 PM:

Since his name has come up, I feel obliged to quote Joss Whedon's letter to (www.)Whedonesque(.com) about the Canadian Firefly fan film, "Into the Black".


Quote:
I hate to have to do this, but this has become a legal matter.

Sirs --

"According to article 16C-12 of the M.P.A., no entertainment (intended for television, radio or internet broadcast) based upon existing licensed intellectual properties may in any way be allowed or approved of by creator(s) of said intellectual property. Further, upon notification of such unauthorized entertainment, said creator(s) is in no way legally sanctioned to comment upon same. Creator(s) shall in no way refer to said unauthorized 'show' or 'site' as "wicked cool" or "bitchin'." Examination of the ship (herein designated "Samsara") shall not be in any way legally awesome, and creator(s) shall not in any contractually binding way grin. The perpetrators of this entertainment shall not have fuzzy feelings, nor be, under penalty of fine or imprisonment, all up in themselves. Dag, yo."

I hate to throw cold water on a well-meaning enterprise like this, but that's the law. Meanwhile, I in no way eagerly await the first episode or think it's about damn time this universe was expanded just a little bit more. However, I think I can safely make one or two suggestions to help. One: Have the characters get into all sorts of shenanigans on a regular basis. Two: Always remember that the integrity of your universe's reality must be maintained unless you think of something cool. Three: Have Chekhov get really old.

Thank you for understanding my precarious legal position on this. I wish I could be more supportive, but I am a machine. An android cannot cry, except that nancy-boy The Vision, who, let me tell you, you don't wanna see "Terms of Endearment" with that guy, you can't even hear the movie.

Sincerely, The JossWhedonbot, model 421-C-aplhadog-12(defective).

Obviously, different authors/creators have very different opinions about the reuse of their creations.

#386 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 12:06 AM:

Quoth Laura: "The Lord of the Rings fandom of that era also had issues in trying to decide if it should follow tradition of pastiche or following the science fiction fandom's zine traditions. The early community was also stymied by J.R.R. Tolkien's ambivilence towards fan fiction. An early example of this attitude dates to 1966 when a young writer named Joy Hill sent a note to J.R.R. Tolkien asking if the writer can have permission to write stories using the names of characters from Lord of the Rings and write a sequel. J.R.R. Tolkien responded that he would forward the request on to his lawyers but, basically, it was not going to happen. (http://www.khazaddum.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-1866-p-2.html)"

Ironically, Marion Zimmer Bradley once published an anthology (I assume professionally? There's a Locus listing for the original 1985 Academy Chicago edition here) which contained a piece of Tolkien fanfic called "The Jewel of Arwen", previously published as a chapbook in 1973.

Subsequent reprints by Daw and Orbit omitted "The Jewel of Arwen".

#387 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 12:22 AM:

If I decide to write a book about vampires, most of my work has been done for me. Readers already know about vampires, what they're like, how they act. I don't have to invent anything at all.

You don't have to, but if you're just going to reference Anne Rice one more dogdamned time, what the hell are you writing a book for anyway? You can get all the dogdamned Anne Rice you can stand for a quarter at the Goodwill.

Writing in a genre, even a genre with strict formulas, ought to be done with as much care and thought and invention as any other writing.

Anyway, I have a reference somewhere around here which mentions vampire watermelons and pumpkins in folklore (if you don't eat them up soon, they turn into vampires, and I don't know if anybody was joking at any time in the passage of that tale, though it certainly makes me laugh every time I think of it again). And if your readers only know Rice or LARP vampires with all their lineage and aristocracy and crap, they don't know about real folklore vampires which are more akin to the hungry dead of the Navajo. So you've got something there to write about. And if you want elegant undead, there's still no reason to stick with Rice, or even Stoker. You can have them six ways from Sunday, if you just think about it a little bit.

#388 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 12:29 AM:

Also, wrt poetry-based fanfic, Jo Walton's Oxymandias [sic].

#389 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 12:31 AM:

"Two: Always remember that the integrity of your universe's reality must be maintained unless you think of something cool."

As in so many things, Joss Whedon is teh master. Believe it.

#390 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 01:00 AM:

Latecoming response to earlier TNH comment:

My current sense is that writers will play with such universes, and that it's no great matter if they quietly exchange their stories with each other. Putting the full turbo-charged mechanisms of commercial marketing and promotion behind injudicious additions to those universes could do real damage.

That strikes me as very true.

I haven't read the John Gregory Betancourt sequels to Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber, and have specifically avoided them because Zelazny didn't want any Amber stuff written and published by other authors. (The RPG, which he approved while he was alive, recommends writing fanfic for game purposes, so I take this to be his word on casual, writing-for-fun-and-friends stuff.) I wouldn't mind the Betancourt books if they were declared as fanfic, and his motivations in writing them look perfectly noble. Heck, I even believe many of his conclusions in the linked interview to be potentially accurate. The large "Zelazny's Amber" across the books' front covers is what raises the hair on my teeth: it reads to me as a lie about the honored dead. If they said "Such-And-So by J. G. Betancourt, inspired by Zelazny's Amber," I'd be more willing to buy and try.

Cover-band-style licensing strikes me as eminently reasonable. When we hear a cover of "Eleanor Rigby", it's not usually labeled as the BEATLES (asterisk, tiny letters: as played by Batty Bucoda's Martian String Band.) This seems a side-effect of the book law problem where either a derivative work is "AUTHORIZED!!!" or it is illegal.

#391 ::: kimseym ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 01:03 AM:

Hi,
I didn't read all of the posts so someone may have covered this already. I am almost a lawyer, if I quit reading this and get back to studying I should be one in about two weeks. Just to throw fuel on the fire, the US Supreme Court has addressed copyright infringment, and created a multi-factor test--the more points you get the more likely that your whatever infringes the copyright of the person suing you. Dilution is one of those points. Right or wrong morally, the Supreme Court says dilution matters legally.

#392 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 01:14 AM:

Laura writes:

The Lord of the Rings fandom of that era also had issues in trying to decide if it should follow tradition of pastiche or following the science fiction fandom's zine traditions. The early community was also stymied by J.R.R. Tolkien's ambivilence towards fan fiction. An early example of this attitude dates to 1966 when a young writer named Joy Hill sent a note to J.R.R. Tolkien asking if the writer can have permission to write stories using the names of characters from Lord of the Rings and write a sequel. J.R.R. Tolkien responded that he would forward the request on to his lawyers but, basically, it was not going to happen.

Very interesting stuff here -- particularly your wording: [the] tradition of pastiche... Because it brings to mind another of my favorite authors, H.P. Lovecraft, and the fact that, long before his stories hit public domain, he was using other people's macguffins and actively encouraging pen-pals to use his. (By this the sense of cosmic horror strengthened, and the names of various extradimensional beings became outright real to some readers.)

I'm wondering where the rest of your fan fiction history wiki may lie, and whether I may read it.

#393 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 01:22 AM:

Er, somehow I didn't finish that thought.

Which is: When exactly did it get to be in vogue to prosecute (or at least send nasty notes to) fanfic writers? The law may have said this for quite some time, but as far as I can tell, pastiche was considered perfectly acceptable writing throughout most of Western history -- changing not many decades ago. How many decades, I wonder, and at what landmark?

#394 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 01:26 AM:

Diana wrote:
"And here I will go even farther, that the industry that has created these works, Hollywood, is far more understanding of fanfic and less protective of its characters than pro writers because in many ways, it's a colony of fanficcers. They work in a manner closer to fanfic than of pro-fiction; a lot of movies and TV shows are of derivative material, and media work is intensely collaborative."

Oh, yeh. The spec script that got me in the door at ST:TNG was very much fan fiction. It was my take on Wesley Crusher caught in the iron grip of raging teenage hormones. Didn't sell, but Michael Pillar liked it well enough to ask me to pitch more stories.

And the script that eventually sold there, "Clues", was pretty much a straight mystery story. But in the very first draft, the opening scene was different: Instead of Picard and Guinan in Dixon Hill's office, it was Picard in Hill's office with an unnamed character... who some people might have recognized as a strange visitor from the Firesign Theater's Nick Danger planet. (I rather expected that one to get rewritten out, but it was fun to write.)

And I might also submit that Ron Moore's reworking of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is also very much fanfiction, of the "I'm gonna take this and do it right!" type.

#395 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 01:36 AM:

As you know, I think the writers in Joss Whedon's universes were allowed to dilute internal consistency to the point where many individual stories have an inescapable Scriptor Ex Machina ambiance. Not "teh master," for me, simply for stating that you're allowed to break your own rules. Not necessarily teh Lummox, either. (Something about the root force that stories can exhibit within a consistent artistic framework versus an outlook that "there is no consistent framework in life to make story statements, anyway -- so there!")

#396 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 01:49 AM:

My beloved husband, John, pointed out in connection with the Hitchhiker's Guide movie (among other works) that a disappointing movie does nothing to the original work upon which it's based. That's still out there to be enjoyed, unchanged. I'm not sure I agree completely, because the alternative text may introduce an idea that distracts when the original is next encountered. I don't want to have to reconsider Zaphod's intelligence when I read Adams; I want to enjoy the character as developed in Adams' lifetime.

Still, overall I think it's a sound principle. The books are still the books, the radio shows are still what they always were, and so on. They're as good as ever, and at least as commercially viable as they would have been without a movie. The same is true, I think, if you substitute the words "fanfic about Zaphod" for the word "movie."

So if one reads Buffy slash before viewing Buffy on tv/DVD, that may be a distraction for that particular person. However, the existence of the fanfic does nothing to dilute the literary or commercial value of the series. It is what it is, no better or worse than it was when first produced. At its best, fanfic (including the authorized novels, which amount to legal fanfic) can add to the enjoyment. At its worst... well, why read the bad, distracting stuff at all?

As for whether the original artist should be able to prevent derivative works, it seems to me there's a bit of a parallel between fan fiction and bootleg music. (The closer parallel is with "mash-ups," but I'm not knowledgeable on that subject.) For decades, record labels, the RIAA and individual artists have tried to quash the illegal trade in concert recordings, alternate takes, demos, remixes, etc., in the fear that a bootleg recording of Strawberry Fields Forever will somehow dilute or reduce the artistic or commercial value of the commercial recording released in 1967. This is, of course, not the case. A casual listener is not likely to accidentally buy the boot instead of the Real Thing, and the serious fan and collector already owns a legal copy of the commercial recording, probably several times over. Being able to also hear the demo, and the two takes that were later slowed down/sped up and combined, serves only to increase the fan's appreciation for the final product. Eventually, the surviving Beatles came to realize this, and released those historical versions on Anthology. Similarly, at least one or two legitimate collections of Star Trek fan fiction have been published over the years - and done no lasting harm to the late Gene Roddenberry or anyone else.

Karen

#397 ::: Icarus ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:27 AM:

Laura, if I'm reading this correctly, over the last 21 years there have been some Cease & Desist letters and... that's pretty much it.

No corporations raining fire and brimstone on poor innocent fans. No plummeting sales and ruined artistic works resulting from the ravages of fanfiction.

That looks pretty stable to me. We've had nearly a quarter of a century to build case history if there really is a problem.

I hereby declare fears over fanfiction a tempest in a teapot.

Tea, anyone?

#398 ::: Mercedes Lackey ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:41 AM:

Thank you, I'll have chai latte.

In re nose/fist and hurt feelings over fanfic...I think you have a moral obligation, though not a legal one, not to do something that really distresses another person. I would not make Jack Abramoff's daughter cry. I would not make Poppy Brite squirm. But that's me and my set of values. YMMV.

Warning! Game Neepery
In re gaming. This is an MMORPG, or a "Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game." It's not D&D (I hate bouncing dice); you create a character and the character's look and then basically run it either solo or in teams through assigned "missions" (like quests) and do everything with your character's abilities via button pushes. Since this is super-heroes, it involves pounding various baddies, each with their own story arc. If that were all that it was I would have lost interest about eight months ago, but there are communities within the set of game-players that basically operate improvisational theater with characters and stories as involved as any soap opera. I'm in three of them, a Faux Commie group (Coalition of Communist Crusaders for the Proletariat), the Alliance of Champions (think JLA) and on another server, the Young Champions (think Teen Titans).

The game is amazingly pretty; the CG quite astonishing. There is an associated game, City of Villains, in which you play, doh, a villain, and do dastardly things. I like City of Heroes better, but I play both.

#399 ::: Edmund Yeo ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:56 AM:

Karen: Kinda reminds me of something Alan Moore said when asked about what he thinks about the film adaptations of his works, and he said something along the lines of 'what films? all my works are still sitting on the shelves'. Something like that. Hm.

#400 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 06:44 AM:

Four hundred! This is a mighty comment thread.

#401 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:01 AM:

I've never quite understood, according to "Sturgeon's Law" that 90% of everything is crap, what the other 10% of actual crap is. Thinking about it for any length of time gives me a recursive ache in the calculus.

#402 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:16 AM:

Also crap; Sturgeon's Law never said that the other ten precent wasn't crap, just that it need not be.

#403 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:19 AM:

The wiki (which I've never found a good format to organize this information in as the amount of information to incorporate and ideal way to sort it is challenging) is found here. It isn't always very... friendly in terms of grammar, layout, etc. I tend to use it as an information dumping ground for the information I have and as a place to stuff essays I write related to the topic.

In the issue of pastiche, it looks and smells like fan fiction genre wise but culturally tends to be more acceptable because it exists on the fringes of the published world, with members drawn more from that community than not. The Sherlock Holmes community is a prime example of pastiche communities. From what I've been able to figure out, that (and the label) has made it more acceptable and less likely to be challenged. Other pastiche communities included a Lord of the Rings one, and an Edgar Rice Burroungs one. There are a couple of more except I can't recall them off hand. :/

#404 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:27 AM:

"Some folk are villifying the Government Enforced Author Welfare system that our current copyright system has become..."

...because, as you can see, authors are just rolling in dough...

Good grief. If I had a nickel for every time I got this response, well, I'd be rolling in dough.

There seems to be a fallacy ingrained in some writers that the problem of writers not getting paid enough is something that can be fixed by longer copyright terms. If you're 40 years old and can't get enough money for your book by the time your dead to make it worth your while to write it, then longer terms won't help.

(and the next person who invokes the "but the children/heirs" emotional plea gets 40 lashes from a wet noodle)

The argument is "writers are poor". And copyright "pays" by duration of its term. Life-Plus-70 years doesn't make the writer any richer during their lifetime, which means that you can still argue for longer terms, and it'll be Life-Plus-90 years before you know it, and authors will still be poor.

The problem with this fallacy is that COPYRIGHT isn't why writers are poor. And some writers are quite insistent on ignoring this fact. Writers are generally poor because, generally, it's a BUYERS market, and writers are the SELLERS in this market. There are a lot of writers willing to write cheap instead of not write at all, and like any job market, that keeps overall salaries down. Making copyright terms any longer won't fix the "poor writer" syndrome because writers now DIE long before their copyright expires. Making terms longer still results in poor writers.

(and the next person who invokes the "but the children/heirs" emotional plea gets 80 lashes from a wet noodle)

Terms could be set to 42 years, and most authors would die before the term on their book, movie, whatever, expired, which means it would not change the income of most authors while they're alive, which means they get paid the same with a Life-Plus-500 or a straight 42 year term. Which means a 42 year term cannot invoke your "rolling in dough" emotional plea, because it won't change a writer's income any.

A straight 42-Year term will, however, fix the problem that eternal copyrights are creating (and as long as Disney keeps extending terms just before SteamBoat Willie goes Public Domain, they are, for all intents and purposes, eternal)

And to me, if writers get paid the same as before, but it fixes a major problem that affects the whole Public, then it is worth it.


#405 ::: Sofie 'Melle' Werkers ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:30 AM:

the serious fan and collector already owns a legal copy of the commercial recording, probably several times over.

This reminded me of a point I wanted to make about fanfic: oftem, fanfic can actually be a good thing for the creator, as it draws more people into a fandom. I know I'm not the only fanfic writer who's bought DVD sets, books, etc., for research purposes, often for fandoms I'd not have bought anything for if I hadn't needed to be able to look things up at a moment's notice.

Not to mention all the times I've been dragged into fandoms I'd only been vaguely interested in because friends had written or recommended fanfic to me, so I go and read the story, and then I read some more stories in the archive, and the next thing I know I'm a full-blown fan, buying DVD sets, toys, merchendise, and god knows what. (Okay, so I'm easy. So sue me. )

#406 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:39 AM:

I would not make Poppy Brite squirm

Now I'm trying to imagine what could possibly make Poppy Brite squirm...

#407 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:46 AM:

Oh, and Mark Twain wrote all his books with a 42 year copyright term, and he was rolling in dough. So, once again, duration of copyright terms got nothing to do with writers being poor, and it's still possible to "roll in the dough" and still be alive when your copyright expires on your earlier works.

#408 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 08:25 AM:

Three unrelated comments:

FSVO squirm, what makes Poppy Brite squirm is the way the rest of the world is neglecting and mistreating her beloved city.

Much as I love Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, it did not have me thinking "they're off to play questions" the last time I saw Hamlet on stage (at the Globe, as it happens, a five-pound groundling ticket, chosen for the experience of being a groundling, not because I couldn't afford to pay another five and have a seat on a bench). It might be different had I seen the Stoppard before I'd seen Hamlet on a stage.

Sure, the style issue is different in fanfic of written material than in fanfic of movies or television--but in either case, there's not only the "that character wouldn't do that" reaction, but the need to get the voice right. Whether or not someone believes that, say, Captain Kirk would actually do what a fanfic writer describes him as doing, if the author has him talking like Jeeves, it's not going to work.

#409 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 09:56 AM:

There was a recent tussle on one of my favorite fanboards (sadly, now defunct for unrelated reasons) about the legal/ethical status of translating other people's fanfic without their permission, though keeping the original authors' attributions intact. I found this sadly hilarious on several different levels, considering how many fans there were BitTorrenting entire anime episodes despite domestic legal availability, comparing the licensed manga translations to older fan translations, swapping doujinshi scans/scanslations, and so on. It is to headsmack.

#410 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 09:57 AM:

Catching up a bit...
Avram: I'd been wondering how much [Newsies fandom] overlapped with the SF and anime fanfic communities; clearly some, because they use the common vocabulary. But I don’t know how much crossover occurs with other fandoms.

One of the trends which intrigues me is the number of fen I know who are also in academia (particularly Literature degrees). I wonder how long it will take for the terminology to start appearing in academic papers: Mary Sue analysis of Aeneas, Midrash as fanon...

There's a certain amount of the reverse for blowing off steam. LiveJournal has a fandom community for Shakespeare (no serious academic analysis allowed, but cliff-shag-marry various characters) plus Bard Slash.


BTW, jumping back to the notion of poetry fanfic "in the sense of someone takes a poem and rewrites it from a differnt perspective (T.W), this is actually an ancient tradition:
Christopher Marlowe wrote "The Passionate Shephard" ("Come live with me and be my love") to which Sir Walter Ralegh wrote "The Nymph's Response" ("...if truth in every shephard's tongue")
Likewise, it's generally accepted that Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun") is a response to general tropes, if not a specific poem.

However, I think there's less poetry written in response to concepts in a source poem than taking the same concept and writing in a different style. Like oodles of Doctor Seuss -style epics.

#411 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 10:05 AM:

Nota bene: Sturgeon never said any percentage of anything was "crap." He said it was "crud." Subsequently, everyone who's ever read the expression in its original form always assumes someone else Bowdlerized it from "crap," and thus "de-Bowdlerizes" it.

#412 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 10:10 AM:

"The problem with this fallacy is that COPYRIGHT isn't why writers are poor. And some writers are quite insistent on ignoring this fact. Writers are generally poor because, generally, it's a BUYERS market, and writers are the SELLERS in this market. There are a lot of writers willing to write cheap instead of not write at all, and like any job market, that keeps overall salaries down."

You know, if I were really evil, I'd point out that you've made the perfect argument for how fanfic hurts writers...

#413 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 10:11 AM:

After looking at this stuff through a legismicroscope more than I should admit in public ("Ayee! Lawyer! RUN AWAY!"), I've concluded that the real problem with establishing a coherent position on fanfic is that the underlying law is not just incoherent, but self-contradictory. And much of that law is material that the copyleft folk never pay any attention to: the arcana of civil procedure, and specifically of remedies.

There are very, very few (six, if I've counted them correctly) opinions under US law in the last century that analyze and decide a fanfictionlike issue under anything but copyright law. For tactical reasons, this is almost inevitable:
* Copyright is a strict-liability statute; that is, one's intent to copy doesn't matter to liability, although it might affect enhanced damages available for willful infringement. On the other hand, trademark and unfair competition require proof of intent to compete in the stream of commerce.
* Copyright offers an attractive system of statutory damages that makes attacking someone who did not profit possible. Trademark and unfair competition, however, rely almost exclusively on proving actual damages, usually by reference to "lost profits" (yes, the Lanham Act does allow for statutory damages, but they can't apply in a fanfictionlike context).
* It's not all that difficult to get an award of attorney's fees in a copyright action. It's close to impossible in a trademark suit, and not-quite-absolutely (but the difference is immeasurably tiny) impossible in an unfair competition suit.
* Most importantly, in a copyright matter all one need do is demonstrate copying. In a trademark matter, one must prove copying, plus the appropriate confusion resulting from the copying. In an unfair competition matter, one must prove copying, plus an actual effect on the market. The latter two essentially require hiring an expert and some rather hairy statistical analysis, and the lawyers on both sides will argue for months about whether the evidence offered even proves anything.

The result of these factors is that the trademark and unfair competition theories simply haven't been tested to the same extent as have the copyright theories. And notice that the four problems noted above have little or nothing to do with the underlying theory; they all concern what it takes to win a specific case. It would border on legal malpractice for an attorney to specifically reject the copyright theory in favor of the trademark or unfair competition theory, unless one of those half-dozen oddball cases in which copyright was simply unavailable popped up.

In the end, we're not going to get anywhere with an argument over how copyright theory treats (and/or should treat) fanfic without also thinking about trademark and unfair competition. However, there has been vanishingly little examination of trademark and unfair competition in this context, and the civil procedure aspects of legal practice will probably prevent much more examination. Thus, we're not going to get a satisfactory answer no matter what we do… because whatever answers we come up with won't get tested in the real world. (Assuming, of course, that a courtroom is part of the real world…)

#414 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 10:14 AM:

...but I'll let you wriggle your way out of that one (and am eagerly awaiting your response).

#415 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 10:29 AM:

Terms could be set to 42 years, and most authors would die before the term on their book, movie, whatever, expired,[...]

Um. Dunno about you, but I know some people who are in their very-early 20s who are now getting published for the first time. Their first copyrights would expire before they hit retirement age with your scheme, let alone before they die.

For that matter, I'm in my 30s, and given the average life expectancies in my family, I'm expecting to make it to my 80s with all my mental faculties intact, and quite possibly somewhat longer.

I mean, if you wanna argue for 42 years, fine, but this particular argument doesn't work for me.

#416 ::: Hamadryad ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 10:37 AM:

quoth enjay: Fanfic writers appropriate other people's characters. Legally, they do not own the appropriated characters, should not feel practical entitlement to them, and may not attempt to profit from the appropriation. However, all this gets clouded by emotions.
Writers have an emotional investment in their characters. This may lead to a defensive and rabid protectionism, especially if they see or are afraid of fanfic writers taking a character in directions that are offensive to them.

Interestingly (well, I find it interesting) I’ve encountered a number of fanfic writers who are extremely proprietary about their stories. They can get quite agitated and vocal if they think some other fan has ‘stolen’ their idea(s), especially if the suspected idea thief hasn’t credited them. In the mind of some fans, stealing an idea without permission/without credit is A Very Bad Thing and can result in a major fan-wank.

I find it a bit ironic.

#417 ::: C. Elisa ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:09 AM:

My take is that fanfic is, among other things, a form of full-contact literary criticism. You develop your ideas about the source text, and then instead of defending them through argument, you wind them up and see if they'll walk across the room. If you look at fanfic writers' Livejournals, often someone will write a review or commentary about an episode of a show, which someone else will respond to with a story, and then someone else will respond to the story with another LJ post. The stories and the more conventional kinds of critical writing are both part of a dialogue about the source. And they're complementary, because sometimes the theory of a character that sounded logical when laid out as a mini-essay just doesn't ring true when it's turned into a story, and winds up being revised.

Obviously not all fanfic works as criticism. (The modal fanfic is probably Harry Potter smut written by a fourteen-year-old unclear on the basics of male and/or female anatomy, contains 437 grammatical and spelling errors, and has nine positive comments on fanfiction.net.) But a *good* fan story will usually illuminate a character's motivations, or uncover a theme, or otherwise tell me something about the text that I didn't know before -- often in a much more memorable and effective way than if the same idea were simply explained in an essay.

It seems like parody is considered valid even by people who oppose fanfic -- and is also, sometimes, legally protected -- because it's a criticism in the form of a derivative work. Fanfic is usually a much more sympathetic form of criticism -- it's more likely to patch up problems with the source than to make fun of them, and often tries to show that the canon is even cooler than you thought. But if using a deriviative work to comment on the original is okay, then I can't see any good reason why mockery should be privileged over other kinds of commentary.

I think the right to comment and criticize is much more important than the right of corporations to control what people do with characters in TV shows and movies that they own. I'm particularly unsympathetic to the idea that copyright holders ought to be able to shut down fanfic writers precisely because the fanfic might change people's views of the authorized work -- cause people to start seeing homoeroticism in a show as chaste as Smallville, or whatever. Even if I could think of something to do to tarnish the X-Men's image that hasn't already been done in canon, I don't think Marvel Entertainment, Inc. should be able to sue me for lèse-majéste.

#418 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:09 AM:

"The problem with this fallacy is that COPYRIGHT isn't why writers are poor. And some writers are quite insistent on ignoring this fact. Writers are generally poor because, generally, it's a BUYERS market, and writers are the SELLERS in this market. There are a lot of writers willing to write cheap instead of not write at all, and like any job market, that keeps overall salaries down."

You know, if I were really evil, I'd point out that you've made the perfect argument for how fanfic hurts writers... ...but I'll let you wriggle your way out of that one (and am eagerly awaiting your response).

No one said you were evil, AliceB. You put the black hat on yourself, no one else put it there. But it conveniently changes the subject. You were accusing some folks of "vilifying" the term "intellectual property". I explained that there is some specific behaviours that deserve vilifying, for instance a man named Walt Disney agreeing to create SteamBoat Willy for a 56 year term and then when that term was about to expire, Disney Corp put a bucket of money into political donations and purchased a term extension, not once, but twice. But rather than address that, you invoke emotive arguments about "vilifying words", or your "rolling in dough" non-sequitor, or someone putting a "black hat" on you, or that you're "evil", and now rather than address what is behind something being vilifiable, you ignore that and say the solution is an argument against fanfic.

Well, first of all, I don't see fanfic of works under copyright in its current state as a great damage to aurhors or a large contribution to the Progress of Useful Arts. Derivatives of works that have gone Public Domain, however, are the lifeblood of Art. And a shorter term infuses that blood with a new energy. So, while it may be an argument against fanfic of works under copyright protection, the fact that terms would be shorter means that fanfic of a work can become legitimate much sooner, and so shorter terms support the fan community. I hope that sufficiently answered you question so as not to be accused of "wriggling out" of anything.

Now, about Walt agreeing to write a cartoon for a 56 year term, and then paying politicians a bucket of money to extend it, twice: care to address that behaviour?

Copyright is an agreement between the public and authors that says "look, we know that without any legal protection, your works are public domain as soon as you write it down and you wouldn't be able to make money at it. We'll agree to treat the works as your property long enough for you to make some money at it, but after you've been paid, you've got to return the work to the Public Domain."

Eternal copyrights by way of extending terms 20 years every two decades is welching on that deal.

And cries of authors not "rolling in the dough" is missing the point that copyright isn't meant to mean that every single person who wants to be a writer will be able to live high off the hog, and that as long as there are poor writers, then terms and conditions of copyright must be extended. That requirement is insatiable. Copyright just has to be enough that some people can make a living producing novels and movies and TV shows. If there were no copyright law, then you'd see most production stop because there'd be little way to make money directly on writing. But starting from a copyright term of 1 year and increasing its duration, you hit a point far earlier than 150 years that folk can make a living as writers, and that's where terms should be set. I say its somewhere around 42 years. You may not want to write for that short of a term, but I think enough folks would be willing to do so.

#419 ::: Gesso ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:20 AM:

Quoth AliceB, quothing Greg London: "The problem with this fallacy is that COPYRIGHT isn't why writers are poor. And some writers are quite insistent on ignoring this fact. Writers are generally poor because, generally, it's a BUYERS market, and writers are the SELLERS in this market. There are a lot of writers willing to write cheap instead of not write at all, and like any job market, that keeps overall salaries down."

You know, if I were really evil, I'd point out that you've made the perfect argument for how fanfic hurts writers...

Maybe you could expand on how you see it hurting writers? In my experience, fanfic tends to swell the ranks of buyers (ie fans), maintaining interest in fandoms that have been inactive on the seller's end for a long time.

#420 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:26 AM:

Mercedes Lackey: In re nose/fist and hurt feelings over fanfic...I think you have a moral obligation, though not a legal one, not to do something that really distresses another person. I would not make Jack Abramoff's daughter cry. I would not make Poppy Brite squirm. But that's me and my set of values. YMMV.

Actually, my milage is about the same. There is a difference between nose/fist and hurt feelings. In terms of the moral obligation, I think we have a moral obligation not to do something that really distresses another person intentionally if the distress is reasonable and if there is no more-important obligation overriding. Let me explain my caveats.

"No offense intended" seems like a pretty good defense (though there is a counter-reasonableness claim: some things you should know might/will be offense, and your intent not to offend isn't as important...). If I don't know that something will hurt your feelings, I can't be expected not to do it. Once I know, I'm no longer excused by this. This fits with what I hear from others are common practices in the fanfic communities.

"Reasonableness" is a good test for outliers. Some offense isn't worth indulging. People take offense at the strangest things, sometimes. It's not even easy to predict.

"Other obligations" doesn't say as much as I want, but I haven't nailed that part of the wording, yet. I have a friend who reviews movies for a web site. He's paid money to tell people if the latest Deuce Bigelo movie is as bad as it looks. Rob Schneider famously gets offended by movie reviewers; it's clear his feelings are being hurt. Neverthess, I want Pete to be able to tell me and the rest of his readership the truth without regards to Rob or his feelings.

In the end, I think the concise description of my opinion here is that non-commercial fanfic is a matter of courtesy. Fans who write fiction should stop if authors ask them to. Authors should ask politely if fans do things that they don't want done. Everyone should acknowledge that there are valid differences of opinion. Courtesy isn't best enforced by laws, but by social practices. It all ends up being very Potter Stewart-ish. "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."

Obviously, this hinges on my assumption that there are no significant short term or long term financial damages from freely available fanfic. I wouldn't expect my argument to be accepted by anyont who disagreed with that point.

#421 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:26 AM:

Tina: I know some people who are in their very-early 20s who are now getting published for the first time. Their first copyrights would expire before they hit retirement age with your scheme, let alone before they die.

You excerpted me. Here's the entire sentence:

"Terms could be set to 42 years, and most authors would die before the term on their book, movie, whatever, expired, which means it would not change the income of most authors while they're alive"

Most authors. So, someone with some hard data can correct me, but if you take a cross-section of "most authors" who make their majority income as a writer, and then plot how much money they make on one specific work, I think that for most authors, the numbers spike near the beginning and continue to trail off the further out you get.

I think that the great majority of income for most works would fall under the graph that is in the zero to 42 year window, which means that most authors would make about the same amount of money while they're alive. It'll reduce the money the great-grandchildren get, but they weren't teh ones at the keyboard either.

#422 ::: ksgreer ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:28 AM:

I don't know if anyone's mentioned this -- I'm about halfway through (yipes) the thread, but I just passed the minor flare-up over calling fanficcers wannabes.

Yeah. Well.

As a Harley biker once told me, "you gotta be a Wannabe before you get to be a Be."

