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Creator: yuuo
Date(s): September 24, 2006
Medium: online
External Links: YOU DO NOT MAKE MONEY OFF OF FANFIC.; archive link page one, archive link page two
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YOU DO NOT MAKE MONEY OFF OF FANFIC. EVER is a 2006 post at fanficrants by yuuo.

There were 405 comments to this post.

Other Discussions in Direct Response

Some Topics Discussed in Comments

The Post



Do you realize the trouble you could bring down on the fanfic 'industry', such as it is, if you did? No, of course you don't, 'cause you're special and copyright laws apparently don't apply to you, or something.

So repeat after me until this is through your thick, fangirl skull.


Thank you for your attention to this important matter. Until the lawyers and courts get the copyright laws sorted out and redefined to properly cover or disallow fanfiction, keep your damn head down and don't draw attention to us. We could all get in trouble if someone with a copyright on something gets a bee up their ass about this. So knock it off.

Some Comments: Page One

[yuuo]: You'd be surprised what people think they can get away with. I've seen it more than once, and it's disgusting. Not-recent example- some girl sold her N*SYNC Mary Sue smut fics on a CD for $300 on ebay some time ago. Yes. People do this shit.
[rekallthegreat]: FictionLyn did that? I remember her from my fandom days and her fics sucked ass. I couldn't even get through them as I was bored to tears.
[kuchenhexe]: Exactly! But of course, BNFs think that the rules don't apply to them. Case in point: Cassie Claire.
[kokoro no yami]:

Hm, you haven't heard about amyfushigiyugi then? Last I heard, she turned one of her Inuyasha stories into an actual book. Same characters but with different names. I kid you not -- same plot, story, etc. as Inuyasha, BUT WITH DIFFERENT JAPANESE NAMES WTF.

She was making money. Not sure if those books ever got pulled from Amazon. Some people were working on that, but I don't know what became of that idea.

I expect to be killinated for this, but that doesn't strike me as entirely stupid - unless of course the entire story is just Inuyasha with no changes whatsoever other than the names. That would be pathetic.

But I've often wondered whether fic writers who create large, sprawling epic AU material in certain verses should just change the names, fill in a bit of back story and try and sell it. When there are AU fics about Clark and Lex set in antiquity/the 19th century/a brothel where Clark isn't super or an alien, just pretty... well, why the hell not call them Ben and Dave and see where it gets you?

RE: Lucas Arts handed her ASS to her.

.............. oh my god.

Damnit, people. DX This is how things get ruined for the rest of us.
[katydidnt98]: Luckily most of the fandom, particularly other fanfic writers, went "WTF? HELL, NO" about it. Even though it doesn't technically make fanfic legal, we know that the main thing keeping us safe from C&D letters and legal action is that we're not making any money and usually generating more money for the franchise instead. (Besides the fact that Lucas likes fanfilms and it can be argued that fan fiction is just another medium for fairly similar productions - fanfic is to the books what fanfilms are to the movies, roughly, even though content doesn't always line up that way.)

Re: Lucas Arts handed her ASS to her...

Fanfic is not the same as plagiarism. Fanfiction is, if anything, copyright infringement. Plagiarism is taking without attribution. It's telling lies.

If I write a story where Buffy and Harry go to Grange Hill, that is probably copyright infringement. If I write a story where Buffy and Harry go to Grange Hill and pretend I invented those things, that is plagiarism.

You can tell that fanfic isn't plagiarism principally by the fact that fanfiction depends on you having a prior knowledge of (and hopefully shared love and admiration for) the characters and settings portrayed within it. It's depending on the name, not covering it up.

I'm really hoping you're referring to something more than the referenced article, because that, however bad the form, is not plagiarism.
[miss marion]: I bring forth an icon to commemmorate the stupid that burns, and to say 'WTF - are peoples' memories so short that they forget fanficcers-who-try-to-sell-their-fanshit generally go down in flames and risk bringing the rest of us with them?'

She pretty clearly states that she thinks she's above the copyright law.

Seriously? She's so awesometastic that she wrote the copyright laws just for her own personal use. We mere mortals must understand that. *rolls eyes*

Let us just do our illegal works in peace, woman. That's like calling the cops to come and watch you commit a crime! *headdesks*
[evil rem]: I'm gonna be PISSED if this screws things up for the rest of us.
[atemu girl]: My god *brain has now broken* That could spell serious trouble for the rest of us if the right (or wrong) people get a hold of this little gem *shudders* Man, how freaking dumb can you get? If she ruins the rest of us, I swear, I will fucking hunt her down and use her ovaries as chew toys. I mean it. You do not sell fanfiction for money! Right now us fanficcers are standing on a very precarious edge. If the law system decides to disallow fanfic because of that, we're sunk, and we take a huge fucking tumble *shudders* Damn. I didn't think people would be that fucking stupid (pardon the French; I'm just majorly peeved over this). Fanfiction could be outlawed because of this *shudders again*

Wait, hang on. So she was selling a printed version of her fiction, with covers and an illustration. Was it bound? How much was she charging?

