Fan Fiction, Novels, Copyright, and Ethics

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Title: Fan Fiction, Novels, Copyright, and Ethics
Creator: Michela Ecks
Date(s): November 2001
Medium: online
Fandom: multi
External Links: here, Archived version
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Fan Fiction, Novels, Copyright, and Ethics is an 6054-word meta essay by Michela Ecks. It was posted to Whoosh! in 2001.


  • The Scourge of Fan Fiction (01-02)
  • The Curse of Derivation (03-06)
  • Derivation and the Single Author (07-11)
  • Fan Fiction Based on Novels (12-15)
  • When Agendas Collide (16-20)
  • The Fan's Perspective (21-24)
  • Can a Balance Be Found? (25-26)


In 1992, a fan fiction writer sued Marion Zimmer Bradley. The fan claimed that Marion Zimmer Bradley stole her ideas, ideas that Bradley read when the fan submitted her Darkover story to the fanzine Marion Zimmer Bradley ran, for her latest Darkover novel. This fan then hired a lawyer and an agent. She demanded half the royalties from the book and to be credited as a co-author of the story. Daw, Marion Zimmer Bradley's publisher at the time, put the book on hold to avoid the possible legal repercussions of going to cour). Because of the whole incident, Marion Zimmer Bradley lost several years of hard work. This sort of incident has potentially serious repercussions for professional authors. They have to be extremely careful about reading fan fiction derived from their own books and original fiction sent to them by fans lest they be accused of the same thing and open themselves up to potential litigation.[1]
There is a delicate balance and when it comes down to it, fans are the ones who will probably have to back off before the author. If they want to see the continuance of stories by authors they enjoy, they need to give the author the time and the space to do that. Fans are also the ones who are generally in the wrong from a legal point of view. Fan fiction based on books is a derivative form of fiction with certain legal issues about it. Authors have the right to protect that area as the law says they have the right to control the market as far as derivative works based on their material goes if there is the potential to exploit that market. Because fan fiction is in the same market as professionally published material, a text-based market, authors can and will exploit that market.


  1. ^ Actually, this retelling of the MZB affair is largely incorrect. See Marion Zimmer Bradley Fanfiction Controversy