The Quest for Legitimacy: Copyright Practices and Possible Infringement in Fan Fiction

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Title: The Quest for Legitimacy: Copyright Practices and Possible Infringement in Fan Fiction
Creator: Carol Mularski
Date(s): October 1980
Medium: printed in Alderaan #10
Fandom: Star Wars & other fandoms
Topic: fanfiction as fair use
External Links:
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The Quest for Legitimacy: Copyright Practices and Possible Infringement in Fan Fiction is an essay by Carol Mularski that was published in Alderaan #10.

Judith Gran wrote an essay six months later in response called Fandom vs The Courts: Fan Fiction and Fair Use.

The entire subject of the legality of fan fiction became very visible with George Lucas' crackdown a few months later. See Open Letter to Star Wars Zine Publishers by Maureen Garrett.

The Mularski article argued that some fanfiction may be legal, but probably was not. The Gran article argued that while Mularski made many interesting points, it was flawed.


George Lucas and his corporation, Lucasfilm, allowed an announcement through the fan grapevine (at science fiction conventions and in fanzines) that they would not take action against Star Wars fan fiction writers and editors. Lucas made only one stipulation, that the fans avoid publishing sexually explicit SW stories. According to one SW fanzine editor, Beverly Clark, in a letter to me: "Lucasfilm is keeping tabs on people doing SW zines and satires...Lucas himself had let it be known that he did not like X-rated material; specifically he did not like gay stories, and he would personally hang the first person to write or print a gay SW story." These types of stories have been published in Star Trek fanzines, and Lucas Is within his rights to make this request, and expect it to be complied with, especially if one subscribes to the "moral rights" concept of copyright ownership. One area of moral rights In copyright states that the originator has the right to protect his work from what he considers to be mutilation, once the work is an expression of his persona or character. So far, the fans have honored Lucas' request. Although such stories have been circulating "underground," through the mail to individuals or in person, no fanzine, to my knowledge, has published pornographic SW literature. The way Lucasfilm "keeps tabs" on fan activity is to openly buy four copies of each SW-related fanzine. Here again, this amounts to consent to the production of SW fanzines, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to legally stop such activity at a future date. Despite all the unofficial approval implied by these circumstances, I think that the producers and readers of ST and SW fanzines would breathe much easier if the powers-that-be would write official letters giving permission to use the copyrighted material for amateur publication purposes. I doubt that this will ever come about, however. The lack of official permission is probably one weapon being kept in Paramount's and 20th Century Fox's legal arsenal, just in case it is ever needed.