Because depending on the answers to these questions, I'd invite folks to look up the word "zine."
[velvet mace]: Yep. Zines are legal, guys. Call it a loophole and be glad it exists, because otherwise you wouldn't get to have your doujins either.
[cerata]: Well, it's not even so much that they're legal (because as far as I know, they're actually not, at least not in Western fandoms) as that they're where fanfic started. They're a long and venerable fannish tradition, and before you rant about it, you should at least know that.
[cryogenia]: Yeah, hold up a second - people have been publishing limited runs of english-language doujin even. Provided something is at-cost, I fail to see how fanfic is fundamentally any different from doujin/art prints etc that are at cons.
[kaitou marina]: Okay, you know what? I honestly would usually be the last person on earth to defend this person. They've got plenty of other people who like them a lot better to do so. But I've spoken to other people involved in the project and I've been assured that this person is only selling the fic to cover the cost of printing. It is just like a doujinshi, with less pictures. Hell, TONS of doujinshi sold in JAPAN are mostly text. How is that not selling a fanfic? If you're going to say that it shouldn't be allowed, then you might as well be saying that all artists' alleys at all cons should be totally outlawed. This is keeping in mind that AX, which is an industry con, hosts a large artist alley and always has, as far as I know.

I actually don't agree with selling fanart or doujinshi either. The whole selling other folk's creations just doesn't sit right with me, no matter if it was sold for $20 or a penny. No matter what anybody says to me on this topics, I can't agree with selling it. We'll just have to respectfully agree to disagree.

I have no idea what goes on at artists' alleys since I've never been to a convention. For all I know, it could have been just a gathering of folks sitting around showing off (not selling, mind you) their fanart. And if a convention supports folks making money off fanworks, no matter where the money goes, I can't agree with them either.

I'll let you know if I ever go to a con that doesn't have an artist's alley with fanart and doujin/zines in the dealer's room. It's pretty entrenched in fandom, though, so don't expect to hear from me soon.

For all I know, it could have been just a gathering of folks sitting around showing off (not selling, mind you) their fanart.

Oh yeah. Artists might very well drop vacation time and hundreds of dollars on hotel rooms, registration fees, table fees, gas money or plane fare, all for the privilege of experiencing a convention from behind a desk where they can't walk around, buy stuff, attend panels and events, or meet up with friends--for the sole purpose of showing, but not selling artwork that they could put up on DeviantArt. I don't know why that possibility never occurred to me.

People who've been in fandom more than 6 years know that people have sold fanfic at cost before the internet existed.

Okay, that was snottier than intended, because I know you know that. But really, this is why I tend to ask for details before I respond to shit. It sounds like this is basically a zine. Which, okay, not my thing, but no more likely to bring fandom crashing down around our ears than the zines that have been sold since before the internet existed.

'Zines were done primarily back in the day before the 'net existed, and before it was really in use - its sole purpose was to distribute fanfic, the way we're able to do now online. Period. And 'zines were collections of fanfic - like archives, from every single frickin' one I've seen. Not someone printing out and selling their own fanfic exclusive.

And on a similar note, it's STILL not legal. And definitely NOT something one should be presenting to an actor who plays one of the characters in question, who has gone on record as not being comfortable with slash due to his faith, and asking him to sign a copy. If he weren't such a fabulous sport...

Not actually true on that first part. There have been single-author zines, novel zines, zines of stories previously available on the internet, etc. Me, I'm not much into them, and I do begin to question the practice as people more and more have access to cheap printing, but it's still not without precedent, certainly not enough for OMG THE SKY IS FALLING rants and comments.

And no, not legal. Neither is net fiction. Neither the venue nor the taking money part is actually a factor in its legality.

The presenting to an actor bit is incredibly tacky, but I'm not seeing where that's appearing in this discussion. If the person in question did do that, tackybadwrongstupid, I agree, but that's another rant entirely, I would think.

Zines are still done, today, RIGHT NOW! I tribbed to several zines a couple of years ago. I have a zine in the post coming to me right now, one that I paid for, actual money and stuff.

Fanfic is not legal, full stop. Not internet fanfic, not zine fanfic, no fanfic.

You want to remain legal, don't write fanfic. Hell, don't even THINK fanfic.

Because yeah, people selling printed, bound fanfiction for the cost of production can kill fandom!

Oh, wait...

Grumble grumble history of fandom.

Those who do not remember the past are doomed to look like fucking morons whenever they open their mouths.

Would you like to borrow my copy of Textual Poachers so you can hit people in the head with it?

Actually, writing and distributing print fanzines has been going on since before you were born and anybody who tried to stop it (as opposed to stopping individual publications) would have a lot of trouble on their hands. Your reaction, therefore, is unnecessarily vehement.

The legal position in most countries is, in fact, perfectly straightforward - and if you look at it in more detail you'll see that the absence of legal protection for fictional characters is the reason Lucasfilm registered all their character names as trademarks. The 'intellectual property' argument can be countered by 'fair use' as long as no profits are made, and then you have the whole 'freedom of speech' scenario to deal with. This is why fan fiction cases do not come to the courts - because they're complicated and rest on more than one area of law - and why on the whole the internet is left to flourish unchallenged.

