Mercedes Lackey's Release Form

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Title: Mercedes Lackey's Release Form
Creator: Mercedes Lackey and/or her lawyer
Date(s):
Medium: online
Fandom: Mercedes Lackey, Valdemar
Language: English
External Links: Release Form for Mercedes Lackey, Archived version

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For many, many years, Mercedes Lackey required her fans to sign a release form for most fanworks set in her book universes.

This release form was posted at Release Form for Mercedes Lackey, Archived version

Mercedes Lackey's fan fiction release form; see the text of it here

Other Pro Writers Who Required Release Forms

Some Context: 1992 Statement Regarding Fanworks (Fiction and Role-Playing Games)

Fanfic and permissions were heavy on many fans' and professional writers mind in late 1992 and early 1993. Something that had just blown up and was certainly relevant to this post by Misty was the 1992 Marion Zimmer Bradley Fanfiction Controversy.

Confusion and speculations regarding online posts also contributed to the decision. From an April 1992 post in Mercedes Lackey's official newsletter: "To those of you who enjoy communicating via computer, are you aware that Prodigy calls itself a "publishing service" rather than an information network? Prodigy is owned by Sears and IBM. I've been told that everything on the network is censored. If they don't like something you post, they'll pull it out. Even private e-mail is read. Supposedly the Prodigy software accesses your hard drive for anything new and uploads it for Sears and IBM employees to investigate. Misty asks that you not discuss her universes on Prodigy. Because it is a publishing service, your writing about Valdemar and Heralds is probably a violation of Misty's copyrights." [3]

The Open Letter

The excerpt by Lackey below is from Queen's Own Newsletter; WebCite:

See the whole letter at I'm about to bring the cold, cruel, mundane world into our fun for a moment.

"First of all, you may not be aware of it, but I am rare in permitting people to write fanfic based on my work. Many authors and agents feel it confuses copyrights enough that they do not permit it at all. [&]...

"Having established that I am a Good Guy for letting you play in my sandbox, following the footsteps of my mentor Marion Zimmer Bradley, let me continue. Some folks have been horribly incensed because I asked, politely, that you not post Valdemar fanfic over in Prodigy, because that service lists itself as a PUBLISHING SERVICE and not an information service, and it is a FOR PROFIT entity. This was to protect YOU. If my agent or publisher decided that this fanfic was in violation of my copyrights, they could very easily sue YOU, your parents if you are a minor, your school if you were using a school machine ... at the very least you would be required, after paying several thousand dollars in legal costs, to pay several more thousand dollars in apology-ads in major booksellers publications, just like that fanzine publisher. I doubt that many of you have that kind of money to throw away; I certainly don't. And I'm afraid that there would be nothing I could do to call off my agent; in areas where my rights---and HIS future income---are concerned, HE has every right to vigorously protect those rights. Be warned, this Has already happened TO ONE FAN WRITER AND PUBLISHER.

"It becomes more confused because Prodigy is an electronic service and this laps over into the area of "electronic rights" about which there is a great deal of confusion. Because of the confusion, my agent prefers to err in the direction of being conservative and protectionist. This also goes for "MUCKS" or "MUSH's. He is flatly NOT PERMITTING any electronic role-playing of any kind, whether it is on a not-for-profit service or for-profit service. So there it is--NO VALDEMAR MUCKS ... If he finds out, and he will eventually, you will get first a "cease and desist" letter from the agency's legal department--and so will the net you are on. The Sysops will not be happy with you about this. If you continue, you will probably be slapped with a lawsuit. If you are a minor, you will probably see your college fund go down the drain. If you are not, paying the out-of-court legal costs alone will set you back several thousand dollars. This is something I have no power over; we are not only talking about MY income, we are talking about my AGENT's income, and he is not going to tolerate anyone cutting into it. With the advent of Electronic Arts books, we now have a real possibility of commercial computer games ... My agent cannot afford to let one person get in the way of that.

"To add to the confusion, the "Bookman" is looking more and more likely all the time ... Now here is where it cuts REAL near the bone for me. If one of you, in all innocence, messed up my electronic rights, I could completely be shut out of the books-on-disc market for all current series. And, ten, twenty, or thirty years down the road, when all books are coming out on disc, you will have not only ruined my income, you will have prevented others from experiencing the same pleasure you had in discovering my work. Now, I can write anything; I could turn around and write romances if I had to. But it would be a lot of hardship on me--and it would mean NO MORE VALDEMAR BOOKS. Ever. [&]...

"So I am going to require a release from those of you who wish to participate in the electronic fiction CATs, and I am not sure yet what to do about paper fanfic. [QO reported later that: "The decision has been made that you MUST sign a release form for any work created in Misty's Worlds that you intend to share with others ... You need a release form for EVERY story set in Misty's universe that you write..."]. [&]....

