Fan fic - sí! Public Domain - sí-sí-sí!!!

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Title: Fan fic - sí! Public Domain - sí-sí-sí!!!
Creator: P.N. Elrod and commenters
Date(s): September 17, 2006
Medium: online
Fandom:
Topic:
External Links: archive link, with comments expanded; Wayback
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Fan fic - sí! Public Domain - sí-sí-sí!!! is a 2006 post by P.N. Elrod.

Elrod the author of original vampire fiction.

Elrod also used to write fanfiction, specifically for Blake's 7 in the form print zines (Avon On-Line - edited, wrote fanworks for, Blake's Barf Bag - edited, wrote filks for, Good Guys Wear Fangs - wrote fiction for, The Machiavelli Factor - assisted in the second edition), used Blake's 7 characters as avatars in her original fiction, and fan-casted Pierce Brosnan in her novel "Red Death." [1]

During the Marion Zimmer Bradley Fanfiction Controversy, Elrod and a number of authors forbid fans from writing fanfic using their characters. Elrod is also one of the authors who required Fanfiction.net to disallow fiction based on her work, along Marion Zimmer Bradley, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Anne McCaffrey, and Mercedes Lackey.

Fan fic - sí! Public Domain - sí-sí-sí!!! is a 2006 essay that discusses the topics of fanfiction, legalities, Fair Use, Dracula, and more.

Also See

See Open Letter to FYI from Author P.N. Elrod by P.N. Elrod (1992) in which Elrod said:

Just for the record, the public now has my word that I have never given anyone a such a push, nor do I plan to. Whistle-blowing is one of those unpleasant jobs I shudderingly leave for others to do. (I have been known to call the Humane Society when I see an abused animal, but that's another story.)

BUT -- I PROMISE that I WILL positively rip the lungs out of anyone using MY VAMPIRE FILK characters in a fan story. The criminals (and copyright infringement is a criminal offense) will wish that Jaws/the Alien/the Predator had got to then first rather than me! If there's anything left after I'd done, the remains/will be locked in an elevator and forced to listen to Muzak while being consumed by starved, rabid, flesh-eating mega-scorpions. (Maybe not, but you get the idea that I would NOT be amused.)

Realistically though, Berkley Publishing has an army of lawyers with nothing better to do than indulge in pricy lawsuits against plagiarists and copyright pirates and I would make use of their skills. I fully realize that fan stories are written for fun and out of admiration for a character or the excitement of a dramatic situation. On the other hand, if someone came up and decided to "borrow" your car out of a sense of fun or admiration or excitement you'd probably be more than annoyed at them and call the cops. The same principal applies.

Again, realistically, I think the chances are extremely remote that this will happen, but at least everyone now knows how I feel in regard to my own works. There are plenty of other universes to play in and characters to explore, please just leave me mine.

The Essay

*sigh*

Once more I have stumbled across someone accusing me of being some sort of a literary hypocrite.

I've gone into detail on this on my website, but there's a few out there who've missed it.

Once and for all, I AM NOT ANTI-FAN FICTION!!!

I'll rinse and repeat if needed, but I'm optimistic that it will go forth and do no harm.

The only fan fiction I have a problem with is the unauthorized use of MY characters, and that's all. Most people get that and respect it, and I want to throw a great big ice cream party for them all, I love you, I love you, muah-muah-muah!...

Now--lemme clarify the whole QUINCEY MORRIS THING--which is apparently why some people think I'm a hypocrite: I wrote a Dracula "fan fiction" and got it published.

The copyright on Dracula has expired. I know it--the publishers know it. Now you do, too!

Dracula and anything/anyone else in Stoker's book is in something called The Public Domain. This is a cool thing. Learn about it. Enjoy.

When a work is in the public domain it means anyone can write a story using that universe and it is TOTALLY OKAY!

