ALL fanfiction violates copyright.

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Title: ALL fanfiction violates copyright.
Creator: Flamingo
Date(s): May 16, 2000
Medium: posted to a mailing list
Fandom:
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ALL fanfiction violates copyright. is a 2000 essay by Flamingo.

It was posted to VenicePlace, a Starsky & Hutch mailing list and is quoted here on Fanlore with Flamingo's permission.

It was part of a discussion about a fan named Tammy who was selling her fanfic to other fans by way of a computer disk.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts

ALL fanfiction violates copyright. And copyright doesn't "endanger all fanfic writers," it protects creators. The fact is that fanfic writers endanger copyright by violating it.

But that's another topic. Every zine ever produced violated copyright, and whether it sold at a screaming loss or made a huge profit (name one) isn't the issue. No one is allowed to *write* anything that violates copyright, and profit is not a determining issue in copyright violation. The issue should not be copyright violation, which we all happily do, but the entire issue surrounding making money from fandom, which many of us do without criticism. I sell things that make money (pictures). It is arguable that paper zines that are in print for many many have a higher profit margin (if still small) than new zines, however, the price of zines has always been determined by how much they cost to produce. If some editors make "profit" on zines, they do so by totally ignoring the immense amount of physical labor involved in both editing, producing, and distributing, and whatever "profit" involved is simply money over the actual lay out of cash for producing the zine. That "profit" is usually plowed back into the next zine, giving the zine editor seed money for the next printer's bill.

But many people produce things for fandom that make money -- I produce pictures, others produce other crafts, etc. which is all stuff we're dying to own. Most of the prices for these things reflect the cost of producing them and a little bit more to make it worth our while. First off, most fans won't overpay for crafts, and pictures and other items have a "market" price, so you can't really go over that. This is in contrast to real business which always doubles or quadruples its expenses when fixing a price, so that salaries and overhead can be covered and profit can be made. Most writers who submit stories to paper zines get a single contributors' copy for their submission. In the case of a stand-alone novel, often the number of "trib" copies are higher, though I have given editors novels and only gotten a single trib copy. However, I have never, nor do I know any writers who have actually been

  • paid* for their writing. It's an odd juxtaposition, since artists can

(but often don't) sell their art or prints of it, and zine editors, obviously, sell their zines, but writers don't sell their writing.

So what Tammy is doing here is saying, "I wrote this, and it's worth this much to me if you want to read it." It's a concept that goes against fandom tradition...and I'm not sure why. Why are writers expected to produce writing, which arguably fuels fandom, for free, when we bid for art in art shows, buy photos fan-produced (which also violate copyright, since none of us pay for the right to produce those photos and none of us own the copyrights), and crafts that are fan-produced. I'm not sure that *ethics* enters into it. No one every blanched because some artist sold an art piece of characters whose images, legally, are often copyrighted. I'm not sure why a writer selling her copyright-violation words is any different than an artist selling her copyright-violation art. However, it's against tradition. That's a different issue.

Do I think it's worth while to buy a disk with 5-7 new stories that have not been edited, that I will have to format and print out at my expense. No. But this is partially because I know the writer and the content. If Connie Faddis or Suzan Lovett were selling this disk would I buy it? In a heartbeat. And it would be worth it. I wouldn't like that trend for fandom, but I would be willing to buy the disk if this was the only way I could get those stories by those writers. As a writer, I also have to ask why art costs, and pictures cost, and zines cost, but as a writer, I'm expected to produce huge numbers of words for free.

It's an interesting discussion, but I don't think it's about ethics. It's about what we're willing to spend fan dollars on. And obviously, as much as we want our writers to produce, we clearly don't want to pay them to do it.

References