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Old 11-30-2008, 09:33 AM   #1
Kirok
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The copyright issues of fan fiction eBooks

At the suggestion of the admins I'm splitting my post for advise in two and posting the copyright questions here and the technical aspects of it on the file conversion forum. I'll explain my project first ...

I'm a Star Trek fan who writes under the name of Kirok of L'Stok and over the years I've written for, edited and published various newsletters and fanzines as well as organised various online events which has solidified into one I've been doing for the past two years called "The Twelve Trek Days of Christmas" (2007 and 2008) where over twelve days I organise twelve "giveaways" of various types to do with fan productions. Last year I publicised the work done by fans in fan films, paper models and gaming as well as doing an independant series of podbooks/audiobooks

The position of fan productions in popular media is changing but we still live by the grace of the copyright owners. Every production, whether it's a written fiction, a fan film, an audio drama or a music video has a disclaimer to the fact that the writer or producer does not exercise any legal right over the intellectual property that the copyright owners lay claim to. If you want to pursue the topic further I've got gobbins of stuff about it on my fanzine, Acrux ... I also waxed lyrical on the subject HERE.

Recently I was made director of publications and media at TrekUnited and this gave me some pretty nifty connections and resources so I decided that this year we would seriously break some new ground by expanding the publication of Star Trek fan fiction into ePublications. Up 'til now fan fictions have been posted on message boards like the venerable alt.startrek.creative, lodged on archives like TrekFiction.com or published, piecemeal, on forums like our own on TrekUnited.

This makes the fan fiction community pretty close-knit and friendly but it isn't really reader-friendly. Technology-wise it's sort of like using a nailgun as a hammer or correcting your word-processing mistakes with "white-out" on the monitor! In other media, fans have embraced technology and now have access to the worlds of cinema, animation, comics and computer games to combine their fan experience with their creativity to achieve some pretty impressive things.

Why not fan fiction, thinks I?
  • Why not have them available as downloadable pdf's that can be browsed online using an embedded viewer like ISSUU?
  • Why not make them available to the world over the Scribd network?
  • Why are there no archives of downloadable eBooks that I can read on the train with my iPaq?
  • If there is free five-minute fiction daily online, why isn't it common to see RSS used more?
As far as I can see there are no insurmountable philosophical and technical problems that can stop this.

I've been pimping for submissions for over a month now and so far we have six books in different stages of development. Basically what I'd like to do is to take a manuscript and ...
  • Host and, depending on response, help arrange a cover graphic that can also be downloaded as a mini-poster
  • Host a link to a "Print on Demand" ready pdf in A4 and US Letter.
  • Host the book in an embedded Issuu browser, so that it will be available on the Issuu network
  • Lodge the pdf on the Scribd network giving it a potential audience of 20 million monthly visitors worldwide!
  • Link to a downloadable eBook in Mobipocket format. NB eBooks can be advertised on the free eBook forums.
  • Link to a downloadable eBook in either eReader or Stanza (which uses ePub) both of which can be read on mobile phones like the iPhone.

This is where you come in: here are the issues that I can see I'd appreciate your input on them ...
  • When I say a "Print on Demand" ready pdf, the main reason is to make the pdf look better online rather than because of an expectation that users will print out the books in any great numbers - however this would be a good option to have. Does printing out a fanfiction violate copyright any more than publishing it online? The actual sin happens when the author publishes his fan fiction because of the Intellectual propery violation, if they take this file to a "Print On Demand" printer and get him to make up a hard-bound or paperback copy of it then he (the printer) is simply performing a service for the customer by processing the file given to him. It could be a grocery list for all he knows! The printer can expect to make a profit for his printing since the customer is paying for the printing service BUT there is no exchange of payment for the intellectual property of the book. Frankly I feel this is going to be a rare occurrence at the best of times. An author might want a copy of their book, a club might like to see a copy in their library, but beyond that? [Of course if the author were so stupid as to try to sell copies of his book that would be an actionable offense and I would be the first to shop him!]
  • I've had no feedback from ISSUU or Scribd about their attitude towards fan fiction but, by the same token, I've not seen anything specifically against it either. Anybody know anything about them?
  • Ethically I can see no difference between us creating, hosting and making available for free an eBook copy of a fan fiction and someone who produces a fan film, an audio drama or any other form of fan production - the only difference is in the media. As long as we make it abundantly clear that the authors and producers make no claim to the intellectual property of Star Trek, there is a clear precedent that we can follow.
My own belief is that a strong fan production community is more likely to open up new markets for the copyright owners and their licensees by "whetting the fan's whistle" for the Trek franchise than it is likely to harm it.