#423 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:31 AM:

Maybe you could expand on how you see it hurting writers? In my experience, fanfic tends to swell the ranks of buyers (ie fans), maintaining interest in fandoms that have been inactive on the seller's end for a long time.

John Norman has been rather pooh pooh on fan fiction based on his Gor novels. (The prevailing theory from people I've discussed this with is that fan fiction would be able to readily compete with his product based on quality of the fiction produced.) Still, the fandom surrounding his Gor books is a real potential turn off for fen. Knowing what the fen do, I and a number of others are not as willing to just pick up one of his novels to read and buy.

Anne Rice's interaction with her fen has left some people less inclined to read her works and more inclined to talk down the overall quality of her work based on her relationship with her fan fiction community.

There are a number of people I know from work and family who are not fannish. Still, the insanity of the Harry Potter fandom has trickled down to them. The various issues pertaining to that have made them less interested in buying products related to the books as a result and more likely to wait to get the book from a library because of a perception of diminished quality of the product because of content they percieve might be in the books based on what has been told to them is written in the fic.

There are a number of examples related to the buying more because of fan fiction type activities.

I'd really like to see a good marketting study done regarding fan fiction. The problem I forsee is not fen with in the community being more or less likely to buy material because of their interactions with in the community. The problem and potential income loss, at least for well known authors and creators, is that the fan fiction community and actions of fen are reflected back upon the source material. If you don't identify with that subset, the average person might be less inclined to be attracted to that material.

#424 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:35 AM:

Tina if you wanna argue for 42 years, fine, but this particular argument doesn't work for me.

42 years is the old 28+14 term from copyright law in effect in the 19th century. It's just as arbitrary as any other term, and potentially puts more works in the public domain while there is still some interest in them. At the time, perhaps 1 work in 1000 was commercially viable beyond the end of the copyright period and printing was not really a viable act for consumers.

If you're counting on your 42 year old works to provide you income during your retirement, you may as well sell the rights for a dollar and buy a scratch-off lottery ticket.

#425 ::: Wren ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:45 AM:

In the mind of some fans, stealing an idea without permission/without credit is A Very Bad Thing and can result in a major fan-wank.

I find it a bit ironic.

In my experience, the big uproars are usually caused by outright plagiarism -- posting someone else's story with your (generic you) name on it or lifting enough identifiable text from another story that, were it an academic paper, you'd be required to cite source.

There are occasional "idea-lifting" accusations that range from thought-provoking* to downright ridiculous, like the assertion that any X-Men fic that involves characters gasp baking gingerbread at Christmas must have been plagiarized because only one person could ever have had that idea! These folks are roundly and rightly mocked.

Keep in mind that, as Teresa has pointed out, fanfic generally operates as a gift economy and the only "pay" a writer receives is in the form of thank-you comments or (bliss!) the occasional constructive feedback. And as we're for the most part careful to cite our original inspirations -- right down to noting when a story contains canon dialogue -- why not expect fellow fanficcers to do the same?

And as for translation-kerfuffles, keep in mind that a large subset of fanfic is sexually explicit. Given different political climates and attitudes towards/legislation regarding sexual material, I can think of a number of stories of my own that I would not want popping up on boards in, say, China. Or Australia, for that matter, though translation is not at issue there.


* Thought-provoking in the same way "fair use" debates are, where we're attempting to parse degrees of similarity in plot, setting, non-canon characters, etc.

#426 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:45 AM:

Lis Riba: I wonder how long it will take for the terminology to start appearing in academic papers: Mary Sue analysis of Aeneas, Midrash as fanon...

I have, for some time now, been referring to the Talmud as a "collection of No-Prize letters".

#427 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:51 AM:

Another silly query.
In some far away lands the governnment can block or confiscate copyright/trademark on historical or cultural heritage icons. I think UK and Robin Hood are the one example. Up here in Canada there was a big spat between PEI and MLTodd state over Anne Of Green Gables which last I heard the province sized the copyright for the turism industry. Memo must look up the outcome. Does the US have such laws? Not very likly California will size Mickey as a cultural icon?

#428 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:56 AM:

I think the problem with 42 year term is not just authors are living longer. Before there was only print, now we have film. Authors could be finacialy screwed over if their works go public domain in their life time and hollywood studios makes a summer blockbuster. With shorter terms I see a lot of media(film, tv) waiting like vultures for something to go public domain so they can leap on it and makes lots of $$$ and the creator is left out in the cold.

#429 ::: Orrnix ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:59 AM:

To those who argue that the feelings of authors should not come into the argument, I'd point out that, since the purpose of copyright as defined in the US Constition is "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," that it is exactly the creative feelings of authors and inventors that copyright laws are intended to promote, to whit, those feelings that motivate them to advance the progress of (in the case of fiction) their useful Arts.

#430 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 12:02 PM:

"Maybe you could expand on how you see it hurting writers? In my experience, fanfic tends to swell the ranks of buyers (ie fans), maintaining interest in fandoms that have been inactive on the seller's end for a long time."

I conceded, way up thread, that I don't think fanfic hurts the individual author, in fact probably helps her/him. Greg was making an argument that the reason that, as an aggregate, authors make so little money, is because there are so many of them out there willing to do it for free. The market, working the way it does, makes an individual author's work less valuable to a buyer if the buyer can get it cheaper elsewhere. There's a lot of truth to that. When applied to the phenomena of fanfic--writers doing it for free, publishing it for nothing, giving it away--it appears to feed into Greg's argument that, on aggregate, this isn't a good thing for writers.

Then, picking up the argument, maybe not. If the fanfic market is truly hermetically separate from the markets writer venture in, then what fanfic does doesn't relate to what happens to writers who try to sell their work. But, see, I don't know near enough about the fanfic market to know this. I was hoping people who do (and there appears to be a fair number on this comment thread), could say no, yes, or only partly.

And Greg, you're railing to me about the wrong thing. I have never, ever, not once supported the extention of copyrights to where they are now. I have written in different forums about this, and at the request of another writer, even posted an essay about my thoughts on her website which you can find here. No, you don't need to go read it. Teresa said it, perhaps more elegantly, here.

#431 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 12:13 PM:

Yum, yum. Crow don't taste so bad when it's deep-fried and smothered in chocolate....

I'll be over here if anyone needs me....

(sigh)

#432 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 12:17 PM:

AliceB.:

...but I'll let you wriggle your way out of that one (and am eagerly awaiting your response).

How for:

1. It's so much of a buyers' market that some sellers are not only giving away their work for free, but pay significant sums to give it away (as the existence of scams and vanity presses shows). Fanficcers have shown a tendency to use inexpensive venues, so their undercutting prices is hardly significant.

2. The "giving away, driving prices down" applies equally to fanfic and original fic. A law to protect published authors from being undercut by unpublished authors would have to target all publishing not done by a royalty-paying publisher.

3. The scarce thing is not writing, but good writing. People are willing to pay for good writing, even if they can get bad writing for free. So, unless the fanfic is better than the original, it cannot damage the original's revenue.
(I'm unconvinced by that one myself, though.)

#433 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 12:20 PM:

Greg London:
You excerpted me. Here's the entire sentence:

Yeah, well, you excerpted me, too, only addressing the 'early 20s' part of my comment, and not this part:

"For that matter, I'm in my 30s, and given the average life expectancies in my family, I'm expecting to make it to my 80s with all my mental faculties intact, and quite possibly somewhat longer."

I'd be willing to bet that [Author age during early publication years] + 42 > [author life expectancy] in more cases than you think, which is why I question the "most authors" assertion.

Michael:

If you're counting on your 42 year old works to provide you income during your retirement, you may as well sell the rights for a dollar and buy a scratch-off lottery ticket.

Well, in that case, why would it matter if it were in the public domain? I mean, if no one's going to be making money off of it, it doesn't matter if they can use it, right? (And please note, I'm pro-fanfic, so that sort of thing doesn't figure into my argument.)

Or, y'know, maybe I'm thinking that if someone wants to make a movie from one of my stories when I'm 85, I should see a piece of the profit.

#434 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 12:20 PM:

"I'd really like to see a good marketting study done regarding fan fiction."

I'd second that.

#435 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 12:24 PM:

Hamadryad:

Interestingly (well, I find it interesting) I’ve encountered a number of fanfic writers who are extremely proprietary about their stories.

I agree that that's ironic, and I hope that if anyone ever wants to extend on my non-original stories, I'll be cooler about it. My pet theory on it is that as fanfic writers' only reward is whuffies, they are as protective of them as media conglomerates are of their money. (Published authors, getting both money and whuffies, fall in-between).

#436 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 12:47 PM:

Tina:Well, in that case, why would it matter if it were in the public domain? I mean, if no one's going to be making money off of it, it doesn't matter if they can use it, right?

Speaking as the public (which I can do because I contain multitudes), "what's in protecting your rights for us?".

If the public domain isn't refreshed, then there is no common cultural pool to draw from. The right to prevent or profit from derivative works (such as G. Brook's Pulitzer Prize winning March, mentioned above depend on the passing of Little Women into the public domain.

I'm not sure what the best solution here is. I don't think that it could be done, but I'd be interested in how things would work if production rights were separated in term from derivative works rights.

I'm not sure the 42 year term is the best term, myself. I'm not happy with the life+70 with the possibility that the government will, due to regulatory capture, extend it to life+90 to protect Disney's profits again.

#437 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 12:56 PM:

My take is that fanfic is, among other things, a form of full-contact literary criticism.

Which is my cue to mention disquieting news I heard at the Clarke Award event last night (Geoff Ryman won, for Air). A highly annoyed London publisher had been phoned that afternoon by J.K. Rowling's agent, who conveyed the interesting information that according to JKR's legal advisers, fan non-fiction in book form is now a hideous infringement of the lady's rights. Readers are permitted to speculate on a million websites about the storyline of Potter #7, but an extremely dim view is being taken of printed books that touch on the subject. It was claimed that unspecified projects had already been shot down on this basis. Last year, the publisher in question had commissioned just such a pop-critical work, not yet delivered....

#438 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 01:06 PM:

I'd be willing to bet that [Author age during early publication years] + 42 > [author life expectancy] in more cases than you think, which is why I question the "most authors" assertion.

You mean [age] + 42 less than [life expectancy], right?

And yeah, I expect that's true. But I keep trying to point out that the income of most authors would not change that much, if at all. I said "I think that the great majority of income for most works would fall under the graph that is in the zero to 42 year window,". When a writer creates a work, what percentage of income do they make in the first 42 years, and what percentage do they make from year 43 and later? for most authors what is the split?

if someone wants to make a movie from one of my stories when I'm 85, I should see a piece of the profit.

you SHOULD? really? Why? because its your "property" and you'll give it up when they pry it from your cold dead hands?

But why is it your property? Because the public agreed to treat it as your property. Without copyright law, all works go straight to the public domain. But then there's no incentive for writers to create new works, and there's no progress in the arts and useful sciences. So the public agreed to treat works as the creator's "property" for a period of time. How much time? What amount of time is fair?

Forever? Life of the author? Cold dead hands? 1 day? 1 Year?

Well, if it isn't your property except because the Public wants to encourage Progress in new works being created, then what would the Public view as the "fair" price? How's about the price that would give you a chance to make back the time and effort you put into creating it? Isn't that capitalism at its best? Use competition to get the lowest price that gets the job done? spend a year writing a book, get a year's worth of salary? luckily we have some historical data that shows over a century in US history had a 42 year copyright term and Mark Twain made a bucket of money during this period. Doesn't that mean that a 42 year term will pay the best authors for their time and effort it took them to create their work?

And if terms were set to 42 years and enough folks were willing to write and create for that term, isn't that the best and most efficient price to set copyright at? It gets the job done of promoting progress and returns works to their natural state of Public Domain as quickly as possible.

And if a 42 year term gets teh job done of promoting progress, why, exactly SHOULD you get a longer term than that? Why should the Public pay more than what's needed to get the job done? In no other area that I know of, excepting copyright, has it become standard practice to advocating paying the highest bid and ignore teh lowest bid that would still get the job done. Only Copyright has managed to pull that one off.


#439 ::: Hamadryad ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 01:13 PM:

In my experience, the big uproars are usually caused by outright plagiarism -- posting someone else's story with your (generic you) name on it or lifting enough identifiable text from another story that, were it an academic paper, you'd be required to cite source.

Yes, some of the uproars I've seen have been caused by outright plagiarism. But I've seen writers get equally as upset because they thought somebody had stolen an idea, even in cases where the end product bore only a superficial resemblance to the story the idea supposedly came from. The extent of the fuss all depends on how much of a following the Fan Who Has Been Wronged has in fandom.

#440 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 01:20 PM:

I'd like to point out that AliceB is just pointing out what the pro-fanfic camp should be (and usually is) willing to admit: it ain't always good, and it ain't always helpful to the original creator. I wouldn't come down on her because she's presenting the other side; if she hadn't this would have been a much shorter and less interesting thread consisting of the rest of us smiling and nodding at each other.

#441 ::: Echidna ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 01:26 PM:

Well, in that case, why would it matter if it were in the public domain? I mean, if no one's going to be making money off of it, it doesn't matter if they can use it, right?

Some people might still want to READ your books. But if there aren't enough potential readers to make it worthwhile for a publisher to reprint your books, they aren't going to get to do so, and eventually your books will be forgotten (but hey, at least nobody else made any money off them!)

They'll probably be forgotten with limited-term copyright, too. The vast majority of books are. But this way, there's a chance that if someone fifty years down the line still loves your books and wants to encourage others to read them, she can put them up on Project Gutenberg, or a bunch of fans can sell them at cost, or something.

I'm not a writer, but if I were, having my books stay alive would be more important than ensuring that my great-grandchildren would profit in the staggeringly unlikely event of a movie being made of my books seventy years after I die. They didn't write the damn things, they probably didn't even read them. At that point the people who read the the books and loved them have more of a stake in them than my distant descendants.

#442 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:34 PM:

John Norman has been rather pooh pooh on fan fiction based on his Gor novels. (The prevailing theory from people I've discussed this with is that fan fiction would be able to readily compete with his product based on quality of the fiction produced.) Still, the fandom surrounding his Gor books is a real potential turn off for fen. Knowing what the fen do, I and a number of others are not as willing to just pick up one of his novels to read and buy.

For a work-safe taste of his writing style: a Gor parody

#443 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:35 PM:

The conversation here is by no means over, but this seems like a good moment to pause and thank you all. At 440+ messages, this discussion is still civil, still substantive, and still evolving -- and what's already been posted here would literally fill a book.

(Yes, of course I counted.)

#444 ::: Shauna ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:42 PM:

Well...I feel sort of like an intruder here (please excuse the stranger; she means no harm), but I found this thread after finding another thread dealing with the Star Wars fanfiction plagiarism article, and I have to say that I am truly stunned by the stupidity of some people.

Sadly, that was actually the second case of blatant plagiarism that I've heard about in a week. In the case of the first one, the author took several of her fanfics (a series, written about an anime series), changed the names of all of the characters, and attempted to pass the stories off as "original", even though all the details of the true author's characters, universe, and overall plot remained essentially the same.

Her series is being sold on Amazon.com, too, ironically enough. And there is a huge number of outraged fans (and fanfiction authors) who are attempting to have it removed. The publisher was contacted, as well, and promised to investigate the matter. I haven't heard anything else about it, yet. The books are still up, however.

Situations like this certainly do not bode well for the fanfiction community in general. But I find it a relief to see that not all professionals are completely against it and do not lump all fanfiction writers together in the same category, despite the selfishness of a few...um..."aspiring authors".

I write fanfiction myself, and I have been writing it since 1998. I would like to note that I would never dream of attempting to sell any of it for profit. It's purely a hobby. Which happens to take up much more of my free time than I ought to allow...

While I find it a bit insulting that some professional (and non-professional) writers regard fanfiction writers as being less-than-able to create their own worlds and characters, in some way, I do agree with at least one person who said (in one of these threads) that writing fanfiction is like using training wheels. At least, in regards to helping one to grow as a writer, I think it is.

I've always found fanfiction to be extremely useful in helping me to improve my skills as a writer. Due to the critique I've gotten on various stories, I've learned what not to do, and I apply it to the next story I write. I get more critique as to what needs improved, and keep that in mind for the next one, and so forth and so on. I also apply all of this advice to my original stories, as well. It's very helpful.

I look at what I wrote eight years ago, compare it with what I write today, and I can see a big difference in my level of skill. I'd love to publish a book someday. With all of the practice I've given myself by writing fanfic, I think I've improved enough now that I may actually stand a chance of being accepted eventually by a real publisher, if I ever get around to submitting one of my original (non-fanfic) manuscripts.

Oh, I expect to be rejected. I hold no illusions that I'd be accepted instantly. That would be purely stupid on my part to think otherwise. I just believe that I have more of a chance to not be rejected than I used to, that's all.

I know I have grown tremendously as a writer, far more than I would have if I'd never happened to stumble upon fanfiction (it was accidental, oddly enough. I was looking up information for a movie) and gotten involved in writing it. My problem now is that I'm addicted to writing it, because of the positive response I've gotten from readers, so it's a bit hard to set it aside to keep plugging away at my original stories, which nobody reads even when I bother to post it online.

I guess that's the main reason why I continue to write fanfiction, even though I know it will never really get me anywhere in helping me accomplish my dream. I just want people to read my stories, no matter what they're about, and fanfiction seems to be the cheapest, easiest way to go about making it happen.

Oh...eh...I'm aware that the thread has sort of migrated on from this topic to expanding copyright issues, so my apologies if I'm dredging up old topics that nobody cares about. I just wanted to thank Teresa for her thoughtful article regarding fanfiction.

Right. Well, going away now.

#445 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 02:55 PM:

(Yes, of course I counted.)

That's funny--I had just copy-and-pasted this whole page into Word to do a wordcount on it myself (75.5K!). When I came back and refreshed the page, I saw Teresa's comment.

I had planned to send this link to a writer who often has dustups on this topic, but a novel's worth? Mebbe not.

#446 ::: ksgreer ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 04:57 PM:

Seconded on Shauna's post, since she's said just about everything I had considered saying, myself.

But I noticed only one or two people mentioned something that I think is of great importance when discussing fanfiction, which is: the format of the original versus the format of the derivation/continuation. It seems to be assumed that one might mistake fanfic for ofic, or have impressions of the original colored by a brush with fanfic.

The vast majority of fanfic, the strongest fandoms out there, are not literary-based. They are based on movies and television: Sentinel, SG-1, Sailor Moon, Gundam Wing, Star Trek, Star Wars, Naruto, Buffy, and so on. As at least one person did point out, these are all collaborative works. We may thank Joss Whedon alone in the disclaimers, but no one is foolish enough to think he did it all on his lonesome; Buffy killing Angelus wouldn't have had half the punch without Kenneth Zunder's cinematography, without Sarah Michelle Gellar's acting chops, without Christophe Beck's gorgeous soundtrack.

For many fans -- of both fanfic and fanart, and fanvid -- in their minds, they're just continuing this collaboration. If the writers sit in a room threshing out ideas, then run it past director and actors, and then the editor scans and crops and the composer drops in music, and then the fans watch it...for a trufan, letting such an event go past without participation is almost like refusing to respect the original work. That may sound odd to some of you, but it's the attitude I've noted amongst the majority of fanfic/fanart folks, even if not all may put it in quite those words.

Regarding literary-based fanfic, however, I've noticed I'm not the only one feeling a bit more uncomfortable. You can no longer truly claim you're collaborating after-the-fact on a collaborative piece; it was one person's words and ideas, maybe two or three others if you count beta-readers, agents, editors as having a finger in the pie to any notable degree. This may be why I see so many authors happily embracing "fanart" -- in which there's no mistaking it as canon, or official -- because it's not impinging on the format of the original. A newcomer cannot mistake this picture on the 'net of these two characters getting it on like wet wacky weasels and confuse it with the almighty CANON.

This is why I might suggest that it's not always enough to say "fanfic is wrong" or "bad" or "right" or even "better than the original"; we must also qualify the original's format versus the continuation. Certain mix and match setups will lend themselves to greater confusion on the part of fans: literature to literature, film to film, and so on. And therefore, perhaps in some cases we can see that fanfic is a genuine attempt to continue a collaborative, folk-based storytelling effort, and in other cases it may genuinely confuse readers trolling the 'net for more of their favorite author.

This is why 99% of the decent archives out there insist on disclaimers at the top, to prevent such confusion. Then again, a huge chunk of the various fandoms always spell it "cannon"; draw your own conclusions about how well they pay attention.

#447 ::: S. P. Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:17 PM:

Has anyone noticed all the 'modified' cars or motorcycles on the road these days? From hot rods to choppers to low riders to ricers, people seem to be purchasing cars, and then turning them into what they want. Amusingly, it should be pointed out that there are TV shows making some amount of money on this, and a great many companies selling products to assist in all the modifications. It's a multi-billion dollar industry these days.

What does this have to do with copyright, fan fiction, and trademark? A couple of things.

Everyone is very clear that once you bought your Pontiac LeSabre, as a physical object it is yours to do with as you please, including very rightly throwing it into a junkyard. The principle of the right of first sale means that the new owner is free to do whatever they want. This includes pouring time and money into it, and even selling it for more money than they bought it for. And not one red cent after that first sale belongs to the original manufacturer. The issues with creative works like literature, music, and film aren't that derivative works dilute trade dress, or steal ideas from the original. The real issue copyright holders have with fan fiction or its ilk is that information is not a material object. Each person who wants a Honda Civic with a V8 in it must first buy a Civic from Honda, and must buy another physical vehicle for each V8 Civic desired. Each person who wants to read about Starsky and Hutch and their tempestuous and forbidden love affair is not required to buy a Betamax tape of one of those TV episodes. And reading twenty such stories is.. let me see... nothing times twenty... carry the zero... oh. Zero dollars again.

Copyright law was intended to 'fake' physical attributes for non-corporeal creations. For a limited period of time we, your fellow citizens, will pretend that your idea is a physical object and allow you to sell access to your *government granted monopoly* to that idea, just like it was a physical object. For illustration, selling a 'book' to someone means that they can use the object book as a heavy rectangular object, burn it as they see fit, eat pages out of it, and even read the copyrighted information that is what we think of when we call something a book. But unlike a natural physical construct, they get no permissions to use that information except under strict limitations. Compare that please, to my fictional LeSabre, which I could use as a really sad taxi, selling the use of its disintegrating backseat to others for my own profit. I could use it as a stunt vehicle, and sell tickets to the thrilling performance of me failing miserably to jump over other LeSabres I have purchased to pay for my soon to be incurred hospital bills. But I can't buy a book and sell tickets to me reading from it.

Okay. But there are huge problems with this treatment of ideas as physical objects. Copyright converts the public realm of discourse and the personal realm of fantasy into the legal fiction of private property.

Copyright as it exists now hurts public discussion. When Ronald Reagan's proposed space-based weapons system was referred to as 'Star Wars,' George Lucas directed one of his minions to have an aneurysm for him. Although everyone under the age of 35 never knew a world where 'Jedi' wasn't part of the popular mythology, LucasFilm Ltd. owned those ideas and didn't want them used as part of the country's discussion about the use of space access technology and non-proliferation. But here in the real world, we need those commonly understood metaphors and archetypes to help us as we talk about the world we are making. Should any one man decide how the rest of a free society chooses to frame a great debate? Should he have been able to stop us all? I argue that giving individuals and (more commonly) corporations perpetual ownership of ideas impoverishes us all.

The current laws also stifle art itself. We as writers need every arrow in our quiver to do our job, doing it successfully is not easy, and we cannot walk away from the Kryptonite-tipped Mithril arrow just because Sony/AOL/TimeWarner/ whoever waved a check at us. I cannot think of a more pointed critique of the fallacy of Nietzsche's ubermensche than attacking those stereotypes in popular fiction. (Here I'm gazing pointedly at the aforementioned Jedi, wise old wizards of all stripes, Jack Bauer, et al.) I mentioned Starsky and Hutch earlier, and their torrid love affair. The most verbal half of our population are women. They tend to be readers, more so than men. I'm sure you'll all be shocked (shocked!) to discover that most published writers tend to be men. Most of the main characters tend to be men. A lot of the fan fiction out there dealing with male homosexual relationships have been ways for female writers to 'feminize' characters they like and respect, and in so doing write themselves into the stories they like. If strong, aggressive, competent and respected Captain Kirk can smoke Vulcan pole, then straight women can see themselves in that most macho of men. It's a subversion of popular culture, and even if it's not my cup of tea, it's still high art.

But the personal realm of fantasy is just as important. When kids run around pretending to be Spiderman or Hermione Granger, they have their own brilliantly vivid inner lives, and I don't think we can tread too lightly in the realm of dreams. Are their stories, even if they share them with other children, a violation of copyright law? You wanna sue little Timmy? Really? And why would a child's inner life be valued, but not an adult's? More peculiar still, how can an adult call him or herself an artist, and deny other people's inner fantasy life? When I write something, I say it is alive only for as long as I am writing it. Once they are on paper, ideas are dead, boring, empty. Until someone else reads them, and brings them to life in their own minds and hearts. There's an element of fantasy to the desire to take the mass produced, mass market culture that is forced upon us in bulk and make it our own. That desire is strong, it is human, and it is important.

I agree, there needs to be a balance to all of this. Individual artists and corporations both need to be able to make a living from creative works. But 'We the people ' need to be able to use and abuse ideas, for the betterment of ourselves personally and for the world at large. And ignoring the fact that copyright is a legal fiction or the fact that recontextualizing our shares mythos is important does no one any favor.

#448 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:38 PM:

ksgreer, interesting observations about format. Back in the dark ages when I was scribbling Star Trek fanfic on school tablets, I did it in the form of a TV script (yes, I did read David Gerrold's book on the making of The Trouble of Tribbles, why do you ask?) and of course when it was all perfect I was going to send it to Gene Roddenberry and my friends and I would all act in it. Somehow, of course, overlooking the fact that this was the mid-seventies. Anyway, the point is that I was acting as if I was participating in the sort of communal endeavor that was a TV show. Going back to Tolkien, as I usually do, when he talked about "other hands and eyes" filling in his creation, he was really envisioning art and music and so on rather than people writing stories using his characters, I think, and was relatively comfortable seeing this sort of thing from his fans. So I think you are on to something here.

#449 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:39 PM:

S.P. Smith: Everyone is very clear that once you bought your Pontiac LeSabre, as a physical object it is yours to do with as you please...

Except making it look like a different car (e.g. a BMW) and selling it as such.

I've actually seen kits that let you dress up your Hyundai to look kinda-sorta like a 3-series Bimmer. I don't think it would actually fool anybody but marketing the kit seems kind of like a grey area to me. (Roundels are to be purchased from your friendly neighborhood BMW dealer, and not in the kit for obvious reasons.)

#450 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:52 PM:

Larry Brennan: Except making it look like a different car (e.g. a BMW) and selling it as such.

I've actually seen kits that let you dress up your Hyundai to look kinda-sorta like a 3-series Bimmer.

There was a time when the Coolest Thing On The Block was the VW Bug with a Rolls-Royce grille. There was no confusion over what it was; I don't know if it was officially provided by Rolls for the Bug or not. (Though now that VW owns R-R...)

Likewise, it's hard to mistake fanfiction for canon. At least, in terms of literary fanfic. I have only read a modicum of it, and less of the media sort, and it seems to me that any fanfic author who wrote a convincing simulation of the original -- including extension and deepening of the characters in manners both believable and consistent with canon -- is displaying talent worthy of notice. As long as it's not sold, or put forth as canon, I stand with those who don't see any harm.

#451 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:56 PM:

"Warning! Game Neepery
In re gaming. This is an MMORPG, or a "Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game."

Oo, I have GOT to tell my husband about this.
(Er, sorry for the thread derailment.)
Thank you!

#452 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:57 PM:

AliceB: You know, if I were really evil, I'd point out that you've made the perfect argument for how fanfic hurts writers...

I would love to see an instance where the existence of free fanfiction hurt the market for the original text.

The plural of anecdote is not data, but I have never seen anyone turn down the opportunity to buy the new Harry Potter novel because AJ Hall posted a new chapter of Lust Over Pendle (or whatever). The existence of fan created works seems instead to encourage investment in the original text rather than the reverse. I can't tell you how many people I know who have been sucked into a fandom (to buying dvds, books, attending cons, etc.) through first reading fic. Fic keeps a fandom alive (Due South is still going strong).

People do stop reading/watching the original text, sometimes, if they think it's no longer any good, while they might continue reading the fanfiction if the fic gives them what the canon no longer does. But it's not the fic driving them away; it's the original text.

Inge: The scarce thing is not writing, but good writing. People are willing to pay for good writing, even if they can get bad writing for free. So, unless the fanfic is better than the original, it cannot damage the original's revenue.

And I'd offer the possibility that even if the fic is better, it can't. The number of people who read the fic is very small compared to the larger audience (although growing, I suspect). Additionally, even when people think the fic is better, the fic is not the canon. And when the canon is the draw, people won't privilege the fic over the canon. Now, I know people who no longer watch Stargate because they miss Jack O'Neill, and still read the fic; but they wouldn't watch Stargate even if there were no fic at all.

Laura's comments about the fandom itself driving people away from the source is another issue entirely, and not one I'm inclined to get into. I've never witnessed that phenomenon myself.

As for the hypocrisy of fans regarding ownership of their own works: well, yes and no. Fans will do whatever they can get away with, and such a large community cannot be self-policed or policed from outside at all reliably. Fans do tend to think of producers as non-members of their community and therefore not subject to the same rules fans impose on themselves--particularly media producers like television writers and so forth. But as we all do, fans rationalize their decisions in such a way as to justify their actions. It may not be fair or entirely honest, but it's certainly understandable.

#453 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 05:59 PM:

See also To Blur Plagiarism's Lines, Look to 'Star Wars' http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5367135

#454 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 06:03 PM:

Wow...someone who hasn't heard of an MMORPG. Not sure whether to wonder what rock you've been living under, or unabashedly envy you. :)

#455 ::: Icarus ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 06:12 PM:

AliceB:

When applied to the phenomena of fanfic--writers doing it for free, publishing it for nothing, giving it away--it appears to feed into Greg's argument that, on aggregate, this isn't a good thing for writers.

Then, picking up the argument, maybe not. If the fanfic market is truly hermetically separate from the markets writer venture in, then what fanfic does doesn't relate to what happens to writers who try to sell their work. But, see, I don't know near enough about the fanfic market to know this. I was hoping people who do (and there appears to be a fair number on this comment thread), could say no, yes, or only partly.

Personal interest of mine.

I did a study on reader loyalty in novel-length fanfiction stories. I haven't done a study of the overlap between published fiction and fanfiction markets, however, I do have a thumbnail sketch of some revealing numbers.

Stories that contain explicit sex (whether heterosexual or homosexual) have roughly twice to four times the hit counts of non-explicit stories. (Bear in mind I've no way of knowing how many of those hits are the same people re-reading, which is common with erotic material.)

I do not have good numbers comparing heterosexual to homoerotic fanfiction, unfortunately, but my best guess is that their popularity is about even. Several reputable studies have shown that the market for both is overwhelmingly women.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that those who write non-romantic fanfiction, which is most similar to the original published fiction, have difficulty finding an audience.

My interpretation:

1) Sex sells.

2) Fanfiction that directly competes with the source material (with alternate non-sexual plotlines) does not sell.

3) Fanfiction that fills in romantic/sexual relationships that are either unlikely, or unimportant, to the original work are twice to four times as popular.

I know I run the risk here of having fanfiction writers jump on me to say "but we write plots with our romances!" I'm just analyzing hit-counts and what those numbers might tell us.

Unless the source material is a more or less explicit romance, it doesn't seem that fanfiction competes. It's tangental to the original work. Interestingly, there do not seem to be large fanfiction communities around romance novels that already provide this.

Actually, and now my marketing background's really going to show -- the fanfiction group could probably be actively marketed to. A writer could make a little extra assembling edited encyclopedias from their background notes (I'm thinking of Christopher Tolkien's 13-volume History of Middle Earth, which is probably excessive but people buy it).

It's mercenary thinking on my part probably, but you already have the notes. Once you finish the last book of XYZ series you wait till sales cool off then throw the background material to the fans and watch it lift the sales curve for a bit.