Because it is in public domain any character from the original Dracula is open for use! I do not own the copyright to Stoker's Quincey any more than I do for Shakespeare's Hamlet.

A lot of other writers like Saberhagen, Kiraly, Joss Whedon, Coppola along with the contributors to my Dracula's London collection, the Dracula: Prince of Darkness collection, comic books, reprint collections and five zillion movie makers have done the same thing.

We all get that public domain thing and love it. You are most welcome to join the club!!

Public domain is the bestest, most wonderfulest thing for fan fiction writers. They can play with public domain things ALL they want and it's totally cool!

The only characters you can't use are the ones original to my particular Quincey Morris book, like Lady Bertrice or Lord Burce, because they're inventions I grafted into the Stoker story.

Anyone that Stoker made up is totally free and clear though. Take it and run, graft in your own characters, have fun like I did!

And finally--RE the Kolchak: The Nightstalker stories I've done: I was contacted by the editor who has the copyright holder's (Jeff Rice) permission. I got paid to write a story, and Mr. Rice gets paid for the use of his character. It's totally allowed and I LOVE him for letting others play in his backyard.

The Stepping Through the Stargate book and other collections I've tribbed to are called "critical essays." They are not fan fiction. A critical essay is --oh, hell, look it up. I can assure you that it is covered by something called "fair use." Fair use covers book reviews, essays, and using brief quotes from a work. That, too, is perfectly legal.

Those who are swift to call people names, please--do your research first before you lay down a load of judgment on someone. Google and Wikipedia are your very good and helpful friends. They prevent blog-in-mouth syndrome.

Hopefully this covers it. I'd say I ain't anti-fanfic again, but it's either sunk in or not and I'd really rather be doing something else...like learning to juggle.

But I'm not finished organizing that danged hall closet yet. :grumble-grumble-snort: [2]

Comments to the Essay

[lesleykajira]:

As someone who wants to be a writer, these rants are actually helpful. Thank you!

[p. n. elrod]: Eeek-- not a rant--I am amused.

I've been getting this for a few years now ever since I asked Fanfition dot net to include me out.

Don't know why some people fuss about it so much. Mine is a very, very tiny little universe and there are so many others out there to play in.

Or (gasp) one can invent one's own! What an idea!

[lesleykajira]: i've written fanfiction once (as in, one complete story), and i have read a great deal of it. It's a tricky thing to deal with.

i was watching cable on my mother's TV the other night, and saw a commercial for a squishy modeling-toy called "Floam". The kids in the commercial were happily pressing it against their toy castles and their own faces, and one kid used Floam to build a dinosaur out of his wooden skeleton of a dinosaur.

i think fanfiction is a bit like that; you're taking the bare-boned impressions of the characters as YOU perceive them from someone else's writing, then fleshing them out into a story of your own design.

Well, i thought to myself, if you are doing SO much work to make your story, and the character is really only your opinion of someone else's, why not just rename it, give it some depth on your own, a new backstory, and ...tada! New, original character.

But maybe i just like Floam too much.

[p. n. elrod]:

Just a kindly suggestion...start capitalizing the personal pronoun if you want others to take you seriously. It's not an Ego Thing, just a good grammar habit to form.

[rem sama]: I write fanfiction myself, and I remember seeing your name amongst the authors who didn't want their characters to be used. I can totally understand. ^^ Especially considering the quality and, erm...questionable and laughable content in some of them. I don't want to sound full of myself, but I'd like to think that people writing fanfics would have more respect for the characters and storylines.

But that's just my personal beef. >.> Most of what I write stems from source material from places like Japan, where the copyright laws are much more loose. I think it's really considerate of you to be looking out for future authors, so calling you a hypocrite is pretty much ridiculous. :/

[coyotecc]: Wow, that was definitive. I always thought fan fiction was one way to get one male charcater and one female charcater together in the writers mind that would never actually happen in literary life. Lord of the rings and such blah blah.