"I don't have to let you in my world. I could be like Yarbo, and forbid it entirely. I don't want to deprive you of the kind of pleasure I got from writing Darkover and other fanfic. I like having you in my sandbox. All I am asking for is a little courtesy and consideration.

This piece may be downloaded <or photocopied> and posted to any other systems you choose, with my permission." -- Mercedes Lackey.

A further note from Misty and Larry: " . . . Well, rather than chuck out 20-page Author's Notes full of claims of how much we like fans & like to do right by 'em, we practice it and don't crow about it much. The whole fanfic situation is an example of that; we know how much happiness it brings fans, and we like to nurture that joy.

"The legalities of it all are just business---and I would VERY much like to thank you ALL for being so kind and understanding about it.

"It speaks well of you, and reassures us that we're doing the right thing by devoting some of our (arrgh! too little!) time to pursuing a few good solutions. Thank you!

"Just bear with us until we get an Official Policy thingie nailed down on it. Hugs!"--Misty & Larry

An Addendum

February 1993:

You may not use Misty's characters or universes in a computer game.
You need a release form if you write a story set in Misty's worlds or using any of her characters. You do not need releases for past fan-fiction, nor do you need a release for a character sketch, poem, or filk. Misty is protecting her characters and her worlds. It's all right to take your Herald story and remove all references to Valdemar and set it in your own universe. Your prose is yours.
If you send a release form to Highflight you should get a postcard back as an acknowledgement. You do not need to send your story to Misty, only the release form. If you need a form, send a SASE to me. You may photocopy the form yourself, as many copies as you need. [4]

Lackey's Attitudes Toward Fanworks Set in Her Own Universes

Mercedes Lackey's position regarding fanworks set in her original literary universes has varied considerably over time.

  • 1988(?) - Establishes guidelines allowing members of Queen's Own[5] (an authorized fan organization devoted to her Valdemar series) to create personae and write fanfic set in Valdemar -- specifically, in an AU branching from an alternate ending to Arrow's Fall).[6]
  • 198? - Develops and circulates a legal release form [7] which prospective fan writers are asked to sign and return prior to circulating fanfic based on her published works.
  • 198?-199? - Hosts and moderates an online community, Modems of the Queen, on GEnie[8]. Participants who have submitted release forms create fanfic set both in Valdemar and in Lackey's "urban elves" universe.
  • 1992 - Publishes a long statement in Queen's Own. Queen's Own Newsletter. See 1992 Statement Regarding Fanworks.
  • 199?-200? - Citing advice from her agent, Russell Galen, withdraws support for most fanfiction based on her published works. Stories circulate indicating that she and/or Galen and/or her legal counsel aggressively discourage fanfiction brought to her attention during this period.
  • 2002 - Releases a commentary via her Web site discussing the evolution of fanfiction from printzines to the online era.[9] See Copyright, fair use, and complications far beyond the ken of mortal man.....
  • 2002 - Answers a question about fanfic based on Valdemar:
    [A fan asked]: ... would you allow other authors to publish *books* in Velgarth? I've noticed that the release form says "manuscript for a short story or novel." Reading the release carefully, I find it does not prevent an author from reaching an agreement with you on the subject. It does cover what would happen if you accepted a short story into an anthology - could a similar arrangement be made for a novel? ... [Lackey replied]: A: It's been so long that I read the thing that I'd forgotten about that. Publishing a Valdemar novel would be a Bad Idea. I'm afraid my agent is inclined to go ballistic on the idea of someone publishing a Valdemar novel other than me or Larry. You don't want my agent to go ballistic. He's a very polite shark, but he's still a shark. The release form was copied wholesale from Marion Zimmer Bradley's fanfiction release form and covers the occasion when she used someone's idea (with their permission and signature) in one of her Darkover novels. It also covers the novels that another author finished after her death. It probably shouldn't be in there, considering how our agent feels about fanfic in general and fanfic novels in particular, but if someone ever does take me to court that's one more item to get the case dismissed before it gets into high legal fees. I really hate having to do things this way, but given the grief that Marion went through, and the fact that I've already had hysterical letters accusingg me of "stealing" someone's fanfiction, I'm just not willing to take the chance anymore. [10]
  • 2002 -- Answers a question about fanfic and webrings:
    [fan asks]: Please don't flame me for this! My friend and I just created a Hawkbrother fanclub that has our fanfiction on it (our fanfiction is not published anywhere except online). We honestly didn't know that all fanfiction needed a release form until just recently, and we were told that the release form doesn't have anything to do with web fanfiction. So we wanted to know whether you permitted web fanfiction or not and, if so, what sort of legalities we need to go through. Also, we'd like to know if you permit unofficial webrings (my friend and I also began a mini-ring. It's actually just a "Links" page, but we thought we'd give it a fancier name). If you do not permit any of these online activities, my friend and I will promptly shut down the site. We're very sorry for the inconvenience. [Mercedes Lackey's answer]: We don't allow online fanfiction or online games, MUDs, MUCKs or MUSHs;anything else is fine. [11]
  • 2006 - Reveals on Making Light that she still writes fanfic and that she approves of not-for-profit fanfic [12].
  • 2008 - "No public posting of stories/fanfiction is allowed on the Internet. (This includes talking in character in chatrooms or sending stories via e-mail.) You can submit fanfiction to and read it in the various approved Mercedes Lackey fanzines." [13]
  • 2009 - Releases a statement via her Web site formally granting fanfic writers permission to create derivative works based on her stories, under a specified Creative Commons license.[14]
  • 2010 - Mercedes Lackey's pep talk for NaNoWriMo advises: "try writing fanfiction. [...] It's fun, it's going to give you a giant kick-start, and you would be surprised at how many professionals started out that way (and still do it!)." See Mercedes Lackey's pep talk. [15]
  • 2011 - Lifts the ban of fan fiction, points to her agent as the source of the ban, and reminds fans that if they're writing anything other than PG-13, they need to take 'proper precautions.' She points to fan fiction as derivative work and states it will be licensed under the Creative Commons license. Selling hard copies of fan fiction is still forbidden:
    As you folks already know, my agent, Russel Galen, has in the past been opposed to fanfiction. However, he is also Cory Doctorow's agent now, and Cory is a persuasive little gnome. As a result of this, I am happy to announce that we are officially permitting fanfiction to be licensed as derivative fiction under the Creative Commons umbrella. What this means is: NO, you cannot make money on it. NO, you cannot self-publish a fanfiction novel of Valdemar (or any of my other stuff) and try and sell it on Amazon. And NO, I still am not going to read it, because I am already so far behind on my research reading I barely have time to read that. But YES, you may write and post away, folks, so long as you license it as derivative and under Creative Commons. If it is anything other than PG-13, please take all the proper precautions to stick it somewhere that innocent souls won't be corrupted. Do not scare the children or the horses. Have fun! [16]

