Legality of fan fiction and fan scripts

Narile, I am an amateur writer, and I have have worked hard on some of my creations. I’ve spent hours and hours on certain pieces.

Would I like someone taking my characters and writing them as child molesters? No. But if he’s not making money from the work, and not deceiving anybody into thinking I wrote it, then I’d live with it.

Dislike of something is not an adequate reason to make it illegal. There’s buttloads of stuff I don’t like that isn’t illegal, and shouldn’t be illegal.

And I can’t see how your example of defamation applies. I don’t give fictional people the same rights as real people.

Mike, do you really think a fan of Batman will stop buying DC’s Batman over Joe Shmoe’s free amateur Batman? How much revenue could DC lose over this? Joe Shmoe isn’t going to be spending his own money to make a lot of copies of his Batman, so even if it were better, it would have a much, much limited fan exposure. If Joe Shmoe started charging for it, then of course that would be wrong. But if he’s giving away a few copies, I seriously doubt that would effect DC in any way, except maybe favorably.

Can anybody seriously say that free fan fiction has caused or can cause enough of a loss of revenue to warrant it being illegal?


No, but it could cause someone who’s never read Batman to never buy or read the real version, because he thinks he knows what Batman’s all about and dislikes it even though he never read the authorized version.

I don’t know about “has” caused, but as far as “can” cause…a single penny should be enough to warrant its being illegal. The company puts their money into developing and marketing the character; why should they have to suffer any loss caused by some meddling outsider?

BTW, I am a fan-fiction writer who has made use of DC Comics’ generous “fair use” policy in allowing fanfic. I’m hardly unsympathetic to people who, like myself, wish to exercise their creative muscles over characters they know and like, But there should be no “acceptable” level of loss involved. Any loss that an outsider causes the comany is unacceptable.

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

For those of you familiar with Roger Zelanzy’s Amber series, around two years ago I did a fairly exhaustive draft of another Amber novel to cap off all the little unanswered questions in the series. Worked obsessively on getting his style down pat. In several places it got downright eerie how indistinguishable I could get.

The extent of its distribution would be me showing it to some friends. An Amber fanzine editor heard of it and issued me a thinly veiled threat not to let RZ’s estate get wind of it. I thought it was vaguely amusing, considering how he’s making a living.

Anyway, I think writing it was a valuable experience, even if it does nothing now than sit in my writer’s trunk. It let me work out all my pulp-fiction hangups, gave me the exprience of writing a long, complete work, and lead to more serious, original fiction by moi.

Damn the illegalities, writing the stuff can be fun. My two cents.

This is quite a bit off topic, but I get the impression that there are quite a lot of writers (amateur and professional) on this board.

I wonder what percentage of Straight Dopers have writing at least as a hobby? A percentage quite a bit larger than the general population, I would guess.

Staying within the parody “escape clause” of copyright law isn’t the only thing you have to worry about when writing fanfiction.

If it’s a successful show with its own peripheral marketing arm, you’ll probably also be stepping into the realm of Trademark Law.

It’s true that you can’t copyright a title. I could write a story called “Star Trek” and, unless it borrows any material from the real Star Trek universe, I won’t be violating copyright law. But if I even attempt to sell it to a magazine, I sure as heck will be violating trademark law. “Star Trek” is a registered trademark of Paramount. So, for that matter, are “Starship Enterprise”,
“Captain James T. Kirk”, “Lieutennant Worf”, and, in all likelihood, even “Phaser” and “Tricorder”.

I’ll bet most of the fanfic out there uses at least one trademarked word or phrase.

Revtim wrote:

<tracer raises his hand somewhat meekly>

I’d go farther than Revtim. I’d bet that most of us Straight Dopers who do have writing as a hobby prefer to write fiction in either the Science Fiction or Fantasy genres. (Oh, and you can count me amongst the Hard SF writer crowd in this regard. :slight_smile: )

The “Straight Dopers as writers” subject warrants a MPSIMS thread, I think. I’ll go start one.