Sweeping generalisations designed to induce panic don't really help anyone. Why not take a deep breath and actually investigate the legal situation properly before you make a pronouncement about someone else's conduct? I personally know nothing about the case you cite and you may well be right - about that. But unfortunately that's not the same thing as your comments being applicable to the whole of fandom. Your righteous indigantion does you credit, but I feel it's misplaced.
[katydidnt98]: I think the Internet might have changed things, a bit, because fanzines were fairly expensive and generally had low distribution numbers (AFAIK - I didn't seriously get into fandom activity relating to freeform RP/fanfic until it was largely Internet-based, in 2000-2001). They also weren't known to Almost Everybody, but now a Google search can pull up all sorts of fanfic with a few keystrokes and one click, and fic for sale can be done a lot more cheaply than in the past.

I was part of pretty much the first media fandom -- Star Trek: The Original Series -- back in the late 70s up to the mid-80s. The good fanzines (offset-printed, spiral-bound, glossy color covers with artwork) were rather well-known -- thanks to free flyers included in every delivery. :) Still, a print run rarely was higher than 500, and even so they weren't cheap; IIRC, a typical 120-page 'zine, airmail delivery to Europe, came to around $20/$25 ... and keep it mind that's prices from over 20 years ago!

Still, while I love the ease and convenience of finding my fanfic online these days, I kind of miss the satisfaction of handling a printed version, not to mention having often gorgeous artwork illustrating the stories. :)

Fanzines were sold for cost of materials. One of the biggest things with fanzines is that there was no profit being made. We couldn't repeat that enough. The only money exchanged was to cover printing/shipping/packagin costs. That's it. I've bought a lot of fanzines in my day and was very active in fandom when fanzines were the only way to get your fic, and never did anyone profit. If anyone tried to, they were smacked down by fandom before it could get out.

And speaking legally, anything that makes TPTB raise an eyebrow and look closely is a Bad Thing. Yes, people can argue and get bogged down in legal jargon and definitions and who's responsible, and while that's going on TPTB say 'okay, well, to stop all this hassle, we're just going to say no fan fiction at all!' and join the ranks of Anne Rice and all the others who do sue people over writing fic. No, fic won't flourish during the legal battles.

So, yeah. Not seeing the spread of panic, not seeing where there's poor information or misplaced anything.

Despite the long tradition that you just pulled the age card on, fanzies are considered illegal. They're overlooked because they're sold at cost only, but they are illegal and people have gone after fanzines and the plaintif won. Please see the case of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro for proof.

Quite frankly, the law is not as 'gray' as it seems- the right to create derivative works is reserved for the original creator under copyright law, which includes fanfics, unless otherwise stated by the creator. Meaning unless the creator has explicitly said that fanfic is a-okay in their book, fanfiction is illegal. The exceptions are generally considered a fanfic with completely original character in, say, Middle Earth.

Web-published fanfic is also illegal, and people have gone after it and won. See the Jedi Hurtaholics archive, several writers of Vampire Chronicles fanfic (hell, I dare you to tell thebratqueen that web fiction doesn't get C&D letters), and almost certainly some Yarbo stuff as well.

The medium of publication does not affect the legal status of fanfic. At all.
[rahirah]: Exactly. There were several BtVS internet fan sites that got C&D letters, too, although in that case I believe there were complicating factors--IIRC, Fox objected more to the images, video clips, copies of scripts, and so on which were available on those sites than to the fanfic. Nevertheless, at least one site with fanfic on it got caught in the sweep.
[ahab99]: But getting a C&D letter isn't actually the same thing as the activity being definitively illegal. Was there a suit brought afterward? Did a judge actually rule on the issue? Corporations send out C&D letters quite often that insist on more than they'd actually be able to win in court.
[amireal]: Hhm. See. All fanfiction is on dubious legal ground. The medium doesn't matter. Unless you're going to edit our OP to mention that posting fanfiction in public , online archives either so everyone ever who has should take it down until the courts side for them... I think your argument holds no water.
[anax]: Oh my god, I'd better hide this Star Trek fanzine I bought at a con in 1992. *hides it* It has FANFICTION IN IT and OMG IT'S SO WRONG TO PRINT THAT AND TAKE MONEY FOR IT! It could get PEOPLE ON THE INTERNET IN TROUBLE!

I'm scratching my head over this too. I can't believe how many pages I had to go through to find out that this was all about...

Ta da!

A fanzine!

The horror! (I'm now contemplating my zine collection, which includes several hundred zines in at least 20 different fandoms.)

Lessig goes on to talk about the Japanese comics called manga, which in Japan is a huge industry. Manga are not just comics, they are lyric stories that carry on a life of their own in Japanese culture. One variant of manga is what the Japanese call doujinshi; doujinshi is a copycat comic, but it cannot be any copy, the doujinshi should adapt and develop the story of the source manga, either subtly or significantly.