Lackey's Attitudes Toward Role-Playing Games Set in Her Own Universe

See Mercedes Lackey's Attitudes Toward Role-Playing Games Set in Her Own Universe.

The Form

Date: _______________________________

Mercedes Lackey

c/o High Flight

[address redacted]

Dear Mrs. Lackey,

I am submitting to you herewith a manuscript for a short story or novel of approximately ______________ words entitled __________________________________________________________________________. It involves the following characters from your Valdemar or other universe: _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________. It is set in (time period and location): ________________________________________________________. and concerns (brief summary of plot): ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

1.) I understand that, as the creator and copyright owner of the Valdemar and other series, you alone have the authority to authorize the preparation of derivative works based on the characters and world you have created in that series. I understand and acknowledge that the preparation of such a story constitutes a copyright infringement unless authorized by you. I acknowledge that the material submitted with this agreement is a derivative work based upon your previous work.

2.) I understand and acknowledge that because of your position as the creator of the Valdemar and other series, you receive numerous unsolicited submissions of ideas, stories, suggestions and the like, and that many such suggestions are similar to or identical to materials already developed by you (or by others who may submit or have submitted them to you). I understand that I will not be entitled to compensation because of the use by you of any such similar or identical material either developed by you or received from another source.

3.)I further understand that you would refuse to accept or otherwise evaluate said material in the absence of my acceptance of each and all of the provisions of this agreement. I request that you read and evaluate said material. However, you shall have no obligation to do so nor to inform me of your evaluation, if any.

4.) I represent and warrant that I am the sole author of said material; that I am the present and sole owner of all rights, title, and interest in and to said material; that the material does not infringe upon any right of any other person or entity including copyright, right of privacy, or right of publicity, and that I have the exclusive unconditional right and authority to submit and/or convey said material to you upon the terms and conditions set forth in this release. I will indemnify you from and against any and all claims, expenses, losses, or liabilities (including, without limitation, reasonable attorney's fees and punitive damages) arising from any breach of the warranties and promises given by me in this release.

5.) I acknowledge that you may use, without any obligation whatsoever to me and without any payment to me, any of said material which is not protectable as literary property, or which is in the public domain. Any such material is herinafter referred to as "unprotected material." I also acknowledge that I have no claim on or interest in any copyrighted material of yours upon which I have based my work.