For discussion on the technical aspects of our programme please reply on the thread I have on the Format Conversion subforum. I look forward to your feedback.

Cheers

Kirok of L'Stok
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Old 11-30-2008, 12:10 PM   #2
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Kirok, as you pointed out, your fan material exists at the sufferance of the franchise owners. This is usually because the franchise owners expect (hope) that your fanfiction will draw more interest in their legitimate property, and make them more money. Usually, about the only real line they are going to draw is the point at which you start making money off their property without giving them a cut. (Sometimes, they will object if they feel you are "cheapening" the property overmuch, but it often takes a lot of cheapening to make them object that much.)

Therefore, as long as you make it clear that your material does not earn you a dime, the franchise owners will probably stay off your back.

With e-books (and print-on-demand books), you're getting into an area that, if the discussions of this site are any indication, is still so outside of most organizations' understanding that they simply do not know how e-books or POD will affect them. Unfortunately, the music industry's problems are well-documented, and many people assume e-books will yield the same problems with piracy and loss of income that the music industry sites.

This means you'll have to be careful, and maybe a bit proactive, in making it clear that you have no intention of profiting from said work. You may want to get in touch with the franchise owners, if you’ve had contact and communication with them in the past, and inform them of your intentions in advance. If you already have a positive relationship with them, discussing the matter beforehand will likely help smooth over any such bumps in the road.

You are probably already doing many of the things you need to do to avoid copyright violations now. You just need to make those efforts more prominent and transparent, in order to avoid new troubles from people who don’t understand the new media.

Here's the worst part: If your fans are discovered to be reselling your material, whether that was your stated intention or not, it could be grounds for the franchisee to slap you with a cease and desist notice for providing the material to them. You might even be considered liable to some extent. It therefore is in your best interests to discourage such activity by your supporter base, either by appealing to their understanding that impropriety on their part could end the ride for everyone, or by taking steps (DRM, the technical method) to make such efforts too much trouble for most of them to bother.

Regarding copyright violations, as far as I know, printing fanfic is essentially no different in the legal eye than making e-books available. Money given to a printer to print a document for yourself is considered fair use. If anything, you might have to convince the printer that your material does not violate a copyright… if they believe it does, they can refuse to print it, and even try to report you to the authorities over it (rare, but possible). Your not-for-profit stance should be clear at all times, to satisfy all parties of your intentions.
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Old 11-30-2008, 01:16 PM   #3
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Kirok, as you pointed out, your fan material exists at the sufferance of the franchise owners...
An interesting and thoughtful response, thankyou, Steve. I have to race off to work right now but I'll get back to you this evening.

You hit the nail on the head when you identified piracy as the entertainment industry's number one threat and i liked the analogy with the music industry. Unfortunately the stance of the studio has been to not respond to correspondence about fan productions. There have only been two documented cases of solid contact, with the fan film group, Star Trek: New Voyages and the audio drama group, Darker Projects, from which the fan community has built a set of 'rules' that have kept the status quo to date.

Gotta run

Cheers

K
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Old 11-30-2008, 06:36 PM   #4
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You hit the nail on the head when you identified piracy as the entertainment industry's number one threat and i liked the analogy with the music industry.
It's still a point of contention, even amongst the well-informed. Unfortunately, the not-so-well-informed tend to use the closest example they can find to fill in the blanks, and right now, that's coming from the music industry.