But the real writers who use fan fiction for a launching off point because they have problems with creating charcaters i have no problem with. Its the ones who slander it and rip it to shreds cause after they do that you have completely lost what you loved in the first place.

[p. n. elrod]:

Some just want to play with forbidden fruit, and they don't like it when I say no, please don't. But there's LOTS and LOTS of other writers who don't mind having their fruit fondled!

[p. n. elrod]: Well, I just like to think that people are BETTER than they are and tend to give the benefit of a doubt.

Unless some are just terminally, willfully stupid.

Not naming names, but a self-published writer who copied whole segments of my website and pasted them onto her own as her own work comes to mind.

She took the stuff down when asked, (I pointed out that professional writers don't DO that sort of thing) but instead of owning up and saying "Oops, that was wrong, won't do it again, sorry" she said someone ELSE did that without her knowledge. Ooooooo-kay.

I am a bit surprised by the "Pat's a hypocrite" sing-song, because one of the themes throughout my books is taking responsibility for one's actions and dealing with the consequences even if you don't like it. If I didn't go with that myself in my own life then they'd have a perfect right to call me names and I'd have to hush up.

But I respect copyright and don't write fic--I don't tell others to stop, just ask juliefortune!

It's like smoking. You wanna smoke--go ahead, I don't care--just not in my house. That's all!

But what I hear on the Quincey Thing is that they think that book was fan fiction.

Huh-wha?

Once again--no one owns Dracula or any of Stoker's characters. They're free range--ANYONE can write a Dracula story.

While there IS a Dracula fandom--there is no such thing as unauthorized Dracula fan fiction because the copyright has lapsed. You wanna write a story where Quincey and Drac are giving each other blow jobs until their brains implode, have at it. They are not my characters, nor are they owned by any of Stoker's descendants.

Even now I'm reading Fred Saberhagen's A Coldness in the Blood and Dracula is the main character.

BUT--in this book his name is "Mr. Maule."

While anyone can write Dracula as Dracula or using any name you like, you can't use the name "Mr. Maule" because Fred made that up and it's HIS, and besides, he's a really, really NICE, cool man and let's all just respect the dude. :)

[juliefortune]: I can attest to the fact that Ms. Pat doesn't tell me to stop writing fanfic, bless her.

And it's bizarre that someone would point to the Dracula books (and, presumably, the anthology that I contributed to as well) to talk about this issue. Like you, I guess some people just don't understand the basics of copyright at all, or the fact that there are public domain characters. Or that you can be licensed to write in the 'verse, if someone *does* own the copyrights.

[bevinbaka]: I've really never understood the sense of entitlement most fanfic authors (and by this, I'm talking largely of the pool in the pit of voles known as fanfiction dot net) seem to have. I've written my share of the stuff, don't get me wrong, and I enjoy a well-written story when I can find one, but I have absolutely no gripe with anyone who says they don't want their worlds played in.

In theory, I don't mind the idea of fanfiction, but the problem is, a lot of the time these authors don't want to write about these characters, they want to write about someone completely different wearing the characters' skins and inhabiting their world. At that point they might as well just change the names and call it original fiction, since that's essentially what it is. And then they're stunned when the copyright owners declare that they don't want their works used that way and scream to the heavens about how unfair it is when to the best of my knowledge there's nothing in the constitution (or any online equivilent) that says "you have the right as an amateur unpublished writer to take anyone else's creation and do anything you like to it or the characters contained therein, so long as you state at the very begining that you don't own it in the first place, as that absolves you of any copyright infringement".

Published authors have no obligation to let others play in their worlds, and given the quality of the vast majority of fanfiction out there, I could hardly blame anyone for not wanting their creations put through that nonsense. (Flemming on Barret is really not a mental image I need wedged in my brain, thanks so much.)

