Sharing Deleted Fanworks

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Related terms: Deleting Fanworks, Fic Finding, File Sharing, Repost
See also: Keeping Track of Fanworks on the Internet, Searching for Fanworks on the Internet, Orphaning Fanworks, Fic Finding Community, Zine Pirating
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Sharing Deleted Fanworks is the activity of sharing fanfiction, vids, fanart or other fanworks that have been removed from public circulation. There are different opinions of the decorum and protocols of viewing or spreading saved copies of these works. Works may be shared publicly or privately between fans.

Practices regarding deleted fanworks changed significantly with the advent of the internet, which fundamentally changed how fanworks could be published and kept track of.


Pre-Internet Attitudes and Background On Sharing In General

In the days before the Internet, fanworks existed in two main forms: published (in a fanzine or, in the case of a fanvid showed at a fan convention or put on a songtape collection) or unpublished (never put into circulation).

Published Fanworks

In media fandom, while published fanzines could go in and out of print, there was a strong prohibition against creating and sharing copies of these fanworks since their production and distribution usually involved significant costs (see Zine Pirating). Likewise, with fanvids, even when little or no monetary funds were exchanged, copying of videotapes was frowned on by vidders due to the quality loss when moving video from one videotape to another - most vidders wanted the highest quality video possible in circulation. (See songtape collections.) Fanart was rarely copied and shared due to the technological limitations of reproduction. It was either distributed as part of a fanzine or offered it its original format or via artist-authorized prints.

Throughout these early years, however, once a fanzine was published or a songtape distributed, it was understood that the creator no longer could control distribution within fandom. You could sell, loan or give away your original, even if you could not copy it. Sharing fanworks with non-fans was generally considered unacceptable, because it could possibly bring unwanted attention from the TPTB and lead to Cease & Desist notices. And although some fanzine publishers did attempt to control the lending of their fanzines (see Fanzine Library), this was generally felt to be an excessively restrictive position.[1]

Once you paid for the fanwork, the original was yours to do with as you pleased within fandom. (See doctrine of First Sale[2] for the copyright legal equivalent.)

Unpublished Fanworks

By contrast, unpublished fanworks were never considered acceptable to share without permission even if the original had been sold, gifted or loaned. They were considered private communications.


In fandoms other than media fandom, attitudes were sometimes different. For example, while copying doujinshi was generally frowned upon, many Anime Music Videos were copied to be shared among Anime Clubs. Fansub works were generally shared among fans if the original fansubbers gave permission for copying, though some groups did try to control distribution by only giving SVHS copies to a small number of known distributors. Some groups also shared scripts.

Internet Causes An Attitude Shift

When fans started posting their fanfiction, fan vids and fanart on the Internet, the line between published and unpublished works blurred and was eventually replaced by a more proprietary attitude towards all fanworks. Since access to fanworks was free (to anyone with Internet access), and there was no "sale", there was no "original" to distribute as one pleased. Instead, all sharing became "copying". If you sent a story to another fan you were engaging in "unauthorized distribution." If you reposted a vid or fanart to your website, you were at best accused of "unauthorized archiving" and more likely to be labeled a thief.[3]

This led some fans to frame the question of sharing fanworks in moral terms, when in fact the shift in how fans accessed and shared fanworks was being driven technologically. At a time when access was being offered to more fans at no cost, some fan creators and communities began putting increasingly restrictive limits on their fanworks and began modeling themselves after the traditional copyright holders.

However, as long as fans could still access the fanworks at the source, the right to share, copy or distribute was not part of fandom's central debates. It is when the creators, either through gafiating or by design, removed their fanworks from public access that the debate over sharing deleted fanworks came into focus.

A few fans point out that fanfic does not exist in isolation, that it is a dialog not only between authors and readers, but also between readers in the community. As such it is part of our shared cultural experience.