Icarus

#456 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 06:19 PM:

Fanfiction that fills in romantic/sexual relationships that are either unlikely, or unimportant, to the original work are twice to four times as popular.

Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Gen (episode-like) stories are respected in general, but the stories that are loved and recommended widely and saved to hard drives and printed out, and that generate the most response, are always romances (ending happily or not).

90% of fanfiction is romance, and it's one reason why a lot of women I know don't read romances anymore; they read fic, where the characters are more interesting and the plots (sometimes) more complex.

#457 ::: zvi ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 06:26 PM:

AliceB:

Except, however, copyright provides that if someone starts copying the work s/he's done, then yes, s/he can put a stop to it. {snip} I will not stop arguing that there is no entitlement to use someone else's words while those words are under copyright. {snip}

99% of fanfiction, literary or filmed media, does not copy the original text. Fanfiction writers don't, as a general rule, write fanfiction stories where they copy what happened in the original text. They refer to, allude to, have characters reflect upon, discuss the events of, or react to what was in the original text, but they don't take their E-book of The Complete Sherlock Holmes, c&p The Red Headed League, and proudly announce their new story to the fanfic community. I'm just sayin'.

Now, might someone who writes fanfiction in the genre of fanfic practiced by mediafandom (again, specifically, those Star Trek fan descendants; I know less than nothing about Holmesian or Austen pastiche, and precious close to that about anime) rewrite the RedHeaded League from the perspective of the Redhead who brought the case to Holmes' attention? Yes. Could they write a story from Holmes' perspective on the whole affair? Absolutely. What about a story about how the criminal rots in prison, plans out his revenge on Holmes for the day he is released, and then goes and kidnaps Dr. Watson, only to be foiled by Holmes' observation and quick thinking? Superduper likely. But just plain copying the words on the page? Transcribing the scene on the screen? Not so much.

RE: Laura's comments on fandom driving people away from the canon

Fandom is not (despite what some fanfic writers may insist) synonymous with fanfiction writing. Harry Potter fandom includes fic writers, but also costumers, academics, role players, essayists, ritual film watchers, painters, cartoonists, and a whole lotta other people who are, um, focused on the text. I'm not going to claim that the reaction of other people to a text can't negatively impact people's reaction to the text (I myself have vowed not to watch Brokeback Mountain because of the hystrionics when Crash beat it for Best Picture), but unless you plan to crack down on all communal reaction to art, I don't see how this can be viewed as a unique failing of fanfiction.

Actually, isn't the problem with Gor more about people trying to live the Gor lifestyle?

And Anne Rice's bad blood with her fans has, I think, more to do with her poor response to criticism than to her C&Ds about the fanfiction. I mean, the hystrionics she had on Amazon about negative reaction to the last Vampire book were just a temper tantrum. I don't see how you can blame fanfiction writers because Anne Rice can't accept (as every other published author from the beginning of publishing has had to accept) that some people don't like her books and are willing to say so in public.

#458 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 06:29 PM:

Icarus:A writer could make a little extra assembling edited encyclopedias from their background notes.

Doesn't this happen with some regularity in SF? I have two Zelazny approved guides to Amber, there's a Dragonlover's Guide to Pern, I'm pretty sure there are other concordances, guides, encyclopedea, and so on. It's certainly popular in episodic television and was so even before the web.

I know lots of people who use those as references for gaming or writing.

#459 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 06:42 PM:

cofax said:

Laura's comments about the fandom itself driving people away from the source is another issue entirely, and not one I'm inclined to get into. I've never witnessed that phenomenon myself.

Actually, I've observed that more than once, especially if you expand "fandom" here to cover the entire spectrum of fan activity and not just the relative undergroundness of fanfic.

It's the whole ruination-by-hype thing. I know a woman who has flatly declared she will never read the Harry Potter books because she doesn't want to be associated with the "crazy obsessives" who in her eyes make up 99% of the fans of the series.

Of course, this woman is an idiot (and the fact that she said this to me immediately after I had mentioned that I love the books speaks volumes about her social skills, as well), but that doesn't mean she's alone.

I've also heard less offensive variations on this woman's issue. Of the people I know who have not yet read any of the HP books, for instance, some of them are very reluctant to even try them at this point, because the hype around them has reached such a ridiculous pitch that actually reading the books is almost guaranteed to be a letdown.

#460 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 06:44 PM:

Dear Ms. Nielsen Hayden,

Thank you for the opportunity to review your manuscript of "Fanfic". We enjoyed the discussion of audience created story -- unfortunately, we don't believe that it meets our publishing needs at this time.
Still, we think that it is a subject worthy of analysis, and since a mutual friend referred the manuscript, we hope you won't take the following comments amiss:
While the manuscript is certainly book-length as it stands, is definitely needs further editing -- the arguments tend to jump and wander, and there are just too many different voices narrating.
An epistolary approach, while frequently a useful device in a novel, is a rather odd way to present arguments in a scholarly work, and all the different voices tend to confuse the narrative and muddy the arguments. Rewriting it in a more traditional form, we think, would allow you to build clearer arguments and more concisely show the diversity of viewpoints.
Finally while we in the field find the subject fascinating, we also feel that it will appeal to a rather limited audience, and therefore (in our opinion) think it would not be successful in book form.
Sincerely,
John Q. Editor

#461 ::: Icarus ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 06:45 PM:

Posted by Dave Langford:

A highly annoyed London publisher had been phoned that afternoon by J.K. Rowling's agent, who conveyed the interesting information that according to JKR's legal advisers, fan non-fiction in book form is now a hideous infringement of the lady's rights. Readers are permitted to speculate on a million websites about the storyline of Potter #7, but an extremely dim view is being taken of printed books that touch on the subject. It was claimed that unspecified projects had already been shot down on this basis. Last year, the publisher in question had commissioned just such a pop-critical work, not yet delivered....

Now that's distressing. Acedemic work should never be shot down. What on earth are their priorities? Do they not understand the literary credibility this gives J. K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series?

Icarus

#462 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 06:55 PM:

I was just saying, a couple of days ago, that when they had those fake Rolls grills for VWs, what I really wanted to have was a fake Edsel grill. It would bring my two all-time favorite cars together. Not that I have either one.

#463 ::: Icarus ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:04 PM:

Michael:

Doesn't this happen with some regularity in SF? I have two Zelazny approved guides to Amber, there's a Dragonlover's Guide to Pern...

Good point.

Never stomp on a market, always find ways to sell to it. There's something about fanfiction that smells like an untapped market to me. Creating a licensed line of Star Trek novels was a good idea.

Now the homoerotic fiction: someone further up the thread suggested that this is something they can't buy in their local bookstore.

Does it have to be fiction involving known characters, or do we have a vast untapped romance market that's being ignored?

#464 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:16 PM:

"Wow...someone who hasn't heard of an MMORPG. Not sure whether to wonder what rock you've been living under, or unabashedly envy you. :)"

Well, it IS a nice rock.
You'd be aghast at, say, the amount of popular SF TV I've never seen either. Oh well. It all makes more time for books. ;)

#465 ::: cofax ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:30 PM:

Actually, I've observed that more than once, especially if you expand "fandom" here to cover the entire spectrum of fan activity and not just the relative undergroundness of fanfic.

Well, then I would question the causal relationship you're assigning to fanfiction, then. The question was whether fanfiction itself affects the market for the source text detrimentally; and I don't think we've answered it. If craziness drives people away from the source text, that's certainly not exclusive to fanfiction.

And Harry Potter hype is in no way confined to the obviously fannish community--it's in the NY Times.

#466 ::: S. P. Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:36 PM:

As a response to Larry Brennan who wrote that 'making [a physical car] look like a different car (e.g. a BMW) and selling it as such' is the exception to my statement that there are clear rules allowing you to do as you please to physical property.

Well, actually you are permitted to do this. In the US, the VIN stamped on the frame and matching title would clearly identify the oddly non-functional purported BMW in fron tof your prospective buyer as being a LeSabre. You can dress your pig up in a poke, and try to sell your pig in said poke. It would be illegal if you forged the documents and tried to pass your forged item off as the real thing.

Forged artwork of any kind is really, really rare. This goes for Goethe, or Star Trek knock-offs. And there's plenty of legal ramification to deter forgery. It's an actual criminal offense, as well as a tort against the poor sod who bought it. This seems pretty well enough to me.

More common are people who want to be involved in some hobby or another that interests them, and share those interests and their own skills with other fellow hobbyists. If they aren't passing bogus work off as the real Dr. McCoy, who cares?

It takes me about a year of calendar time to write a novel, recognizing that I have a day job. I make no money off any novel I've written, but perhaps someday I will. I have been very well compensated for my daytime technical writing. Now, can somebody explain to me why my remuneration for my work for hire day job ends when the project ends, but I should have a monopoly on my creative works for the next (projected) one-hundred and twenty years? I know that in the creative arts, the only *real* money the we get is on the back end, strung out over time. Sure, sounds fine by me. Writers need to eat, and I like my sushi. But ONE-HUNDRED AND TWENTY YEARS!!! One hundred and twenty years ago, Gottleib Daimler built the first I.C.E. forerunner of the modern car, the Eiffel Tower was started, and here's one for you: Alcott's 'Jo's Boys and How They Turned Out' was published. Yeah. She really would have benefitted if the copyright to that work was only now expiring.

Here's my two cents. If I wasn't able to sell enough mind-implants of my ThoughtBook 3.2.5b to put deuterium fuel the hovercar in the next forty years, the last eighty years of that time probably won't be too helpful for me either. If I got wealthy off the first forty years by being lucky or good, then my work is now a part of the cultural zeitgeist around me, and in no way other than through legal fiction is it really 'mine' anymore. It really belongs to the (hypothetical, never gonna happen) fans of mine. If I manage to make a decent living off my creative juices, but didn't suddenly strike it rich, then those next forty years would have been spent writing other books. They suck, I go back to working for other people, where my talents apparently were more suited. They don't suck, I've got a few other sources of royalties.

Oddly, I actually had someone write a fanfic based on one of my novels. I didn't find out about it until years later, but I was and am over the moon with joy that I ever created anything so involving that even one person wanted to play with 'my' toys. If I had been making money off that piece, and that same someone had wanted to use it for their own original piece, great. Better there is one more writer out there, than one more uninvolved consumer.

#467 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 07:58 PM:

Icarus: Now the homoerotic fiction: someone further up the thread suggested that this is something they can't buy in their local bookstore. Does it have to be fiction involving known characters, or do we have a vast untapped romance market that's being ignored?

I appear to have a small but enthusiastic following for my profic, which can best described as original character slash. Some of the fan mail I've had suggests that there would be a much bigger market for it if there was more of it on the shelves in the romance section of the bookstores. This is a chicken and egg problem, of course.

#468 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 08:12 PM:

The problem with homoerotic fiction is finding it in the stores. My local Barnes and Noble has a piddling small collection that has only gotten smaller. My local Borders has the same problem.

The GLBT press has gotten a bit better and I know some women who are actively selling short stories to publishers of gay fiction. My favorite publisher of lesbian fiction is Bold Strokes. The author I think started out in the Xena fandom but I'm not entirely certain on that. If you haven't heard of and aren't adverse to reading lesbian erotica, I suggest Love's Masquerade by Radclyffe (excerpt here) which is basically a story involving a writer with an on-line psuedo name who interacts with fen and has a romance with her publisher. Convuluted sounding but I really like the author's work. A lot of the people on her official mailing list are there, I think, because they came in through the saffic fan fiction community. The entrance of several more established lesbian writers into that publishing house or publishing their short stories in their anthologies helped give credibility to them. They've scored a number of awards in the GLBT press.

But the sad thing is that big book ware houses are still sadly neglecting GLBT romances and aren't marketing in their stores. :(

#469 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 08:19 PM:

.... cause people to start seeing homoeroticism in a show as chaste as Smallville, or whatever.

Nitpicky irrelevant distractor: I wouldn't exactly classify Smallville as chaste:

http://www.mclady.net/blog/index.php/category/celebrities/erica-durance
http://makeashorterlink.com/?B2881670D

Nothing shocking. Just ongoing softcore BDSM and seminude seduction, thrown in with one burlesque episode. But they do make Aaron Spelling seem to be a champion of old-fashioned modesty.

#470 ::: ksGreer ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 08:36 PM:

Another note about fanfiction and its position as a gift economy: it's not just gift, it's also purchase but only for the original artist. Fans know better (for the most part) than to bite the hand that feeds them.

F'instance, I participated in the nonfiction side of fandom (essays and analysis) in Buffy, but it wasn't until I saw Spirited Away that I went looking for more, of anything, really. From there I began to develop an interest in anime, and my first introduction to one series was through fanfic. I stumbled over some slash, read, and thought, my god these characters are insane, who the hell would do a series like this? Then, of course, I ordered the series, discovered it was nothing like the slash-fic but all sorts of violent goodness, and by the end...

Well, let me put it this way. The series came out in Japan in 1995. It was finally put on Cartoon Network in 1999, and released on DVDs around 2000 or so. When I started buying copies of the DVDs, it had been ten years since Sunrise started the series. 49 episodes, five to a disk (or so), ten disks total, $26 on average, $21 or so if I could find a deep discount. So all told, I spent over $200 on that one series. Ten years after it was first produced, and all because I read some fanfiction.

Now, multiply my experience by about two thousand -- which is the number of people just on one mailing list for the fandom, even now it's hit its 10-year anniversary. Of those two thousand, I can name twenty in the past two months who have remarked that they've only just discovered the series, and are buying disks -- and without exception, it's because they know someone who writes fanfic, creates fanart, cosplays, something, and were curious, and wanted to see the original, "real" series after solely understanding it via other fans' eyes.

This is why I don't believe that fanfic can, ultimately, undo or dismantle or disparage a writer's or creator's work. Really, a solid fandom will expand and convert newcomers into true believers without the creator lifting a finger. And those true believers will buy fanart, will pay for various merchandise, but they'll also purchase the original work, too; it's their ticket to being able to claim their own interpretation of the work. There's nothing that gets quite so much ridicule in fandoms as the person who says, "I wrote this fanfic, and I've not actually seen the series, but..."

One caveat: fandom goes back to the source, except in cases where the source sucks rocks to a degree that makes the baby manatees cry. I can name at least two fandoms in which the original series was so butchered, so badly plotted, so horrendously drawn that the fandom pretty much "took over" the storyline in a massive, semi-concerted effort to "save" the characters.

I think if, as a writer, the former happened to me, I'd be pleased as punch. If the latter -- the fandom "saving" my creation from me -- happened, it's a major clue-by-four that maybe it's time to go back to working in a bowling alley. Or something.

#471 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 08:55 PM:

Well, then I would question the causal relationship you're assigning to fanfiction, then.

I wasn't aware I was assigning anything to fanfiction. Certainly not in any all-encompassing sense.

The question was whether fanfiction itself affects the market for the source text detrimentally; and I don't think we've answered it.

Actually, someone mentioned upthread something about John Norman's fans being a turnoff to newcomers. I'm not familiar with that fandom myself, so I can't speak to it with any authority, but it was brought up.

Also, someone else (I simply don't have the energy to track the comments down in this gargantuan thread) mentioned how reading Buffy fanfic first pretty much turned her off to the show itself when she tried to watch it, later.

In my view, the question is not whether it can drive potential fans away, because it can, clearly. It can also just as clearly draw people in to the source material, and make fresh fans out of them. This much is obvious from the various anecdotes shared in this thread alone.

So maybe the question instead should be: which of these two things does fanfiction do more consistently?

If craziness drives people away from the source text, that's certainly not exclusive to fanfiction.

Never said it was. In fact I specifically didn't limit the phenomenon to fanfiction in my original response.

And I'm certainly not saying that all fanfiction is inherently and always a turnoff or detriment to the source material; that's ridiculous. I was merely responding to your comment that you had never come across an example of it yourself, and mentioning that I had.

#472 ::: Janna Silverstein ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:12 PM:

Have you heard? Novelist and commentator Lev Grossman, prompted by the Lori Jareo/Amazon thing, offered an essay this afternoon on "All Things Considered" in praise of fan fiction.

#473 ::: AmeliaElias ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2006, 11:20 PM:

Now, I think creators have a very strong right to be paid for their creations. But I don't think they have a right -- that is, I don't think they should have a right -- to control what happens to those creations.

As a published author, I could not disagree more. Intellectual property is a very real thing that is zealously defended by corporations the world over. Why should my words be treated differently than the Coca Cola slogan, or McDonald's annoying Big Mac song?

If someone buys my book and wants to scribble in the margins or white-out a character's name and change it to El Steve-o, I don't care. But don't take my fictional world, change a couple of names, slap together a mish-mash of the situations I created, and call it yours. It's not.

What I think the poster is overlooking is that it DOES take genuine work to construct a realistic fictional world, create the laws, and construct the framework. When others take that and run, yeah, I can understand how it'd rub an author the wrong way. There's a reason books take a long time to create. I mean, I type 80+ words per minute, so I should be able to write a full-length book in a week or so, working 10 hours a day. Why don't I? Because it's not that easy. The planning, plotting, and creation process takes time and skill.

I think the flaw with the above argument is that it the creation of treats literary (and musical) works differently from other inventions. You can't deconstruct an iPod, make another one using the same design, and not expect Apple to own your colon. They invented it, they put it out there, and yeah, they CAN control what happens to their creation. Why can't I?

#474 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 12:12 AM:

Well, then I would question the causal relationship you're assigning to fanfiction, then. The question was whether fanfiction itself affects the market for the source text detrimentally; and I don't think we've answered it. If craziness drives people away from the source text, that's certainly not exclusive to fanfiction.


Finding non-fen on-line in my own circle of aquaintences is a bit difficult... but I found a few. At any rate, I created a survey (on this site so I could run correlations if my data set got big enough to warrant any sort of analysis) asking about various fannish behaviors, if non-fen were to hear about those behaviors, what impact that would have on their buying decisions... And even in this small sample, fan fiction related activites can impact the ability of a creator to sell their product. The way some things was answered was a bit of a surprise. (It is a good thing for fen of your stuff to pay for funerals of other fen who die. Other charity work on the part of fen can hurt you. Plagiarism among a creator's fan fiction writing community can hurt and help an author. Having "normal" female fens can help a creator. At least based on 19 answers. I suppose a bigger answer pool might change those results.)

#475 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 12:22 AM:

Janna:

If Grossman's audio essay wasn't (ahem) inspired by this discussion . . . I'd be very surprised.

#476 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:50 AM:
Now, I think creators have a very strong right to be paid for their creations. But I don't think they have a right -- that is, I don't think they should have a right -- to control what happens to those creations.
As a published author, I could not disagree more. Intellectual property is a very real thing that is zealously defended by corporations the world over. Why should my words be treated differently than the Coca Cola slogan, or McDonald's annoying Big Mac song?

Intellectual property is as real as the arithmetic of infinities. Yeah, they both exist. But they both exist as purely mental constructs. Without humans, neither would exist.

Just because some thing occurs does not make it right! Multi-national corporations do an awful lot of things that an awful lot people disagree with. I don't think you want to start using them as models for action, or as proponents for your argument.

I think that the Coca-Cola slogan is a trademark of The Coca-Cola Company. I would think that the McDonalds jingle is also, almost certainly, a trademark of McDonalds'. Trademarks are diffeent beasts from copyrights.

The iPod name is a trademark of Apple Computer, Inc; the physical parts will be covered by various patents, many of which will belong to companies with which Apple has a cross-licensing agreement. The firmware will be copyrighted, as will the software, probably. In the US, the software may also be patented, although in many jurisdictions, software patents aren't valid. Future product announcements of Apple's are trade secrets.

Those are all intellectual properties, but they don't behave very similarly at all. They each have different purposes, and different implementations. That is one of disadvantages of using the term intellectual property. It conflates a muddle of different things.

For instance, it would just be plain illegal for me to use the iPod name, and the  Apple logo, to advertise my MP3 player, for now, and, basically, forever. However, I could reverse engineer the software, and then do a clean room re-implementation, provided I didn't try and use patented algorithims, like many of the ones involved in MP3s. However, when the patents have expired, in 25 years, then I could re-implement them. When the copyright terms on the software run out in 75 years time, I could then just copy the software. But I can't do that now. Finally, I think it would be illegal for me to use internal Apple trade secrets to help in the advertisement of my product.

Those constrictions all arise from my having to respect intellectual properties.They don't have much else in common.

They have differing origins, differing purposes, and differing implementations.

If someone buys my book and wants to scribble in the margins or white-out a character's name and change it to El Steve-o, I don't care. But don't take my fictional world, change a couple of names, slap together a mish-mash of the situations I created, and call it yours. It's not.

But, (a) that isn't fanfic, and (b) isn't that what a lot of fantasy is, anyway? I mean, seriously. Raymond E. Feist's work even uses Quenya (I think) in the naming schemes!

I think the flaw with the above argument is that it treats the creation of literary (and musical) works differently from other inventions. You can't deconstruct an iPod, make another one using the same design, and not expect Apple to own your colon. They invented it, they put it out there, and yeah, they CAN control what happens to their creation. Why can't I?

Because if that was allowed, Apple couldn't make money. If Apple can't make money, then it can't innovate. If Apple couldn't innovate, then we'd be still think that tcsh was user-friendly. It doesn't have much of anything to do with Ives' feelings.

It does, in fact, come back to Azalais' point: people deserve to get paid, but going beyond that, it isn't so clear cut.

For instance, did the artists that drew Lichtenstein's source material deserve the right to ban exhibition of his works?

*Well, I'd have to hire different engineers to do the reverse-engineering and
the implementation.

#477 ::: Icarus ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 05:19 AM:

There's a reason books take a long time to create. I mean, I type 80+ words per minute, so I should be able to write a full-length book in a week or so, working 10 hours a day. Why don't I? Because it's not that easy. The planning, plotting, and creation process takes time and skill.

You mean I didn't have to do ten months of military research, interview two Vietnam vets, talk to a military analyst, read Jane's, Col. Hackworth's About Face, SAR accounts from Chariots of the Damned and other military books, study Russian tactics in Chechnya, read Army readiness reports, study Sun Tzu's Art of War, 16th century two-handed broadsword technique, research Roman military deployment, create floor plans and department names for each floor of the building my characters were attacking, develop three battle plans (the good guys, the bad guys, and the good guys working at cross purposes to the other good guys), write and rewrite outlines, go through dozens of drafts and then have four editors carve it up?

All I had to do, since this was for fanfiction, was bang on my keyboard at 80+ WPM and the results would have been the same?

Man, I wish somebody had told me this....


#478 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 06:51 AM:

Bletch. For patents, it should be 20 years, not 25.

One is ashamed.

#479 ::: Michael Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 08:18 AM:

AmeliaElias :

Now, I think creators have a very strong right to be paid for their creations. But I don't think they have a right -- that is, I don't think they should have a right -- to control what happens to those creations.

As a published author, I could not disagree more. Intellectual property is a very real thing...

Intellectual Property is a very long-standing social compact that's changed significiantly over time. Many people are strongly attached to it. People have different understandings of what it means. That's fine and normal. The same can be said for marriage.

The copyright portion of Intellectual Property contains two parts. Certain limited rights are reserved to the creator. At the end of a set time, the work becomes part of the public domain.

As a creator, your rights are limited both by what is legal to control and what is possible to control. You can't control what people think of your work. You can't control what they say about it. You can't control what art they make in response to it. If you publish your work, you can prevent them from making derivative art, exact copies, or from publicly performing your work, but that's (about) it. Derivative art is slippery enough that it's what goes to the courts with uncertain outcomes.

You can keep people from responding to your work by not providing it to people, but if it is out there, people will respond. They'll criticize it, they'll create their own art on the basis of it, they'll imitate it, they'll discuss it. That's good. Woody Guthrie wrote "This Land is Your Land" because he didn't like "God Bless America". Alabama responded directly to "Southern Man" in "Sweet Home Alabama". Someone has already mentioned Sir Walter Raleigh's "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" that was a reaction to Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love". The original creators didn't get to control their art and it led to more art, some of it better. (I heard once that Neil Young's response to a question about "Sweet Home Alabama" was "They wrote a better song than we did.", but I can't verify that.) This happens in visual arts as well (but it's too early to crack the Art History book to cite examples). The culture grows by art in reaction to art. If you control your art to prevent that (which really doesn't work), you're taking without providing anything back. Culture is a dialog. We're all worse off because of the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act (unless we have stock in Disney, and then I'd still argue that the cash gain isn't worth the cultural gap in the Public Domain).

There's definitely a line over which someone can step, unfairly using your the fruits of your labor. Sometimes it's easy to see that line, soemtimes not so much. Sometimes there's disagreement. That's part of the cultural debate as well, and the changes in technology and common perception over time are why this can get tricky, especially here where we're discussing both Mark Twain's theories of copyright and POD/web fanfic.

I'm not willing to accept that 'control' over your contribution to the culture is a good idea. I'm pretty happy with 'limited rights to prevent unfair profit-taking', but I don't think an expansion of that to a right of control serves the public or the majority of creators.

--Michael

#480 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 08:36 AM:

Re: fannish activities lowering the percieved value of a work...

I know that it took me years to get into Harry Potter, because the media hype was beyond the pale. It took a fan to tell me, "Do not mind the hype, it's a good story". So: how to distinguish the effect of highly visible media hype from the less visible effect of fandom?

(There are things going on in HP fandom which can seriously damage anyone's belief in humanity. However, I'd wager that if you happen upon them and have enough background info to understand what's going on, you are either a fangirl already or completely unfazable anyway.)

Maybe Star Trek, with its archetypical fans (see their depiction in "Galaxy Quest") would be a useful object of study. Can anyone suggest a way to figure out how many people have never touched Star Trek because of the well-known and quite widely published and discussed geekery of its fans?

Another interesting example could be role playing games, incarnation of geekery, source of myriad urban legends about ill-adjusted players with bouncing reality checks, accusations of satanism and what-have-you. Now, that's a fandom with a reputation that can send strong men running away screaming. How many more people would do role playing games if not for its most insane fans providing the media with scare stories during slow season? And who, exactly, creates perception of fannish activities, and how much do they hurt the genre?

But, eh, Gor fandom? I mean, Gor fandom? Has anyone who feels that Gor fandom is damaging Norman's artistical reputation acutally read the books? (Walks away muttering...)

#481 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 09:04 AM:

inge,
The difficulty with role playing games isn't necessarily the urban legends; It is grown men playing make-believe.

Nevermind that theater is a culturally sanctioned arena for playing pretend - the urban legends surrounding that are almost as unappetizing. (Theater guys are unmanly* and theater girls are prima donnas.**)

Ditto for cosplay. Try explaining cosplay to a non fannish type and you get "oh, you play dress-up".

Make believe and dress-up is fun, dammit. Leave me alone.

Hypothesis: theater is 'okay' because of the separation between actor and audience, the same way fiction is okay beacause of the separation between author and reader. Thus we have a 480 comment thread on fanfic, which transgresses those boundaries.

-r.

*amongst nerds, the sterotype is theater guys are illogical, but smart.
**an improvement over actress=prostitute, granted.
Above assumptions computed for american fandom. YMMV.

#482 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 09:35 AM:

I was talking about copyright last night with my fiancé and came to this conclusion about it:

I believe that rights should lay in the hands of authors, to lease or sell or give away, as they will, as long as they are alive. But I also believe that the creating derivative works is a good thing overall, in terms of fostering creativity.

So I'm in favor of a copyright that lasts life of author (possibly plus a short term, meaning single digit years, for their heirs). But I'm also in favor of a system in which you can easily grant someone one-time or multiple-time permission to create a derivative work and market it as that person sees fit.

In other words, at any time after I theoretically publish a story, I want to still be able to say "No, you can't make this movie because I think you'd do a lousy job with it." or "You can make this movie if you pay me x dollars." or "Yes, you can take these side characters and write a new story about it and try to get it published.", or "Contact me with a quick summary of what you want to do with my world and I'll likely grant permission.", in a system that supports this flexibility.

I'll be over here holding my breath. Don't be alarmed by the blue.

#483 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 09:42 AM:

rhandir:

I thought of role playing as kind of a control group selected for worst possible results in regard to "perception influencing participation".

#484 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 12:34 PM:

Lis Riba 4/26 at 4:48 PM,

I do have access to the OED, and it states that the first use of "intellectual property" was:

1845 WOODBURY & MINOT Rep. Cases Circuit Court of U.S. (1847) I. 57 Only in this way can we protect intellectual property, the labors of the mind, productions and interests as much a man's own..as the wheat he cultivates.


#485 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 12:41 PM:

inge:I thought of role playing as kind of a control group selected for worst possible results in regard to "perception influencing participation".

Smile when you say that, pardner. We all have our roles to play in the Geek Hierarchy.

#486 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 12:51 PM:

May I respectfully suggest that everyone be a little bit careful in throwing terms around? For example,

Copyright as it exists now hurts public discussion. When Ronald Reagan's proposed space-based weapons system was referred to as 'Star Wars,' George Lucas directed one of his minions to have an aneurysm for him. Although everyone under the age of 35 never knew a world where 'Jedi' wasn't part of the popular mythology, LucasFilm Ltd. owned those ideas and didn't want them used as part of the country's discussion about the use of space access technology and non-proliferation. But here in the real world, we need those commonly understood metaphors and archetypes to help us as we talk about the world we are making. Should any one man decide how the rest of a free society chooses to frame a great debate? Should he have been able to stop us all? I argue that giving individuals and (more commonly) corporations perpetual ownership of ideas impoverishes us all.
(S.P. Smith at 1717 yesterday, emphasis added) No, no, no, and yet again no.

(1) From the first word of this paragraph, I expected a discussion about copyright. Nothing in the rest of the paragraph concerns copyright—just broad pronouncements.

(2) Lucas had no choice under trademark law. Star Wars is a mark, and in the legal sense was both tarnished (disparaged) and diluted by the Reagan Administration's usage. If Lucas had not objected, he could have lost all right to exclude others from using the mark! This is one of the commonly neglected distinctions between trademark and copyright: Trademark doesn't require registration, but does require policing the mark against all infringers; Copyright does require registration to enforce it at all (in the US), but one can be completely selective in choosing when to enforce it.

(3) This has nothing to do with owning an idea. It concerns only owning a label; and, in fact, it is the label ownership that presents the problem. The Reagan Administration did not appropriate the "idea" of Star Wars—only the name.

(4) US copyright law explicitly disavows ownership of "ideas"; instead, one can only own original expression. See Feist Publs. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991). Similarly, trademark law disavows protection of an "idea"—it extends only to (at most) labels inherently attached to specific, and narrowly defined, ideas. The only "idea protection" in US intellectual property law concerns trade secrets and patents—and patents have the shortest duration of all IP schemes.

#487 ::: ksGreer ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 12:55 PM:

inge:

I know that it took me years to get into Harry Potter, because the media hype was beyond the pale. It took a fan to tell me, "Do not mind the hype, it's a good story".

I think the key word in there is media. I had the same reaction to HP; the only interaction I had with anything HP-related was solely through the media. The party decorations, the halloween costumes, the massive banners at Borders proclaiming MIDNIGHT VOL 2!!!, the incessant articles about the entire phenomenom... bleah. And then the first movie rolls around, and you honestly had to live under a rock to not get pounded almost daily by something HP-related.

But, it took friends who were HP fans to get me to read. (More precisely, 8-yr-old fans.) "No, no," they said, "ignore all that, just read, it's a great story." So I did, and while I'd never nominate Rowling for a literary award personally, she's an excellent storyteller who knows her audience inside & out.

But if it was the media's overhype that turned me off, it was personal recommendations by fans I knew who turned me on.

Does anyone have an example of fannish behaviors that have turned off a majority of the potential audience, independent of media hype? I can't think of any, outside the gushing I recall from romance-fan friends who bought every book with Fabio on the cover because, well, FABIO.

After all, it doesn't necessarily follow that to be a fan I must also participate in fandom. Nor do all fans create art, music, or stories to highlight their inclusion with the fandom, but that doesn't stop them from discussing "what ifs" with friends, and (hopefully) suggesting the book/movie to the unconverted.