And these copycat comics are a huge part of the manga market, there are huge circles of animators in Japan who create doujinshi. Japanese copyright law closes mirrors that of American copyright law, which means that doujinshi is illegal in Japan, but it flourishes because there is no opposition to it. Does this copycat market destroy the market for the source comics within the manga industry? Hardly, and here is the amazing thing; the doujinshi market actually spurs the manga market on, making it more healthy and productive!
[yuuo]: Everytime a fanficcer has tried to publish their fanfic outside of the internet, even in cases where the author changed the names of the characters so it was 'technically' illegal, it created problems and they tend to result in cease and desist orders. Most authors let us get away with it, because we're quiet and we stick to the internet and no money changes it hands, etc. I'm sorry if you felt I was being some horrible bitch or whatever, but it's the truth of the matter. It's not a smart idea. End of story.

I never said fanzines weren't a copyright violation. My point, since you seem to have missed it, is that selling fanfic has happened before, will happen again, it's nothing to get your panties in a wad over. It's nothing that's going to OMG BRING DOWN THE WRATH OF CORPORATE AMERICA DOWN ON YOUR HEAD.

Most authors let us get away with it, because we're quiet and we stick to the internet

I don't know what makes you so confident that sticking to the internet makes you safe and cozy. Anne Rice goes after internet fanfic. A couple of actors go after internet RPS ficcers. Dude, you just don't know what you're talking about, and it's time to admit that you just have a grudge against sky_dark.

Everytime a fanficcer has tried to publish their fanfic outside of the internet, even in cases where the author changed the names of the characters so it was 'technically' illegal, it created problems

Sorry, but by virtue of the fact that you used the word "every", you are just flat out incorrect. 'Zines have been a presence at cons (fan & professional) for as long as my dusty old brain can remember. If you are reimbursed at cost you are well within the scope of law.

Everytime a fanficcer has tried to publish their fanfic outside of the internet, even in cases where the author changed the names of the characters so it was 'technically' illegal, it created problems and they tend to result in cease and desist orders.

This is flat out incorrect.

I was a fanzine producer and dealer for over ten years, finishing only a couple of years ago. I never, not once, got a cease and desist letter. During my time in zine fandom there were at least two people who were fanzine dealers, and they maybe got one or two for specific zines, but it wasn't universal.

Plus, there are at least two quite well known examples of fan stories 'with the serial numbers filed off' getting published by mainstream publishers (well, if you count 'Gay Men's Press' as a mainstream publisher).

Publishing fanzines to make a profit = bad idea. Publishing fanzines to just break even has been going on since the 1970s - Star Trek fandom alone has hundreds of titles - and has resulted in a very small handful of C&Ds.

Everytime a fanficcer has tried to publish their fanfic outside of the internet, even in cases where the author changed the names of the characters so it was 'technically' illegal, it created problems and they tend to result in cease and desist orders.

Oh my god, what are you smoking?

Zines have been around for years and years and years, and very few cease and desist letters have come about as a result of them -- more have probably been issued against internet fanfiction because the internet is public. What do you think is likely to get attention from TPTB -- a run of 300 slash zines sold "under the table" at a convention, or the same stories, posted in public on the internet on a website?

Zines and internet fanfic stand on exactly the same place in terms of legality, which is actually NOT illegal, it's a grey area not yet defined by law. (At least in the UK, can't speak to all other countries).
[the shoshanna]:

Everytime a fanficcer has tried to publish their fanfic outside of the internet, even in cases where the author changed the names of the characters so it was 'technically' illegal, it created problems and they tend to result in cease and desist orders.

Uh -- what?

No. Completely untrue. LAUGHABLY untrue. Vanishingly few zine publishers ever receive C&D notices; some have, yes, but a tiny minority.

Publishing fan fiction outside the Internet -- in fact, publishing fan fiction before the freaking Internet -- is what CREATED fandom.

Everytime a fanficcer has tried to publish their fanfic outside of the internet, even in cases where the author changed the names of the characters so it was 'technically' illegal, it created problems and they tend to result in cease and desist orders.

If that's so, how do you explain the case of Marion Zimmer Bradley's LotR fanfic "The Jewel of Arwen," which was not just published in a 'zine, but in the Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley volume brought out by DAW back in the 1980s?

Yeah, she wrote a Uhuru/Chapel story in a fanzine in the early eighties, too, that came out in a fanzine. Damn, no idea what zine, other than it was fat (like most Trek zines at the time...).

And then had to go against fan written stories later, after some fan was an ass. Ah, some things never change.
[cerusee addressed yuuo]:

And again, doujinshi artists work under different copyright laws than someone in the US, so that example hardly holds a bit of water as an argument.

No matter how many times you say that, it's still bullshit, as midnightbanshee has pointed out time and again. And it's perfectly relevent from an ethical perspective.

By the way, if you want to get away with concealing your flaming hypocrisy, I would suggest that you should at least put

God knows I still like to buy doujinshi when I can afford it, despite having scans on my HD. and

That doesn't change the fact that you shouldn't do it, and if you do, for gods' sakes, don't do it where anybody but you and the buyer know it's going on.

in seperate comments, instead of one statement after the other. Because right now, you have absolutely no moral credibility whatsoever.

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro went after someone for using her copyrighted characters in a story in a 'zine and it resulted in all copies of the 'zine having to be pulped.