[p. n. elrod]: Fleming on Barrett? ROTF! As-if. After I've been dead for 50+ years or whatever it is now, then all my stuff will be public domain and fic writers can do whatever they like. (Please, no one take that as permission to hire a hit man to take me out. You still have a long wait ahead.)

Thank you for your enlightened view!

I used to read fic--back before we had the Internet!--and stopped because much of it was as you described, so terribly distorted as to be unrecognizable. So I stopped reading, just dipping in now and then to see if things had improved.

How's THIS for coincidence? The Wall Street Journal on line has a piece on fan fic & the writers:

http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB115836001321164886-GZsZGW_ngbeAjqwMADJDX2w0frg_20070916.html?mod=blogs

But before you go opening that old fic file please keep in mind that those fic writers who landed book contracts very likely did so for their own ORIGINAL stuff that they made up. Unless you get a work-for-hire job from the copyright owners of say, House or Lost, what they sold wasn't fic.

The Jane Austin lady--well, that's public domain again! Yay!

These exceptions are special cases, and it doesn't mean you can't do the same thing, but please, everyone just learn the rules. If a writer opts out of the fic party, just respect their views and move on.

[brvinbaka]: That was an interesting article, I'm rather surprised at the changing mindset some companies have about fanworks. And I'm certain the people who got book deals did so with their own ideas, and they're probably very talented writers. Good for them, we should all be so fortunate.

And yeah, I still don't get the people who whine when their favorite author asks people not to write fanfiction of their works, or at least, not to publish it online (I guess no one will ever really know if someone writes a bunch of Anne McCaffrey stories if they never post them anywhere). Not only are the characters the writer's creations, they're their livelihoods, too. They shouldn't be pressured or guilted into letting other people mess with them if they don't want to, they're the ones who created everything. It just seems like common courtesy and respect for someone whose work you admire. I have my own projects and I wouldn't feel comfortable letting other people play with them; it seems like most people don't really respect the original stuff, they just want to leave their muddy footprints on everything. Not ALL of them, I've read some very, very good fanfiction, but by and large, most of it isn't.

(PS-- You don't mind if a character is semi-named after one of yours as an homage, right? It's just a first name, but back when I named her I never really thought I'd get the opportunity to talk to you and now that I have I guess I wanted to ask. Just to be sure.)

[p. n. elrod]:

Names are a fun thing for me, sometimes they come easy, other times I have to just put the phone book away 'cause the character rejects everything I pick.

I've seen postings elsewhere discussing the naming of characters and sometimes a few just have to not be used in one's original stuff, Buffy and Aragorn come to mind.

Anyone wanna bet there's Buffy-LOTR fic out there?

Please--I don't want no link to it! Bwah!

[coyotecc]:

Would you ever write for a stargate anthology? :)

[p. n. elrod]: Absolutely yes!!....providing it was through the properly liscensed venue that eventually leads back to MGM. That's what fanfic writer Julie Fortune did--she tracked the Stargate novels to a publisher in Britain and thus got a paying job for her most excellent Sacrifice Moon.

I'd ask if lunch with Ricard Dean Anderson could be arranged as part of the deal.

I'm hoping he'd teach me to juggle.

[anonymous]:

Oy, who are these people?? How can they complain when a writer doesn't want the stuff that THEY made, being used by people they don't know and in possibly questionable ways? *shudders at pron* I've viewed fantiction.net a few times, but rarely do I find anything worthy of reading. I'm more partial to the stuff on...on...gah, my brain pooped out. Ah! quizilla.com. It began as a quiz site, but now has a lot of fiction and fanfiction on it too. Most of the stuff on it is by teenagers. Oh - completely different topic here, hope you don't mind. There's a song available for (legally) free download at amazon.com, titled 'Sweet Salvation' by Bernadette Seacrest and the Yes Men. Every time I listen to it I can just picture Bobbie singing at Lady Crymsyn. Can't remember if I posted about it before or not, so, sorry if it's a repeat. -Da White Wolffie

[p. n. elrod]: People will either get the copyright thing or choose ignore it. I'm hoping the nicer ones will get it.

