Against Fan Fiction


You didn't include the best part of her diatribe against fanfic, which is that writing in the worlds of authors whose works are in the public domain is fine, because it's not "illegal". Hypocrisy yay!
I smell a charity Diana Gabaldon fan-fic contest coming on... what say you, The Stranger?
I don't know that I can agree with her that fan-fiction is illegal, but I'd love to see legislation introduced to make licensed franchise "novels" illegal.
It's not like romance novels aren't basically published fan-fics anyway.
There was a comment on another blog about this that boils down to: "consensual explicit sex between two male characters = not okay, nailing Jamie's hand to the table and raping him repeatedly = just fine."
"Outlander! Outlander! We have your fictional characters. Their fictional blood will spill, Outlander!!!"
Having read both Outlander and Twilight (I know, sorry) I have to say that Jamie and Emmett together would be hot...and no, Emmett is not the willowy one, he's big like Jamie, mmmm. As far as fan fiction goes, geez, people should get over themselves...if someone can write Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, I'm thinking Gabaldon could learn from that and take a big pill...
shitty writer versus shittier writers in a no holds barred shitfest.
The only thing sadder than fanfic is caring even a tiny little bit about fanfic.
Oi. I can think of quite a few fanfic authors who are infinitely better writers than Diana Gabaldon. (Though admittedly, most ff writers suck). Still, she should be grateful. Fanfic is free press for her shitty books, and if someone is writing a Twilight crossover, no matter how wretched, it just might convert into additional book sales for her - bonus: the convertees will likely have undiscerning tastes in writing quality.

I recall cleaning my toilet while listening to "Outlander" on Audiobook. I distinctly remember thinking that cleaning the toilet was by far the more enjoyable of the two activities.
P.S. I'd also like to point out that the previous poster who said that Outlander is basically fanfic is spot on. Worse still, it bears an obvious resemblance to the absolutely most pitiful and revolting form of fanfic: the Mary Sue.
Why exactly is this "rant" so strange to anyone?

It seems perfectly reasonable to me for a living writer, who makes a living off publishing fiction, to object to other people utilizing those copyrighted characters and situations for their own personal gratification -- financial or otherwise.

I'm assuming most here would find it unacceptable for me to basically steal your character creations, poetry, graphic design, computer programs, etc. and do likewise?

This is quite different than with a work of fiction in the public domain.

And having followed Gabaldon for some years, I'm quite certain that she's aware of folks making personal art, slash, etc. based on her characters. As far as I am aware she has never actually pursued legal action against anyone. But is it okay to make money off someone else's work, even if it's for a good cause?
fwiw, Mickymse-Twilite fanfic/slash is an un-tapped market that would perhaps net its author perhaps a potential dozen or so dollars and as such... fucking rawks my glittery mouse nads.

I really like her books. It makes me sad that she would feel so threatened by someone who obviously likes her books wanting to share that with the world. Although I do think it's kinda an odd fundraiser, and while it may be for charity, it is illegal to make money off someone else's art, be it movies, books, music or more traditional forms. Still, is that enough to warrant "wanting to barf"? Probably not, unless you're really really insecure and have nothing else to do with your day. She should take a page from Naomi Novak, who not only supports fan-fiction, but got her start with it (which in all actuality I think most authors do, whether they admit it or not).

If ff writers were actually selling their works for $$, then you (and by extension Ms Gabaldon) would likely have a case. But, I've always been under the impression that 99%+ of ff is distributed freely and nobody's making a dime off it. If that's no longer the case, then admittedly it represents a violation of the author's copyright, but if not, really what's the harm? I would hazard to guess that ff in its entirety is read by such a minuscule subset of the general reading public that it can't have more than a negligible impact, AND its creators and consumers tend to be some of the biggest fans of a particular author, so it's a little like cutting off ones nose to spite ones face for an author to complain about a relatively small group of people passing around amateur riffs on their work.