And the reason that happened was because the ficwriter stupidly approached Yarbro for permission to publish the story, Yarbro said "no" (because she's pretty much obligated to do so), and the ficwriter published it anyway. I have no knowledge of whether the zines were actually pulped. [2]

Most zines are not noticed, not challenged, and no more a problem than the bulk of the fic posted on the net. Because if you want to follow your logic all the way out, websites like LJ and hundreds of ISPs are making money off of published fanfiction, and in fact they're making more money than anyone selling a zine at cost is. So Fox and Sony and who all should be suing LJ and all those ISPs which host fic archives.

Except they're not, because a broad-scale attack on fan creativity would be a bad idea from a PR point of view, even if the law were clear on the topic (which it's not). They don't want to alienate the very people who are buying all those dvd sets, after all. Sure, some people think fic is horrible and want to shut it down, but please note that most of them are individual author/creators such as Rice and Yarbro, while most corporate entities that produce media content (such as tv shows and movies) are willing to pretend it doesn't exist, even if they disapprove.

Frankly, from a public relations point of view, zines are safer for fandom, because their distribution is more controlled and you don't have the parents getting upset because their darling children accidentally clicked on a link to, say, a Harry/Snape MPREG bondage PWP. Illustrated. *g*

Out of curiosity, does anyone know why there's such a double standard about selling fanfiction vs selling fanart? I've seen people sell fanart at conventions or take fannish commissions and no one ever batted an eye about it, wheras selling fanfiction tends to cause a huge uproar.

I'm not necessarily saying that it's right to sell fanart or that there might not be perfectly sensible and valid reasons why one is "more okay" than the other, but I'm a little confused by the differing levels of vehemence involved. Does it have to do with the public perception of the medias involved, or something?

Part of it is the cost of supplies involved, at least when it comes to traditional media. (For nontraditional, well, legit copies of photoshop can be expensive). Charging for fanart allows the artist to recover said costs. Over in fanficland, we may be using a computer, sure, but it's not a consumable resource the way art supplies are.

People who buy fanart (especially at cons) are also generally purchaching something physical - ie, the paper the art is drawn or printed on. Fanfic, unless it's in, eg, a printed fanzine, is typically electronic media, so it's not so easy to argue that they've purchased something "physical."

The latter may not matter so much legally (I'm not entirely sure), but it feels like a significant enough difference to me, as someone who writes fanfic and buys fanart, that I don't feel my position is inconsistant.

I don't think it's just the physical, material aspect. Writing is a skill most people should obtain via a standard education system. (Whether or not people can write well is another matter entirely.) Writing is part and parcel of schooling --you can't do essays without figuring out how to string words together, after all. Basically, everyone learns how to write, though to varying degrees of success. While various ficcers may find themselves thinking they could improve their composition skills, no one doubts the fundamental basics of their mandantory skill acquisition.

Drawing, painting, sculpting, etc are all elective skills/talents. More often than not people put extra time, effort, and money into these non-vital skills. I think fanart is often more highly valued because you pretty much have to go out of your way to learn how to draw. It's not a vital skill, and beyond mandantory art electives in elementary and perhaps middle school (again, depending on the system), most people don't learn it. Ergo, it's a rarer skill/talent and is given a higher value accordingly.

The difference as I see it, though, is the relative, uh, usefulness of a printed, bound fic versus a print (or original) of a piece of fanart. If I buy a piece of fanart that I've nver seen until I get to the artist's table, I still have an immediate perception of the quality of the work - both of the art itself and of the printing materials (ink, paper, printing process). It much easier to gauge whether I think the price being charged is fair, and I know I can put it up on my wall when I get home, and probably won't get sick of it too quickly. (There's also the fact that many fanartists do still use traditional media, and so have that recurring cost.) On the other hand, it's difficult to judge the quality of a fic with a cursory glance. Sure, I can tell if it's well-bound on nice paper, but even if I read a few pages it's going to be difficult to tell if I'll enjoy it or get any use out of it. If I don't like it, it's going to be a lot harder to re-sell than if it were a book of original fiction, and I lose out. There's also very little difference in the experience of reading it bound (especially if it's cheaply bound on pages printed at home) versus reading it on the computer.

Zines are a different issue, because they generally offer more than just fiction. There's some guarantee of quality, more than one fic gathered in one publication, and often have other features. Plus they're fun and a part of fandom's history in a way self-published single fics are not.

And then there's also the fact that stories are considered more of an infringement, whereas art, especially when it's based on something that's originally in book or live-action tv/film form, is considered to be less competition.

Nowadays you can have a tablet, draw on computer for 0 overhead, and sure it takes time - but doesn't writing take time? Isn't writing an art? If you argue that art commissions are okay, then what the fuck is the problem with fanfic commissions?

Then again, I never had a problem with zines either :P
[lost eirzo]:

The copyright on visual arts has traditionally been construed much more narrowly than on written works. Usually it only applies to substantially reproducing (copying :) an original image. If the image is transformed to the extent that it is essentially a new image, then the artist can not be said to be copying, and so it doesn't infringe on copyright.

