1. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Senior Member

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    Fan Fiction When is it not Fan-Fiction?

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by J.T. Woody, Oct 18, 2018.

    This thought has been on my mind all day.

    I'm listening to Christopher Moore's The Serpent Of Venice via audiobook and I've read Lamb by him. These are awesome and hilarious books, but when did it stop being a fanfiction?

    *Spoiler Alert*
    Lamb is a Biblical comedy about Jesus's childhood best friend and the mischief he and young Jesus get in to.
    Serpent of Venice is about a court fool who basically initiates the events in Othello (he is responsible for getting Othello to marry Desdemona for example) and The Merchant of Venice. At times, Moore uses direct dialogue from the plays.

    I know Shakespeare id dead and the Bible "has not author" so it doesnt violate any coopywright law (?), but I'm really just curious
     
  2. Arae

    Arae New Member

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    If the original work is in the public domain, then that means that someone can use it without fear of legal repercussions (in most cases, at least). Most works, in particular books, automatically enter the public domain around 50 years after the author's death. Thus, it's common to see books and movies that are blatantly based off Shakespeare's plays, as well as other classics.

    One exception to this was the character Sherlock Holmes. Up until a few years ago, one would have to acquire the right to use him in an original work, as Doyle's heirs actually managed to retain his copyright even over 90 years after his death. His heirs continued to receive royalties from both Doyle's original works and any works that were explicitly based off Doyle's plotlines or characters. But then a judge determined that Holmes should enter the public domain, as he claimed that these restrictions could potentially cause such a prolific character to eventually be forgotten. But up until then, even the popular TV show could have been considered an "official" fanfiction of sorts. That is, if one regards fanfiction more a matter of legality than originality.

    There is also a matter of genre to be considered here. For example, we have the "pastiche" and "parody," which one can potentially create, even of more recent works that aren't necessarily in the public domain, without technically violating copyright laws. The main difference between pastiche and parody is that the pastiche is often affectionate; it deliberately seeks to imitate in order to improve upon. A parody, on the other hand, most often seeks to mock, either for comedic purposes or as a mode of genuine criticism for the original work or a genre as a whole. One might even regard these as fanfictions, albeit ones that have existed for much longer than the modern interpretation of a fanfiction.

    Honestly, that which constitutes a fanfiction is largely subjective.

    For me, it has more to do with legal issues than anything else. Fanfiction is more a term used to protect people from getting sued because it alludes to "free use." As long as one isn't monetarily profiting from it, they're free to create it. Entire sites have even been created for exactly that.

    But as for me, if a person or company gains the proper licenses for a pre-existing universe, then no, it can no longer be considered a fanfiction because that person/people now possess control over the canonical lore, be that for better or worse. And if a person draws inspiration from another work, but it's largely original, then no, it also can't be considered fanfiction because it's existing in its own separate universe. According to the second statement here, then, at least to a degree, The Serpent of Venice could be regarded as a fanfiction/transformative work because it's directly affecting the work(s) it's based off of--but as for legal matters here, then because Shakespeare has been dead for so long, then it also couldn't be considered a fanfiction. The author is free to both create it and make money off it. So, it's hard to say for that one. Again, it depends on whether the fanfiction is an actual mode of writing or just a method of people avoiding potential lawsuits, which is closer to an opinion from person to person than one objective fact.

    Also, I know that this question was posted a while back, but I was recently researching a similar topic, so when I saw a question about it, I wanted to go ahead and answer it.
     
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  3. Artifacs

    Artifacs Senior Member

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    I'm glad you did it, @Arae. It'd have take me some time to discorver the topic and it's very interesting. Your post is very illustrative (does this word even exist?). In case not, I meant I've learn a lot, thanks.

    I think Cervantes wrote about the most fan guy that took Fan Fiction too far. He also kill him to avoid Fan Fiction. Cervantes wrote a second book about Don Quixote to kill him because there were so many Fan Fiction works about his character roamin around Spain that couln't take it. He actually complain about it in his second book using a character speaking (for him) in a tavern bitching about the other writers. That's curious too.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2018
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  4. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    I mean, if you really want to spin it that way, technically The Divine Comedy is Dante's self-insert Mary Sue getting to meet all the most famous and popular people of history and pass judgment on them, right?