And seriously, the commenters think it's a good idea to sue someone trying to help out a cancer-victim? Who are these people, Republicans or something?
#12, do you actually have a license from Disney to use the Mickey Mouse character, or are you just trying to make my head explode from irony?
@13 Re: those glittery mouse nads...did you have them vagazzled, or is that natural?
@17: It's just a by-product of merely being a vampiric rodent, one that is part of residing in the misty land of Forks Wa; but is is also an eternal bane, like the emotional ennui that draws the black clad teenage girls to overpriced amusement park of my immortal soul.
There's a pretty cogent (and, in my estimation, compelling) argument to be made for fanfiction falling under the fair use exceptions within the Copyright Act of 1976. I'm pretty sure the issue hasn't been litigated, and there are arguments to made for Gabaldon's position, but for her to say she "knows" it's illegal is pretty absurd.

The vast majority of FF is not for profit. Whenever money is involved it's usually for charity (one fan community raised over $100,000 for Haiti in this way), and if anyone does make a personal profit from it, it would be negligable.

The thing about the blog post is, that none of the fanfic writers who commented rejected her right to not want fanfic written about her characters, they objected to her referring to all fanfic writers as immoral, and comparing it to physical theft (She's compared it to slavery before) In fact, there are many writers who don't like fanfic writter about their stuff (Anne Rice and Terry Goodkind are two of them), not only do the major archive sites not accept any stories from those books, nobody actually writes about them, because the writers are fans first.

It was the way she phrased her statement that was the problem. She can obviously think what she wants about her characters, but she doesn't get to make blanket statements about the entire fanfiction community and not have them get annoyed by it.

(Particularly as she's written real Historical figures into her works, which is just another form of fanfiction)
Anne@19: I'm sorry, but the 'fair use' exception has never applied to fully-formed artistic works (short stories, novellas, novels, videos) using derivative characters, with the notable exception of parody/satire. Some fanfic is also satire, but presumably not all of it.

There really isn't any question that fanfic is, on its face, copyright infringement. There are two big reasons, however, why fanfic authors don't normally get sued:

1. Copyright infringement is a civil charge, not a criminal one, and to recover damages you have to show harm. Gucci can more or less make a straight-faced claim that knockoff Gucci bags cost them sales, but anyone claiming that fanfic cut into their royalties would be laughed out of court, and rightly so.

2. Sane authors (not to mention sane readers) just ignore the stuff.
Charlie Stross, a bestselling sci-fi writer, wrote an interesting response. His take, in brief, is that he doesn't care if people write fanfic so long as they don't try to profit commercially from his characters, or impair his ability to make a living off it. That seems fair. He's authorizing all amateur (or even pro) non-commercial ventures.
Wow. Holy shit, wow. I had let myself forget how homophobic the Outlander series was. Geez. This makes me want to turn away from her completely. At least, I won't be buying any more of her books.

I firmly believe you have to distance the artist from the art (because too many people are douchey in too many ways and that's no reason to say you shouldn't enjoy their non-douchey works of genius -- not that I'm calling Diana Gabaldon a genius) and I'll try not to let this affect my enjoyment of the first three Outlander books. But Jesus. What kind of horrible person latches onto -this- and instead of being flattered by the fact that fanfic of their work is potentially good enough to pay for someone's cancer treatment... Wow.
@ 21 - Fair enough, but when the issue gets litigated, it's generally when individuals using derivative characters are turning some sort of profit. I'm not comfortable saying that, should the issue be litigated, no court would extend the fair use doctrine to a non-commercial use that is highly unlikely to affect either the market for the original work or public consciousness of that work.

As a nit-picky side note, even satire is a facial violation of copyright law. "Fair Use" isn't so much an exception as it is an affirmative defense. Moreover, I don't see why a copyright holder couldn't sue for injunctive relief (though any author would probably be both out of their mind and/or a complete prick to bother with that).