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Unfortunately the stance of the studio has been to not respond to correspondence about fan productions. There have only been two documented cases of solid contact, with the fan film group, Star Trek: New Voyages and the audio drama group, Darker Projects, from which the fan community has built a set of 'rules' that have kept the status quo to date.
That suggests that they will turn a blind eye to everything except clear indications of profit off of their franchise that they are not a part of. In that case, making your own intentions clear in your material and documentation would probably be enough to keep you out of hot water. Although, as I said earlier, the actions of a few fans could still queer things for you, at least you would probably not be considered liable for their transgressions.
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Old 12-01-2008, 07:18 AM   #5
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That suggests that they will turn a blind eye to everything except clear indications of profit off of their franchise that they are not a part of. In that case, making your own intentions clear in your material and documentation would probably be enough to keep you out of hot water. Although, as I said earlier, the actions of a few fans could still queer things for you, at least you would probably not be considered liable for their transgressions.
The fact that authors and publishers are willing to "turn a blind eye" to fan fiction doesn't alter the fact that its legality is, to put it mildly, dubious. Fan Fiction is almost certainly illegal, in that it is a "derived work", and you aren't allowed to create a derived work without the permission of the copyright holder. Whether or not it's done for profit is entirely irrelevent to a discussion of its legality, although is obviously of relevence to whether or not the copyright holder is willing to put up with it.
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Old 12-01-2008, 08:33 AM   #6
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The Sleeping Giant Syndrome

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The fact that authors and publishers are willing to "turn a blind eye" to fan fiction doesn't alter the fact that its legality is, to put it mildly, dubious. Fan Fiction is almost certainly illegal, in that it is a "derived work", and you aren't allowed to create a derived work without the permission of the copyright holder. Whether or not it's done for profit is entirely irrelevent to a discussion of its legality, although is obviously of relevence to whether or not the copyright holder is willing to put up with it.
Would that life were black and white like that instead of all different shades and hues!

Copyright piracy - the exact copying and distribution of professionally produced films, TV series and their licensed merchandise - is a multi-million dollar "cottage-industry" and anyone who knowingly supports it is not a fan they're just a damn fool! In the case of Star Trek, the simple fact of the matter is that the more profit Paramount make from Trek, the more chance there is that they will make more series and movies. Make no bones about it, buying or downloading bootleg movies or TV episodes is theft and it is a major cause of loss of revenue for the studios.

However what we are talking about here is not copyright piracy. Fan productions have been described as a type of unauthorised "derivative work", they are productions that use Trek designs and lore as a jumping off point or a framework for entirely new and original tales. Fan producers freely acknowledge that the trademarks and copyrights that they mention in their works belong to the studio and because of this they make no attempt to profit from their work.

To me, the overriding question when considering the response and relationship between the growing number of fan productions and the copyright owners boils down to - Is this a legal problem or a commercial problem? I mean, are they compelled by law to take a certain course of action or can they respond in a manner that best suits their commercial needs? To put it bluntly: are the lawyers in charge or are the corporate managers?

Let's view this as an ethical question. What is the purpose of the copyright laws? To make money for lawyers? No, I don't think that's the idea. I think it is fair to summarise it as the assertion of the rights of ownership by the professional producers over their works, the characters, designs, scripts, music … etc. These rights of ownership usually mean getting a fair monetary return by the producers and distributors for their investment but it can also include the rights of the creators (scriptwriters, composers etc) to be identified as the authors of their work. This protects against plagiarism and assumes that they should have a certain creative control over the use that others might make of their work. The threat of litigation is the force that the law uses to enforce the owner's rights when they are compromised. However the last I heard, litigation was a last ditch option and NOT mandatory.

Fan production creators as a whole have no problem with any of this. They acknowledge the commercial right of ownership that the copyright owners have and there is no attempt to divert any money away from them. From an artistic standpoint, they not only acknowledge the work of the writers and directors, they venerate them! Remember we are talking about fans here! I see no need for punitive action. It's the old "Golden Rule": Respect - You get what you give. You respect Paramount's commercial need to make a profit from their merchandise and intellectual properties and they will respect the fan production groups right to exist. If one side or the other breaks the gentlemen's agreement that exists then they will loose the respect of the other parties, the balance will be lost and we all loose.

The question is: will this situation, continue? Could Paramount be a sleeping giant who might awaken and destroy it all? I asked this question of Jack Marshal, at that time an Executive Producer of Star Trek: New Voyages, in an interview for Starfleet International's "Communique" back in 2005.
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I suppose they could, but why would they? Believe it or not, Paramount is very aware of it's Trek fanbase and the last thing they want to do is have another web crusade like they did in the 90's where they shut people's websites down and alienated the fans. We've had some preliminary talks with them regarding licensing and before that had been in constant contact with Viacom's legal department and know that if we follow the groundwork they've laid for us, we'll be ok. … our success has been a double edged sword. But a danger of getting shut down? I think it's nil as long as we follow the guidelines they've set out for us.
Personally I doubt if any responsible business manager in the entertainment industry would commit financial suicide by alienating their fanbase just before a major movie is about to be put out, just for the sake of making a point. What would they get in restitution? As soon as I get a C&D I will C&D so it will not go to court and even if it did I would willingly give them exactly what I had made from fan productions - not one brass razoo!