Visual works that are derived from another medium (such as fan illustrations of a TV show or book) are in more of a grey area. I seem to remember there was a case of a woman who did her own illustrations for the Pern Universe who got into trouble with McCaffrey's lawyers. I don't remember the details, but I think in the end she was only required to re-name the pictures and publish them without any reference to Pern. Drawings of actors in media fandoms could generally be argued to be drawings of the actors, not the copyrighted material, and I don't think it's possible to copyright someone's personal appearance.

I think for the most part fan art is given a pass because it's difficult to produce, mostly hand crafted, unless it's distributed digitally it's in very limited quantity, and not in a medium that is likely to compete with the copyright holders. If it started to be mass produced to the point that it began to compete with licensing deals for swag then I bet there would be a crackdown on it.

I don't know much about comics or manga fandoms so maybe they have different concerns since the original work is in an explicitly visual medium.
[gal mentag]:

It really depends on a number of things. Whether or not the material is in the public domain (see also: Gergory Maguire, who writes Wizard of Oz and Fairy Tale fanfiction and is professionally published), whether or not you have permission (see also: Star Wars pro fan works) or whether or not the owner of the copyright actually cares about the breech. And that, I imagine, hinges on what's being written and whether or not money's being made.

When dealing with real people, the line seems a little different. There aren't copyrights on people so that doesn't apply. However, I know that there are books/movies out there that feature real people in fictional situations, Bono was briefly in American Psycho, Velvet Goldmine was transparently based on David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust. If you visit Rockfic Press you'll find fictional books that are *openly* about real people.

Personally? I don't have the testes to do something like that (especially since I don't think I could take much pride in making money off of someone else's characters) and I'm shocked when people do it. But if you're gonna, I guess it pays to have your ass covered so you don't end up like Lori Jareo.
[midnightbanshee addressing yuuo]:

I found it a little unfair that you would single out fanfic as something that could put an end to the practice of fan fiction. Yes there is such a risk. In the same way I could get run over by a truck when I go out. There are always risks in everything. The only thing we can do is either not write/draw at all (as writing fan fic is still an infringement even if you don't sell it), or do it according to what is generally accepted - selling fanzines by mail order/at conventions has been around for a long time. I feel it is significant to note that in such a long history, the most action taken were C & D letters. C & D letters are not the law. They are merely tools lawyers use to flex their muscles.

I do not disagree with the general message you were trying to convey in your original post, although only to the extent where the fan author is trying to sell it to put herself on an equal footing as the copyright owner. When that happens, the US courts have made it very clear that this is not acceptable.

I believe less of a misunderstanding in the replies of your OP would have been avoided if you had stated what kind of scenario you were referring to. Looking at some of the replies here, I cannot help but feel you were inspired by something a fellow circle member of mine did yesterday. Of course, I could be paranoid. But I would rather be proven wrong on this.

Some Comments: Page Two

[youko astrael]:

It's just always better to err on the side of caution. People will, and have, been given the legal smackdown for these kinds of things. If you don't draw attention to yourself, it's all well and good. But if you do something that would make the company handling the copyright basically have to notice you? They'll react for the sake of saving face. See the Wind-Up Records and kerfluffle. A fanit said something, and suddenly bang-boom, songs by Evanescence, Finger Eleven, Creed, etc. cannot be used in AMVs that are uploaded on that site.

One could try to argue fair use until they're blue in the face, but fair use only covers a small usage of the original material, such as a quote in a paper, or altering the source material's meaning to fit your own purpose--such as parody. Taking as much as we do to write fanfic is not fair use, not really. It also would involve the effect of the use on the potential market. May not seem like much, but even a seemingly innocent use of copyrighted material to create something such as fanfic has a potential market, whether or not the company that holds the copyright decides to pursue that market. It wouldn't matter. Not even the disclaimers we put in are enough to completely cover in the case of an infringement suit, though they are taken into consideration.

Also, published, professional authors, such as the ones who write Star Trek and Star Wars novels, are hired and paid by the company--their work is licensed. Not a good example for arguing in favor of this, the average fanwriter is most certainly not on the payroll of the company in question.

To sum it up? Always better to keep your head down and your ass covered. Some things may slip by, but you never know when they won't.
[azure chaos]: i remember about a year or so ago, someone in the X-men fandom were selling their fanfic in books. i was stunned and disgusted.
[antikythera]: Ideally, fanfic writers should police each other on this, as much as they band together on plagiarism in their own ranks, and copyright owners should make it clear that legal trouble can arise if a profit is made from fanfic (and perhaps be quieter about how likely they are personally to prosecute an offender). That will help to prevent more fandoms from falling under fanfic bans, by making the copyright owners understand that fanfic writers mean no disrespect or theft.

And no, I didn't go out of my way to 'induce panic', I said exactly what most people will agree to

And I think the problem many of us are having here is that you did say exactly what most people will agree to. What you didn't say is the specifics of the case which inspired this. So a lot of people who might have disagreed with you jumped on the agreement bandwagon because your point seemed more generalized than it became in the comments.