"[The discomfort over wanting access to lost fanfiction] really resonated with me. Early in my fic career, I yanked something from the one public archive that had it. There were reasons, and at the time, they seemed good. It was a mistake though and eventually I rectified that and recently went back and put it on AO3 and ff dot net. In re-posting I learned that people from 15 years ago remember the trauma of the day that story, Stuff, disappeared, and how that felt. Fan fic does not exist in a vacuum of author and well, author. Readers build connections to each other, to the stories, and the authors. And so are communities born. As you say, you have many fond memories and personal connections to the work. Even if stories are flawed, well so is the creative space they inhabit. Enjoy, I say!"[4]

Approaches To Sharing Deleted Fanworks

A few writers who have deleted their fanfiction have tried to push the envelope further, asking that fans not recommend or discuss their deleted fanworks.[5] Most fans find this to be a 'presumptuous' level of control and infringement on their speech.[6]

Online Communities

See FanFic Sharing Policies in Search Communities

On Livejournal and mailing lists Fic Finding communities sprang up where fans could request copies of fan fiction, artwork or vids. Fic finder blogs have also appeared on Tumblr, and occasionally desperate fans turn to Yahoo Answers for advice.

Some fic finding communities have stated policies about requesting copies of stories that have been taken offline by their authors; the communities that have such policies usually request that community users assume that the author had a reason for deleting and therefore they should not seek out deleted material. Other communities do not explicitly state that fans must cease asking for or sharing fan fic, preferring rather to address the issue from the request end: if an author has asked that their fiction should not be shared, their name will go on a list and fans are asked to check that list before making further requests. The majority of fic finding communities use an "opt-out" approach (a writer must state they do not wish their work to be circulated) and share an understanding that once a preference has been expressed that their fellow fans will—at least publicly—honor that request.

Private Sharing

What happens privately between fans is another matter. As with fannish photocopy circles in the days of print fanzines, there still exists a robust underground of fans sharing deleted fan fiction with one another on a one-to-one basis.

There are many reasons this fannish underground exists: some fans view the posting of fanworks online as publication, and consider attempts to enforce deletion akin to entering someone's house and destroying the books and art they have collected over the years. Others cannot see the difference between an electronic copy and a print copy—if they printed out a copy of fan fiction that was once online, are they now supposed to trash the printed copy and never lend it again simply because the author asks them not to? Would authors make the same demand of libraries if their work had been published in print format? Other fans feel that, once in existence, the stories themselves have rights, particularly the right to continue to exist (advocating instead that the author pseudonymize the work so that it can continue to be read). Ultimately, the majority of fans who still share deleted fanworks against creator wishes are most likely doing it for more pragmatic and fannish reasons: they love the fanworks and want to share that love with others.


See Repost

Most fans express discomfort with reposting deleted fanfiction without author permission. This does not prevent fans from doing so, but it can create tension and in some cases threats against fans support the activity.Template:Cite At the very least, it is considered by many to be a 'dick move'.[7] Some believe that even the question of reposting deleted fanfiction is offensive while others view it as a matter where reasonable people can disagree.[8]

A few offer a more nuanced approach if the deletion or removal of the fanfiction was due to a website closure beyond the authors control as happened with Yahoo Groups:

The only reason I could see it being okay to repost/rehost a fix would be if its archived space were destroyed without the author’s participation. The purge of YahooGroups, for instance, killed thousands of old fics for no reason at all, fics that there’s no reason to assume the authors wanted gone. Reposting those fics for archival purposes is okay, with appropriate disclaimers and the understanding that you will remove the fic if asked. This case, though, in which deletion was obviously deliberate? You cannot in good conscience repost or rehost that.[9]

As an alternative fans suggest:

Just create a well-organized list of the deleted fics, post the list to wherever, and allow others to message you privately for copies of the fic they want. You could also publish a general "I have a massive collection of X fics, so if anyone is looking for something in particular don't hesitate to hit me up" post and respond privately to whoever messages you. Depending on how it's done, word will get around.[10]

Those in older fandoms with little new content being produced may take a pragmatic approach as the only means of keeping their fandom community alive, but even then they express a preference for one-to-one sharing vs rehosting:

I'm apart of an older fandom, that due to that age, websites that were originally made and run to host fanfiction among other tidbits, such as pictures, soundfiles from the show, etc, have been shut down. In those circumstances, the people and I, who how have the story, pass it on to others who dont, when asked. If theres an active link to the live story, we give it. But most cases the author cant be contacted, the site defunct and even web archieve doesnt work. The only way to get to read the stories, is peer-peer, through emails, and the ocasional link to a mediafire/googledrive.