I have more respect for the business accumen of the copyright owners and licensees.

K

Last edited by Kirok; 12-01-2008 at 08:38 AM. Reason: improving grammar
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Old 12-01-2008, 09:16 AM   #7
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As you indicated, making the copyright owners happy is key to their allowing you to do what you want to do. Ultimately, all they are worried about is their profit, and as long as they believe your existence will earn them more of it in the long run, they won't give you much grief.

Using the characters, settings, names, etc, of Star Trek is really a trademark issue, not a copyright issue. Ethically speaking, Paramount has knowingly allowed you to use its trademark material thus far, which is a tacit acceptance that what you are doing is not objectionable to them. (This would be taken into account in most legal proceedings.) Obviously, this can change at any time, if you begin to create something new that does object to them--content-wise, stories about Kirk as an Orion slave girl pimp, for example, or material-wise, physical content that others can redistribute and resell--but in most cases, the trademark owner would voice their objection of that particular type of content or material, not all of it, as long as they do not believe your actions have irrevocably damaged the value of the trademark.

I'd say, give it a try. If you've never regularly communicated with them in the past, I wouldn't bother now... but if you have some means of making a public statement about your intentions beforehand, something Paramount could easily find or access, that would probably be enough to satisfy all parties. Then just be prepared to respond to any concerns voiced by Paramount, if any come up.
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Old 12-01-2008, 09:50 AM   #8
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As you indicated, making the copyright owners happy is key to their allowing you to do what you want to do. Ultimately, all they are worried about is their profit, and as long as they believe your existence will earn them more of it in the long run, they won't give you much grief.

Using the characters, settings, names, etc, of Star Trek is really a trademark issue, not a copyright issue. Ethically speaking, Paramount has knowingly allowed you to use its trademark material thus far, which is a tacit acceptance that what you are doing is not objectionable to them. (This would be taken into account in most legal proceedings.) Obviously, this can change at any time, if you begin to create something new that does object to them--content-wise, stories about Kirk as an Orion slave girl pimp, for example, or material-wise, physical content that others can redistribute and resell--but in most cases, the trademark owner would voice their objection of that particular type of content or material, not all of it, as long as they do not believe your actions have irrevocably damaged the value of the trademark.

I'd say, give it a try. If you've never regularly communicated with them in the past, I wouldn't bother now... but if you have some means of making a public statement about your intentions beforehand, something Paramount could easily find or access, that would probably be enough to satisfy all parties. Then just be prepared to respond to any concerns voiced by Paramount, if any come up.
I've thought about making a prominent "one-cent sized" cover logo for Fan-made books - perhaps a big red "F" on a yellow circle! - but unless it were well designed it would be intrusive and ugly. Certainly something on the title page, backed up with a fuller statement on the editions page. It wouldn't hurt to sweeten the deal by putting a free, fan-made advertisement for a Simon & Schuster Trek eBook in the back of each fan book!
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Old 12-01-2008, 10:00 AM   #9
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However what we are talking about here is not copyright piracy. Fan productions have been described as a type of unauthorised "derivative work", they are productions that use Trek designs and lore as a jumping off point or a framework for entirely new and original tales. Fan producers freely acknowledge that the trademarks and copyrights that they mention in their works belong to the studio and because of this they make no attempt to profit from their work.
I accept what you say, but the fundamental question I'd ask is why you feel a need to use someone else's "property" in your fiction at all? If you want to write, then why not write original fiction, rather than setting it in somebody else's "back yard"?

No disrespect, but you say that you aren't claiming any rights over anyone else's intellectual property, but I'm sure you'd accept that you are, nonetheless, making use of that property without their permission. That seems ethically wrong to me, regardless of any legal aspects of the issue.
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Old 12-01-2008, 12:49 PM   #10
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It's still a point of contention, even amongst the well-informed. Unfortunately, the not-so-well-informed tend to use the closest example they can find to fill in the blanks, and right now, that's coming from the music industry.