As for inducing panic: This is the internet and you know as well as I do that in text, intent doesn't always go very far. You have to be mindful of your tone, and even my limited experience with fanficrants tells me that replies tend to match the tone of the OP. You had several all caps outbursts and kept saying things like, "We could all get in trouble if someone with a copyright on something gets a bee up their ass about this."

...which, not surprisingly, freaked people out.

And then in the comments threads, your point suddenly didn't seem so generalized anymore when funkybrewsta started replying. The problem most people are having here isn't your point in general. Most of us know that zines are copyright violations. What we're getting defensive about is the fact that this has been going on for years, but Sky's case set you off into ranting. That, combined with other disparaging remarks about her in the earlier comments threads, feels very much like a grudge wank.
[yuuo, regarding The Adventures of Roy Mustang: Sex Ed Teacher]:

::sighs:: Quite frankly, yes, your case is what prompted me to make a post, but your case is not the only one I'd say something about.

'Zines, printed fanfic, hell, fanfic in generally, is still considered illegal. Yes. Zines are illegal. And people have gone after them, and have won.

I never once said it was right or fair, given that fanart is protected as a transformative work and fanfic isn't, but it's the truth. It. Is. Illegal.

Do I think anyone who owns a copyright over FMA is gonna give a flying flipping fuck about your fanfic? No. Can I understand wanting to have a nice printed copy of something you enjoyed? Yes. Like I said, yours is hardly the only case I'd say "for the love of god, don't do it" to.

Until and unless someone has the resources to back them up in court over the issue, it is not a good idea to be drawing attention to the fanfiction community, however marginal the attention is. Which was the point of what I said.

Your example is what prompted me to make the post, but the 'you' in the post is a general 'you' to anyone who thinks it's a good idea to try to sell fanfic where people can see you doing it. If you had a fan approach you about the idea privately in email, fuck, go for it- I can understand wanting a nice hard copy of something, like I said. But waving it about in a con isn't a good idea, regardless of how little you're charging for it. I'm sorry, but I'm going to stand by what I said on that one.

Can I just interject here?

The "fanfiction" community is a small part of the "fandom" community. The "fandom" community is what people in Public Relations and Marketing call "a market". They know that the fans will buy things related to whatever. They also know that they can't possibly supply the demand the fandom will generate. They think of fan fiction (if they think of it at all) as "free publicity".

Next point: most creators of things which spawn fanfiction tend to be fairly flattered by the fact that someone likes what they've done enough to play with it. It's a compliment. People like getting compliments, so most creators will allow the fans their playtime. After all, it's free publicity as well as flattery.

Third point: the majority of fan-item-based trade tends to happen either at conventions, in specialist shops, or over the internet. Conventions are gatherings of fans; specialist shops cater to the fans; and the internet provides a place where fans from all around the world can get together and reinforce their fandom. All of which makes the creators and the publishers money. Trust me, the people at the Cons *know* there will be fanfic on sale, as well as fanart and other fan produce. What the hey do you think the Dealer's Room at the average Con is for?

Point the Final: yes, there have been cases where someone in the fandom has done something stupid. Yes, there have been cases where the fandom has agreed with the creators or the publishers and said "yes, you should not have done that". However, there have been a lot *more* cases where the general opinion has been that the company is Being Bloody Stupid (eg WB chasing off Harry Potter fansites etc). Companies don't like those - they lose money when they lose PR points.

I don't think that one person selling one fanmag at one convention in one city on one occasion will cause the whole apparatus of all fandoms to fall in, and I doubt that the companies will bother chasing the majority of fanfiction writers in the first place. It'd be like trying to cure malaria by swatting each and every mosquito in the world.
[rainy mushroom]:

What the fucking shit? You mean there's some fucktard out there pulling stuff outta their ass like this?

  • points to icon* That bitch better not get their way. I just started writing fic, and I really like it. If that gets taken away from me, then I guess I'll just have to share it with two friends of mine and not get an opinion from others as to how I could improve my basic writing skills.
But WORD. Well-constructed rant you got there.

Yes, they have. They've gone after web fiction, which is also illegal, and won, too. Zines are in fact still around, the sky has not fallen, TPTB have not descended on us like locusts. There are tables of zines for sale at cons.

And the bottom line is that your fiction, your web-published fiction is exactly as illegal as the printed copies, even if those printed copies were sold for profit, which it sounds like they're not. The medium does not matter. The money does not matter except insofar as profit, actual profit, might, I repeat might raise more ire (I've actually no evidence that it's so).

No, fans shouldn't make money, make a profit off of fanfi, because it's tacky, and it violates the sharing that is the basis of fandom. But if the printing out and selling of fanfic at cost were going to be our doom, you wouldn't even be here, because we'd never have gotten this far.

Welcome to fandom. I can only assume you're very new to it, because anyone who's been part of this large and noisy community for any length of time knows that EVERYTHING WE DO IS "ILLEGAL". Fan fiction and fan art are considered derivative works, and are thus reserved for the HOLDERS OF THE COPYRIGHT, otherwise known as TPTB. The medium of these derivative works is irrelevant under the law. Your web-published fan fiction is every bit as "illegal" (that word is not always accurate -- depending on the jurisdiction and the offense, it may be dealt with as either a criminal or civil matter) as the fiction that has been published in zines for over forty years now.