#488 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:04 PM:

C.E. Petit, thank you. All along you have been helpful in keeping us--well, at least me--straight.

#489 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:13 PM:

zvi:

Actually, isn't the problem with Gor more about people trying to live the Gor lifestyle?

I don't think there's much left of Gor fandom other than the lifestyle people.

#490 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:14 PM:

"Does anyone have an example of fannish behaviors that have turned off a majority of the potential audience, independent of media hype?"

Browncoats aka Firefly fans. Because what media hype?

#491 ::: Shauna ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:22 PM:

Oh my, this thread keeps growing. How fun!

inge, that's exactly the reason why it took me...um...however many years it's been since the first Harry Potter book came out to read them. All the hype was just ridiculous, and I'm stubborn about letting myself fall into that she-only-read-it-cause-everyone-else-is category. Honestly, I didn't understand what made THESE books so special over every other fantasy novel I've ever read. Just after the sixth novel came out, a friend finally forced her copy of the first one into my hands and told me to read it or else (so...who can argue with a request like that?), and I finally ended up buying the entire series (in hardback edition, for a low price at Wal-mart) to add to my vast collection of fantasy novels. Really, I think I need to buy more bookshelves now...and maybe a house to put them in.

Anyway, I still don't understand why JK Rowling is a more popular author than the other fantasy authors I've read in the past fifteen years, to have garnered that much hype. I'll admit that her books are fun (she's got a pretty great sense of humor), but really, so are urban elves who drive race cars for a living. Why don't I ever see people line up around the blocks (in my neighborhood, anyway) to buy those?

And why don't more people write them, for that matter? Elves are fabulous creatures. And inserting them into the "real" world, living as "real" people, is pure genius.

As for writing fanfic...I generally attempt to avoid writing fanfiction about published novels. For one thing, I don't think I'm good enough to try to expand on another author's universe, like Tolkein's, which is so intricate that it's daunting. That would require research into making his world accurate that I would, quite frankly, rather put into creating a universe of my own that I could eventually (hopefully) have published.

My fanfiction genre of choice began with the movie Labyrinth, about twelve years after it had been made, after another friend convinced me to watch it. So I did, and I started to write fanfiction about it because, in my opinion, that movie is just screaming for a sequel. Which will probably never, ever be made.

Actually, at the time I started writing, the original movie itself wasn't even being made anymore. I know this because I searched for it everywhere and only came up with $150 and up used videos on Ebay. Ouch. (This was, of course, before they released another addition onto DVD a few years later)

In my way of thinking, there was no harm in writing a "sequel" fanfiction to the movie (or several of them, for that matter). If it wasn't being produced or sold anymore, then nobody was making any money on it anyway, so they couldn't exactly lose the money they weren't making to begin with, could they?

No, seriously. Could they? How do copyright laws or trademarks stand on movies or such that are no longer being made/produced/sold anymore?

So, writing fanfiction just seemed like it would be a lot of fun, so I figured, why not try it, post it for complete strangers to read, and see what happens?

Well, what happened is my current obsession with writing...anything, really. Like this post. I've got to stop that and go back to working on my novels... *sighs*

#492 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:28 PM:

rhandir: Is 'cosplay' where the fans dress as their favorite character and do improvisational theatre in persona? Try to have ordinary interactions while staying in character and so on?

So like if I dressed up as Chiana, I'd walk around all slinkily, and try to get things from people by flirting and being all mock-seductive, and they'd respond in character too?

I've heard of cosplay and concluded the above it what it meant, but I haven't had the chance to verify it with a particpant before...the ones I know are 17 and just say "you wouldn't understand," as if we didn't do the same thing in the SCA with characters we invented ourselves!

#493 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:30 PM:

I'm in favor of a copyright that lasts life of author (possibly plus a short term, meaning single digit years, for their heirs).

And when the unknown author who dies the day after he completes his magnum opus that the whole world falls in love with, that will be when Life-Plus-5 will be shown by the author's heirs to be an unfair term.

Life-Plus-N for small values of N are unfair for older authors, giving them (and their estate) too little compensation.

Life-Plus-N for large values of N are unfair to the public, paying young authors up to 150 years of copyright protection.

Fixed Terms (N years from date of publication) will cause some to complain that young authors will see their works enter the public domain, but if the term is "fair" in that those young authors were paid for their labor before the work went public domain, then the complaints are really little more than folks missing their old time monopoly when the sellers managed to set the price at the highest bid, rather than letting competition find the lowest bid that would get the job done.

42 year fixed terms showed that it could get the job done.

#494 ::: ksGreer ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:40 PM:

Cosplay comes from "costume play", and uses the Japanese form of shorthand, where instead of calling it CP (as we might in the US), they use the first kana of each word. (It's odd at first, then you get used to the logic: Hikaru no Go becomes HikaGo, f'rinstance.)

That's just another form of fandom, really, if a bit more specialized. I mean, we've got people who've been doing Vulcan ears for years in the US, or making their storm trooper outfits and scaring the fans dressed in prison-orange as rebel pilots. Now I've got friends with HP scarves, and others with their forehead protectors and throwing stars, and others with...well, the list goes on. There's been some question, too, in quieter circles, as to whether recreating character designs in 3-D is possibly copyright infringement.

All I know is if I were ever at a book signing and anyone walked up dressed as my characters, I'd probably die of teh squee.

Although I should smack a caveat on that -- I recall Fred Gallagher reciting the tale of horror and woe, when at a book signing someone arrived as Naked Largo. The only item keeping this Naked Largo from complete nakedness was box formerly used to house servers. If Naked Largo let go, well... Fred seemed a bit traumatized, and politely requested that the audience exert some modicum of dignity in their cosplay. Please. For the baby wallabees.

There is a form of cosplay that's much like fanfiction, however, sometimes called 'cosplay redux' or 'cosplay remix' -- where you take a character and re-envision them as a stereotype of some sort. Goth Sasuke (verrry emo). Jock Sosuke (gun hidden in football). Lolita Pikachu, and I am so not making that one up. I think part of it is to test the other fans: can you recognize me now? And when the fans do, there's much squeeing, and pictures taken, and everyone's happy, doing the obscure-inside-joke fandom-bonding thing.

#495 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:41 PM:

"Does anyone have an example of fannish behaviors that have turned off a majority of the potential audience, independent of media hype?"

Browncoats aka Firefly fans. Because what media hype?

my sarcasm filter is on the fritz. Were you kidding? or no?

I just recently purchased the entire DVD box set for Firefly (yeah, I'm behind the times), because I kept hearing about the dedicated fan base. I didn't catch the original series when it was shown in the wrong order, and although I saw Serenity in the theater, that would have actually turned me off to the series, but because I've heard the fans were so damned loyal to the series, I decided I had to see it for myself.

Turns out the fans were right, in my opinion, having just watched the last episode a couple days ago. (yeah, I'm a little behind the times.)

But I didn't read any online fanfic or fanmovies or fanshorts or whatever. I just knew there was a loyal fanbase that had fought hard to get the series back on TV when it was cancelled.

So, for me, it was the loyalty of the fans themselves that got me to pay money for the DVD box set. Had I just seen the Serenity movie, I probably would have kept my money.

#496 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:44 PM:

ksGreer, are you saying that cosplay is JUST the dressing-up part, which is not to belittle it in any way because I know something of what goes into costuming and that replicating something recognizable is harder than just making something to look cool, but only to ask about the acting aspect? Cosplay == just a fancy word for being a costume fan?

#497 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:55 PM:

And why don't more people write them, for that matter? Elves are fabulous creatures. And inserting them into the "real" world, living as "real" people, is pure genius.

As it happens, elves are one of those elements that makes me put a book back on the shelf (along with rock stars and cyberpunk). I'm sure I miss a couple good books that way, but there are plenty of other books to read.

Personally, I think the best way to set up copyright limits would be such that the creator's children and spouse would see benefit from the work, but not generations beyond that. Leaving something for your kids is a pretty powerful incentive to create work.

What should the rules for fanfic be, though? If your brother-in-law was a U.S. senator and you had leverage to make him add a fanfic amendment to some random bill, what would it say? Would authors have to publicly declare their opposition to fanfic to make it actionable? Would they have to publicly grant their permission? Could you post it at a website with advertising? Could you show fanfilms at a convention that charges admission?

What should the rules be? Where do you strike the balance?

#498 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:57 PM:

CE Petit:Copyright does require registration to enforce it at all (in the US)

That I did not know. However it is in the laws and the government regulations, so I guess that's how it is.

What I found fascinating when I went to look for that was the mandatory deposit requirements for published, copyrightable material, including incentives to register closer to publication and a $250 penalty for failing to register within 3 months.

#499 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 02:01 PM:

Greg, that's great you got a positive side to the fandom first. But there are a lot of discussions around to about the browncoat behaviour affecting negativly the movie audience potetial. They were touch too evangelical for many of the non SFgeek targets.
And that is one of many issues of fandom. There is a mixture of both good and bad elements. If you meet a good one first and see the loving inspiration of their fic you are pulled in. If you get a bad one first you will be running screaming from their incest rape slash.

#500 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 02:07 PM:

In that unclean thought. I'm surprised that many fanfics are not busted under various "adult content, obscenity laws". I guess it's not until some parent complains that they found Weasly Twincest fic in their kids computer that it will be an issue.

#501 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 02:26 PM:

There is a mixture of both good and bad elements. If you meet a good one first and see the loving inspiration of their fic you are pulled in. If you get a bad one first you will be running screaming from their incest rape slash.

I probably wouldn't get around to reading the incest rape slash because I probably wouldn't get around to reading any slash at all. The existence of said incest rape slash, in and of itself, probably wouldn't affect my decision to see the movie, unless incest rape underage slash were the only thing that fans were writing, and a lot of it. I figure there is a spectrum of sexual tastes out there, and a fan probably expresses their adoration of the original through the lense that is their personal taste. As long as the fanfic content seems to follow the public spectrum, I'd take that to mean it appeals to a wide spectrum of the public.

Now, if the fanfic aroudn a work only portrayed raping, and blood, gore, guts and veins in the teeth, then I might wonder that the original is only appealing to a certain segment of the public, and further ponder if I am in that segment or not. But I don't personally know of any occurrence of that, so I probably figured I wasn't in the "segment" based on the original, so I never noticed the fanfic anyway. ya know?

#502 ::: Dr. Cath ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 02:33 PM:

What a wonderful and interesting discussion!

I am a writer attempting to make the rounds for publication, sending something off when I have something around the edges of my PhD researcher/teacherly career. That's slow going, but I've had a few promising nibbles every now and then.

Once upon a time, two years ago, I had an itch to write about characters in someone else's book, and I did that for another year, until I realized, of course, that there was no future in doing that for writers who wanted to publish. The stigma of fan fiction for a writer wanting to publish, illustrated by some of you in this discussion, was what made me decide to pull my work off line. I had a very disappointed fan base.

Writers who are good writers are good, whether they write fan fiction or real fiction. Sweeping generalizations about either type of writer is unfortunate and narrow minded. At issue is livelihood and law, which is a pretty good reason to discuss this, but I think that the assumption of a lack of quality because someone is riffin' off an original work is unfortunate.

I think it's great that PNH is willing to look at fan fiction this way. I agree that some scenarios really capture imagination and cause other storytellers to want to play in a particular universe. Dumas' works spring to my mind, with many variable movies and texts about his characters, both good and bad, out there offering up hommage. Austen, Cervantes, Alcott, Hugo, all of these authors have received tribute from their fans legally.

When George Lucas, J.K. Rowling, or Joss Whedon fans do it, then it really becomes a question of livelihood and legality. Still, the inherent compliment of someone wanting to play in your sandbox is quite a compliment indeed. My goal as a writer is to have a character no one remembers I wrote, who exists on his or her own. Perhaps that makes me a storyteller more than an author, and perhaps it is the wandering minstrel in me who has little trouble with fan fiction.

Then again, I have a fairly lucrative day job, so I can afford this viewpoint. :)

One other small point--the conversant in all of this who suggested that fan fiction is a great starting place for beginning authors I agree with wholeheartedly. I will be doing a panel discussion this summer with a couple of artists who are attempting to make the jump from fan work to legit work, with fan work as their beginning point.

My fan work that I pulled off to be legitimate? Being transformed into an original work, as it was not the original author's characters I was working with. I merely borrowed that author's world as a place to get started. A good story will get a life of its own, regardless of where it starts.

#503 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 02:34 PM:

When we're talking about various sexual orientations in fanfic, isn't that really an outcome of sets?

good original work
|
v
appeals to a large spectrum of public
|
v
large spectrum of public has large spectrum of sexual tastes.
|
v
fan base ends up with large spectrum of sexual tastes
|
v
fans write fic that is the original world and characters, but morphed onto their specific sexual tastes.
|
v
fanfic for a popular work is written with a wide range of sexual tastes.

I find it odd that folks would see the existence of some sexual variation in fanfic that they do not approve of and automatically take it to mean that the original work must condone, encourage, specifically appeal to, that particular variation at the exclusion of all others.

people rewrite their favorite works in their own image.

And "image" can be sexual, or racial, or gender, or whatever identity that person has attached to themselves.

#504 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 02:41 PM:

I'm surprised that many fanfics are not busted under various "adult content, obscenity laws".

They try (at least the more responsible ones) to restrict it to adults only (as in 'you must be over ... years old to buy'). I have one copy of a 'zine where one issue is two parts, one PG and one R (at least), and that's how they handled it.

#505 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 02:49 PM:

Cosplay, strictly speaking, is just the dressing up. Acting in character (or in parody-of-character), keeping with a group (all the Sailor Senshi, all the Witches 5, The Sailor Stars, all of the above roaming a convention center as a marauding band of rainbow hair and shouted phrases), competing in the contests and performing skits are all other things that can be modularly added on. I've met dudes in PERFECT Digiko cosplay (crazy-perfect) who didn't do anything Digiko like unless asked, and I've met organized Seiryuuseishi groups who would (good naturedly) harass any Miakas or lone Suzakuseishi they came across. The point is to have fun.

so are urban elves who drive race cars for a living.

Speaking of which, I had NO IDEA there were books beyond the first four, and had never heard that the folk of SERRA shared a world with other books. Now I know, having been sparked to investigate by this comment.

#506 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 02:50 PM:

Fanfic does have a possibility though to cause harm in the marketing sense. Most franchises that inspire fanfic are very niche market and specialty genre. Only a few go mass market mainstream. But what if you have a gateway story that could go mass market and mainstream if you can get folks outside of the usual reading demographics to open it. So your marketing guy is in oh say the heart of Baptist Kansas and some concerned locals go, “I heard that this book caused those weird teens to write gay beast love stories.” So a few drinks from the bar later your publicists and the sales guy have to got to figure out a way to disassociate the original work which does not have gay beast love from the fanfic gossip in the minds of the potential new readers who are outside the usual fan culture. After all those that don’t have their buying decisions shot down by fanfic are usually receptive to the source genre to begin with. We already know in the real world many folks with spending dollars will associate mindless gossip with a product.

#507 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 02:52 PM:

And I just realized that something I said means something different to lawyers than to the general public. I said:

Copyright does require registration to enforce it at all (in the US)
which is literally correct… but depends upon restricting "enforce" to mean "by legal process." One can assert a copyright without registration, such as by sending a DMCA letter (don't try that link right now, as the server is under a DOS attack). Registration matters only when one is trying to get a court to take action.

Almost-irrelevant aside: US courts treat failure to register as a jurisdictional bar—no registration, no jurisdiction. As a matter of legal theory, this is unsound, because registration is curable without changing the cause of action (one can apply for registration late under most circumstances); thus, failure of registration should be treated as an affirmative defense. Those few foreign courts that care about whether a US work was registered follow the latter rule.

#508 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:05 PM:

Copyright does require registration to enforce it at all (in the US)

And, to sharpen that fine point even more, there are certain copyrights that are enforceable without registration, the 106A rights. Most important among these is the right to attribution. So if I write a book and don't register the copyright, I can bring an infringement case against you for claiming it as your own, even if I can't get statutory damages for the actual copying and distribution.

#509 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:06 PM:

Actually, isn't the problem with Gor more about people trying to live the Gor lifestyle?

I don't think there's much left of Gor fandom other than the lifestyle people.

A friend at a con once mentioned "I can't stand the Gorian bondage scene" but I heard it as "Goreyan" which had me remark, "You mean 'Gerald did a terrible thing to Elsie with a saucepan'-type bondage scene?" to which she responded, "Oh no, that would actually be interesting."

Of course, whenever I hear people talk about "Riff-Raff," I think of the mafioso wolf from Underdog.

#510 ::: Shauna ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:11 PM:

Ah, I have another question that I'd love to have some professional opinions on regarding copyright (leaving fanfiction completely out of this).

It's been a long-held belief (among other writers I've talked to) that as soon as you set pen to paper - or fingers to keyboard - and write a poem or a short story or what have you, it's automatically copyrighted simply because you wrote it, even if there is no legal proof to back it up.

In relation to this, to protect this "copyrighted" story from being potentially stolen, is the alleged "poor man's copyright" actually a valid form of proving that you own a written piece?

For example: Say that I complete a short story. I'm rather proud of it, and I want people to read it so I post it on a fiction site or a forum for feedback and critique. Somebody there reads it and decides to take it for themselves. They send it to a magazine or something and - lo and behold! - my story ends up in print under somebody else's name.

Now, before I post my story on the net for critique, I first put a copy of the completed manuscript in a mailing envelope and send it to myself, then put it in a safe place, still sealed, with the date printed neatly on the envelope by the US Postal service. Viola - instant "poor man's copyright".

But should it come down to a court case as to who really owns the story, would that be sufficiant evidence that I am actually the one who wrote the story FIRST? Or can they toss it with the claim of me having mailed an empty, unsealed envelope to myself and sticking the story inside at a later date?

Eh...did that actually makes any sense to anyone else? I'm a bit tired so I might be babbling incoherently and not realize it. In which case, I apologize.

Oh...and in regards to cosplay and really fannish (fennish?) behavior:

Anime conventions are the most famous places for cosplay that I've ever heard of. Aside from Star Trek conventions. And Renn faires. And are there actually fantasy novel-type conventions, too?).

I've never been to an anime convention, but someday I WILL get to one of the big ones in California or something, just because I want to experience the fun craziness for myself. Yes, I am a die hard fan of anime and manga. I have to blame Wendy Pini, because her gorgeous ElfQuest graphic novel series completely turned me on to the big-eyed anime style.

As for insane fans...there is a rather (in)famous cosplayer in the Sailor Moon genre who, as I've heard among fellow SM fans, seems to take her role as Princess Serenity/Sailormoon seriously to the point where she seems to think that she IS the Real Thing. I've been told that she is known to frequent pretty much every anime convention in the US, and has a variable wardrobe of hand-sewn costumes to support her lifestyle...or hobby...or whatever it is, which is worth several thousand dollars.

I've also heard that she is a nasty piece of work, and will verbally rip apart another Sailor Moon cosplayer if she thinks that person "ripped off" one of HER costume designs. Yikes.

Then again...she's another reason I want to go to a convention. Pretty much every anime fan knows about this girl. I'd like to see this living legend for myself.

#511 ::: Shauna ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:21 PM:

*headdesk* And in the half hour it took me to post my last comments, a bunch of other people already sort of answered my question. So...um...feel free to ignore it.

*Note to self: Learn to type faster on a laptop.*

To BSD: Oh...um...regarding that comment about Urban Elves, I was actually speaking of Mercedes Lackey's Serra novels. *sheepish* Yes, I am a fan of her novels, especially that particular series (I sort of have a slight obsession with elves and faerie lore in general *cough*). But her series has actually inspired me to seek out more books on the same subject. I did find a bunch of out-of-print novels dealing with elves on half.com, although not quite in the same manner Ms. Lackey does in her stories. Some were urban elves, but none were about elves living in the real world. They were all very interesting, though. At least to an avid fantasy reader like myself.

#512 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:22 PM:

C.E. Petit,
Could you clarify
Almost-irrelevant aside: US courts treat failure to register as a jurisdictional bar—no registration, no jurisdiction. As a matter of legal theory, this is unsound, because registration is curable without changing the cause of action (one can apply for registration late under most circumstances); thus, failure of registration should be treated as an affirmative defense.
Do you mean failure to register leads to the case not being considered, or that the failure to register (or a tardy registration) prevents a case from ever being considered? I'm guessing you mean an author-plantiff's failure to register is an affirmative defense for the infringer-defendant?

-r.
p.s. I, uh, am a fan of yours. I don't like all of the conclusions you come to in your blawg - which is a sign that you are probably correct, since the law tends to be what it is, rather than what I would like it to be.

#513 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:27 PM:

Shauna,

The US Copyright Office discusses "poor man's copyright" in their FAQ.

I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it? The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.
#514 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:30 PM:

T.W,
I can appreciate your arguement, but I disagree. The sorts of people you mention alredy think that Fantasy, sf, and anime is morally/theologically suspect anyway. Going back to inge's example of the urban legends around roleplaying (D&D=satan worship, etc.) you can see that people will illustrate their prejudices with whatever folktales they can muster.
Quoth TNH, upstream:
Personally, I think the existence of this body of folklore grows out of the traditional auctorial fear that someone will steal their work.

(Remember, calling it "folklore" doesn't mean it has no historical basis. It means it's a story that gets passed around, in variant versions, between folks.

Stories about fanfiction don't quite have the same ring to them as "he played D&D and committed suicide after worshiping satan". The narrative isn't tight enough to make it as folklore about outsiders. I agree such folk would find fanfiction threatening, but not because it challenges their beliefs about sexual boundaries, or about authorial boundaries, but because the fantastical, as such challenges their beliefs about reality boundaries.

#515 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:30 PM:

rhandir: Jurisdictional bar = the court has no authority to consider the matter, period, end of discussion. Affirmative defense = if and only if the defendant brings it up, then the court will consider it.

#516 ::: Shauna ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:32 PM:

Ah, I see. Thank you for clarifying.

I forgot to add this into that post: A situation like this hasn't actually happened to me, I was just citing an example, that's all.

#517 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:42 PM:

Kate Nepveu,
thank you! (Though I'm still hoping to find out if tardy registration is a permanent bar to consideration.)

-r.

#518 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:49 PM:

I believe you can publish a work without registering it, then see copyright infringment occur, then register the work, then bring a lawsuit against the infringer.

#519 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:50 PM:

Rhandir, one of the obstacles to fanfic acceptance is the belief that it adversely affects the brand integrity of the author’s work. We need real world data to dismiss or support it. That belief is also enough to push some factions to the other side of the fence. As the impact of Internet mass communications grows the issue is gonna get more clouded. How does the risk of brand harm affect the argument in court? I know in trademark it gets ugly.

#520 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 03:53 PM:

T.W: Fanfic does have a possibility though to cause harm in the marketing sense.... So your marketing guy is in oh say the heart of Baptist Kansas and some concerned locals go, “I heard that this book caused those weird teens to write gay beast love stories.”

I'm not sure what doesn't have the potential to cause harm in the marketing sense that you describe. I could choose not to read Harlan Ellison because I'd heard he was rude to Issac Asimov (no matter what actually happened or how long ago it was). I could avoid Apple Computers because Rush Limbaugh said some things about them when they put Al Gore on their board. No work of art exists in a vaccuum, but if you try to control everything that might potentially cause harm to your art's sales, you may find that you've developed a reputation that causes harm to your art's sales.

I'm not sure this particular harm is objectively obvious enough or frequent enough to be involved in a decision to allow or disallow fanfic. Then again, I suspect that decision is sometimes made on gut feeling rather than reasoned decisionmaking.

#521 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 04:19 PM:

Cliff notes!
We seem to covered bits of the question "can fanfiction harm the author and/or audience?"

Some answers: Yes, it can spoil/bias the first reading.
Response: Anything can spoil/bias the first reading: all reading is in context. Plus, book/movie reviews, trailers, and literary criticism already exist.

Assertion: Degrading depictions of characters can spoil the first reading and/or reputation of the work/the author.
Response: Degrading depictions can be bad. Fanficcers seem to fence off their work with labels. Fanfiction is not readily available in bookstores/movie theaters/on tv. Fanficcers seem to respond to polite requests, Cease & Desists, etc.

Assertion: This is futuretime! What about the internet? What will we do then?
Response: ...
Response: that may be a problem later.

Assertion: This is related: fanfiction interferes with the author's market.
Response: Unlikely. Fanfiction is rooted in the desire for "more stuff like that". Fanfiction is participation in the author's work. Produce more work, those fans will buy it. (And since they haven't spent money on fanfiction, there is not an opportunity cost for doing so. There is one for poor-quality spinoffs.) There are some subtleties here that haven't been explored.

Assertion: Fanfiction interferes with the Trademark(tm) on the characters/setting/title.
Response: That's a legal scenario. Interesting, but hard to prove dilution. See C. E. Petit, above for details.
Assertion (rare): It is similar to identity theft! (Or theft of reputation. See Robin Hobb's perspective.)*
Response: ...
Response: We haven't dealt with that. This looks like a moral arguement. Possibly doesn't have any practical effects, though.

Assertion: Fanfiction is derivative work and must be prosecuted as copyright infringement.
Response: It is derivative work. Unlike trademark, you do not have to vigorously prosecute all infringement. See above. Prosecution is on your dime: it has to be worth it. Note that Cease and Desists are cheap compared to an actual lawsuit.

Assertion: Fanfiction takes authority away from the author's interpretation.
Response: So does literary criticism. We should learn to suck it up.
Assertion: Fanfiction can hurt the author's feelings.
Repsonse: See movie reviews, above.
Assertion: But the author's feelings are imporant!
Response: To the fans. If you are a fan, why would you want to hurt your author's feelings? If you are not a fan, why would you write fanfiction?

This last bit is also a bit more subtle. Robin Hobb's exhortation that fanfic threatens her sovereignty over her stories is one example of hurt feelings. Fred Gallagher's perspective (given upthread) is quite another: he acknowleges that I don't have control over what fans do. but he also says that Trust me, nothing would make me feel more ill than to see my characters being abused. Note his appeal to the relationship between storyteller and audience.**

This might be the key: the relationship between the storyteller, the story, and the told.
-r.

*thank you Edmund Yeo, who first brought it up.
**Given the size and vigorous nature of his audience, my hunch is that they would take matters into their own hands if they came across abusive depictions of his characters. Their mere presence is enough to bring servers down.

#522 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 04:32 PM:

Assertion: This is related: fanfiction interferes with the author's market.
Response: Unlikely. Fanfiction is rooted in the desire for "more stuff like that".

And the reader gets "more stuff like that" from a third party, not from the creator.

Isn't it likely that a fan base can be sated by fan fiction, or even burn out on the characters between one original book and the next?

#523 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 04:58 PM:

Michael Croft: Alabama responded directly to "Southern Man" in "Sweet Home Alabama". [...] (I heard once that Neil Young's response to a question about "Sweet Home Alabama" was "They wrote a better song than we did.", but I can't verify that.)

You mean Lynyrd Skynyrd, not Alabama (though Alabama did cover the song on the tribute album "Skynyrd Friends"). According to the Wikipedia entry, Skynyrd and Young had a relationship of mutual appreciation, and Young actually performed "Sweet Home Alabama" live a couple of times himself.

inge: Another interesting example could be role playing games, incarnation of geekery, source of myriad urban legends about ill-adjusted players with bouncing reality checks, accusations of satanism and what-have-you. Now, that's a fandom with a reputation that can send strong men running away screaming. How many more people would do role playing games if not for its most insane fans providing the media with scare stories during slow season? And who, exactly, creates perception of fannish activities, and how much do they hurt the genre?

Oddly enough, much of the hype about D&D games being tied to satanism has nothing whatsoever to do with fannish activities at all. By and large, it can be traced to the late Patricia Pulling, who formed the one-woman advocacy group Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons (BADD) after her son committed suicide in 1982. Looking for something to blame other than herself, she focussed on D&D, and continued up until her death from cancer in 1997. Since then, Dr. James Dobson of "Focus on the Family" has taken up her crusade.

If you just google on "roleplaying satanism" you can find a lot of informative links, such as Michael Stackpole's Game Hysteria and the Truth, or ReligiousTolerance.org's D&D section. D&D fans are not likely to turn anyone off with satanistic practices, since by and large they don't have them. However, I suppose I should admit that it's possible they might turn people off just by being geeks.

Tina: In other words, at any time after I theoretically publish a story, I want to still be able to say "No, you can't make this movie because I think you'd do a lousy job with it." or "You can make this movie if you pay me x dollars." or "Yes, you can take these side characters and write a new story about it and try to get it published.", or "Contact me with a quick summary of what you want to do with my world and I'll likely grant permission.", in a system that supports this flexibility.

All right. *waves a magic wand* There, now you can!

Seriously, copyright as it exists right now can be selectively enforced and licensed. You could easily grant a waiver to someone to write fanfic, or make a movie, or whatever about your work if you wanted to, just by saying, "Go for it, I won't sue you." (Though if the prospective fanficker is wise, he'll get that in writing.) That's the whole theory behind Creative Commons, a system of cookie-cutter licenses that allow an artist to choose to what extent he wants to take advantage of the copyright protections of his books, and to what extent he wants to throw things open.

Speaking of which, I'd like to recommend that folks participating in this thread consider taking a look at Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture, available via your local library or bookstore, or via the link as a free ebook. He has a lot of interesting things to say about how overly-restrictive corporate copyright may be stifling creativity.

#524 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 05:05 PM:

rhandir: Assertion (rare): It is similar to identity theft! (Or theft of reputation. See Robin Hobb's perspective.)*
Response: ...
Response: We haven't dealt with that. This looks like a moral arguement. Possibly doesn't have any practical effects, though.

*thank you Edmund Yeo, who first brought it up.

Actually, when he brought it up, Edmund also mentioned a link to an entry by his guestblogger that did "deal with that."

#525 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 05:09 PM:

Assertion: Fan fiction puts more writers who give away writing for free in the market, thereby reducing the value of the market for writers who are trying to make a living (and who are not the author who the fans are immitating/working off of/etc.).

Response: We don't know the market well enough. Market research is in order.

Response: Readers are willing to pay for good writing, even if they can get bad writing for free.

Response: The market for writers for their writing is not with readers but with publishers who purchase their manuscripts and are the ones who pay them. Does the existence of a large body of free fiction to readers affect this market?

#526 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 05:10 PM:

Isn't it likely that a fan base can be sated by fan fiction, or even burn out on the characters between one original book and the next?

Possible? Certainly, and I'm sure it's happened. Likely? Not really. No one buys more original work than fanficcers, who tend to be extremely devoted anyway, and have to know all the details of the universe they're working in.
And the difference in quality between the original work (which must have been good enough to inspire, or we wouldn't be having this discussion) and the fanfic (which is, as has been noted, as vulnerable to Sturgeon's Law as anything) is generally marked.

#527 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 05:15 PM:

"Response: The market for writers for their writing is not with readers but with publishers who purchase their manuscripts and are the ones who pay them. Does the existence of a large body of free fiction to readers affect this market?"

And, to be clear, any editor will tell you that they are always on the look out for good writing. The questions isn't whether the writing can be sold, but whether the price of the sale is affected.

#528 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 05:24 PM:

Check out the last panel of today's Cat and Girl.

http://www.catandgirl.com/

Oooooh, burn!

#529 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 05:28 PM:

Of course, the other thing to note is that stories aren't really commodities; The Order of the Phoenix, and Potter and the Weasleys Engage in Practices Which are not Endorsed by the Moral Majority aren't really interchangeable, esp. for fans.

#530 ::: ksGreer ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 05:39 PM:

Eh, well.

Assertion: This is related: fanfiction interferes with the author's market.
Response: Unlikely. Fanfiction is rooted in the desire for "more stuff like that". Fanfiction is participation in the author's work. Produce more work, those fans will buy it. (And since they haven't spent money on fanfiction, there is not an opportunity cost for doing so. There is one for poor-quality spinoffs.) There are some subtleties here that haven't been explored.

First reaction: Oh, you said it naow, buddy, you're in troooouble.

Second reaction: This thread has 529+ replies and there's something we've not explored? How did that happen?