I know it seems theres alot of negativity in this thread, but with my fandom, thats one of the reasons how its staying alive so long.

Do what feels right to you, youre not the only one in your boat.[11]

Filmmakers like George Lucas who edit their works and demand that non-compliant copies be destroyed is occasionally used an example of why fans might want to preserve deleted art and why this desire has benefits to society and community:

A real-world example that might perhaps make the feelings behind this view a bit more understandable: Star Wars and the Special Editions. George Lucas created the Star Wars movies and published them for a long time. They became a cultural touchstone. Then he "deleted" the originals and substituted a different version that a lot of fans considered significantly inferior. Lucas indicated that no copies of the original versions would be available from that point on. I don't see the widespread distribution of the Despecialized Edition as a dick move in this context. Or even better, there's the Star Wars Christmas Special. Lucas "deleted" that one without even releasing a Special Edition to replace it but it's commonly redistributed among fans. I'm glad it is, I would have never enjoyed it otherwise. I'm not trying to convince you to change your mind, just trying to show how people who hold this view aren't necessarily evil pricks. They may feel they discovered something wonderful and then when they wanted to ensure others could share the discovery they were told "no, that memory dies with you!"[12]

Finally, a few fans see the reposting and rehosting of fanfic as a way of preserving the cultural heritage of marginalized communities:

In my personal opinion it is a good thing to preserve and propagate one's cultural heritage. A lot of people look down on fanfic as a lesser art form, but IMO fanfiction is the modern equivalent of folklore - the common man picking up the tales of their culture to retell and remix. Back in the olden days before copyright or "publishing" was a thing storytellers would tell tales of gods and heroes to entertain crowds. Their audience would then retell their tales to others with their own spin or make up new ones. That's fanfic at its core. Sure, it's a good thing to respect the author. But it's also a good thing to respect the readers. IMO deleting stories is a dick move that disrespects the readers and damages their cultural heritage, so digital preservation efforts are an acceptable response to that. If an author wants their name off it for whatever reason that's fine, removing it doesn't harm the story. But they shouldn't expect their readers to let the stories they cherish go quietly into the night.[13]