But your second point really gets to the heart of the matter. It would be a colossal waste of time for copyright owners to go after fanfiction writers--not to mention a PR disaster.
Anne@24: As a nit-picky side note, even satire is a facial violation of copyright law.

The parody exception is a pretty well-settled piece of legal opinion: Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. -- it's not written into the US Code, so I guess it could be re-litigated if someone extremely touch with very deep pockets wanted to, but it doesn't strike me as very likely. But, IANAL, just someone with an amateur interest in copyright issues.

But you're right: claiming parody/satire doesn't stop you from being sued, it just gives you a good defense, assuming you can afford a lawyer.

(That's Campbell as in "Luther Campbell", as in 2 Live Crew, amusingly enough.)

Interestingly, one of the consequences of Campbell decision is that there's a weird distinction drawn between satire and parody in the caselaw, but the upshot of that appears to be that you always claim parody rather than satire. The law is weird.
I'm uncomfortable with the "in a good cause" argument used upthread. Her characters are hers, whether they're good or bad. Nobody else has a right to make money off of them, period, unless she has licensed it. While we can all wish for a funds to be raised for a cancer charity, how is this different, from, say, driving a car off a dealer's lot to be raffled off to raise funds for crippled children? The cause is worthy but you're still taking something that doesn't belong to you.
@26 I see your point and you're not wrong. My mind just boggles at the kind of person who would be in Diana Gabaldon's shoes in this situation and think "Those scheming, scabby bastards" and not "I'll offer to autograph that for them". There's a deep fan love behind that attempted fanfic auction for a very good cuase. It's not a question of their legal right (or lack thereof) to create/auction fanfic. It's "What kind of person gets foaming-at-the-mouth angry over that particular issue in that set of circumstances?" She's missing something.
Or perhaps a better analogy would be building a car and slapping a car company logo on it.
Arkham @27:
Didn't she mention that nobody had even asked her? Were I in her shoes I'd be pretty annoyed at somebody just strolling off with my IP without even bothering to ask. It's more than a bit insulting.

Would it have been so hard to ask, to run it by the creator of the characters they love so much? There's a real element of arrogance in what these folks are doing. A meritorious moral starting ground and noble objective is not a license to go on and commit moral and civil wrongs. I'm a huge Terry P fan for example, but the idea of appropriating Discworld characters to support my own charity would be a non-starter for me: if I like the author's gift who the hell am I to assume that it exists to do with it what I wish?
Now that I think about it, these folks are a bit like the room-mate you may have had in college. They just pick up and use your stuff as if it's their own, and when you call them on it they get all sulky, say things like "I thought we were friends", try and make you feel guilty and then slag you off to your mutual friends about what a territorial greedhead you are.
@ 25 - Oh, I know--I actually hyperlinked to Campbell under the words "affirmative defense." When I said that parody (well, I wrote satire, but that was me being lazy and not paying much attention) is a facial violation, I meant that it had been settled to fall under the fair use clause, which is an affirmative defense (rather than an exception). Sorry if the semantics were unclear there. Relitigating the issue would probably not only be a huge waste of time, but would be PR suicide for whatever copyright holder tried to get the parody exception written out of the caselaw.

(Entertainment law was a bitch. A big, stupid, confusing bitch.)
@27 - She did later revise her position insofar as to say that she would send the winner of the charitable auction a set of her signed work, presumably in lieu of the promised fanfic.

Also, I think one of the most important parts of her rant - which, I agree, it was - was the danger of "implied consent." I don't know precisely what she's citing here, but she claims that if, at some point in the future when someone DOES want to profit off her work, it can be proved that she knew fanfic existed and didn't do anything about it, this could constitute her implied consent and thereby allow people to profit. Valid? I don't know. I'm not sure I see "Outlander and Swamp Monsters" topping the charts within her lifetime or ever, so this might be a totally overblown concern. Some hubris there, but hey, she's just trying to cover her ass.