Third reaction: Where's Fanfic Pt II: Son of Fanfic thread?

#531 ::: zvi ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 05:39 PM:

Harry Connolly said:
Isn't it likely that a fan base can be sated by fan fiction, or even burn out on the characters between one original book and the next?

I've been in fandom ten years, and I have never seen anything like a large number of fans decide that they had read so much fanfiction that they no longer wanted new installments of the original novel/movies/tv series.

I have seen fans decide that the original is moving in a direction they find aesthetically displeasing, stop reading/watching the original, and only read fanfiction in their preferred vein.

But I've never seen anyone suggest that if fanfiction didn't exist, they would then buy the crappy original since it was all that was left. Fans seem more inclined to look for a different professional media property which offers similar possibilities for fanfiction and fannish speculation without the aesthetically displeasing element.

#532 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 05:47 PM:

For a work-safe taste of his writing style: a Gor parody

I can't make that link work, but "Houseplants of Gor" can be found at many, many sites. Sometimes they even credit Elle for it. Elle is still around in fandom now and then.

I keep wanting to join this thread in a more substantial way, but every time I get five minutes to post the thread has sped waaaaay past the bit I wanted to respond to.

#533 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 05:48 PM:

Assertion: Fan fiction puts more writers who give away writing for free in the market, thereby reducing the value of the market for writers who are trying to make a living (and who are not the author who the fans are immitating/working off of/etc.).

Response: We don't know the market well enough. Market research is in order.

I still don't get this argument. Bob writes a great pro story, gets published, huge readership. Fans love Bob's world, some fans write fanfiction. Bob writes a sequel that is true to the original canon, but may or may not agree with any fanfic that occurred after first book but before sequel.

If the sequel is on par with the first work, why would the fans shun it? I'm not steeped in the fan culture, but what little I've seen seems to point to a loyalty to the original author as long as teh original author keeps their sequels on par with the original. Matix Reloaded would indicate that fanficcers even swarm to a poor sequel as long as the original author created it. Don't fans give the origianl author some slack? Don't they generally give the origianl author a chance to make even a mediocre sequel while he is finding his legs?

I've been skimming some fanfic dictionaries and references and the fact that so many terms seem to based on the name of an original author seems to indicate that fans place highest loyalty to the original author, second loyalty to the work, and third loyalty to any works by fans. "Jossverse" is a fanfic term for Joss Whedon Universe. "Rice Out" is a term for Anne Rice's reaction to bad reviews on Amazon. Even folks who don't read or write fanfic tend to have loyalties to specific authors and will buy their stuff on name alone.

The impulse to write fanfic seems to be driven in part by wanting to know somethign that the author hasn't made official canon yet. And I don't know of any incident of fanfic filling in some missing canon, and then have the fan base reject whatever the origial author might release later to fill that same gap. Or fanfic feels the want for "more", which seems to me that the folks who are writign and reading it are the least likely to "burn out" on it.


#534 ::: TW ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 05:49 PM:

"Of course, the other thing to note is that stories aren't really commodities;"

Heh, Tell that to Disney.
Stories are not commodities but books are.

#535 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 06:21 PM:

If the sequel is on par with the first work, why would the fans shun it?

Because Harry is with Ginny not Hermione?

#536 ::: Zorroasskickian ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 06:27 PM:

When this is all boiled down to the naked singularity, don't we have a situation where people (original creators of media that is being protected) are saying they want the benefits that come from their work becoming a part of culture without the reality that it has escaped their control?
Marketing of tv shows, films etc AIMS for the widest acceptance by the public. They seek the impact and lasting effects of a phenomenon that will be so emotionally embraced by the public that they will be long-term customers. Yet they don't want that same public to feel moved enough to want to imagine beyond the storyline of whatever.
That IS what this all comes down to. Controlling imaginations. Scott said much the same thing in an earlier post.
Creative people whose work the public has made immortal, expecting the public imagination to be STOPPED by the work- not encouraged by it-how perverse!
Ironic too! Think of all the copycat tv shows we've seen. A show becomes a hit and the 'formula' is called a success- rehashes and remakes follow in abundance.
Creative people expecting- demanding- that the fans of their work STOP imagining beyond it kills the whole idea of artistic expression, doesn't it?
Writers not wanting readers to think beyond what they are told to think...now that's tragic!

#537 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 07:04 PM:

If the sequel is on par with the first work, why would the fans shun it?

That's a big ol' "if" there, you know. I like Star Wars and I read SW fanfic back in the 1980-1983 period when the ending of the trilogy was unknown. When I finally saw Return of the Jedi, I left at the end in disgust muttering about how they should've filmed some of the better fanfic. I diverged from the Lucas stuff then and there; I maintain several mental versions of how the trilogy ended and how the prequel plotlines played out. None of them have been filmed by Lucas, though occasionally he coincidentally manages a moment or two.

As far as I'm concerned, Lucas put out two good movies and four dreadful ones; I've seen the dreadful ones, but I'm not going to let those spoil the spiffyness of the early ones for me. The fanfic I read back in the '80s still holds up on rereading, and it's not entirely attributable to youthful nostalgia.

I'm not steeped in the fan culture, but what little I've seen seems to point to a loyalty to the original author as long as teh original author keeps their sequels on par with the original.

Back to that big "if" again. I know quite a few Pern fans who gave up on McCaffrey several novels back and merrily proceeded with alternate-universe fanfic.

Of course, I'm not steeped in current fanfic culture, my experience with fanfic in the 1980s is rather different than the modern electronic version (it was on paper and I paid for it, for starters), and I'm eccentric in my approach. But (for example) I haven't decided yet if I want to stay with canonical Buffy; I've been stuck at the end of season five for 14 months now, and I can't seem to get motivated to go where I know the series goes after this. I've enjoyed some of the fanfic I've found that departs from either the middle or end of season five, though it takes some sorting to dig it out of the morass of mediocrity that are unedited fanfic sites.

Matix Reloaded would indicate that fanficcers even swarm to a poor sequel as long as the original author created it. Don't fans give the origianl author some slack? Don't they generally give the origianl author a chance to make even a mediocre sequel while he is finding his legs?

Dunno about you, but this is entertainment for me. I'm reasonably completist, but not if the quality level drops noticeably. (I didn't see the Matrix sequels, but I'm generally years if not decades behind on television and movie viewing, so that's not a quality judgment.)

The impulse to write fanfic seems to be driven in part by wanting to know somethign that the author hasn't made official canon yet.

Or won't ever get to - entire new seasons of Angel have been written since it was cancelled. Or it could be because someone really didn't care for how the canon worked out and wants alternate endings. Another Hope falls into this category. Or it could be something that simply can't in our current cultural context be shown on the screen.

And I don't know of any incident of fanfic filling in some missing canon, and then have the fan base reject whatever the origial author might release later to fill that same gap.

I'm not typical (and certainly not "the fan base" as a whole), but I'm not unique either.

#538 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 07:20 PM:

I may be an atypical example since I don't read much modern fanfic, but for me, the likelihood that I will enjoy a work of fanfic is inversely related to how much I love the original.

So I roundly despised the Lord of the Rings movies, and Disney's Winnie ther Pooh stories--both of which I would call fanfic despite their being authorized by the copyright holders. But I have enjoyed some Harry Potter fanfic (where I read about half of canon before getting fed up with the main character). And I enjoyed the Buffy novel that was particled here nine months back, despite never having seen that show.

So yes, put me in as a vote for "I'll read good stories regardless of whether I know the work it's based on". I probably wouldn't have found and read the stories in question on my own, but then, I probably wouldn't have found the originals on my own either. But if someone whose taste I agree with says "this is good and I think you'd enjoy it," I'll give it a try, whether it was found in the Pit of Voles or the local library.

Now there's a lot of it I won't like, and will avoid thereafter--though I'd probably avoid the works of the ABC/Disney corporation anyway for other reasons--but I certainly don't think that the legality of derivative work should be contingent on whether I like it--or whether I like the original.

Because of the highly-filtered way I've encountered the few bits of fanfic I've come across, I'm not really encountering much of the bottom 90% of Sturgeon's Law. The bar for "will I enjoy this" is just set a lot higher for a work that is obviously based on a world and culture and characters that I'm familiar with.

"Fanfic" status aside, I have much the same reaction to science fiction that breaks basic physical laws, or a historical novel that does something badly out of period. If I feel I understand how a world works, or a character behaves, any story dealing with that world or characters which doesn't fit that understanding either needs a good explanation (to show that my understanding was faulty), or a lot more author points.

This makes me suspect that the "how much I love the original" part above may be in part about knowledge as well, since some of what annoyed me about the Lord of the Rings movies (for example) was on the order of "you eliminated singing from a largely-oral culture, and that would completely change the way they work, and entertain themselves..and fight, for that matter." And for someone who wasn't familiar with people who do sing while working, that wouldn't seem so odd.

#539 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 10:56 PM:

Someone above mentions "incest-rape-slash" and the following discussion assumes that this has to do with the sexual preferences of the fen who write it.

In my experience, this is rarely true. Conventional slash is born of fen wanting to get their favorite characters in bed: psychosexual horror is a different category altogether, not solely (or even usually at all) written by people who are getting their kicks from it. The train of thought involved is more, "What if these characters got pushed to their limits? What if I don't really KNOW this character, and there's something terrible about him/her I'm not seeing?"

Character death stories are a popular subset of fanfic for similar reasons. So are stories where two characters get into a relationship, it turns out they're really bad for each other, and after some period of abuse they go their separate ways.

One who writes does not always write about the Fluffy Happy Bunny Land of Good Squee-ing. One who writes about sex does not always write about the Fluffy Happy Bunny Land of Good Orgasms. Sex is not always a good and positive thing, and as any attempt to present it as such would set my bad writing alarm a-tootin'.

End rant; thank you.

#540 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 01:52 AM:

If the sequel is on par with the first work, why would the fans shun it?

Because Harry is with Ginny not Hermione?

Ah, but a lot of fans will have trouble with Harry+Ginny, even if they never read a stitch of fanfic. The point was that fans will stay loyal as long as the author stays on par with the original works. If the author drops his quality or does some standard "bad writing practice" such as setting reader's expectations for several books for a Harry+Hermione meetup, only to have Harry pine for... who??? then fanfic becomes irrelevant to bad writing by the original artist.

Put another way, I think its safe to say that good sequels will thrive alongside fanfic. But bad sequels may turn all readers away, and may turn fanners to read their own fanfic and ignore the bad works.

Which means the only benefit of stamping out fanfic would be to allow the writer to write bad sequels and stamp out any other competition. But bad sequels will have a drop in sales already, so fanfic didn't CAUSE that, it simply changed where the fanners ended up at (at the fanfic site, rather than at some completely new author site.)

#541 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 04:55 AM:

Fanfiction, defined as fiction that uses settings and characters devised by another and which first appeared in some very popular work, appears to have two other salient characteristics:

1) it is unauthorised, although it may be tolerated, by the artist(s) who devised the original characters and setting.

2) It is unpaid, or at the very least, not-for-profit.

If (2) is present, most people agree that the result is unexceptionable, I think. There are some who differ, some on grounds of intrinsic worth - that no work so derivative can be good - and some on the grounds that unauthorised copying is unethical, and may even perhaps be injurious to the originator. (Others, again, rejoin that there is no such real injury.) The question of whether it is lawful or not in the particular circumstances is a different one, and seems to be moot.

If (2) is not present - that is, if the work in question is touted or sold for profit - then most people appear to believe that the work is (a) not fanfiction in the strict sense and (b) not acceptable.

Of course if the work is specifically authorised and licenced by the original creator, then the entire picture changes, and (2) becomes irrelevant. As with, for example, the "Man-Kzin Wars" series, by various hands from Larry Niven's universe. Absolutely kosher (and in general, rather good).

Is this a rough summary of opinion?

#542 ::: Alta_J ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 08:35 AM:

If the sequel is on par with the first work, why would the fans shun it?

Because sometimes is not about quality of work as much as subject.

Jumping in very late here but fascinated by the topic and the very many great points and counterpoints.

I can only offer anecdotal, personal examples here but I've a wide range of fannish friends whose buying impulses are similar.

Authors I adore tend to get my money as long as their books are on the market -- multiple purchases. Tie in works (I think I have two copies of Robin Woods's character illustrations for the Pern books.) I have, to date, bought at least 10 copies of Huff's "The Fire's Stone" over the years, both from having worn mine out and because I tend to give it to people I think will like it.

I probably own 2-3 complete sets of several of Mercedes Lackey's series. I can see three copies of "Born to Run" from where I'm sitting, and four of "The Ship Who Searched" -- well worn, well loved, often lent and frequently replaced when possible.

I'm a huge fan of urban fantasy but I also become a huge fan of individual characters. Character and character relationships are what drives my reading choices. Flewelling's "Night Runner" series, and the characters completely sucked me in and I love her story telling style...

But, her gift for tale telling is only as good (for me) as how interested I am in her characters. Characters in her first series -- adored. Characters in her current series? Not so much.

I'm primarily a media fan. I don't write lit-fic, and I only read it in those places where either there is no more to come, or is unlikely to be.

And in media fandom, as compelling as the universes may be (Buffy, Xena, Stargate) it's generally universe *and* compelling characters that draw in and keep fans interested. A good many fen made the leap from Stargate:SG1 to Stargate: Atlantis just as the SciFi channel hoped. But I'd say as many (and I'm talking active fans as opposed to passive watchers) really didn't like the spin off at all even though the quality and the universe and the storylines are arguably comparable. They just don't like the characters in the new series.

While I'm sure there are some case where fan fic might draw an individual here or there away from the original, I think it's rarer than the number of fans brought in -- and not just brought in but kept.

It's not so much that the fan fic is better than the source -- as the source in and of itself fails to satisfy. The relationships and scenarios I might write in fan fiction are highly unlikely to ever be realized in the series or even in the books I read. And yet I still love my source and keep coming back to it. And buy it several times because I fear it will go out of print. The same is true of media DVD releases.

And even so, especially for some books the quality/plotlines/characterizations have to drop significantly to keep fans from buying. They may lament the drop or shift in quality/interest but they *keep* buying anyway because their investment in the characters is often so strong that bad stories are better than no stories at all -- which also explains why so much badfic also exists or is tolerated on the fan fic front.

And I'm another one who has probably ended up watching a television series or been drawn to it because the fic is compelling, or even trying a new author because the fic is compelling. And the fan fic doesn't really have to be that comparable to the source -- there is *something* about the way the characters or universes are portrayed by the fen that gets me interested and it's rarely that the interest doesn't carry over -- and even so, by then, I've read or bought or both.

And on the flip side, neither fan fic, nor movies nor even trying desperately to slog my way through the first Harry Potter book could get me to be interested, much less be fannish about it.

I like what I like and when I like, I want more than I honestly believe a single author or even an entire television studio could produce in quantities high enough to satisfy me. It is entirely understandable that a pro author, having written several successful books in a series will move on or examine new or just variations of what they've created. Fan writers as individuals will move on as well, but as a collective, the sheer volume of work produced ensures that at least some of the fan's needs will be met for *more of so-and-so* even long after the original author has moved on or the series has been cancelled.

In my current fandom, and checking only one source (i.e., not mutliple archives or message boards, but only the listing from single LJ compilation) there were some 70 episode reviews posted, and 30+ stories or story fragments posted in a single day. Other days there have been some 100+ stories posted in a day from drabbles to novella length epics. In this particular arena there are may be 300-400 active fans (writing, commenting, particpating) and maybe half that who are primarily readers and consumers...lurkers.

All of which doesn't present anything new, or offer any kind of compromise -- imaginations have been engaged and it's full steam ahead, which also isn't new. The difference these days is, even more so when fan works were exchanged primarily in print, is that the idea that you only enjoy your favorite books and tv shoes alone or with a small circle of friends has kind of been magnified and expanded by the internet. It's as much about the community as it is the commodity.

And the characters because while author X may not want to write about character B forever, Character B totally owns a hundred or so fans who will never tire of his or her permutations, or the infinite number of "What if..."'s

#543 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 09:41 AM:

Flewelling's "Night Runner" series, and the characters completely sucked me in and I love her story telling style...

I thought those were okay, but the first two books of her Tamar trilogy are just immeasurably superior. I'm waiting eagerly for the third one in June.

#544 ::: Alta_J ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 09:56 AM:

I thought those were okay, but the first two books of her Tamar trilogy are just immeasurably superior. I'm waiting eagerly for the third one in June.

Which only goes to show -- different tastes because I only barely got through "The Bone Doll's Twin", not becuse of the style but because I found Tamar to be less than interesting.

#545 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 10:26 AM:

For what it's worth, I've read all six of the Harry Potter books so far and Rowling has never given the impression that Harry felt anything for Hermione other than platonic friendship. (If anything, she telegraphed Harry falling for Cho Chang, which ended up not coming about after all.) On the other hand, Ron and Hermione have been consistently bickering like Han Solo and Princess Leia did early on in the Star Wars films, and we all know how that ended up.

#546 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 01:10 PM:

Upstream a ways, someone asked about the "poor man's copyright." Someone else quickly came up with the correct answer, but the provenance of the theory's popularity today says a great deal about writing scams. (Note: All of these comments relate specifically to US law.)

During the early 20th century, documents couldn't be admitted into court for the truth of what was contained in them without other "indicia of authenticity." At that time, the fee to register a copyright was vastly higher in relative terms than it is now—fairly constantly about $370 in 2004 dollars (except during the Depression). Since the "mail the pages to oneself" method was accepted by the Patent Office as evidence in patent proceedings, some genius somewhere decided that this would also work for copyright. That it never actually has worked has proven no barrier to the theory's popularity, even though copyright registration has dropped to $30 (going up to $45 on 01 July 2006).

However, in the 1950s, two reforms occurred that undercut even the patent-law background. First, the rules of evidence began to be relaxed, allowing documents kept in the ordinary course of business—such as lab notebooks for inventors, or submission records for authors—to be admitted for their own truth without addition indicia. Second, the Patent Office specifically changed its rules to make lab notebooks admissible for virtually all purposes. That didn't filter into "How to Be an Inventor" books until the early 1980s, though; I distinctly recall reading that in a 1977 or 1978 book on that topic from Arco Press.

Then, too, there's a huge difference between contemporary patents and contemporary copyrights. Contemporary patents are somewhat similar to 1909 Act copyrights in that they have no meaning without the equivalent of registration, whereas the contemporary copyright exists upon putting the work into a fixed form. (As I noted above, one can assert the copyright at that moment; enforcing it in court requires registration, and to answer another question a "jurisdictional bar" means that the court can never get jurisdiction under those facts—that is, can't hear the case until there's a certificate of registration in hand.)

The real problem is that, for both the arts and useful articles, ignoramuses continue to proclaim "secret formulae" for success. There are considerably more snake-oil salescreatures who make an excellent living through deception of writers, of musicians, of artists and photographers, of inventors than legitimate, authoritative sources who proclaim "there is no secret formula—it takes hard work, and even then there's no guarantee of success."

This relates to fan fiction in several ways. The most obvious is that there continues to exist a thread of belief that fan fiction will get one's writing noticed and provide a launch toward a career as a writer. More insidiously, there's the thread of belief that writing fan fiction is a way to share in the actual creator's success, even if only psychologically (and selfishly). Then there's the whole wish-fulfillment/"Mary Sue" aspect lurking simultaneously under the substance and the act of creating works of fan fiction. I could go on; and, in fact, I have (and that's just the watered-down-for-non-lawyers version that strips away a lot of the contextual material); but that's enough of my yakking for now.

There's an old Not Necessarily the News tidbit in which one of the reporters is interviewing a serial killer, and asks if after all the therapy he's had he would continue to kill. He answers, "Yes. I probably would." I'm a serial theorist. Draw your own conclusion. (Then, if you want it protected, register it.)

#547 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 01:50 PM:

Back to the "force of nature" point here:

My son is now 4, and like a lot of other kids his age, is totally obsessed with trains in general and Thomas the Tank Engine in particular. We got him one of the giant compendiums of the original stories, and he also has a couple DVDs worth of short episodes. Naturally all his toy trains which are not from the "Thomas" series (several varieties) are fluidly renamed to the various Thomas-series engines as he plays with them.

The fanfic connection: what we've just noticed is that he has - at 4 years old - begun making up completely original stories, often with complex plots, as he plays with his engines on his tracks. It began with reenacting stories he knew, either 'The Little Engine That Could' or bits of 'The Polar Express' or various stories from the Thomas books, but now he's inventing his own. The characters of the new stories, are always of course the Thomas engines that he's familiar with, and show their basic personalities: Gordon is arrogant and grumpy, Thomas is cheerful, Edward is dutiful, and so on. When my wife suggested a couple nights ago that we write some of these down for him, I suddenly made the connection with the fan fiction discussion.

This goes back to what Teresa said at the outset:

The fanfiction impulse seems to me fundamentally the same as the impulse that drove the creation of the great oral legends, and the later literary development of those legends. Many people are natural storytellers, and once certain characters are firmly in their head, with a clear picture of their personalities, it becomes natural to make those characters the center of their stories. The characters at the center of their world are those they want to tell tales about, whether those characters are Hercules and the Greek gods, the Christian saints, train engines, space adventurers, or MMORPG superheroes - and they will tell stories about them, even if they risk accusation of heresy (in the earlier cases) or copyright infringment (in the later.)

This is definitely some kind of fundamental human impulse. That is not to say that every person feels it, but that some people feel it powerfully in all ages. The difference between folk tales and fanfic is in the legalities and social context which surround them.

#548 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 01:57 PM:

BTW, a word of thanks to C.E. Petit for his comments here. I have been told that for a non-lawyer, I have a pretty solid understanding of the law surrounding trademarks, copyright, and patents - that comes from researching it as a business person over the last 20 years or so - but I would far prefer to have a genuine lawyer weigh in on the subject.

So, thank you. You've saved me a lot of insecure pontificating. ;-)

#549 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 01:59 PM:

I do know of fanfic writers who have later written pro-fic, but I can't bring to mind any who have sustained a pro-writing career.

There's something I find slightly puzzling about the claimed need to register copyright in the USA, because a part of the Berne Convention is the full recognition of copyrights claimed in other countries. I wouldn't be surprised if I had to do the Copyright Library thing, here in the UK, but if I have to hold the copyright registration in the USA, what's to stop a pirate registering the copyright, and keeping me out of the US courts?

Still, I suppose it's a part of the long and noble American history of taking anything that isn't nailed down.

#550 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 03:20 PM:

Dave Bell:

Wow! I think you have a staggering misperception there. The copyright law doesn't let you register and obtain a valid copyright on work you don't have rights to, such as somebody else's work! It's no more the case than, for example, the need to register title to your house or car means that I could register title to Bill Gates' mansion and blithely take possession of it.

I think this is one point that Mr. (I'm guessing?) Petit has not quite explained quite enough for everyone to get the idea.

He noted just above that you obtain a copyright by the act of creation, or more precisely "by putting the work into a fixed form." For instance, typing words onto paper or into a computer. As I type this message (or at least when I post it) it becomes copyrighted. The right to enforce that copyright in the courts - suing someone, in plain language - requires me to register it first. So if you lift this paragraph and use it next year as the core of your treatise on understanding copyright law and it becomes a million $$ best-seller (hah! as if!) I must then go register my copyright before I can file suit against you - but I can do so as long as I originally held a right to it.

I find this pretty sensible. If you don't care enough to spend under $100 to register your work with the Copyright Office, you have no business bothering the courts with it, or hiring lawyers to badger people minding their own business.

I expect the next question will be "what if two people do try to register the same copyright?" If two parties both claim to hold copyright on the same work, they can both file registrations for it and can both file objections to each other's registrations. This comes up very rarely, as you may imagine, but it came up in the SCO lawsuits where both SCO and Novell filed dueling retroactive copyright registrations relating to System V Unix. As I recall, the Copyright Office may make some kind of preliminary determination as to who's in the right based on evidence presented to them, if it's obvious, but ultimately it may depend on a court ruling to grant ownership to one or the other.

(If you're wondering why something as major as Unix was never properly copyrighted to begin with, it is a long long story, but it's primarily because in the '70s AT&T relied on "trade secret" protection and did not register a copyright as that would have negated the trade secret protection. When they then allowed it to be distributed widely, this probably caused the original core of Unix to pass into the public domain under the 1970s copyright law regime. A lawsuit in the early '90s which would have turned on this issue was abruptly settled out of court, with some terms of the settlement under seal, but the judge apparently hinted that if forced to rule he was likely to find that large pieces of Unix had entered the public domain.)

#551 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 03:38 PM:

Dave Bell: I do know of fanfic writers who have later written pro-fic, but I can't bring to mind any who have sustained a pro-writing career.

I'm aware of several, but I'd prefer not to name them because I don't know whether they're happy about being named in public. I also know at least one pro writer who only started writing fanfic long after she was earning a living from her profic.

#552 ::: Alta_J ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 03:51 PM:

C.E. Petit writes: The most obvious is that there continues to exist a thread of belief that fan fiction will get one's writing noticed and provide a launch toward a career as a writer. More insidiously, there's the thread of belief that writing fan fiction is a way to share in the actual creator's success, even if only psychologically (and selfishly).

I'd have to say I think it's a thin thread of belief and maybe that's the differnce between writing fan fic based on media sources as opposed to lit-fic. While I'm sure the belief exists (especailly as media creators become more open about reading and participating in fan forums) and a few people have made the cross over from fan writing to pro (and or back again), at best the tie-in I hear most often proclaimed between fan writing and pro is merely the exercise of practice. i.e. fan writing can and does allow for the exploration of character and style and plotting in an atmosphere that can be at least part writer's workshop even if it's not formally structured as such.

When I write and post, the idea that my fan work might be noticed by TPTB, or some trolling producer looking for the next great script, honestly doesn't occur to me. Nor am I writing and posting in some faint hope that My Genius Will Be At Long Last Recognized. Because really? Not. I mean I am sure there *are* people who think maybe and please, with about the same fervency they attribute to having finally picked the winning lottery numbers -- that is, nice if it happens, but in reality, not very likely.

I don't think of myself as being unusual or out of the fan mainstream either. Maybe I'm a bit older then most fans (and am in my current fandom -- the average age seems to be early 20's, young enough to be my kids and then some.)

And since I don't write lit-fic, I don't think I'm looking to share the creator's success since success is based on ratings and it's likely the fandom will survive long after the original show goes off the air.

It's more a case of wanting to share the glee over the source material with my fellow fen. I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just saying that my experience indicates that again, that drive, even as a partial explanation, isn't something I see a lot of among fan writers. They aren't looking to be discovered by editors, agents and publishers, they are looking for mutual recognition among their peers.

#553 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 03:53 PM:

If the sequel is on par with the first work, why would the fans shun it?

Because sometimes is not about quality of work as much as subject.

...

Characters in her first series -- adored. Characters in her current series? Not so much.

But again, fanfiction didn't cause that. what I keep trying to cleave apart here is the implied (or sometimes even directly stated) connection that fanfiction will hurt the author financially and asthetically.

And I simply don't see it. If the original author writes stuff the fans want, the fans buy it. If the original author writes stuff the fans no longer want, then they won't buy it. And that has nothing to do with the existence of fan fiction. I recall a saying about the movie-sequel industry that every sequal makes money, except the last one. And that it works that way because they keep making sequels as long as the public keeps going to them. When folks stop going, the movie people generally stop making sequels.

The existence (or nonexistence) of fanfiction has nothing to do with this economic rule.

If you didn't like some author's new characters, was that dislike caused by fanfiction? Or did you not like them, and went searching for fanfic based on the old characters?

If the sequels are good, even fans who read/write fanfic will go see/read them. I've never heard of a good sequel bombing at the ticket office or book store because the fanbase was so large and so saturated that the fans didn't feel teh need to buy the sequel. If the sequel is a good story, folks pay to see/read it.

Again it comes down to whether or not fanfic causes widespread harm in sales or in asthetics of the original author. THat fanfic exists at the same time as the original works does not mean they impact each other. And I don't see any causation.

#554 ::: Alta_J ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 04:05 PM:

Greg London writes: But again, fanfiction didn't cause that. what I keep trying to cleave apart here is the implied (or sometimes even directly stated) connection that fanfiction will hurt the author financially and asthetically.

Agreed. Which is what I was trying to say, but far less succinctly. I agree with your conclusion, that fanfiction doesn't compete or contribute to a drop in either sales or interests, no matter how much that perception is propagated. If anything, I think fan fiction can and does sustain interest in things long after either quality or commercially viable books and series would have otherwise hit their peak.

#555 ::: Anglachel ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 04:44 PM:

This is a great set of comments on fanfiction. I program and provide technical support for one of the larger JRRT fanfic sites, HASA, as well as write stories. There are two aspects of fanfiction I don't see in the above commentary (noting that I haven't read every post) that I think are important to keep in mind.

One is community. The stories are the hook, but what keeps people writing fanfic is the community. A shared love of the source material leads to things that are not always about writing. Almost every sizeable fan site has some kind forum/discussion area, whether integrated into the site or linked to it. Fan art - sometimes illustrating stories, sometimes independent - is big on many sites. HASA members are compiling an incredible research library of cross referenced information, complete with book citations, raising awareness of the more obscure volumes. Not just posting stories, but also jointly writing and discussing them plays a role in fanfic production. The friendships that can grow out of this activity are also significant. I have a fellow fan from the other side of the country coming to visit me next week, for example. This community has a life quite aside from what the original author intended, wants or condones, and there is nothing the author or the publishing industry can do to halt it.

My second point is that fanfic can be inspired by a DISlike of the original material, and not just "Oh, man, why'd Author X kill off Character Y? That was my favorite character!" If a book (or show/movie) tries to deal seriously with a topic, if it provokes a critical response in the reader, you may see that response in the form of fanfic. I love LotR and the world JRRT created. I also have significant philosophical, political, social and aesthetic objections to that world, in great part because The Professor's argument in defense of his perspective is persuasive. Since his argument is in the form of a story, my response is, too. It is a compliment to the author that there is something compelling enough in his/her work to provoke the fan to reply, taking seriously what is said and offering a counter-argument.

Related to this is the internal criticism that can exisit in a fanfic community. Interpretations differ, and defense of them can be vigorous. I not only write to engage Tolkien's arguments, but also to respond to conventions, cliches, and overly comfortable works of fanfic. I'm not particularly interested in helping people become better writers (I'm pedestrian, at best, myself), but I do try to get them to be more critical *readers* and perhaps become more critical thinkers. If someone can jump from fanfic to profic, cool beans! But, given our dark times, if somone can jump from "Hey, JRRT has a really f'ed up way of defining political legitimacy" to "Hey, the current US administration has a really f'ed up way of defining political legitimacy," well, even cooler.

And, face it, it's *fun* to write stuff that other people want to read! Satisfying on so many levels.

My thanks and gratitude to Teresa & Patrick for their excellent public space.

Anglachel

#556 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 04:49 PM:

I don't recall if anyone has made this point--maybe it's too obvious--but plenty of pro writers who've written and sold stories in their own original universes have also written and published Star Trek novels. From angles other than the legal, those look very much like a subset of fanfic: they're taking the original characters and universe and writing new stories about them.

I don't know how much control Paramount (I think it's Paramount) keeps over the contents and subjects; is it enough to make those feel different from fanfic to the writers or the readers?

#557 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 05:45 PM:

Alta_J,
At least a few people have been taken in by the thin thread of belief that fan fiction will get one's writing noticed and provide a launch toward a career as a writer:

Over on the fanthropology livejournal community, someone posted this winner:
I recieved an email from a user of my website who remarked on something I'd not heard of before - she was doing a "fan novel" of an existing un-novelized property. Her idea is to create the novel (done), and gain a following via fandom by publishing part of it online, then attempt to get the entire novel published professionally through the property owner - possibly even launching further novels.

I can obviously see problems with this approach. However, I found the idea intriguing, and wondered if anyone had seen similar attempts.

Note that the community subsequently started reading this thread, so I'm not including this as an example of the densitude of fanthropology, rather as an illustrative example.

-r.

#558 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 05:48 PM:

I don't know how much control Paramount (I think it's Paramount) keeps over the contents and subjects; is it enough to make those feel different from fanfic to the writers or the readers?