Further Reading/Meta


  1. ^ For a more recent example of zine publisher attitudes, see the comments to the OTW post Announcing: The Fan Culture Preservation Project!. The varied reactions to the zine donations to the University of Iowa are covered in greater detail here.
  2. ^ According to Wikipedia's entry on The Doctrine of First Sale, "The doctrine allows the purchaser to transfer (i.e., sell, lend or give away) a particular lawfully made copy of the copyrighted work without permission once it has been obtained."
  3. ^ And if you didn't clearly label the fanfiction or vid as having been created by someone else, accusations of plagiarism were often heard. Sometimes these accusations were made even when clear labels were applied.
  4. ^ comment in the I feel conflicted post dated May 27, 2013; WebCite.
  5. ^ "I've been informed that calamitycrow would prefer people not to recommend....her deleted fiction to others. Hawaii 50 ficfinder LJ moderator post dated August 9, 2012.
  6. ^ "It's reasonable for authors to want to pull their fic from the internet. It's not reasonable to then expect the internet to never ever mention those fics' or that author's existence again. Fic writers are already getting more take-backsies than real world writers ever get with the ability to withdraw their fics from circulation (in the real world, writers can't get all copies of their books removed from libraries, etc., much less ask people never to lend someone else a copy of their out-of-print book). Expecting everyone else to never ever speak about their writing again is a ridiculous level of presumption." anonymous comment in the fail-fandomanon thread Just How Deep Does This Rabbit Hole Go? (Deleted FanFic) dated August 30, 2012.
  7. ^ "Deleted fanworks : FanFiction".
  8. ^ "Fanfic ethics in deleted fics : FanFiction".
  9. ^ Archived from the original on 2022-04-05. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "Fanfic ethics in deleted fics : FanFiction". Archived from the original on 2022-04-05.
  11. ^ "Deleted fanworks : FanFiction". Archived from the original on 2022-04-05.
  12. ^ "Deleted fanworks : FanFiction".
  13. ^ "Fanfic ethics in deleted fics : FanFiction". Archived from the original on 2022-04-05.
  14. ^ "I know some people take the extreme view and might think sharing stories even on a 1:1 basis is wrong, i just can't subscribe to that view, since we all do it with books, cds, dvd, games etc. We buy them and pass them on to others when we've finished with them, we might even sell them on. I think it's unreasonable to expect readers not to pass on stories that you put online. Unless that is stated when the story is posted." Comment by the_physicist dated March 24, 2011 at Deleted Journals. Is the Fic Fair Game? Part 2 post. (Accessed 1 Jan 2012); (WebCite unavailable).
  15. ^ WebCite for "Fic from deleted journals, fair game?" in the Fandom Lawyers LJ Community.
  16. ^ "If all this LJ trouble has brought one thing in to sharp relief, it's that what worries me about losing access to LJ is the fic. Selfish, I know. But seriously. We'll probably find each other on DW or Tumblr or Twitter or something, and one way or another we'll get things worked out so we can talk to each other. I'm not too worried about that. And I might miss my old posts and comments, although honestly not enough to figure out how to do a real archive of my journal. But if spn_j2_bigbang disappeared tomorrow? I'd be like, where's that crossroads demon when you need to make a deal?" From If you love us, you'll archive your fic post by killa, dated April 6, 2011. (Accessed 1 Jan 2012); WebCite.
  17. ^ "I just worry about the privacy issues that surround making their fic more obviously easily accessible again for that subset of writers for whom it is or would be problematic and against their wishes -- without checking with them first, and thus assuming an opt-out rather than an opt-in model. If the culture throughout fandom had always clearly been "once you post a story, know that it's going to be easily searchable and findable (and later possibly connectable to your other identity/ies) forever and will be actively, non-discreetly shared by readers even if you take the copies you as the writer have control over offline" I'd be more sanguine, thinking/hoping that more writers had always been aware of the not just present-day but later risks. But as it seems that that is not the standard that all parts of fandom have always operated by, creating a centralized multifandom resource that could (unexpectedly, to former writers) make a change in default assumptions and behavior around sharing more prevalent -- that (as you can no doubt tell from my going on about it) makes my privacy-concerns antennae come to unhappy attention." From a comment by skaredykat made on April 21, 2011 at When Stories Disappear - back again post. (Accessed 1 Jan 2012); WebCite
  18. ^ "Recognize that before you publish (defined above), in return for your implicit copyright on your work, YOU ARE giving up something important. You are giving up the ability to make those words forever vanish from the face of the world. If some crazy real life library decided to start downloading, printing, and lending your fan fiction, that would be perfectly within their realm of rights and you couldn't make them stop even if you deleted the online version of your story. That paper copy would then exist as long as it existed. If some academic downloads and quotes your story with your name attached in a modern day analysis of the crazy world of fandom, that is perfectly within his or her rights. If I back up my archive to CD and my great-great-great (however many greats) grandchild gives that CD to a publisher in 200 years, it doesn't matter whether your story was removed after the backup was burned. It's in the public domain, because you published it. If that realization makes you not want to write or publish fan fiction--don't write or publish fan fiction." From Publication is Publication by cschick, dated April 18, 2011 (Accessed 1 Jan 2012); WebCite.
  19. ^ "Abstract: The term infocide, and related neologisms such as cybersuicide, are identified and distinguished as a type of cyberlanguage. The complexities of infocide are then explored in open content communities with respect to reasons, enactment, and community reactions. I find that infocides are often prompted by the exhaustion of maintaining an online life, by discontent towards an online community, and over privacy concerns that one’s real and online identifies have intersected. Community responses are also varied: infocides might be ignored, lamented, sleuthed, and mitigated by preserving content that was taken down.
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