And I think her argument against the pornographic nature of fanfic was more in the nature of a heartfelt expression of how hard it is for anyone to see their characters twisted into someone else's fantasy. On the other hand, her books do kind of ask for it.
You seem to be missing that she offered up a full set of her books, signed, to the organizers of the charity auction.
@29 Actually, Terry Pratchett is one of many writers who doesn't care if people write using his characters, so long as they don't try and get him to read it.
those glittery mouse nads...did you have them vagazzled, or is that natural?

It's "gonazzled."
@33: I was just about to suggest that as a classy solution. Good to hear that.

I don't support fanfic writers appropriating work to make money ... charity or otherwise. The point is that you're using someone else's name and idea to take other people's money. I agree overall it's bad PR and plain futile to go after fanfic writers, but in this case, there IS money involved.

Lumping in the fact this fanfic writer has cancer is just sensational and ignores that this kind of factoid just unfairly ties the writer's hands. (So they're just allowed to go after healthy, whole fic writers then? Much fairer to all parties!)

Apart from all that, this author's rant is idiotic and beyond ill-advised.
@28, you just broke your own argument. If you build a car and slap a logo on it and auction it off, you haven't stolen anything except the use of the logo, which is less criminal than grand theft auto. It still might get you in trouble (which is why I think fan auctions tread too close to the line), but it's not as serious as you're trying to make it out to be.
Personally? I just feel like authors who hate fan fiction don't deserve it. It builds incredible community around the work. I know I wouldn't watch television shows or movies if I couldn't write fanfiction about them/roleplay the characters- there would be no reason for me to even consume media if I couldn't change media. Fandom is a huge part of my life.
This sort of thing is why, Jar-Jar Binks aside, I can never really form a bad opinion of George Lucas. He has always been very supportive of the fan communities surrounding Star Wars, and has even judged contests for fan films and animations that use Star Wars worlds and characters.

No one is ever going to mistake fanfic or fan-made films or songs or any of the fandom creative arts for canonical works of the original author/creator. But getting all shirty about your intellectual property to people who are expressing a deep love of your creations and are merely trying to live in that world more fully accomplishes nothing but the alienation of the people who got you where you are.

I *hate* the vast majority of fanfic I've ever encountered, but I applaud the impulse from which it springs. Boo to you, Diana Gabaldon.
Somehow, nobody gets all butthurt about fanfiction based on, say TV shows, like they do about books. There's no difference in legal status between the two. When you can point to a single author that's responsible for originating a character, people immediately understand the sense of ownership that person has. And it is their book, their characters. But that ownership ends on the page. I am absolutely 100% free to misinterpret your characters, to take something from your stories that you never wrote into them, to fantasize about them having really kinky sex. It's just when I want to share my hot fantasy about Dumbledore and Batman with my friends that I get into a legal and moral gray area.

Copyright law gives the copyright holder control over the creation of "derivative works." As previous posters have said, this is a largely untried area. No cases about fanfiction have gone to court, so it's not proven that fanfic can't be defended as fair use. There are a number of factors that can go into considering a work fair use, including the amount of material used, whether it was for an educational purpose, whether it was for profit, and whether it is "transformative" in some way. I would argue that fanfiction can certainly be transformative. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the source material other than the names of the characters (usually this is known as "bad fanfiction").

I still find authors' reactions to fanfic irrational. It's legal to brutally parody a work. It's legal for me to write a whole book of literary criticism about how Gabaldon sucks. Yet she'll go after her biggest fans for writing stories inspired by her. Fanfiction only increases profits for an author. Nobody reads fanfic as a replacement for the original, only as a supplement to it. Usually you can't even understand it if you aren't familiar with the original. Fanfiction doesn't touch the original. It's still there. People who want to read it will read it, and nobody's going to read a fan novel if they want their view of the original to be pure and unspoiled. Nobody is forced to read fanfiction. Anybody who wants to read my hypothetical Dumbledore/Batman porn will do so; people who are grossed out by the idea won't. I don't think the knowledge that such things are out there will really destroy the image of the Harry Potter series or DC comics.