6.) If the material submitted by me pursuant to this release is not unprotected material and if it was neither created by you nor obtained from an independent source, and if you personally accept it for publication in an anthology at some later date, you will authorize the publication of this derivative work and will pay or cause to be paid to me a sum that is not less than a pro rata share (based on the comparative length of the material to the rest of the volume) of 50% of any advances or royalties received from the publisher for said work for said specific anthology, except in the case of nonprofessional publication, where there is no monetary compensation involved. In return and in consideration for your authorizing the publication, professionally or non-professionally, of this derivative work pursuant to this paragraph, I agree to assign all rights, including such copyright interests as I may have in the said work, to you. I understand that professional publication in an anthology is extremely unlikely, and that the bulk of material submitted to you for your review will be published non-professionally, and for no compensation, for limited circulation and a limited audience. I agree that you have no obligation to seek either a professional or non-professional publisher for this work on my behalf, or to otherwise act as an agent for my work.

7.) Either of us may assign or license our rights under this agreement, but such an assignment or license shall not relieve the assigning party of the obligations created under this agreement. This agreement shall inure to the benefit of the parties to it and their heirs, successors, representatives, assigns and licensees.

8.) I understand that wherever the word "you" or "your" is used in this contract, it refers to you, or any company or business entity affiliated with you or owned by you, or any subsidiaries of such a company or entity, or any division thereof. If said material is submitted by more than one person, all of said persons shall be named and sign below; if any contributor is a minor, his or her parents or guardians shall also be named below and shall cosign this agreement. In such instance, the word "I" shall be deemed changed to "we" (and the corresponding verbs changed to the first person plural) and this agreement will be binding jointly and severally upon all persons signing this agreement.

This document constitutes the entire agreement of the parties hereto, and any modification of it must be in writing and signed by us. This agreement shall be interpreted according to the laws of the United States and the particular States where the publishers of said anthologies are based.

Very truly yours,

_______________________________________ ________________________________________ Signature Witness _____________________________________________ Print name

______________________________________________________________________________________ Address

_______________________________________ ________________________________________ Telephone Date of Birth ACCEPTED AND AGREED TO:

_________________________________________________________

Mercedes Lackey

Fan Comments

I had a copy of the release, which I myself eventually filled out in the interests of playing in the "underhill cafe" storyline out of the SERRA/Bedlam Bards setting.

Now you're right, of course, that that was all going on long before one could do digital signatures as we now understand them; my recollection is that one could (a) streetmail a copy of the release somewhere, (b) email a "signed" copy of the release back to Misty, or (c) post to a GEnie-topic set up specifically for the "signed" release documents; the point was that Misty was keeping track and had a master list of who'd agreed to the house rules. [17]
I found Misty's restrictions annoying and frustrating, as I'm sure she intended [wry smile] and soon went back to my own original work. I always believed those restrictions were meant as thumbtacks in the cradle, to encourage us to climb out as soon as possible, because certainly none of her stated justifications made much sense. It worked, too. :D [18]

References

  1. In 2002, Lackey wrote: "[My] release form was copied wholesale from Marion Zimmer Bradley's fanfiction release form and covers the occasion when she used someone's idea (with their permission and signature) in one of her Darkover novels. -- Writing; archive link, posted in 2002, accessed September 26, 2016
  2. "A Copyright Release form must be signed by the contributing author and a representative of Sime~Gen Inc. before a work is published. This release assigns the copyright to Sime~Gen Inc. " -- Sime~Gen - A Companion in Zeor Submission Guidelines, Archived version
  3. Queen's Own Newsletter--April 1992, Archived version
  4. Queen's Own Newsletter--February 1993, Archived version
  5. Queen's Own FAQ Accessed March 15, 2010.
  6. "Queen's Own Fan Fiction Guidelines (accessed 14 Mar 2010)
  7. Fanfic and permissions were heavy on many fans' and professional writers mind in late 1992 and early 1993. Something that had just blown up and was certainly relevant to this post by Misty was the 1992 Marion Zimmer Bradley Fanfiction Controversy. Accessed March 15, 2010.
  8. Queen's Own Newsletter--April 1992 Accessed March 15, 2010. This appears to be the first reference to MotQ as a chapter of Queen's Own, but the GEnie community had been active for some time prior to the newsletter's cover date.
  9. Worlds of Mercedes Lackey: Ask Misty Accessed March 15, 2010.
  10. Writing; archive link, posted in 2002, accessed September 26, 2016
  11. Mercedes Lackey - The Official Website, Archived version
  12. "Fanfic": force of nature; WebCite, April 26, 2006 comments by Mercedes Lackey] on Making Light. Accessed October 1, 2008.
  13. Queen's Own, updated statement, July 22, 2008
  14. Worlds of Mercedes Lackey - News (bottom of page) Accessed March 14, 2010.
  15. Mercedes Lackey's pep talk
  16. Mercedes Lackey: The Official Website, accessed May 1, 2011.
  17. a 2006 comment by djonn at Asking permission from the pros
  18. a 2006 comment by angiepen at Asking permission from the pros