    Right??
     
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  5. Arae

    Arae New Member

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    It's official, then. Someone's got to go to Archive of Our Own and put The Divine Comedy in the "Celebrities and Real People" section.
     
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  6. kaybarton

    kaybarton New Member

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    By now I think it's fairly well known that Cassandra Claire's Mortal Instruments series started its life as Harry Potter fan fiction and E L James's Fifty Shades series started its life as Twilight fan fiction; but in that same breath, I do feel it's not just any AU that qualifies itself for publishing as something other than fan fiction provided you change any recognizable names. Like I read a truly amazing sci-fi AU for BBC's Merlin that would never pass muster as an original work because even with changed names, it would be way too easy to trace it back to the source material. However, I also recently read a lovely Victorian, non-magic AU of Harry Potter which still had either vampires, werewolves, or both; it would have made an AMAZING piece of original fiction if the author had changed the names because the time period, setting, a medical school, and the continued presence of Harry parents meant enough changes had occurred to the character's personalities that they couldn't really be accused of being expys of themselves.

    I may be wrong, but I'm sure part of their ability to keep hanging on to the copyright for the character of Sherlock Holmes for so long is because the last short story published using him was in 1927 and only works published up to 1924 are 100% in the public domain (at least in the US). So I'm sure they tried to make an argument that because stories involving the character by the original copyright holder were still under copyright then the character should still be under copyright as well.

    I do know a lot of the changes around copyright in recent years can, in part, be traced back to Disney not wanting to let Mickey get released into the public domain. So, you know, if you want to keep an eye on which way the copyright wind is going, track when Mickey's due to be released into the public domain.
     
  7. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Senior Member

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    So i found the Star Wars section of my library and..... its just a bunch of authors writing Star Wars fanfiction :ohno:

    curious: why are those books not considered fanfiction?
     
  8. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think fanfiction is as much a marketing category as any other genre, and as such it's probably not going to be too productive to try to find clear boundaries for it.

    If a work is marketed (based on where it's posted on the web or NOT posted, etc.) as fanfic, it's fanfic. If it's marketed as something else, it's probably something else. If someone (original copyright holder, etc.) objects to it being marketed as something else, then it may get bumped back to fanfic.

    ETA: And, of course, as with most genres it's totally possible for something to fit into the fanfic category AND into another category. If legally able, it makes sense for a work that crosses categories like that to be marketed as the OTHER category, since there's more money in non-fanfic.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2019
  9. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Lo's Diary ran into problems when it was published back in 1995? It was a sidequel telling the Lolita story from Lo's pov. Dimitri Nabokov who held the copyright on his father's work threatened to sue when the book was being translated into English. They settled out of court and he got half the royalties and wrote an introduction. Parodies don't require copyright or transformative work but since Lo's Diary was neither it wasn't protected.
     
  10. suddenly BANSHEES

    suddenly BANSHEES Senior Member

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    I'm a little late to the party, but if these books are licensed by the company or owner of the original work, then they're technically part of an "extended universe" and are canon in some way.

    I know someone who's friend has a Dragon Age novel in the works, licensed by Bioware and everything. By all means, whatever she ends up writing will be canon within that universe. (And I'm excited to see what it is!)
     
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  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    This is false, at least in the U.S. You can be sued for copyright infringement, and lose, even if you aren't profiting from the use. That's just one factor in the fair use analysis. A lot of content creators are lenient with fanfiction if people aren't making money on it, but some are more strict about it and lack of profit in and of itself won't necessarily shield you from damages in a lawsuit.
     
  12. suddenly BANSHEES

    suddenly BANSHEES Senior Member

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    Didn't Anne Rice go on some huge crusade against fanfiction back in the day? Like with lawsuits and everything?

    That could be worth looking into for folks curious about the legal repercussions of fanfiction.
     
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  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Anne Rice was notoriously against fan fiction, at least in the 1990s and early 2000s. She made comments about it saying that she absolutely prohibited it. I don't know if she sued anyone.
     

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