Let me make myself clear -- if TPTB wanted to, if it was worth it to them, they would be within their legal rights to shut you down and sue you for everything you own. (And quite frankly, you've made it far easier for them to find you on the net than you could ever have done in zines.) Your offenses under the law are no different than those of the people you've been castigating here. These are the risks that every fanfic writer runs, and has run, every day for the past forty years. Those zine writers that you've been abusing *created* the fandoms in which you so blithely play, apparently with no knowledge of their history or the risks involved in being a fanfic writer. Know the facts before you speak. Where on earth did you think fandom *came* from?...

*laughing* Of course, what was I thinking? Fandom was invented by the Internet, and the Internet was invented by the child-fen. Fandom's children are now its grandparents. *rolls eyes* Ah, well. The oh-so-discreet net will be forwarding our C&Ds any time now, and we'll be back to typing our fic on manual typewriters by candlelight. *g*
[velvet mace]:

The problem with that Starwars chick is she picked a fandom that DOES care about what fanfiction can and can't be put out (it does however allow some forms, like movies!), and she put it out in such a way that it was indistinguishable from an authorized expanded universe novel. There is no one who will make this mistake with Sky's fanzine (or any other fanzine).

Shades of grey. This isn't going to cause the end of the internets for us fanwriters, as you seem to imply

...Because bitching about it really doesn't bring extra attention to it and heighten the chances of "oh noes, no more fanfic!!1" from happening? Right-o.

Not that it would happen, since it's never been legal but has been around for longer than you or I have been alive.

So yeah, good job on the whole "let's start up some vague paranoia and blame it on someone I've got a personal grudge against"! +1 for no name-dropping, and therefore not pointing a direction for people to go in for another source of information. Because, hey, can't let people know that it's one goddamned dollar or less! Because Where's the fun horror in that?

Damn, and I thought I had no life.

But nevermind, clearly, the BNFs are always right and the non-BNFs can't so much as take a shit without a BNF saying that the scent is an insult to them, and have a few dozen sheep come in to back them up.

Okay, that's my goat obtained.

Now, I don't give a shit which fandom you're from, and I don't care what the fuck you think about my interjection here, but let's get one thing straight: fandom is *co-operative*. This stupid, stupid notion that BNFs run the whole damn thing and there's nothing whatsoever that anyone else can fecking well do is complete and utter *crap*.

You don't like the way something is going in a fandom? Great! What are you going to do about it? Are you going to provide an alternative, or are you just going to sit there whining about the awful BNFs oppressing you? You don't like someone else's work and you don't understand why other people do? Hells, welcome to the way most of us feel when facing

You have precisely as much of a part in any fandom as you are willing to take. If you're going to turn the whole fucking thing into high school popularity and bitching wars, feel free. But do it somewhere else.

Now fuck the hell off out of fanficrants, and go play in fandom_wank where this whole fucking sub-thread belongs.
[cereta]: You are aware that a fair number of us involved in this discussion don't know either the OP or the alleged BNF from Eve, right? That we're way more interested in the fact that a whopping amount of what's being said here shows a fairly serious misunderstanding of both the history and current practices of fandom?
[lanning]: Okay, I don't know the author (never heard of her, in fact) and I'm not a "BNF" or a "sheep," but your language has made it obvious to me that this is a personal grudge masquerading as a valid issue. What on earth does the author's perceived status as a BNF (a concept which is, by the way, total bullshit invented by developmentally arrested types behaving as if they're still in junior high) have to do with publishing her work in zine format, which thousands of authors do every year, and have done since the late 60s?

Yes, there are certain cases that are problematic. I know of one person who put fan material on a CD and tried to give it to the Firefly actors. Another woman wanted to be paid for her fanfic so she could make a living at it. These types of things are aberrations -- and when they happen, fandom calls them on it.

If you think printed fanfic is a problem, stay away from it. Don't expect the rest of us, many of whom have dozens or hundreds or zines in their collections, to get worked up about it.
[lanning]: The practice of making and selling zines for cost is decades old. Until the very recent availability of the internet, zines were the *only* source of fan fiction, and as others have pointed out, the sky did not fall. The zine tradition is thriving quite nicely. I can't imagine where you would get the idea that zines were "uncommon," or that a zine is more visible than a website one can reach with a couple of clicks in Google. At any rate, it's high time that the folks who labor under the delusion that they invented fandom in a chat room a year ago wake up and smell the coffee.


  1. [sky dark]: "Particulars: A 347 page manuscript, printed on 60# offset, includes 10 single sided b/w prints on 100# coated text. Covers (2), 4/0 on 100# coated cover with 2 mil laminate, 2 sided, flush cut. Dividers, 19 on 60# astrobright lunar blue text. Black spiral bound. Cost to produce, approx. 24.00 per book, selling price 25.00 per book. Being considerably older than most of the posters here, I remember this is how we use to get our fanfiction. Thanks for asking <3"
  2. Many copies were indeed destroyed, see The Holmesian Federation.