Being called names is one thing, one innocent noted in her blog that I was a big fat bitch--and I'm not arguing THAT. But calling me a hypocrite was just wrong. It only happened because the dearheart doesn't understand either copyright OR public domain. I think she might be happier if she did.

>)

[b00kperson]: Hi!! I thought I would let you know that all fanfic writers aren't out to get you. Some of us actually understand when you REAL authors don't want your works trampled on. I'm grateful when I hear about authors who don't want (or don't mind) their worlds played with. It makes me feel like 'Hey, at least they know what's going on in the world and they aren't ignoring us as unimportant little bugs or they're not sitting in their fancy armchairs in their secret studies fuming about fanfic writers and not doing something about it!'

I've read more than my share of fanfics out there on fanfiction.net, adultfanfiction.net (I'm not a fan of pornography and that seems to be mostly what is posted there. I like the romance stories they have on there.) and on mediaminer.org. I sometimes wish that some of us would get our fics previewed with spell and grammar check.

[p. n. elrod]: Domestic or foreign, *anything* with "copyright" and a name of a person or company next to it is not public domain. Look in the front of every book you own and you'll find it, ditto for films.

This includes anime and manga properties. Some writers don't mind infringement, but as stated I am not in their number.

I looked up what you named and found this fic site's disclaimer--look familiar?

"Disclaimer: Ai no Kusabi is the property of Rieko Yoshihara and June. I'm taking and using the world and its characters without permission. No profit and copyright infringement is intended. What I intend here is some good popularization. So please don't sue."

Such disclaimers are completely worthless in court. It clearly declares that the person behind it is fully aware they are violating another person's copyright--A.K.A. breaking the law.

The copyright owners can totally sue the fic writer. At the very least they can shut down the website by complaining to the server.

It DOESN'T MATTER that the ficcer isn't making money, it is still illegal. Lawyers get rich on people with legal blindspots.

Internet servers are alert about the copyright issue. They don't want to get sued, so if someone complains they take it down. Post stuff that belongs to someone else at your own peril.

[snipped]

(Here is a FAIR USE quote)

"For each case of copyright infringement, the infringer can be fined from $750 to $30,000. If the infringement was willful infringement (the person knew they were infringing and did it anyway), then the fine can go up to $150,000 for each act of infringement."


AAAAAAAAGH!

Of course this doesn't cover the fact that publishing is a very small village and that no legit house will ever buy anything from the infringer. Ever. Pen names won't save you. Editors, agents, and writers just LOVE to gossip over their chocolate martinis!

sl podcast (five years after original post]: Hello! I've been researching vampire books as part of my MFA project in Creative Writing and stumbled across this rant (in internet speak if you have to bold things and capitalize parts of a sentence, it's pretty much a rant). I totally agree it's within your legal and professional right to request people to not fanfic your hard-earned intellectual property. As a fellow writer on the verge of publishing I can totally understand it.

I do have to poke at your premise though that all fanfic authors want to be professional writers. My experience in writing and reading fanfic that the folks who want to do this for a legitimate living only make up a very, very small percentage of the people who write. Most of them are only writing fanfic for fun because they miss their show/series/etc. or the regular publishing/movie/TV schedule is a long wait. Or they're exploring what could have been, seeing a scenario through other eyes (not all fanfic is badly spelled with horrible grammar and even worse plot points). I adore fanfic, as you can tell by my LiveJournal and write quite a bit in the Buffy universe (Joss Whedon, when asked at the close of Season 7 what fans should do next said, "write fanfic").

Of all the fanfic writers I know (and there's hundreds) only three of us want to be legitimate authors. One of us was just published and I'm on my way to an agent.

Personally, I think of writing fanfic much like I do young artists copying the master paintings. They find something they're passionate about, they learn the techniques, and (if they want to) they go on and write their own works.