"How much control" should be obvious: they own the property and they own the publishing company. Their control is absolute. If they veto something, it's vetoed where what is veed must toe.

Now, the degree to which that control has been applied has varied a lot with editorial regime, and the degree to which the Company monitors what goes on has tightened* and loosened over time. I don't know what can and can't be done right now (apart from some observation of what's coming out that anybody could make), and the specific incidents I know of would take more backstory than Gundam Wing. For example, certain types of slash would obviously be out, but I would imagine that relationships that briefly did take place onscreen (Troi/Worf, say**) could be incorporated as long as they stayed inexplicit, the story being assumed to take place While All That Was Happening. I might be wrong, though.

And despite what some folks might think, I wouldn't put explicit sex in a Trek story under any circumstances. I can imagine a science fiction story in which detailed erotic mechanics were essential to the understanding of the plot (presumably when talking about nonhumans, for whom/which/wha-? inference wouldn't do), and I can think of a couple of examples, but if I were going to write it I wouldn't write it as Trek, or B5, or indeed in any such background where it would collide with most readers' expectations.

I'm deliberately delimiting my participation in this discussion for reasons that, as Vicki noted, are obvious.

*Ya wanna know if certain writers can bleep things up for other writers through their irresponsiblicious actions? You're faded.
**They were snogging in the corridor in their synthesilk shortees, for the Great Bird's sake. Diane's Horta ensign would have noticed the funny smell. And probably asked when to expect geodes.

#559 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 05:56 PM:

Xopher, my daughter and her friends dress up at anime conventions. Most of the time they dress up and wander around looking at other people's costumes and talk and act like, well, teenagers (though I think she may be the only one who's still a teenager). Sometimes they go into character behaviorally but only for a few minutes here and there and just for the hilarity. Last year Emma made I think 19 costumes but she decided she wouldn't do that anymore. She cut down the people she'll do it for and each person only gets a small handful of costumes now.

I had to go buy yet more cloth with her today. I am looking forward to Memorial Day weekend partly because that's when I get the sewing machine back.

But I digress. The point was to clarify the behavior thing -- they don't spend much of the time in character, but being in character is something they will do for grins.

#560 ::: Alta_J ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 06:22 PM:

rhandir writes: by publishing part of it online, then attempt to get the entire novel published professionally through the property owner - possibly even launching further novels.

Possibly splitting hairs here, because to me, aside from the online publishing part, that seems more a conventional approach to getting published, however unrealistic her/his expectations might be. i.e. very much along the lines of Star Trek's "The New Voyages" (Marshak, Culbreath) and not far distant from Gerrold's efforts at getting his script accepted for filming. I mean I get that nowadays, publishing houses of tv-to-book properties are more likely to tap into the existing cadre of writers, but the "success" of efforts by people like Marshak, Culbreath, and Gerrold persist in the collective psyche and so I'm sure fan novels are written and submitted to publishers fairly regularly, even if they never make it to the internet boards or forums for fans. That someone would take the two approaches and smush them together isn't surprising (Look, people are already reading my novel. You should publish it!) but it's still looking at the transaction traditionally: submit the work to a legit publish house for consideration as opposed to being discovered because of some bit of inter-episodic exposition you posted during last season's hiatus.

I was more or less responding to the persistent urban legend (as far as I'm concerned) that the editors at say Tor or Ballantine or Daw are secretly trolling the fan boards looking for the next Rowling or Lackey, or actively hunting for amateurs-with-promise to pen their next media tie-in novel. I mean I suppose it's possible they are but they are being awfully darn sneaky about it if it's true.

#561 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 08:09 PM:

Question - for books on fanfic, there's Enterprising Women: television fandom and the creation of popular myth, by Camille Bacon-Smith, Univ of Pennsylvania Press 1992; and Textual Poachers: television fans and participatory cultures, by Henry Jenkins, Routledge 1992. Both of these concentrate on media fandom, and predate the online explosion of fanfic. Does anyone know of later books that discuss internet fanfic?
As a side-note, it occurs to me that it was internet fandom that made fanfic-based-on-books available, perhaps because it altered the nature of the communcal experience to a reading one more than a viewing one? (Not sure I know what I mean there, so maybe ignore it.)

And, just because this point occurred to me while reading the thread, I will inflict it on you. I'm writing a fantasy novel with a friend, and ideally it would be published one day - it's an original work and all. We've drafted future stories for some of the same characters in the same world, and even some ideas for the next generation, so in theory it could be a series of published stories. (lightning strikes, lottery wins, that area of likelihood)
Anyway, in a scenario set about 25 years after the first story, I suggested that one of the characters might leave her husband, and certain events would follow from that. My friend was against that idea, and wasn't interested in following it up. But for me it's become a plot bunny. So, if I sat down and wrote that story, by myself, with no intent of publishing, and in the meantime the first novel was accepted by a publisher and became a Real Book on shelves in Real Stores ... would I be a fanfic writer? Or not?

#562 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 08:22 PM:

Dave Bell:

I do know of fanfic writers who have later written pro-fic, but I can't bring to mind any who have sustained a pro-writing career.

It's customary to change one's name when going pro: I read one author who retroactively shifted all her fanfic to a pseudonym when getting published professionally. Another worried on her page that she hadn't bothered to get a pseudonym for her pro stuff because she never expected it to become successful. However, AFAIK both haven't yet what I'd call a career, only one or two books out.

Some books high on my current wish list are there solely because I loved the author's Harry Potter-fanfic. The glowing reviews do not hurt, either, but the reviews alone wouldn't have overcome my indifference to the topic, which I feel is overdone. However, someone who wrote HP-fic that I could find something new and interesting in can probably take any old overdone trope and make it interesting.

And then there's one author who very much has a pro-writing career and is known to have started in fanfic, and I'd love to find her old fanfics because I'd read her laundry list if I could get it. Unfortunately, as those things are not discussed openly, I'm out of luck.

#563 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 08:27 PM:

Robotech_Master:

Oddly enough, much of the hype about D&D games being tied to satanism has nothing whatsoever to do with fannish activities at all.

Don't I know that. But if we wonder about damage done to originals by fans, what the fans actually do or have done is completely irrelevant compared to what people believe them to have done.

I've seen... well, not "it all", but a great lot of it. From some brainless role player becoming Barak the Barbarian in front of a TV crew out to create a scandal (needless to say, they suceeded), to a team of students convincing the reporter of a conservative local newspaper that role playing games were the greatest thing since sliced bread -- two days after a school shooting that got linked to role playing games in the national media. At an SCA event, I've been sent to talk the TV crew out of the notion that this was a Neo-Nazi rally.

I'm extremely cynical when it comes to the relationship between public perception and truth.

#564 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 08:32 PM:

BTW, I actually believe, based on a sample of one, that reading too much fan fiction can damage one's inclination to buy every tie-in novel to a certain media franchise. Once I learned, through steady exposure to bad fanfic, to recognize and loathe Mary-Sues, I can't tolerate them in profic, either. So I check every tie-in novel for that dreaded red-haired ensign with the beautiful singing voice before I shell out money for it.

(You do not want to know what reading a style guide has done to my genre reading habits.)

#565 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 09:50 PM:

Does anyone know of later books that discuss internet fanfic?

Just checked an online Books in Print resource. Henry Jenkins next book is due in September, titled Fans, Bloggers, And Gamers which sounds promising.

Beyond that, I don't know.

#566 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2006, 10:37 PM:

Diane's Horta ensign would have noticed the funny smell. And probably asked when to expect geodes.

Mike, ROFL! (I can see it...)

#568 ::: zvi ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 12:16 AM:

Barbara Gordon:
Would I be a fanfic writer?

If you released it under a pseudonym and didn't tell anyone you were part of the Powers That Be, then yes.

If you released it as one of the PTB, but as something that didn't actually happen, just something that might have been cool if the story had gone that way, then no. It's either production notes or a deleted scene, depending on how much weight you want to give it.

Because the PTB get to show us canon, they can't effectively show us fanfic. Even if the stories are designated unofficial and not in the main continuity, they're a powerful symbol. It'd be like if you had a gay commitment ceremony in Virginia that was recognized by your religious institution of choice. It doesn't give your contract any additional legal force, but it does increase the social legitimacy.

#569 ::: Robin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 12:18 AM:

I have been reading this thread with great fascination and appreciation for the multiple contributions, as have a number of people I know who are active in internet fandom and writers of fanfiction. The lack of stereotyping and pathologizing of fans has been a refreshing change, not to mention the wealth of information on legal issues, publishing issues, and writing in general.

When Barbara Gordon asked for recent books on internet fanfiction, I could not resist posting this link to a collection of essays (I have an essay in it!) edited by two friends of mine:

Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet.

Abstracts of all the articles are here.

While the work is indebted to the ground-breaking work of Jenkins, Bacon-Smith, Penley, and recent work by Matt Hills, I think it also does something different in terms of the scope of fandoms, types of fan productions, and openness of a number of the academics about their fandom personas.

I also cannot resist the personal note that when I was active in Trek fandom in the seventies, nobody ever told me about slash fiction (took hearing academic papers in the eighties to tip me off)! Coming back to online fandom via the internet has been an amazing experience. (And as a creative writing teacher, I allow fanfiction in my class since it's not any more derivative than other work by beginning writers--like the "drunk teenager has car accident and reforms" story that I get every year!)

#570 ::: C.A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 12:45 AM:

I don't know how much control Paramount (I think it's Paramount) keeps over the contents and subjects; is it enough to make those feel different from fanfic to the writers or the readers?

Novels in licensed series are a weird critter by themselves. They're "official," in that they're approved by the copyright owner, and they usually have to be as consistent with each other as possible, but the original franchise rarely considers events in the novels when writing the next installment of the francise. Or, more simply, when they go to write a Star Trek movie there's no concern about contradicting something that appeared in a Star Trek book. They're more official than fan fiction, but they're not canon. Maybe "apocryphal"?

And pro writers who wrote fanfic? Well, Ms. Lackey outed herself above, and I for one am now dying to read it, hint, hint...

#571 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 01:17 AM:

On registration of copyrights:

First, Dave Bell's initial misconception is an easy one to make. Although the Copyright Act is not nearly clear enough, the registration requirement (since 31 March 1989) has applied only to US-originated works. If a work is accepted as in copyright by its nation of origin, and that nation of origin is not the US, the copyright holder can file suit in a US court against a US infringer without filing for a certificate of registration.

Second, keep in mind that "independent conception" is a complete defense to an instance of copyright infringement. Copyright infringement requires both "access" and "substantial similarity." Without access, there is no "copying." The law presumes that there was access to published works (although this can, in rare instances, be defeated with adequate evidence, but it's very difficult). Thus, the hypothetical on multiple registrations should really be answered "so what?"… even if the Copyright Office actually checked applications for originality. Note, too, that this is distinct from both patents and trademarks; independent conception is not a defense to a patent or trademark claim, and the PTO does examine applications for originality.

#572 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 01:22 AM:

Would I be a fanfic writer?

Is that how you'd think of it? A great many people writing Long Complex Novels (never mind evolving series) write out particular sub-scenarios that never make it into the book. Sometimes the idea looked terrible on the page. Sometimes there was a better idea for the event, or a different better idea that invalidated the present one. And because all ideas look lots better in your head than on paper, putting it on paper is a kind of alpha testing.

Back in the Silver Age's Light Tarnish Period, DC Comics did what they called "Imaginary Stories," which were what-if tales about things that weren't about to happen in the regular continuity -- the death of Supes or Bats, or completely left-field scenarios; there was one in which the orphaned Bruce Wayne was adopted by the Kents, and grew up as You Know Who's half-brother. (This was disposed of in one issue; one imag-- er, supposes that now it would be a four- or six-issue limited series. Which might be interesting. Just sayin'.)

Usually, as in the "brothers" case, it was announced up front that a yarn was Imaginary, but sometimes it got rung in as a Big Surprise after something unexpected happened. I doubt that was popular. No points for guessing why.

Anyway, I'm sufficiently to the side of mainstream comics that I dunno if they do Imaginary Stories much anymore.* But the idea is perfectly valid. It is characteristic of fanfic to do this sorta thing, simply because, for the most part, what the canonical author writes is canon, while the amateurs (in a coupla senses) can do whatever pleases them, but there's certainly no reason one of the Onlie Begetters** can't or shouldn't do it.

As to how it ought to be published, the options would be "as fanfic" -- privately published and distributed -- or by selling a short-fiction version of the incident to a magazine or anthologist. Whether or not an editor would buy it would be entirely up to the editor. It would doubtless be easier to sell if the background work were already successful, and indeed my suggestion (which is perfectly ignorable) is that then and not before would be the time to do it.

Selling the story professionally has the advantages that you get paid for it, and the distribution is done for you. But if you want to keep the "reality" of the Imaginary Story separate, you might want to keep it in a different format. Your decision, when the time comes to decide.

One other point, which I'm sure is obvious but I'll make anyway, is that if you publish the Alternate Version, in whatever format, do whatever is necessary to make sure it's as good as the canonical matter. You want the fans to recognize that this is a different work, but it's not a first draft you hauled out of a drawer to stretch the readers' patience and budgets. (The people who dislike the story -- and there are always some -- will claim that anyway, but there is nothing that can be done about that.)

. . . the "drunk teenager has car accident and reforms" story that I get every year!

Even Joss Whedon's people couldn't make that one work.

*There has both been a rise in the perceived value of Continuity and the recognition that lots of cool things can be done if you work Continuity over with a Thanagarian Nerf Bat. However, there's always two percent that don't get the word. Some time back, a fan asked Frank Miller if the events of Batman: Dark Knight had "really" happened. "No," he said. "It's a comic book."

**"Captain, I'm getting intense readings from the starboard Irony Sensor."

#573 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 03:23 AM:

PJE, JMF:

I can see it too. Always been fond of her sticking up for the oft-ignored non-humanoid contingent of Starfleet...

#574 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 09:47 AM:

Anyway, I'm sufficiently to the side of mainstream comics that I dunno if they do Imaginary Stories much anymore.

Yep. At DC they're called Elseworlds and they can be surprisingly good. The better ones use the changed plot or situation to closely examine an aspect of the hero involved (such as "if Kal-El's rocket had landed in Soviet Russia, how would being raised to believe in communist ideals affect his heroism?), where the old imaginary stories were more like "hey, what if Lois was really Clark's mom?"

#575 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 10:02 AM:

"Anyway, I'm sufficiently to the side of mainstream comics that I dunno if they do Imaginary Stories much anymore."

DC publishes them on an occasional basis, as "Elseworlds" books. A fair number of them shuffle the hero's origins around in time and space. Victorian Batman, Pirate Batman, Samurai Superman, etc.

I don't pay enough attention to Marvel to say how often they publish "What If?" stories nowadays.

#576 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 10:16 AM:

Vicki: I wallowed between tie-ins (e.g., the original-ST novels you mention) and fanfic in a previous post, but I think there's (at least) a mostly-empty space between the two.

It's clear (from above remarks about those who became pros) that not all fanfic writers are outside the microscopic sliver of people-who-write who are good enough and lucky enough to match up with a commercial publisher; it's even arguable that the internet provides some feedback, not always at the nuts-and-bolts level of a writers' workshop but at least by ignoring the unreadable. I can't argue differences in effort; we always hear about the complaining wannabes who think there's a shortcut around "butt in chair" (Jane's term), Heinlein's five steps, or whatever workable prescription you prefer, but rarely about the people who do as much as they do without making a fuss about the sales that don't happen -- if they even \want/ those sales. Mike has discussed one of the differences -- fitting the canon, where fanfic often argues with canon if not deliberately breaking it. Some of the obvious differences (paid mass publication vs unpaid self-distribution or small-scale publication) may seem mechanical, but I suspect they make a difference in the authors' plans and expectations.

There is one obvious similarity: tie-ins get some of the same slams as fanfic. Karen Traviss argues with this position. I haven't read \any/ SW tie-ins; the descriptions have often been unappetizing, and at best have never countered my doubts about a text-only form of a story whose visual imagination was its greatest asset, overcoming (at least in the first movie) all the typed characters and derivative threads. So I can't counter her arguments; unlike most of the tie-in writers, she's actually produced a non--tie-in book I thought was worthwhile (City of Pearl), so I may give her latest a try.

C. A. Bridges: but the original franchise rarely considers events in the novels when writing the next installment of the francise

I think this is incomplete. As Mike notes above, Paramount exercised significant control over the original-Trek novels; the original series predated the story-arc concept, or even any idea that the characters should be irreversibly changed by a particular story. (You could argue that the oT characters are \incapable/ of change -- that Kirk's forgetting about Edith Keeler two minutes after he gets back on ship is integral to his character rather than a rule laid down by the script monitors -- but the results are the same.)
I remember when Lucas was talking about a trilogy on each side of Star Wars episodes 4-6; he hasn't been doing that for a long time, and I suspect one of the reasons is the number of follow-on stories leaving no room for ]definitive[ movies.

#577 ::: Karla Rubinstein ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 10:54 AM:

I must admit I've not been following this entire discussion, but here are a few of my opinions on the subject:

1. I agree with life copyright, simply because I'm a writer and I'd not want someone (legally) doing crazy things with my work while I stand by helplessly.

2. That being said, I totally support fanfic, and write a good deal of it myself.

3. I don't think stealing a plot and replacing the characters with originals is fanfic; it's just unoriginal and rather bad form.

4. True, there's a lot of awful fanfic, especially for works with huge fandoms. However, there's also a lot of absolutely amazing stuff that gives new depth to the characters and does really interesting things.

5. There's so much published fanfic that it's ridiculous, in my opinion, to discriminate. Look at Wicked, Ros & Guil are Dead, Cosette, the three or so Pride and Prejudice ripoffs on the new-paperback shelf at Borders. Some of it's bad, of course, but some of it's excellent. And somehow it's all legitimate.

6. Fanfic is old. Even after it started to be considered separate from "original" stories, there were the Baker Street Irregulars...the Bronte sisters wrote RPF about Wellington...

-Karla

#578 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 01:06 PM:

In a probably futile attempt to tie everything together, let me quote Justice Ginsburg from her opinion in New York Times, Inc. v. Tasini, 533 U.S. 483, 498 n.6 (2001):

More to the point, even if the dissent is correct that some authors, in the long run, are helped, not hurt, by Database reproductions, the fact remains that the Authors who brought the case now before us have asserted their rights under § 201(c). We may not invoke our conception of their interests to diminish those rights.
(emphasis added)

Although Justice Ginsburg was actually resolving a dispute over republication of magazine articles in online databases like Nexis, EBSCO, etc. in the authors' favor, the principle that she states applies equally to fanfic, and in fact to every variety of copyright infringement the defenders of which proclaim "but it's free publicity!" The whole point of copyright is that it is the author's exclusive right. That is what the Constitution authorizes Congress to do (Art. I, § 8, cl. 8):

The Congress shall have power… to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
(capitalization modernized)

Justice Ginsburg is really asking "What part of 'exclusive right' did you not understand, you cretinous self-aggrandizing overrationalizing slimebags?" of a group of publishers more notorious than most for neither paying fully (or on time) nor properly crediting authors. Simultaneously, though, she was rejecting the prime justification for Napster that didn't falter immediately on "but we're cheap-ass SOBs": the claim that free redistribution of music is "free publicity" that will invariably benefit the artists by increasing their sales, on the theory that a rising tide lifts all boats. (Of course, that theory doesn't consider boats that have holes in them, or that get swamped by the increased wave action, or are torn from their moorings and swept into the rocks.)

Applying this sentiment to fanfic is left as an exercise for the student—primarily because preaching to the fanfic-converted is at least as frustrating as talking sense to a politician. And, before I became a lawyer, trying to talk sense to politicians was part of my job, so I think I know what I'm talking about!

#579 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 01:57 PM:

Anyway, I'm sufficiently to the side of mainstream comics that I dunno if they do Imaginary Stories much anymore.

Does Neil Gaiman's 1602 fall in here somewhere?

#580 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 06:03 PM:

Sixteen hundred and two pardons :-) if this has been done before, but...

Scrivener's Law: As a thread concerning copyright and "intellectual property" lengthens, the probability of C. E. Petit showing up to set the record (or several records) straight approaches 1.

...This a good thing and much appreciated. Even more so the sticking around and doing more of it.

#581 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 06:24 PM:

Suppose -- hypothetically -- that a corporation like Viacom or Fox approaches the fans in the future, and makes a proposal:

"OK, now that the average fan has access to editing and special FX technology just as good as ours, and has this army of eager fanficcers, let's strike a deal: You CAN make your own Star Wars/Star Trek books, movies, TV shows, games and such, AND sell them -- on the condition that you share your profits with us."

Would the fans sign up?

#582 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 07:00 PM:

Lis, Raine and Robin, thank you for the suggested titles, I'll see about getting hold of them (yay!). I found Jenkins very readable, so that's one to definitely look forward to. The Amazon 'also bought' for Sheenan Pugh's book is an amusing and somewhat enlightening list, by the way. Congrats to Robin on the publishing cred, too!

zvi and John M. Ford, thanks heaps for the insights on the fan/not-fan question. Very helpful in clarifying my thoughts.
zvi, that's a great point: 'Because the PTB get to show us canon, they can't effectively show us fanfic.'
And Mr. Ford's point about making sure the (any) story is fully-formed and polished before foisting it onto the public - oh lord yes, it would be awful to have people muttering about 'what next, the stories you wrote in junior high?'
I loved those DC what-if stories, but hadn't thought of them as a format. I _had_ thought of fanfic AU stories, but that goes straight to the fanfic side of the balance, skipping the basic question.

Closer to the topic, and not that it means a whole lot coming from one of the great unpublished, but I'd be ecstatic if fans wrote fic based on my work. Also really intrigued to know how _they_ saw the characters, and where they felt there to be gaps and spaces for other stories to fit in.

#583 ::: neotoma ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 09:14 PM:

Does anyone know of later books that discuss internet fanfic?

Henry Jenkins' Convergence Culture should be out in August. Given what he said at his talk at The Witching Hour con last fall, I think it will be exactly what you're looking for. He knows that Textual Poachers doesn't describe the current state of fandom culture -- it was basically written before the internet explosion, after all.

#584 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2006, 10:24 PM:

I do know of fanfic writers who have later written pro-fic, but I can't bring to mind any who have sustained a pro-writing career.

You're kidding, right? How long does former Star Trek fanfic author Lois McMaster have to write and how many Hugos win before you consider her career sustained?

I can think of several others with more than a dozen published novels who came out of Star Trek fanfic as well as at least one Hollywood screenwriter/producer whom I first met when she was writing Star Wars fanfic back in '83. I even know one fanfic writer who is currently making the transition to writing professional media tie-ins and another who's just started making short story sales (non-media-related) and will no doubt be shopping her (non-media-related) novel around pretty soon.

And I think that several fantasy authors may have made their professional debut in Marion Zimmer Bradley's anthologies and magazine after writing Darkover fanfic.

It may not be reasonable to expect to transition to a pro writing career, but it's not completely unrealistic either if the drive and ability are there. And I don't think most fanfic authors actually expect to turn pro.

#585 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 12:44 AM:

Sometimes, fanfiction can become canonical.

About twenty years ago, a man named Carl Macek and a company called Harmony Gold put three almost-entirely-unrelated anime together to form one 85-episode-long saga known as Robotech—a show that is probably more than any other directly responsible for the anime explosion that took place from the '90s to the present day, as kiddies weaned on Robotech grew up to become college students and adults with disposable incomes and started looking for More Stuff Like That. It certainly had an effect on me, as you can tell from the little blue name in the upper left corner of this post.

Anyway, one of the big problems with Robotech was that, given that all the original source material was in Japanese, people doing the tie-in products such as the novels, roleplaying game, and so forth could more or less only guess at the exact vital statistics of the various mecha (a Japanese term meaning robots and vehicles) and weapons seen in the shows. This ended up spawning a whole bunch of contradictory tie-ins that contradicted the show and each other in various places. The various sections of the wikipedia entry will probably tell you more than you want to know about that.

Enter my friend Peter Walker. (Well, Doctor Peter Walker now, but he was in grad school back then.) As with many members of the thriving Robotech fandom of the '90s, Walker was a fanfic writer. And as he wrote his fanfic, he started compiling a set of glossaries for the story. He went back and looked at the original Japanese source material for the anime that comprised the show, in some cases having it translated, then extrapolating from it as necessary to create a set of consistent writeups of the Robotech mecha so he would have a convenient, consistent reference from which to write. He also wrote some essays dealing with the show, its timeline, and so forth. Not everyone agreed with him, of course—some fans vehemently disagreed with him, probably in part because of his tendency not to back down in the face of argument. Nonetheless, Peter and some people who didn't disagree with him got together and expanded his essays into a full-fledged Robotech Reference Guide, containing extensively detailed writeups of all the equipment and weapons seen in the Robotech series, and essays about the series backstory and so forth.

And in the early 2000s, when Harmony Gold finally got off their butts and started working on a long-overdue sequel to the Robotech TV show, they came to Peter and asked if they could use his research guide as their writer's bible for the sequel show. (And they even excerpted bits of it for the official website, too.) Furthermore, they even went back and superimposed dates consistent with the dates in Peter Walker's Robotech timeline over the original footage in episodes of the show as they aired on the Sci Fi channel and were remastered for the remastered DVD release! In other words, where there had been uncertainty about exactly what year this or that alien invasion happened in, now it was rigidly defined by the footage on the screen—all due to the fan-essay in which Peter Walker had worked out the most likely year for it to have happened. (It is probable that this also sent those who disagreed with Peter's timeline into frothing fits of apoplexy—but when Harmony Gold speaks, there's not much the fans can do about it!)

And since Peter's stuff (or at least the parts of it that Harmony Gold excerpted) has become canonical, it will thus be used for future editions of tie-in material for Robotech, such as a new RPG (if one ever comes out).

So, this is a case where anime fanfiction (or at least the fan-essay offshoot of it) has become canonical for the franchise in question. Just goes to show there's an exception to every rule.

#586 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 08:41 AM:

I agree with life copyright, simply because I'm a writer and I'd not want someone (legally) doing crazy things with my work while I stand by helplessly.

Helplessly? Could you restate that in non-emotive terms?

#587 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 08:57 AM:

"I agree with life copyright, simply because I'm a writer and I'd not want someone (legally) doing crazy things with my work while I stand by helplessly.

"Helplessly? Could you restate that in non-emotive terms?"

Helplessly = without legal recourse. I think the poster's meaning was clear.

#588 ::: Teresa ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 09:08 AM:

*applauds* Thank you, Teresa (you, not me..)

#589 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 10:31 AM:

Helplessly = without legal recourse. I think the poster's meaning was clear.

And if the poster was a writer, they should know more than others the power of just the right word, the difference between saying "no legal recourse" and "helplessly". "helplessly" connotates feelings of victims needing rescue, and I specifically asked for language that wasn't so emotive that it cast a writer who had made money on their book for 42 years as "helpless" because their chartered monopoly expired.

#590 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 11:00 AM:

"I specifically asked for language that wasn't so emotive that it cast a writer who had made money on their book for 42 years as "helpless" because their chartered monopoly expired."

Greg, feel free to recast the argument that way. Don't ask the writer to do it for you, since it would require the writer to agree with your premise that s/he has made oodles of money over 42 years. Which, I don't think s/he did. You can quibble with his/her premise--his/her choice of words reveals some of it--not with the choice of words which convey the specific meaning that poster intended. (Sorry about the s/he, his/her bit--I can no longer find the original comment, and don't have time to scan all the posts.)

#591 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 11:31 AM:

Question: How do fanfic writers "relate" to original authors?

Is there ever a sense of competing with, or rivalry with, or deference to, the person who wrote the first story with the fanficced characters?

#592 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 11:51 AM:

Greg, feel free to recast the argument that way. Don't ask the writer to do it for you, since it would require the writer to agree with your premise your premise that s/he has made oodles of money over 42 years.

The chartered monopoly isn't my premise or my casting, it is a matter of fact of law. You can continue to cast it as an attempt to feed the starving artists or an attempt to rescue the helpless authors who are victims of ... what are they helpless victims of? Oh well, never mind that, the point is you can continue to cast or frame it in emotionally charged terms, but those terms have nothing to do with the reality of copyright law. And your "ooodles of money" is more of the non-reality silliness. Author are poorly paid because its a buyers market. Life-Plus-70 doesn't make authors any richer while they're alive, so if "poor authors" is your argument and if extending copyright terms is your solution, that argument results in ever-longer terms until you get to eternal copyright that Mark Twain lobbied for.

#593 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 12:00 PM:

Don't ask the writer to do it for you, since it would require the writer to agree with your premise

Oh and having been accused of "generalizing writers" on a number of occaisions by folks on this thread and others, this actually set off my "generalization" detector. You're generalizing authors to be of the type that must disagree with my premise. As it happens, not all writers disagree with my premise. First, over a hundred years of US history shows authors were more than willing to writer for a 42 copyright term or less. Mark Twain, who would disagree with my idea of shortening terms to 42 years, none the less shows that authors are able to make "oodles of money" in 42 years of copyright protection. Lastly, any authors who contributes to a GNU-GPL, GNU-FDL, CC-BY, or CC-SA project would also disagree with several of your premises including the basic premise that the only way to make money as a writer is to have a Life-Plus-Yowsa copyright protection and to enforce it vigorously.

#594 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 12:46 PM:

It's all a matter of emphasis, isn't it. I'm emphasizing from your post "has made money on their book for 42 years," and you're emphasizing the following part of the sentence that says that was done through a monopoly. I used the word "the writer" to refer to "the writer in that post" and you used it to refer to "the writers of the world in general."

You are free to do so, of course, and make your argument, and work to convice me and others that your points are valid. But that someone uses a word with emotive meaning which is part and parcel of using the English language to debate and argue strikes me as fine. You can take down the person's argument, deconstruct the words, point out every fallacy and inconsistent, but that's your job, if you feel it's important to you, not the other person's to raise a straw man (or anything else) for you.

And I disagree on the main point, that authors are claiming the position of victim. Just as I completely disagree that society at large is one great big victim of copyright law.

#595 ::: any mouse ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 02:46 PM:

look folks, the 400# gorilla in the room is homophobia.

i haven't read 100% of the thread, so i don't know if someone's already mentioned it.

but if nobody wrote slash fanfic, very few people (beyond big whineypants like marvel & lucas) would complain.

fanfic authors don't make money on their work, and if they do, it's a pittance from the cost of distributing it to other fans of fanfic (and even this has dissapeared since the internet has killed fanzines).

in my experiencs as a former prolific fanfic writer and zine publisher, is that 99.99% of author, publisher, or actor objection to fanfic devolves down to "ewww, you made my 'creations' gay! people might think i'm gay."

when fans of the original work decry fanfic, it almost always boils down to "ewww, you made my favorite characters gay! now i can never enjoy that show/book/movie again! i'll always be 'tainted' by imagining them doing icky sexual things together."

homophobia is most of the root of the 'asthetic' objection to fanfic.

sure, some of the writing is technically less than perfect to put it kindly. but you know what? some of the original sources could've used a better editor too(calling anne rice!) there are horrible 'mary sue' stories. but they're turning up in original sources these days too.

no, i'll lay good odds, that most anybody who objects to fanfic -- be it a fan, author, publisher, whathaveyou -- are really objection to the 'ick' factor of slash fiction. it's the 'gay panic' defense of the literary world.

and people need to just get over it. if (for example) you can't stand to watch miami vice ever agian because your eyes were 'polluted' by a story that had sonny and castillo in a compromising position, than you need to refine your perception of reality. it's fiction, folks. sonny and castillo are CHARACTERS not real people. how do you know 100% for sure that once the credits rolled on the episode, they didn't fall into bed with each other? you don't. and a slash writer doesn't know they did. it's imagination. fairy tales.

as pinky dinky doo says (yes, i have toddlers in the house!) "anything can happen in a made-up story!"

#596 ::: proud to swim home ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 03:16 PM:

life-plus-(x)years...

how would that work in the case of something like "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole, which wasn't discovered or published until after his death?

does it immediately fall into public domain? or after only 5 years?

because of that & the reasons mentioned below, count me in on the side of 42 (or something like it) years fixed term.