So your conclusion is sound and I applaud you for it, just wanted to set the record straight about most fanfic writers out there.

[p. n. elrod, five years after original post]: Meh, I just said, "I'm figuring fic writers are hoping to eventually get in the pro leagues." It's not a premise, but an opinion, and ambiguous enough to include any number of writers.

Sure it's a rant. It was inspired by a couple of people sitting in the back of a panel talk where I was explaining copyright infringement to the crowd. They misheard everything and put a few rants of their own up after the convention, misquoting me like mad.

FWIW, I did an informal poll in that standing room only panel and about 90% of them had plans to turn pro.

You must be doing a lot of *deep* digging. This is a five-year old post!

[sl podcast, five years after original post]: Hehe! Not too deep, it's linked in your FAQ on your website. It really has nothing to do with the thesis paper -- just peeked my interest when I was scrolling through. The paper is on modern vampire heroes in contemporary literature. So I'm picking up some of your books!

On the side note, I do love authors who engage their audience and I think you're awesome for doing so. Much love.

[neuroticsquirrl]:

I was actually going to read your work because of your interesting Dracula fanfic, but since you don't allow fanfiction, I am no longer as interested in reading it. Lots of good writers out there who don't mind or at least know enough not to rant about this form of flattery. I think of this as a weird sort of attempt at thought control, really. A writer can't actually stop me from imagining their characters doing things if I want to. :) And I can even share my weird imaginings on the Internet at no profit for me or them! :P Mwahahahahaha!

[p. n. elrod]: You're welcome to imagine what you like; I'm only asking writers to please not infringe on my copyright. That's it. It's the same as asking a neighbor to please don't borrow my car without asking, because that's--you know--stealing.

I don't care if he brings the car back washed and gassed up, it's not flattery that he likes and admires my car so much he wants to drive it; it is theft, not flattery or thought control. (Where'd you find that one?)

It's clear you're in the tiny group that sees ownership of anything you want to play with as inconvenient, which is really too bad. I've explained in this 2006 post that it is about protection of YOUR reputation and career as a writer, not mine. It won't matter to a publisher that you took no profit. They see it as theft, too.

Perhaps you can respect the cultural differences between Asian views and US views. Copyright is pretty freewheeling on that side of the Pacific, and anime studios there are open to having fanfic on their works. I understand that they see it as a form of promotion.

But things are different in the US--that includes the San Antonio area where your ISP addy is--and it's just *good manners* to respect a fellow writer's wishes.

Are you going to teach your kids that stealing is okay? Whether it's another writer's characters or money from your purse, "Go ahead kids, enjoy yourselves! I'm flattered!"

The Dracula issue--since you apparently didn't read carefully enough to catch it--was fully explained. It's not fanfic. There is no copyright on it. It is in the public domain (look it up). A real publisher bought the book, paid me well for it and wants another, which I am writing.

Anyone can write a Dracula story. The characters I've invented for it are mine, but you're more than welcome to read the original work by Stoker and run with it.

As for not reading my work--meh. It's a free country.

References

  1. "I just wanted to make a public thank you to the B7 fans who were nice enough to take the time to write me about them, especially book #4, Art in the Blood, with its B7 avatars. I'm really very grateful for the attention THE VAMPIRE FILES has received. Thanks to your enthusiasm, I'll be signing a contract for three more titles in the series! The 1st book, Red Death, will detail the early adventures of vampire Jonathan Barrett, who was introduced in my third novel. (Hold onto your hormones, as he's more or less "based" on Pierce Brosnan, woof!) Anyhoo, between this and other projects, I AM planning on having a fourth AVON: ON-LINE zine and anyone interested in more info can SASE the above address." -- comments by Elrod in The Neutral Arbiter #1 (May 1991)
  2. Fan fic - sí! Public Domain - sí-sí-sí!!!; Archive, September 17, 2006