------------------------------------
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Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2006, 01:30 PM:

I'm in favor of a copyright that lasts life of author (possibly plus a short term, meaning single digit years, for their heirs).

And when the unknown author who dies the day after he completes his magnum opus that the whole world falls in love with, that will be when Life-Plus-5 will be shown by the author's heirs to be an unfair term.

Life-Plus-N for small values of N are unfair for older authors, giving them (and their estate) too little compensation.

Life-Plus-N for large values of N are unfair to the public, paying young authors up to 150 years of copyright protection.

Fixed Terms (N years from date of publication) will cause some to complain that young authors will see their works enter the public domain, but if the term is "fair" in that those young authors were paid for their labor before the work went public domain, then the complaints are really little more than folks missing their old time monopoly when the sellers managed to set the price at the highest bid, rather than letting competition find the lowest bid that would get the job done.

42 year fixed terms showed that it could get the job done.


#597 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 03:32 PM:

In another discussion elsewhere a thought popped into my head. Many claim that copyright stiffles creativity, as the excuse to limit it. Some one explain how making you come up with your own world, characters and stories is stiffling creativity. So how does letting folks borrow another's world and characters increase creativity? Near as I can tell copyright forces you to be more original.

#598 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 03:52 PM:

Because you can't just adjust inspiration like a thermostat. You can't simply decide not to be inspired by the characters in the movie or TV show you just watched, or the book you just read, and get inspired for something else original instead. Your inspiration is what it is, and if you can't write about what you're inspired to write about, then that creativity is stifled.

#599 ::: Patrick Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 04:08 PM:

in my experiencs as a former prolific fanfic writer and zine publisher, is that 99.99% of author, publisher, or actor objection to fanfic devolves down to "ewww, you made my 'creations' gay! people might think i'm gay."
when fans of the original work decry fanfic, it almost always boils down to "ewww, you made my favorite characters gay! now i can never enjoy that show/book/movie again! i'll always be 'tainted' by imagining them doing icky sexual things together."
homophobia is most of the root of the 'asthetic' objection to fanfic.

And in my experiences as a reader of fanfic, and a consultant to a number of people that write fanfic, and a number of people that help police aspects of fanfic, the root of most the aesthetic objection to fanfic is that 90% of all fanfic is poor writing.

It has nothing to do with the sex, other than the sex is bad to read...because the writing is bad.

Can you provide anything to assist in proving your point, because everything I've seen tends more towards people not liking the writing more than any homophobia. (Additionally, not all fanfic is sexual or even homosexual...in fact, arguably most fanfic is not.)

#600 ::: Patrick Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 04:13 PM:

life-plus-(x)years...
how would that work in the case of something like "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole, which wasn't discovered or published until after his death?
does it immediately fall into public domain? or after only 5 years?
because of that & the reasons mentioned below, count me in on the side of 42 (or something like it) years fixed term.

Most of this has already been posted, but to recap:
Copyright exists at the creation of the work.
Copyright currently exists (in works with one author) for the life of the author plus 70 years.
Only after that, unless the rights have been explicitly released, does the work fall into the public domain.

#601 ::: Katy ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 04:20 PM:

A.R. Yngve asked:How do fanfic writers "relate" to original authors?

Is there ever a sense of competing with, or rivalry with, or deference to, the person who wrote the first story with the fanficced characters?


Well as a fanfic writer (for Buffy) I feel no sense of competition, cause how can anyone compete with the genius that is Joss Whedon. All in all I think most Buffy ficcers have a sense of reverance (most that I've read anyway) for Joss. Myself included. After Buffy ended Joss was asked what fans should do now, he responded by saying "write fanfic." We have all taken his mandate to heart and feel priveliged to be allowed to use his characters.
As a writer in the Buffy fanfic universe, I feel honored and priveleged to be able to use these characters and borrow them for fun. It makes it even better when I get feedback from those fanfic writers that I admire and worship. I have been heartily welcomed by the communtiy of ficcers for the 'ship I write and I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world.

So I say a hearty "Thank You" to Joss for being so generous as to allow me (and everyone else) to use his characters.

#602 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 04:43 PM:

Greg, I regret posting the stuff about raising a straw man, because, re-reading, I may have imputed something that wasn't there. I apologize for the implication. If I am permitted to make a do-over, the sentence should read: "You can take down the person's argument, deconstruct the words, point out every fallacy and inconsistency, but that's your job, if you feel it's important to you, not the other person's to change the words that they used because you dislike their meaning."

#603 ::: ksgreer ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 04:45 PM:

A.R. Yngve asked: How do fanfic writers "relate" to original authors?

Second that on the reverence. All hail the mighty Joss, and so on. My fanfic experience (outside The Mighty Jossverse) is in Japanese anime, and that's a culture that is perfectly willing to look the other way on fanfic all the way up, and including, comic books (doujinshi) written, draw, produced and sold by fans, as long as the manga-runs stay under approximately 1000 copies each title. (The corrollary benefit of that, of course, is that it makes particularly popular fan-manga artists even more precious, and there's hot competition to get copies of stories by some "circles", as groups of fan-artists are called, including setting the prices accordingly.)

I've seen fanartists and fanwriters interact with the voice actors, producers, animators, and directors from various Japanese production companies, and the conversations/interviews are marked by respect, even adoration, and a certain sense of gratitude: thank you for creating these characters/worlds/stories that have so eaten into our brains. Disrespect on the part of a fan, more than anything else, rouses the fury of fans. Do not diss the hand that brings the original stories to life. But be not afraid to create AU, school!fic, divergent future, genderswitch, fusion, crossover, or any other fic that plays with the world. This is not dissing, this is playing, and a compliment to the creators.

The rough part, of course, is when fans feel the creators "compromised" or "watered down" or somehow contradicted the original promise (or premise) of the story. I've seen this kind of betrayed-hurt/fury unleashed (though usually behind the scenes/hands) in two types of cases.

1. The author, originally neutral toward (or even mildly encouraging of) fanfic, summarily decrees fanfic/fanart is off-limits. The fans do not like having their cookies taken away halfway through playtime.

2. Authors with policies of Absolutely No FanFic Or Else You Mindless Fans will get slammed if the fans feel the author's writing is any way mediocre. I've spoken with fantasy fans who've grumbled that "So-and-So had a great idea, and botched the delivery, and won't even let us fix it."

Ahem.

This is what makes me leery about fanfic, that someone might write better than me at my own damn characters. (On the other hand, I'm not exactly standing on high moral ground were I to bar it outright, upon publication.)

But having come from a fannish background, to some extent, I do get the odd sensation that those authors most vehemently against fanfic sometimes demonstrate a certain nervousness about the topic. That's why I sometimes wonder if the authors are, in fact, worried that a fan can write/tweak/play with their world so well that the author's original offerings will be cast aside in favor of well-written fanfic. This is where the Respect Mah Authority! attitude comes in, I think.

In the case of "the fans doing it better", again, the fans themselves would not -- and do not appear to, from what I've seen -- consider this 'dissing'. In fact, most appear to argue they're being true to the story itself, and if the writer's too blockheaded and hamfisted to write a good story with the characters, s/he should do the fandom a service and get out of the way so someone can.

The loyalty, above all else, for a fan, seems to be to the characters, the world, and the story. The author is always secondary, just as much as we would value the psychic's message of peace, hope, and the thirty grand in Uncle Harold's footlocker, and not whether the psychic hirself had enough to eat for breakfast.

#604 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 05:00 PM:

Any Mouse

I object to someone indulging their id fantasies with my characters. If you want to write erotica make your own characters don't kidnap mine.
My characters are straight, gay, bi, and indescribable for reasons that I chose. I would be just as pissed and offended if someone took one of my slutty characters and rewrote them to be a handwringing prude.

#605 ::: Shauna ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 05:02 PM:

Any mouse wrote:

look folks, the 400# gorilla in the room is homophobia.

i haven't read 100% of the thread, so i don't know if someone's already mentioned it.

but if nobody wrote slash fanfic, very few people (beyond big whineypants like marvel & lucas) would complain.

fanfic authors don't make money on their work, and if they do, it's a pittance from the cost of distributing it to other fans of fanfic (and even this has dissapeared since the internet has killed fanzines).

in my experiencs as a former prolific fanfic writer and zine publisher, is that 99.99% of author, publisher, or actor objection to fanfic devolves down to "ewww, you made my 'creations' gay! people might think i'm gay."

when fans of the original work decry fanfic, it almost always boils down to "ewww, you made my favorite characters gay! now i can never enjoy that show/book/movie again! i'll always be 'tainted' by imagining them doing icky sexual things together."

homophobia is most of the root of the 'asthetic' objection to fanfic.

---------
You know, maybe it's just me...but I somehow think that you've sort of missed the entire point of this thread. You said you didn't read the entire thing? Well, maybe you should.

Coming on here and accusing everyone of being bunch of homophobes just because some of us dislike the idea of fanfiction, quite frankly, is a rather serious accusation. Do you have any proof to back it up? Aside from your flawed opinion, I mean.

I, for one, find it offensive that you seem to think that (nearly) all objection to fanfic stems from a deep-seated intolerance of the homosexual lifestyle.

I, as a personal choice, do not nor have ever read or written any kind of slashfic. I'm one of those who have always prefered the more traditional male/female pairing of any genre, fanfic or published or otherwise. Are you going to sit there and tell me that this makes me completely intolerant of others who do choose to write and read and and possibly live it?

Please, I'm not attempting to start an argument, but I would ask for future posts that you think about what you're writing and choose your words a little more carefully.

And if I've inadvertantly offended anyone else on this thread by my comments above, I also apologize.

Thank you.

#606 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 05:22 PM:

T.W. In another discussion elsewhere a thought popped into my head. Many claim that copyright stiffles creativity, as the excuse to limit it. Some one explain how making you come up with your own world, characters and stories is stiffling creativity. So how does letting folks borrow another's world and characters increase creativity? Near as I can tell copyright forces you to be more original.

T.W. the thing of it is that the ones clamoring the absolute loudest are folks like Disney, the RIAA, and the MPAA. And, just for example, Steamboat Willy, the first Disney cartoon to introduce Mickey Mouse, was a derived work. In fact, one might argue that most of Disney's money is made from public domain stories that they turned into their own works: Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, insert any fairy tale story here. And while Disney wishes to reap the rewards of all those public domain works that they used to make their money, they are unwilling to allow their own works to pass into the public domain.

So, the first issue is a simple matter of blatant hypocrical actions on the part of all the billion dollar companies who use public domain works to generate their revenue, but who refuse to allow their works enter the public domain after they've made their money and paid for all their time and labor. The last two times that copyright terms have been extended in the United States (1998 and 1976), it just so happens that those two times were just when Steamboat Willie (and Mickey Mouse) was about to enter the public domain. And I have a massive problem with this level of hypocricy.

As for "stifling", one way to look at it is to imagine that rather than have the highway department be funded by taxes, they decide to give anyone who builds a road the right to lay a toll on that road for a period of time, and then the toll must be lifted and the road becomes free for anyone to drive.

The public domain is a system of roads that span all teh way back to Babylon and ancient Greece and ancient Egypt and lead all the way up to 1928. 1928 was the year Steamboat Willie was released. And ever since then, all roads built since that time have remained toll roads. Every time the folks collecting tolls on their roads were supposed to stop collecting tolls, they paid the government tons of money in campaign donations and lobbying money, and had the law changed to keep the tolls around another 20 years or so.

So, even though those roads have been paid for many times over, the people who laid the blacktop for them almost a century ago are allowed to continue collecting their tolls.

And why is that "stifling"? Because the US constitution says that copyright and patents are only allowed to "promote the progress of the useful arts and sciences". And "Progress", in the final measure, means Public Domain. An ever increasing network of Toll Roads isn't promoting progress in the Intellectual Highway Department. Progress occurs when those roads become freely available for the public to travel on.

The purpose of copyright and patent law is to make sure folks get paid enough for their time and effort that some can make money at their craft, but once paid, those works are to enter the public domain so that people no longer have to pay a toll to copy, distribute, or create derivative works of those creations.

The number of new free roads has remained the same since 1928 because the tolls keep getting hiked.

Oh, and just to point out a bit of upside down framing, Many claim that copyright stiffles creativity, as the excuse to limit it. Copyright is the limit. Copyright is the toll. It is a chartered monopoly created by the government to encourage people to write. Copyright is stifling. But the existence of copyright allows people to make a living as writers, so it encourages new works, and when those works return to the Public Domain, then Progress is achieved and both Public and Author benefit.

Eternal copyright is a benefit only to the author, a toll paid forever by the public for one piece of labor done by a writer to create a stretch of road and forever collect a toll on that road. So, shortening terms is not "limiting" copyright.

#607 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 05:25 PM:

I suspect the authors that complain about fanfic would also be upset if their characters were suddenly to be depicted believing in a different religion, or possessing a different personality, or otherwise doing something so out of established character.

I've read slash. I've read good slash. And, to me, the good slash is when the fanficcer writes a believable story that convinces me that these two characters, as defined by the original creator, might get together in the right circumstances. Stories where Kirk turns to Spock and says, "You know what? Let's go for it," don't work for me at all, and I submit that the whopping majority of slash falls into that category, the "Plot? What Plot?" area. I remember reading an X-Files story where Scully was home alone, putting on her latex bodysuit and wondering what Mulder would say if he saw her, when she answered a knock on the door to see Mulder in his own latex fetishwear. I don't think I had the reaction the author was hoping for; I just started laughing and clicked away.

Just doesn't work for me, and I would think an author would be more bothered by that than by hookups that make sense.

#608 ::: Shauna ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 05:29 PM:

As an addenum to my last post, I think a lot of the problems stemming from slash fic has much more to do with the habit of pairing two characters together who are not, nor have ever been, written as gay characters.

For example: Pairing Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Or, even worse, Harry Potter and Severus Snape (and we get some pedophilia issues in that one that I don't even want to touch).

I'm sure there are many people - both who do write slashfic and those who don't - who find either of these pairings somewhat disturbing. But I also believe it's more because of the fact that Harry and Snape or Harry and Draco absolutely loathe each other in canon and would never in a million years believably enter into that sort of relationship in fanon. Unless the writer of that particular fic is better than JK Rowling herself and possesses the gift of making die-hard fans believe the unbelievable.

This is what is generally known as out-of-characterness, or OOCness for short, and among fans of any fanfic genre, OOCness is a big no-no and those fans who write characters in that manner are usually given very firm suggestions as to what they could do to improve their characterization. A very good writer could pull off a story with that sort of plot, I'm sure, but then again, as I've never read any of it, I can't speak from personal reading experience.

#609 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 05:37 PM:

I think that the chief concerns about fanfic among original authors are simple and easy to understand:

1: "Do fanfic writers respect MY personal vision, the parts of my soul that I put into this story?"

Fanfic writers may disagree on this point, but the original writer starts out writing for himself/herself, not for a community. Writing can be an intensely personal experience. (Also, you might write for another specific person/s.) Some writers pour their hearts into their fictional characters... and consequently, can take it very personally when someone else starts playing with "their babies."

It's no secret that popular fictional characters become a "public figures"...but they weren't popular or public the first time they were written!

2: "Will this hurt my ability to make a living off my original work?"
The fans are very eager to support a popular book series/TV series/franchise, so you can argue a "no" answer.

3. "Do I risk losing my copyright if I don't enforce it?"
(I'll leave that to the lawyers...)

Slash is not the chief concern. It is much easier to laugh it off as spoof or satire... but not as easy to shrug off things like ANOTHER HOPE.

#610 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 05:45 PM:

A very good writer could pull off a story with that sort of plot, I'm sure, but then again, as I've never read any of it, I can't speak from personal reading experience.

Cassandra Claire's Draco fanfic trilogy does just that, make Malfoy and Harry friends (although not lovers) and it's extremely well done. She manages to make it work and keep them in character, and she never gets any more contrived than Rowling herself does.

Then again, I believe she also once wrote some Harry/Draco slash that, IMO, was just what you're talking about. Entirely different personalities, and not pleasant stories to read. Those stories have been pretty much wiped from the Web so I'm hoping (if she did write them) that she changed her mind and yanked them.

#611 ::: ksgreer ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 05:46 PM:

A.R.Yngve's questions:

1: "Do fanfic writers respect MY personal vision, the parts of my soul that I put into this story?"

Seems that what an author considers respect and what a fan considers respect are sometimes diametrically opposed. I'd say from an author's point of view, the answer may likely be no; definitely no (it seems) if enemy!sex gets into the picture, and moreso beyond that if slash. YMMV.

2: "Will this hurt my ability to make a living off my original work?"

I agree, the answer seems to be a strong No, which is curious considering #1.

3. "Do I risk losing my copyright if I don't enforce it?"

Wasn't the whole enforce-or-lose a result of mashing trademark and copyright? Cover me, I'm going in. *scrolls back and back and back...*

#612 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 05:49 PM:

Shauna...

...um...

...there are a whole lot of stories where people who hate each other at one stage of life later have a relationship. This happens even in more "traditional" opposite-sex pairings. Joss Whedon does this all the time; observe Cordie and Xander, who went from yelling hate at each other directly to passionate kissing, or Lila and Wesley, who had a passionate sexual relationship even though they continued to hate each other.

In real life, there's the case of Michael Musto and (I think it was) Andrew Sullivan, who trashed each other in their respective columns for months; they finally met at a convention of some kind, went for a walk in the woods together (and no, the historical allusion was lost on neither of them) and came back giggling and telling everyone "we've become friends!"

One may infer a certain amount of mussed clothing and so forth.

I find Harry/Draco not at all implausible. Draco is a self-righteous little snotrag, but he could grow up into a decent human being despite his father (I can name self-righteous snotrags who overcame worse, believe me). And you'll also have to trust me that deep personal dislike isn't necessarily a barrier to sexual attraction between young men. Or even to sex, under the right circumstances. It's called "I hate myself for loving you."

I agree with you about Snape, though. He's a nasty man, but not evil, and with a strong sense of ethics (not that they agree in every particular with mine). I think that if he were attracted to a student he would become a tortured soul, but he would not cross that line. And he's never given any sign of having any sexuality whatsoever, unlike Harry and Hermione and Ron.

#613 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 06:00 PM:

Disney has ruined it for everyone havn't they?
One solution Greg would be to make much more seperate terms for corporations from invidual artists in copyright law. Unlike a person a corporation has no heart or soul or feelings or beliefs or family so they have no place using moral, emotional and philosophical arguments to thier favour as the only real motivation is money.
My thought is for people; life+25, the estate can earn their own keep, the 25 years is just in case of early death and/or young children. For corporations, 50 years flat. As for fanfic better definition of derivative work. I would like to see satire added to fair use since I see it to be the same as parody and just as much value to the public good.

#614 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 06:05 PM:

That wouldn't help artists who have incorporated and hold copyrights under their company name, though.

#615 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 06:07 PM:

From earlier in the thread:
On the other hand, Ron and Hermione have been consistently bickering like Han Solo and Princess Leia did early on in the Star Wars films, and we all know how that ended up.

and

I'm sure there are many people - both who do write slashfic and those who don't - who find either of these pairings somewhat disturbing. But I also believe it's more because of the fact that Harry and Snape or Harry and Draco absolutely loathe each other in canon and would never in a million years believably enter into that sort of relationship in fanon. Unless the writer of that particular fic is better than JK Rowling herself and possesses the gift of making die-hard fans believe the unbelievable.

I'm not completely sold on Harry/Draco subtext, although I think it's easier to see in the earlier books, but when it's written well I can easily believe it.

It can be jarring to come from fandoms built very much on a subtext that is hard to miss, to fandoms that play the "anything goes" game and experiment with pairing every character with any other character (ok, so it made some kind of sense in the Buffyverse) but good writers make anything readable. I just read the new sequel to the Aragorn/Shagrat story. It's not Tolkien, but it's damn good writing (my brain is trying to make sense of it by saying that this bit of Middle Earth's history was not recorded by hobbits). I'd never go looking for the pairing but I'm glad I stumbled across the story.

#616 ::: Alta Johnston ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 06:08 PM:

Seriously, you may want to go back and read the whole thread, tedious as that may seem.

'Cause this isn't Lee Goldberg's blog -- and while there may be individuals with those issues here, by and large that hasn't been the topic or the focus of the conversation.

#617 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 06:18 PM:

"That wouldn't help artists who have incorporated and hold copyrights under their company name, though."

Ah crap forgot about that. Then again if you chose to incorporate you have accept that there is a price to go with the gain.

#618 ::: Shauna ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 06:21 PM:

Xopher wrote:

there are a whole lot of stories where people who hate each other at one stage of life later have a relationship. This happens even in more "traditional" opposite-sex pairings. Joss Whedon does this all the time; observe Cordie and Xander, who went from yelling hate at each other directly to passionate kissing, or Lila and Wesley, who had a passionate sexual relationship even though they continued to hate each other.

In real life, there's the case of Michael Musto and (I think it was) Andrew Sullivan, who trashed each other in their respective columns for months; they finally met at a convention of some kind, went for a walk in the woods together (and no, the historical allusion was lost on neither of them) and came back giggling and telling everyone "we've become friends!"

One may infer a certain amount of mussed clothing and so forth.

I find Harry/Draco not at all implausible. Draco is a self-righteous little snotrag, but he could grow up into a decent human being despite his father (I can name self-righteous snotrags who overcame worse, believe me). And you'll also have to trust me that deep personal dislike isn't necessarily a barrier to sexual attraction between young men. Or even to sex, under the right circumstances. It's called "I hate myself for loving you."

Okay, I'll concede that point. Actually, upon thinking of it, another good example of a love-hate relationship in Buffyverse would be Spike and Buffy, whose relationship was what turned me into a Buffy fan in the first place (the series was already halfway over when I caught an episode featuring the two of them). Before then, I had no interest.

So I guess then it does come back to the skill of the writer and how well they could pull off a particular pairing, friendship or lovers or what have you. And honestly, after reading book six of Harry Potter, I can easily imagine that, if well-plotted, Harry and Draco could become friends, because Draco isn't portrayed as being as much of an irritating little prick as he is in the first five books, and Harry had witnessed him in certain moments of non-prick-ness. I still can't see them becoming more than that, no matter how good a fanfic writer may be, but that's just me.

#619 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 06:36 PM:

Disney has ruined it for everyone havn't they?

I wouldn't put it that way. They're just grossly overpaid and the public is footing the bill.

Unlike a person a corporation has no heart or soul or feelings or beliefs or family so they have no place using moral, emotional and philosophical arguments to thier favour as the only real motivation is money.

again, I wouldn't put it that way. Corporations encourage people to invest money in business risks, which can generate jobs and stimulate the whole economy. But corporations aren't perfect and they have more powers than is healthy, in my opinion, and the way the corporate entity shields the individuals from prosecution in some cases is just wrong.

And I think the law should be changed to reduce some of the perks and pork that corporations are legally granted, just like i think copyright should be changed to reduce some of the pork there as well.

And I don't have a problem with the concept of copyright. Without it, there is a lot less incentive to create new works. With it, people can create works, and companies can publish it, turn it into movies, make music, etc, generating jobs and stimulating the economy and promoting Progress of the Arts. The problem is that when compensation becomes too high. And the final measure of what is too much competition should be whether or not there would be people willing to create new works. Copyright isn't meant to guarantee that Little Susie can have copyright to her short story long enough to make a career out of it, nor does copyright need to protect the more emotionally sensitive authors who simply can't bear to see their works go Public Domain and insist the work remain their property until long after they're dead.

I think enough poeple would be willing to create new works, knowing that they might live to see those works go public domain, that there isn't a need to make terms longer.

In the end, this is the fundamental problem with a chartered monopoly where the government sets the prices: How much is fair? And in any other field, "fair" is fundamentally set by the lowest bid that can get the job done. In the field of copyright, "fair" is argued to be some moral argument or some emotional plea. It's a government mandated monopoly where the government sets the duration of copyright. And so far, the authors have managed to pay the politicians to keep setting terms higher. At some point, someone needs to recognize that not everyone is suited for writing, and copyright isn't meant to allow those ill-suited for a writing career to get enough guarantees that their overly sensitive emotional state isn't upset.

How many people would argue that they should be able to set their salary? That they should be able to tell their boss how much they must pay them? This isn't like minimum wage, because minimum copyright would be far, far shorter than LIfe-Plus-Disgusting. You can go to your boss and demand a raise, but tehy shouldn't be legally required to keep you on your lifetime-plus-70 salary if they can find someone else to do the job for less. No where else does a salary get set to satisfy the highest bidder.

#620 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 06:40 PM:

T.W.: Some one explain how making you come up with your own world, characters and stories is stiffling creativity. So how does letting folks borrow another's world and characters increase creativity? Near as I can tell copyright forces you to be more original.

Because no art is created in a vacuum. We gain our metaphors and models from the art that has been, and one of the most effective way to adress, extend or critcize our metaphors and models is to build on the art that has given them form. The result is something of a dialogue (or more like the multi-threaded discussions on Usenet or popular forums, which seem chaotic yet produce insights for those who pay attention). Too-strong monopolies on the images involved force every participant in the discussion to distort their references to arguments already made into plausible deniability, and make the discussion a lot harder to follow.

Of course, the signal to noise raito both in forum discussions and in art is known to be quite abysmal, and many contributions do not advance anything, lack originality or coherence, and recycle only the same tired old arguments, storylines and personage. Not everyone who worked on Arthurian legend was a White, and Beowulf has been used by folks as diverse as Tolkien and Crichton, as well as by many others probably best forgotten. But exactly because the bad is forgotten quickly and the good endures, monopolizing the source is unnecessary in weeding out the bad: all it can do is keep the good from becoming known.

Another point: Unless one demands that everyone create their own Mongol horde leaders, 16th century theologians, and empires' capitals, the high standards of "bring your own world" originality can apply only to certain genres. What about the rest? Shall they forever be considered as hopelessly derivative? That seems hardly fair.

Also: what Robotech_master said. Anything can be inspiration. Some inspirations find expression in works better then others, some in works more legal than others. Yet, "more legal" and "better" exist independent of one another.

#621 ::: Karla Rubinstein ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 08:02 PM:

I'm amazed that so much discussion has spun off a single word, really.

And if the poster was a writer, they should know more than others the power of just the right word, the difference between saying "no legal recourse" and "helplessly". "helplessly" connotates feelings of victims needing rescue, and I specifically asked for language that wasn't so emotive that it cast a writer who had made money on their book for 42 years as "helpless" because their chartered monopoly expired

1. Did you specifically ask for it before I posted? If not, I don't think I'm required to read your mind and cater to your request. As a writer, I know the power of causality.

2. As a writer, I also know the power of interpretation. (And of a good background in classics, for that matter.) "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less." (Through the Looking-Glass) True, "helplessly" may bring feelings of victims needing rescue to your mind; if you want to break down the word, "help": of the legal sort, "less": I wouldn't have any, "ly": adverbial ending, i.e. how I'd stand around while people legally do crazy things with my work.

3. I don't pretend to be unconcerned with money, but it was the furthest thing from my mind when I made that comment. As a writer, you should know more than others the importance of writer's intention! Would you want someone making a film of your book, taking a serious character and making him into low comic relief? (I haven't read your books; I cite the recent films of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.) I certainly wouldn't.

(Also: AliceB, thanks for your arguments! You've said it better than I could have.)

#622 ::: any mouse ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 08:30 PM:

i've had time to go back and read all the thread. nothing i've read has changed my mind.

comments about fanfic writers writing the characters "out of character (ooc)" boil down to "they're not gay! they're not gay! no they're not! lalala i can't here you!"

by it's nature, fanfic writes ooc. as it all takes place off-screen. unless the fanficcer is basically rewriting an existing episode (and why bother?), anything that happens is going to be ooc. heck, official script writers for the shows most fanficcers write about do a heck of a lot of OOC writing. haven't you ever been watching a series and gone, "wtf? character x would never do that!"

claim that it's all just a desire to control the characters all you want, it all boils down to wanting to control whether or not the characters are depicted as gay.

when original content creators/owners complain about fanfic diluting and damaging future projects what they're really saying is if jim-bob in podunk finds out that some people think that kirk and spock might be gettin' it on out in deep space, he'd never watch the show again or buy the cheesy merchandise.

fanfic doesn't dilute the market, it builds it. it also dosen't mess with the original content. most people are intelligent enough to recognize the difference between 'cannon' and fanfic inspired by the cannon. fanfic usually makes the fans hungry for more, not overstuffed and unable to eat another bite. i've not watched, read, or written anything b7 for years, but if i heard that there was a remake coming out or a reunion, i'd be on it like white on rice. (although, while a fan of miami vice & writer of slash vice fic, i think i'll skip the remake there.)

like racism, nobody likes to confront the fact of homophobia or it's influence on society themselves. i can't begin to tell you how many of my ultra-liberal & gay-friendly friends got all squeeked out over brokeback mountain and came up with all sorts of reasons not to go.

whenever the topic of fanfic is discussed and slash is mentioned, all the non-slash fanficcers are so eager to jump up and say "that's not really fanfic" or "that's not the 'good' fanfic" or something to distance their preferred flavor of fanfic from that icky gay fanfic.

the arguments in this thread that are specifically about legal copyright and creator/owner compensation are mostly exempt from this generalization. that's a whole 'nuther issue.

but where there's talk of 'creative control' or fanfic 'upsetting the creator/owner' and the like, 99.99% of that argument boils down to homophobia. i won't say 100% because there are some very LGBTQ friendly authors who request that no fanfic be written in their universes.

y'know, as a writer myself (not just of fanfic), a part of me can understand wanting to possessively keep one's creation to one's self. but if that's the case, then don't publish. stick it in an attic until after you're dead and can't know what someone's going to do with it. once a work is out there, people will stir the pot.

since derivative fiction is so horrible, i say we make the coen brothers pay the greek people (since we're unlikely to find a direct descendant of homer) for using ulysses for o brother. and so on.

#623 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 08:38 PM:

Karla posts: I'd not want someone (legally) doing crazy things with my work while I stand by helplessly.


I reply: Helplessly? Could you restate that in non-emotive terms?

AliceB interjects: helplessly = without legal recourse. I think the poster's meaning was clear.

I reply to AliceB: "helplessly" connotates feelings of victims needing rescue, and I specifically asked for language that wasn't so emotive

Karla replies midstream: Did you specifically ask for it before I posted?

No, I didn't. but I wasn't expecting you to read my mind, either. I was asking you to restate "helplessly" in non-emotive terms. you still haven't.

Would you want someone making a film of your book, taking a serious character and making him into low comic relief?

This is also emotive, because you don't separate the book during copyright term and the book after it enters the public domain. You simply call it "your book". You are relating to "your book" as permanent property, and so it isn't surprising that you want copyright terms that last until after you die, because it's treated as property as long as you're alive and you never have to see "your book" not actually belong to you or be under your control.

to cleave the two ideas apart (book during copyright protection and book after it enters public domain), I have no problem with a writer owning their book for a period of time as a reward and incentive for writing it in the first place. But I see no reason it need be Life-Plus-N other than that some writers simply can't bear seeing "their book" ever not be "their book".

Once a book I write enters the public domain, I would have no problem with it being used and abused and anything else. If my version was popular, then the original will always be known. Low brow abusations of Shakespeare do not lower Shakespeare. You assume basically that your original can be "damaged" somehow by derivatives. But the original always remains. And you simply avoid seeing this by pushing terms out beyond your death. Derivatives will happen. and it is a myth that they lessen whatever original they are based on. Your question simply invokes this myth. "How would YOU feel if someone abused your story?" Well, after copyright expires, it is no longer MY book.

I wrote Bounty Hunters and released it under a CC-Attribution license, which means that right now, at this very moment, you can take that book and mangle it to your heart's content and do what you wish with it. The one and only thing the license requires is that you attribute the original work, so that folks can find it if they wish. Other than that, turn it on its head, mock it, write the hero as the villian and the villian as the hero.

As it happens, someone took Bounty Hunters and created a comic book here. They didn't ask me, and they didn't need to. I licensed the work to allow folks to create derivatives without requireing my permission. I didn't review the comic, I didn't have any say over it, I didn't have any control over it, and I couldn't tell him "take that down". There can be no "Cease and Desist" to fanfic versions of "Bounty Hunters" other than to enforce attribution requirements. But content is out of my control. I gave it away.

So, the myth of an evil derivative occuring while I'm alive doesn't frighten me, because I know the original is always out there, for folks to read if they want to go back to the source.

#624 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 08:42 PM:

(#nnnnn refers to HTML bookmark. I tried posting actual links but the website wouldn't take it.)

#123005: Karla posts: I'd not want someone (legally) doing crazy things with my work while I stand by helplessly.

#123102: I reply: Helplessly? Could you restate that in non-emotive terms?

#123104: AliceB interjects: helplessly = without legal recourse. I think the poster's meaning was clear.

#123114: I reply to AliceB: "helplessly" connotates feelings of victims needing rescue, and I specifically asked for language that wasn't so emotive

#123309: Karla replies midstream: Did you specifically ask for it before I posted?

No, I didn't. but I wasn't expecting you to read my mind, either. I was asking you to restate "helplessly" in non-emotive terms. you still haven't.

Would you want someone making a film of your book, taking a serious character and making him into low comic relief?

This is also emotive, because you don't separate the book during copyright term and the book after it enters the public domain. You simply call it "your book". You are relating to "your book" as permanent property, and so it isn't surprising that you want copyright terms that last until after you die, because it's treated as property as long as you're alive and you never have to see "your book" not actually belong to you or be under your control.

to cleave the two ideas apart (book during copyright protection and book after it enters public domain), I have no problem with a writer owning their book for a period of time as a reward and incentive for writing it in the first place. But I see no reason it need be Life-Plus-N other than that some writers simply can't bear seeing "their book" ever not be "their book".

Once a book I write enters the public domain, I would have no problem with it being used and abused and anything else. If my version was popular, then the original will always be known. Low brow abusations of Shakespeare do not lower Shakespeare. You assume basically that your original can be "damaged" somehow by derivatives. But the original always remains. And you simply avoid seeing this by pushing terms out beyond your death. Derivatives will happen. and it is a myth that they lessen whatever original they are based on. Your question simply invokes this myth. "How would YOU feel if someone abused your story?" Well, after copyright expires, it is no longer MY book.

I wrote Bounty Hunters and released it under a CC-Attribution license, which means that right now, at this very moment, you can take that book and mangle it to your heart's content and do what you wish with it. The one and only thing the license requires is that you attribute the original work, so that folks can find it if they wish. Other than that, turn it on its head, mock it, write the hero as the villian and the villian as the hero.

As it happens, someone took Bounty Hunters and created a comic book here. They didn't ask me, and they didn't need to. I licensed the work to allow folks to create derivatives without requireing my permission. I didn't review the comic, I didn't have any say over it, I didn't have any control over it, and I couldn't tell him "take that down". There can be no "Cease and Desist" to fanfic versions of "Bounty Hunters" other than to enforce attribution requirements. But content is out of my control. I gave it away.

So, the myth of an evil derivative occuring while I'm alive doesn't frighten me, because I know the original is always out there, for folks to read if they want to go back to the source.

#625 ::: any mouse ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 09:10 PM:

some fanficcers dote upon & worship the original content creators. those are the most vocal at trying to quash any kind of 'unlikely to be approved by the creator' fanfic.

most good fanfic i've read has been written by people who were totally divorced from any worship of the original content creator. they write solely about the characters & situations. not the actors, not the writers, not the corporate owners, etc. they are driven by the character dynamics of the source material.

bad writing of fanfic has grown astronomically since the filter of published fanzines has disappeared. fanfic is now a sort of 'direct-to-video' affair. and like with movies, they tend to suck. when i published fanzines, the stories were edited and filtered. i rejected about 60% of what i received outright. another 10-20% got extensive edit & re-write requests. the rest got copy-edited. only a very few went directly to the zine as received.

one other thing that has been lost in the translation of fanfic to the internet is quality artwork included with every story. many of the stories i published had multiple interior illustrations as well as a single overarching story illustration or character portrait. kinda like the old scifi mags used to do.

complaining about the quality of writing in fanfic is silly. the bad stuff quickly disappears from circulation unless it has some other quality that makes it worth digging through the abysmal prose.

what i wish someone would complain about is the terrible quality of writing in genre profic. when a publisher is eager to jump on a poplular bandwagon, they'll rush to print anything.

bad writing. yep. most fanfic is full of bad writing. and yet people clamor to read it. that alone tells you how eager the audience is for 'more of the same, please!'

i can fully understand why 'owners' (publishers, studios, corporations, etc.) would hate fanfic. it's a $$$ opportunity missed. but i think that authors/creators should take it as an expression of that 'sincerest form of flattery'. the vast majority of creative works disappear from view nearly as soon as their created. if people out there think enough of your creation to expand on it should be flattering regardless of the quality or nature of their expansion.

if there are lots of fans of a work, that translates to viewers/buyers. that makes the owners happy and more likely to offer the creator another contract. if there wasn't a vociferous fandom for it, do you think there would've been a firefly movie? would there have been bab5 movies? alien nation? even star trek?no. what fueled these movies was fan involvement. what kept the fan involvment going (especially for long-hiatus shows like star trek) was fanfic. if there was no star trek fanfic (gen & slash) there would've been no star trek movies or subsequent series. star trek would've disappeared like all the other series from it's era. latenite reruns on tvland, if anything.

fanfic is inevitible when people feel strongly invested in a creative work. the author's creative (not financial) ownership of a work ends when it enters my brain. from there, it is molded by my world-view. it rattles around in there and comes out again. maybe as anecdotes told to friends ("didja ever wonder what happened after..."), maybe as a visual artwork, maybe as a oral story, maybe as a written story. my point is that once read/viewed, any creative work becomes a shared work.


caveat:
none of this has any reference to monetary compensation due the -creator- of the work, just the creative aspects.

#626 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 09:18 PM:

comments about fanfic writers writing the characters "out of character (ooc)" boil down to "they're not gay! they're not gay! no they're not! lalala i can't here you!"

any mouse, I suspect you're going to see homophobia no matter what anyone here says. There are valid reasons for authors to be upset about other people writing their characters that have nothing at all to do with the authors' opinion about homosexuals. Very little of the discussion here has been about slash.

#627 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 09:37 PM:

mouse, there is probably some homophobia behind some folk's concern about fanfic. I can state with certainty that it does not explain all opposition to fanfic. Some authors have a strong emotional attachment to their writing and can't bear to see anyone touch it. I don't support this view, but it's there. Some fanfic actually goes over the line such as publishing a book and listing it on Amazon, but I think we're generally talking about fanfic that doesn't charge money.

but in the end, I think the issues are a bit too complex to simply say that its all because of homophobia.

#628 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 09:56 PM:

This far ksgreer above: The loyalty, above all else, for a fan, seems to be to the characters, the world, and the story. The author is always secondary.

"Never trust the artist. Trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it." - DH Lawrence, later fanficced (though I don't know whether it was knowingly or not) by Neil Gaiman as "Never trust the storyteller. Only trust the story."

#629 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 10:38 PM:

any mouse: Lovely hammer you've found there! Will you please quit pounding me on the head with it? I'm not a nail...

I've not commented on this thread earlier because I haven't read much fanfiction, if any. I have read lots and lots of series that have been extended by other authors, damn few of which have sex scenes of any kind, and 90% of the time I end up complaining that "the characters wouldn't act like that." The non-Robeson/Dent Avenger novels, the non-Gibson Shadow novels, and almost every Great Detective done by someone besides the original author come to mind. (With the exception of Everybody's Favorite Duck by Gahan Wilson, a Dutch author whose name I forget who wrote some Dr. Petrie/Smith/Fu Manchu novels about thirty years ago, and about two pages of When Gravity Fails where Effinger manages to put the reader firmly between Nero Wolfe's eyes.) In none of these were the sexuality of the characters any different from those in the original books but there were slight changes in speech patterns, ways that problems were approached, and so on that lead me to say "they wouldn't do this." Sexuality had nothing to do with it.

(I'll admit I'm inconsistent. There's two paragraphs in one of the Nero Wolfe novels that you could make a damn good series out of without Archie showing up once--and come to think about it wouldn't it be fun to write a scene where Lord Peter tries the silly ass act against Wolfe? I'd happily assault the politician of your choice if I could get the rights to use Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin, and I'd probably be willing to consider crawling naked over broken glass if I had a chance to do a pastiche with the Gibson-era Shadow against that supreme lunatic Fu Manchu--because Manchu always seemed to start his schemes in Chinatown and The Shadow would never have allowed a plot that berserk to get going in New York or San Francisco without coming down on the offender hard.)

#630 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 11:22 PM:

C. E. Petit: Applying this sentiment to fanfic is left as an exercise for the student—primarily because preaching to the fanfic-converted is at least as frustrating as talking sense to a politician.

Perhaps you should go a little further than that handwave; I've made clear that I'm not "fanfic-converted", but I think you're overreaching to present a series of cases of outright commercial duplication and then say the equivalent of "the relation to derivative work is obvious". As others have pointed out, case law does not see such a simple connection even in commercially published derivative work; where does that put work that is not sold?

#631 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2006, 11:56 PM:

The public domain is a system of roads that span all teh way back to Babylon and ancient Greece and ancient Egypt and lead all the way up to 1928. 1928 was the year Steamboat Willie was released. And ever since then, all roads built since that time have remained toll roads. Every time the folks collecting tolls on their roads were supposed to stop collecting tolls, they paid the government tons of money in campaign donations and lobbying money, and had the law changed to keep the tolls around another 20 years or so.

This would be such a lovely analogy if it weren't for the pesky fact that it's not true. I remember when the last tolls and tollbooths in Connecticut were removed 20ish years ago. (It took several more years for people to stop instinctively slowing down at those places on the highway anyway.) Connecticut now has no toll roads at all. I don't know if we're the only counter-example or not, but "all" is inaccurate.

#632 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 12:02 AM:

comments about fanfic writers writing the characters "out of character (ooc)" boil down to "they're not gay! they're not gay! no they're not! lalala i can't here you!"

Obsessive, much?

I'm bi, and I think MM porn is hot, but I hate most slash because it's just so bloody stupid and out of character. There are extremely rare exceptions where an author of skill convinces me that it isn't as OOC as it appears, but slash fanfic is good in about the same proportion as any other porn: overwhelmingly, not. Maybe it's because it's still mostly written by het women (as used to be the case with K/S)?

#633 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 12:35 AM:

I remember when the last tolls and tollbooths in Connecticut were removed 20ish years ago.

It's a metaphor. the "roads" are artistic works that people create. The "toll" is the writer's ability to enforce copyright and charge people to get a copy of their work. And when the road is paid for and the person can't collect tolls anymore, that's equivaletn to the written work entering the Public Domain.

#634 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 12:40 AM:

Ummm... any mouse, a substantial portion of this discussion has been about copyright itself, not about whether copyright affects fanfic.
Since people will go on writing fanfic irrespective of the work's copyright status, I'm not sure that the concerns some authors have expressed about copyright limits can provably be taken as revealing an underlying fear of slash more than an underlying fear of unauthorised translations, say.
In fact, since the translations represent income and fanfic doesn't, the translations would be a more plausible fear.

I also have to wonder, and excuse me if my logic falls down (I don't claim to be a rigorous thinker), but doesn't your thesis that fear of fanfic = fear of homosexuality suggest that a gay author would embrace both fanfic and limited copyright? Has this been shown to be true?
And if it's demonstrably not true, would the gay writer's reluctance show a discomfort with his/her sexuality? or just economic priorities?
IANAS, so don't know how large a sampling of gay authors one would need to test this.

fwiw, my co-writer is lesbian, and often writes GLBT characters in her solo work. She's okay with the idea of fanfic, and although the co-written book doesn't have any gay characters, there's some fairly slashy moments, to which I usually add the marginal comment: 'subtext!'
Things I Learned Reading FandomWank: subtext is an anagram of buttsex.

#635 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 03:39 AM:

comments about fanfic writers writing the characters "out of character (ooc)" boil down to "they're not gay! they're not gay! no they're not! lalala i can't here you!"

by it's nature, fanfic writes ooc. as it all takes place off-screen. unless the fanficcer is basically rewriting an existing episode (and why bother?), anything that happens is going to be ooc.

What an interesting universe you live in. Of course fanfic can be ooc or not, in myriad ways beyond the one upon which you seem to be fixated. Superman pushing someone off a cliff to his death is ooc, and would ruin the story for me. Spock having the giggles would be ooc, unless he's under the influence of something. And a slash pairing can be IN character, if the writer is really good at showing how the relationship fits in with the hero or heroine's psyche as established.

I read a fair amount of fanfic once upon a time, and wrote a bit of it myself. My aim, and that of my favorite fanfic writers, was always to keep the established characters as "in character" as possible, while still playing a "what if" game to fill in gaps in the canon. (At one time, before the show itself covered these plots, half of all Quantum Leap fanfic was about either "Sam meets young Al" or "Sam gets home.") The fact that something is fanfic does not automatically make it out of character.

True, you can deliberately twist a character into someone else in order to explore sexuality / politics / religion / alien biology or whatever. But for me, if the character is Sam Beckett or Buffy or Dr. John H. Watson in name only, then the story is bound to irritate me, regardless of the specifics.

On the other hand, as has been pointed out, a really skilled writer might be able to suspend my disbelief in a slash pairing, by showing that it's not as out of character as it seems on the surface. I personally don't like explicit material of any kind - fan, pro, straight, gay or whatever - but I've admired a few well-written, non-explicit slash stories.

And of course, the prudery of my tastes in reading has nothing whatever to do with my attitudes toward people. I'm firmly in favor of equal protection and civil rights for everyone, period. I'm also in favor of other people reading and writing what they like. I just don't have to read all of it myself.

#636 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 03:54 AM:

Susan: Toll road = metaphor.

#637 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 04:39 AM:

Any Mouse wrote something that really opened the proverbial can of worms:
----------------------------------------
(...)"the author's creative (not financial) ownership of a work ends when it enters my brain."
----------------------------------------

What are the implications of this statement?

#638 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 04:56 AM:

To the best of my (admittedly rather sketchy) knowledge, btw, California has no toll roads and never has. (Toll bridges is something else entirely.)

#639 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 07:03 AM:
What are the implications of this statement?

None that I can see. If it did, then 1984 really would have been like 1984.

I'm still wondering what people who have a dislike of fanfic think of Lichtenstein, and his moral status.

#640 ::: Shauna ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 07:52 AM:

Oh, here's a question for you. I was thinking on it while I was working last night (mind-numbingly dull work = plenty of time to ponder things) and I'd love to know what others think.

What about fanfiction dealing with real people?

Apparently, it is very popular among the younger fanfiction writers (and some older, too, I'm sure) to write stories about bands and musicians, and even artists and actors and such. I don't mean songs they wrote or pictures they painted or movies they acted in, I mean stories about the actual people themselves.

I was browsing adultfanfiction.net (a site that formed after fanfiction.net banned all things NC17) and I was surprised by how many stories were posted that were about live bands and actors. And considering it's a site for stories rated R and up, they're not what you'd call innocent, either.

So what are your general opinions on that? And would some kind of copyright terms come in on it? Or could it be considered some form of harassment by fans?

Personally, I think it's a little weird to write stories about real people. Characters they play in movies, sure, but the actors or singers themselves? And to write pornographic stories about them is even worse. Frankly, if I was a popular actress or something and found out people were writing stories like that about me, I'd be more than slightly weirded out. Probably enough to send a "remove the stories or else" notice to whatever site was hosting them.

Now, if I'd published a novel that was popular enough for people to want to write fanfiction about, that's something else entirely. I think I'd be flattered. A bit worried about what people might be doing to my characters, yes, but definitely flattered. But stories about me, personally? No. Definitely not.

#641 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 07:58 AM:

2: "Will this hurt my ability to make a living off my original work?"

I agree, the answer seems to be a strong No, which is curious considering #1.

I'd go with a yes, fan fiction can effect marketability of the original product if fan actions are known by the wider community.

In a sample of 99 people, asked how their buying decision would be changed upon hearing : "You read in a newspaper or hear about on the news about a lot of fans of a popular novel who are writing stories featuring children in graphic sexual situations." Well...

Would refuse to buy the novel and related products 25 (25.77%)
Would probably not buy 23 (23.71%)
Would not affect decision to buy 45 (46.39%)
Would be more inclined buy 2 (2.06%)
Would absolutely buy 2 (2.06%)

Different scenario (and I tried to aim this survey at non-fen which can be difficult).... "You read in a newspaper or hear about on the news about fans who had were writing stories based on a popular television that featured characters that you recognize as heterosexuals as homosexual and engaging in erotic, explicit homosexual sex acts."
Would refuse to buy official merchandise related to the television show 8 (8.42%)
Would probably not buy 7 (7.37%)
Would not affect decision to buy 54 (56.84%)
Would be more inclined buy 18 (18.95%)
Would absolutely buy 8 (8.42%)

If you're a published author and you try to crack down on the material like Anne Rice...

You read in a newspaper or online, or hear about on the news a professional author who heard about people writing fictional materials based on their work. The author's reaction was to proclaim publically that the author's feelings were hurt. The author also set out to harass the fen by calling their employers and posting personal information about the fans on the author's web site.
Would refuse to buy the books and related official merchandise 30 (31.25%)
Would probably not buy 36 (37.50%)
Would not affect decision to buy 25 (26.04%)
Would be more inclined buy 5 (5.21%)
Would absolutely buy 0 (0.00%)

And I was a bit surprised by how many people would change their buying decision based on those scenarios. I don't think any sort of blanket statement can be made regarding fan fiction not having a market affect.

#642 ::: C. A. Bridges ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 08:11 AM:

Writing about real people...

Having just finished a 20k word Firefly fanfic that put Nathan Fillion on the bridge of the "real" Serenity, I'll take a shot at it.

I think if it's done with a sense of fun and respect, and it doesn't describe the person doing anything the actual one might consider wrong, contrary to his or her beliefs, or damaging to his or her reputation, it can work. Respect would be the key word here. I would be very hesitant to write a story depicting a celebrity doing something questionable for the same reason I would be hesitant writing a story depicting a friend doing something questionable.

If you're going to write about a person, always assume that person will, at some point, read it.

#643 ::: Robotech_Master ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 09:01 AM:

David Goldfarb: To the best of my (admittedly rather sketchy) knowledge, btw, California has no toll roads and never has. (Toll bridges is something else entirely.)

As opposed to the Internet, which is one gigantic troll bridge...

#644 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 09:35 AM:

And then there was the episode of "The Muppet Show" whose guest stars were Luke Skywalker *and* Mark Hamill. They ran into each other on stage at the end, exploding my fragile little mind.

The essay about UberXenafic linked up yonder was pretty neat, but I wonder if that's nec'ly the true origin of the "Uber" subgenre/trope (or whatever it should be properly called)-- recently, I picked up a translated volume of the "Urusei Yatsura" (Lum) manga where one story reframes the entire cast in the Heian era, more or less; I'm not sure of the original publication date in Japan, but suspect it must've been the early/mid-80s based on the general chronology of the series.

#645 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 09:49 AM:

I truly don't think it's possible to keep an author's emotions out of the discussion of copyright.

Creating a work of fiction is a work of acquired and developed skill. It's also, when done well, a work of emotion. Almost all works in the arts have this quality--it's in no small part why we connect to them. And once a writer has poured all that emotion in, you can't get it out, at least, not all of it.

This comes up in an old notion of the arts which was that artists kept and reflected the values of the society in which the artists resided. The values were moral, religious, philosophical and emotional--among others. This gave the artist a special place, one that deserved patronage from the leaders of their society.

The copyright provision in the U.S. Constitution reflects this, in part. I'm not versed in the history of copyright, but I have a very hard time believing that the folks who wrote it, which includes the likes of Jefferson and Madison, weren't familiar with this view of artists and weren't influenced by it.

So when the argument is made, "So we messed with your work, get over it," it doesn't scan. That's asking the near impossible. Some authors will roll with it, or even get an emotional boost from others playing with their creation. Others, however, won't. To them, it's a kind of violation. Mercedes Lackey's "punch in the nose." And they don't have to roll with it--copyright protects them that way, and, I maintain, that that is one of the reasons for that protection.

As to the 42 year limit: it used to be pretty close to life. If you assume that writers and artist in general tend to hit their productive stride in their 20s (many later, a tiny few earlier), then if you add 42 years, you had the life expectancy of most people in the 19th and early 20th century. There weren't so many complaints about the length of the term because most people died before the term was up. But we live longer now--and when an artist is emotionally attached to their work then giving it up during their lifetime is like cutting away a part of themselves. (I know that's an emotional simile, but this is an argument about emotions.)

#646 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 09:53 AM:

And Laura, those numbers are really interesting.

#647 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 10:25 AM:

Something hit me last night: Any of you guys ever read Tom Clancy?* I just noticed that the Jack Ryan character is a total Mary Sue.

Bright young analyst comes to CIA/starfleet academy... {snip} ... and ends up as President of the U.S./Next Captain of the Enterprise. The End.

*In my defense, it wasn't immediately clear from his earlier work that the man is insane.

#648 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 10:25 AM:

Laura,
I didn't catch your survey the first time you posted a link for it. Very nice! How did you solicit subjects for the survey? Have you run any coorelation tests on it yet?
-r.

#649 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 10:32 AM:

I know of two toll roads in CA, both in Orange County; they have somewhat less traffic than the freeways they bypass. (The tolls are not exorbitant, just annoying).

#650 ::: Heather ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 10:53 AM:

Shauna asked What about fanfiction dealing with real people?

Fiction based on public figures (not private figures) appears to be on much more solid legal ground than fan fiction--even the raunchy stuff. (I direct you to Shar Rednour's Starf*cker anthology, published in 2001 by Alyson Books)

(I don't favor calling fiction featuring public figures "fan fiction" because, while they are both written, generally, by fans, 1) they have completely different legal issues (except--possibly--in the area of trademarks, as when you're using the name of a band, etc.) and 2) could argue that a novel about completely fictional tennis pros is written by a "fan" of tennis, a novel about rodeo life is written by a fan of horses or rodeos, etc. It's a small point to quibble on, I'll admit, but I'm happiest when "fan fiction" means derivative work and "band fiction" means fiction starring people (real or not) in bands, etc. (And "band fan fiction" in my mind would thus be fiction based off the band's songs).)

(Not that anyone else in the wide world cares....)

(Disclaimer: I write--and publish--band fiction, so yes, that's my agenda you see flapping in the breeze.)

#651 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 10:55 AM:

AliceB --

The problem with arguing from authors is that they neither hold most, nor make significant money from, copyrights, nor meaningfully influence copyright law.

That's large conglomerates which have the legal standing of individuals.

I would prefer a situation in which there was no copyright at all to one in which some large corporation owns every idea in my head, which last is the present trend.

I emphatically do not wish to live in a world where various music cartels have the power to enforce the rights they claim for themselves.

#652 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 11:01 AM:

I didn't catch your survey the first time you posted a link for it. Very nice! How did you solicit subjects for the survey? Have you run any coorelation tests on it yet?

Subjects found from:
1. myspace
2. LiveJournal
3. Link posted here
4. Friends and friends of friends
5. political mailing list

I ran some correlations and posted them on fanthropology and FCA-L but was eaten alive for the small sample size (which then stood at 54. I solicited more actively to get a larger sample size after that and because a friend said they would try to help me make it into a publishable paper if possible as you need at least 25 to 30 from any demographic group you want to draw conclusions about. Gender doesn't and age don't seem to be good correlations with a small sample. :/ But meh, possibly there are ones when I sit down to analyze the results with a larger sample, there might be ones not there before.

And some things are kind of interesting just in general... like if you're fans are plagiarists and they give the smack down on those plaigarizing fen, it works in the creators favor more than if the fen are plagiarists and the fen praise them "Oooooh! You rock! And the plagiagism wasn't that much!" because well, I wouldn't have thought that one would have mattered at all, let alone there would be a difference.

You read in a newspaper, on-line, or hear about on the news about fans who write stories based on a famous movie. The fans, in the course of writing their stories, plagiarize from professional authors and television scripts and the fan based authors are praised for their plagiarized stories.
Would refuse to buy the movie and related official merchandise 21 (21.65%)
Would probably not buy 16 (16.49%)
Would not affect decision to buy 51 (52.58%)
Would be more inclined buy 4 (4.12%)
Would absolutely buy 5 (5.15%)

You read in a newspaper or hear about on the news about fans who write stories based on a famous movie who, in the course of writing their stories, plagiarize from professional authors and television scripts and the fan based authors are condemned by their peers for their plagiarized stories.
Would refuse to buy 17 (17.71%)
Would probably not buy 17 (17.71%)
Would not affect decision to buy 51 (53.12%)
Would be more inclined 7 (7.29%)
Would absolutely buy 4 (4.17%)

The thing that works a bit more in favor is I don't think 10 years ago, that the popular media would have picked up on the Star Wars novel thing. That fen reacted with such vitrol and that fen have moved in to places to get more media attention suggests that non-fen are going to become more aware of these fannish activities and it will impact their buying decisions. The impact of the communities are likely to be bigger as the materials are less underground.

The idea that it doesn't... and shouldn't... is not something that seems historically accurate when you look at say Star Trek or the science fiction community. Look at how those communities were depicted by the popular media for years. It wasn't always favorable and peachy keen and a number of people wouldn't want to be associated with those sort of practices. (Come on. People had to be laughing at the Trekkies movie and going for that reason.)

#653 ::: ksGreer ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 11:02 AM:

Laura: And I was a bit surprised by how many people would change their buying decision based on those scenarios. I don't think any sort of blanket statement can be made regarding fan fiction not having a market affect.

Uhm...but from what I can tell, it looks like the non-fen's reaction to mention of fanfic (of any kind, slashy, hentai, whatever) gets a "wouldn't affect my decision" in the majority (46%, 56%) ... but asking a non-fen how they'd feel upon hearing a writer essentially threw a hissy fit (come on, you did mention The Self-Proclaimed Amazing Rice), that this would affect non-fens negatively -- and suddenly we go from "would not affect" carrying the greatest weight, to this:

Would refuse to buy the books and related official merchandise 30 (31.25%)
Would probably not buy 36 (37.50%)
Would not affect decision to buy 25 (26.04%)
Seems to me those first two consist of variations on the same: "would not spend money on author's work". That, to me, says more about people's interpretations of an author (and hir authority) than of fanfic.

I wonder also if you accidentally side-stepped into something socio or anthropological that goes far deeper than just fanfic, a situation which is admittedly only the tiniest part of any fandom, really. Most people, if aware of fanfic, pretty much dismiss it, but it may be that on some level, some cultures find the author's apparent tyranny to be more repulsive than fanfic itself? Or do bystanders/non-fen consider fandom essentially harmless, and thus lose respect for an author who doesn't agree?

As always, I think there's a lot more in those numbers than meets the eye, and would make me long for a much larger sample and a good afternoon running the results through Delphi...

#654 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 11:06 AM:

"You read in a newspaper or hear about on the news about a lot of fans of a popular novel who are writing stories featuring children in graphic sexual situations."

Is this an argument against all fanfic? Because if it is, then its rather lame. It's reminds me of discussions I've had about the morality of war and being presented with a scenario of some neonazi breaking into a church, killing some nuns, taking the rest hostage, then being placed in the church in an odd situation where somehow I can save all the good guys if I pull the trigger and blow the bad guy's brains out. And for some reason, I'm in a position where this happens with no chance of me either accidentally shooting the nun, the bad guy killing someone after he's been shot, and I have no chance of getting shot either way.

What you've presented is a hypothetical situation that is so far removed from reality that it questions the basis of the entire argument. Sure, your scenario shows a situation where fanfic harms the original work. But has fanfic for a fictional universe ever gotten so big that it was the lead story on CNN? That's what would be needed for fanfic to actually make a widespread impact. If a fanfic child-porn story falls in the internet, but no one reads it but other fans, it doesn't make a difference to the bottom line. And not only would it have to make it to CNN, but the point of being on CNN would have to be to report the rampant and widespread child-porn stories written by fans. The story couldn't be to report a spectrum of fan activities, such as putting a full page ad in a newspaper asking the television people to bring back their cancelled series, dressing up in costumes, and other harmless activities.

And I may be little versed in the fanfic world, but I don't know of any such story about fanfic being reported on CNN. it is a hypothetical that is possible but highly improbable.

If this is the choice, I'd rather see anecdotal evidence than hypothetical scenarios that have never happened.

#655 ::: AliceB ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 11:15 AM:

Graydon, that's factually incorrect. In the field of written fiction, authors, not conglomorates, hold onto their copyrights. There are copyrights held by magazines that buy all rights (although this is not true for all magazines), and there are packagers which buy work for hire (all rights), but the vast majority of what's on the shelves in your local B&N has copyrights owned by their authors.

#656 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 11:19 AM:

Just to keep terminology straight, amateur fic about real people is generally abbreviated to RPF, rather than being called fanfic which is about existing properties.

And I'll point out that RPF has a long and illustrious history, including Shakespeare and Marlowe :)

#657 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 11:20 AM:

AliceB --

Authorial copyrights are not reliably retained by the author. (See also, trying to get the company with whom you have a contract to admit the thing is out of print so that the rights revert.)

To desire the end is to desire some sufficient means; to desire to have sufficient control over the fate of one's characters to be able to prevent fan fiction (or control over one's music licenses to prevent ownership of copies of recordings, or...) is to desire a sufficient means to do this.

That sufficient means would, necessarily, make North Korea appear a libertarian paradise.

I don't think that tradeoff is worth it; I don't think the law should ever reference anything outside the domain of facts, either, which means material harm, not emotional distress.

#658 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 11:20 AM:

Is this an argument against all fanfic? Because if it is, then its rather lame.

It isn't an argument for fan fiction either way. There are some situations where fan activity can be a plus for the creator. "of middle aged, female, highly educated women fans of a popular movie writing stories about a popular television show." is a benefit for the creators. "fans of a popular video game who paid for the funeral of fellow fan who died alone." is also a plus for the creators. "fans who had were writing stories based on a popular television that featured characters that you recognize as heterosexuals as homosexual and engaging in erotic, explicit homosexual sex acts." ends up a plus for the creator. "a lot of fans of a television show who have joined together to help raise $2 million dollars for charities that the show's creator support." is another plus for the creators.

That doesn't show a negative for fan fiction.

What you've presented is a hypothetical situation that is so far removed from reality that it questions the basis of the entire argument.

... except it isn't. NPR carried the fan fiction story. The Chicago Tribune has run articles characterizing science fiction fan as young teens. The Scotsman has run an article discussing the amount of homosexual content fic in the Harry Potter fan fiction community.

I'm not seeing it as that far removed from real situations, nor that far from the entire argument of fan fiction affecting an author's marketability of their product.

. But has fanfic for a fictional universe ever gotten so big that it was the lead story on CNN? That's what would be needed for fanfic to actually make a widespread impact.

MSNBC has run a five minute piece on fan fiction. There were references to fan fiction on Crossing Jordan, CSI had an episode losely based on furry culture (with actual furs in the extras), Law and Order: Criminal Intent had an episode where people had created a whole sexual culture type thing based on a book. There are books on the topic. References to fan fiction in the popular press are on the uptick. There are more mentions in the past five years then in the previous twenty. I'm not seeing it as that far removed.

#659 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2006, 11:31 AM:

Greg London wrote:
And not only would it have to make it to CNN, but the point of being on CNN would have to be to report the rampant and widespread child-porn stories written by fans.

Remarkable that you should mention news reporting affecting people's attitudes. The case of Tsutomu Miyazaki in 1989 is an interesting paralell. He was a serial killer necrophiliac-rapist of children who also happened to be an otaku. (Otaku=nerd, for many, many values of nerd.) Needless to say this did not help the lot of your harmless, ordinary nerds in Japan, though their reputation is changing. Quote: In an interesting cultural shift from the time the murders were originally committed, the news reports of the court decisions upholding Miyazaki's sentence refer to him only as a child murderer, omitting all referen