That suggests that they will turn a blind eye to everything except clear indications of profit off of their franchise that they are not a part of. In that case, making your own intentions clear in your material and documentation would probably be enough to keep you out of hot water. Although, as I said earlier, the actions of a few fans could still queer things for you, at least you would probably not be considered liable for their transgressions.
I believe the exact work is still under copyright by the fanfic writer even if it is fanfiction so if someone sells your work (or even redistributes it without your permission) you can still go after them and the original author may help you in that regard.

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Old 12-01-2008, 01:03 PM   #11
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I accept what you say, but the fundamental question I'd ask is why you feel a need to use someone else's "property" in your fiction at all? If you want to write, then why not write original fiction, rather than setting it in somebody else's "back yard"?
Hey... some people just appreciate other's material enough to emulate it. Look, you've got a Dalek TM for a picture. You didn't create that!

Don't be too hard on fans, they're just doing what's fun for them to do, using a vehicle they appreciate. Consider it the "sincerest form of flattery."
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Old 12-01-2008, 01:21 PM   #12
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Hey... some people just appreciate other's material enough to emulate it. Look, you've got a Dalek TM for a picture. You didn't create that!

Don't be too hard on fans, they're just doing what's fun for them to do, using a vehicle they appreciate. Consider it the "sincerest form of flattery."
Harry has a point .

Chris Johnstone wrote an excellent review of the audio book biography of Tolkein for the last copy of Ethel The Aardvark, the fanzine of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club, that seemed to catalyse for him (or her?) a personal questioning of how honest he was in his ability to sub-create his own fictional world when he writes his magnum opus.

It was interesting for me because fan productions – fan fiction, films or audio dramas for example – are based on the fictional worlds of others. Does this imply that they are based on a basic dis-honesty?

In fact, taking this one step further, could the fan fiction author be misleading their reader with the implication that their entertainment experience, whether it is a written fiction or a fan film, is a product of the skill and talent of the fan author or production crew? When in fact the fascination of a piece of fan fiction is built on the foundation of others work, the professionals who created the original on which the fanfic is based?
I would disagree. Surely only the most casual and uninformed of viewers or readers would think that. Both readers and writers have one thing in common and that is their fascination for the original production.

Not, I hasten to add, that fan fiction is automatically devoid of originality, it's just that readers of, for example, Star Trek: Enterprise fan fiction are at least initially more interested in gaining a resonance of the buzz that they got from the original show. They will read your fanfic to see how you recreate adventures for them that might fit right in with canon, how you place those familiar characters into new roles and relationships (especially romantically) or how you might extend on their fictional world by creating new characters, extrapolating on the established canon with new ships and crews.

What about fan fiction that does not follow canon – the accepted details of plot established in the professional productions? On the one hand you could say that your work is an “appropriation” of the original and that you want to take it in a different creative direction however on the other it can be plain and simple “canon rape”.

I'll be the first to admit that fan productions are not, in their base form, meant to be high art. My contention has always been that fan films, for example, are not created for the benefit of their audience but that they are a way of “we-the-people” vicariously becoming a part of our fan obsession. If you have the cash and the drive, you could write, produce, direct and star in your very own Star Trek film!

Readers of fan fiction are often turned off by the way that much of what they read is badly spelled, ungrammatical and stylistically poor and unoriginal plots that have little regard for established canon, especially in the way that canon characters are used.

Well y'know what? The writer of a story like that probably doesn't give a fig for what you think of it because they've written it with an audience of one in mind - themselves! Such fan fiction is often a form of creative role-playing, especially the type of thing produced by fan clubs as collective, group fiction right down to using member's real names in the fictional context.

As long as you are honest about your motives for writing such fiction, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this type of thing. If you want to write an appropriation of Star Trek: Nemesis where Shinzon falls madly in love with you in a fictional form, go for it. Or a Voyager fic' where Seven-Of-Nine is shown as the home-wrecker you know her to be in Janeway and Chakotay's relationship, be my guest!

But be honest about it! If you lodge your beloved novel about Emperor Palpatine's cuddly-wuddly side on a fan fiction archive and get cries of agony over it, don't get upset because few see him the same way you do! Appreciate your fan fiction as a writing experience and don't worry if it is universally panned. Was it fun to write? Did you get a kick out of it? Then it was worth it.

The problem is that this disregard for the generally held rules of grammar and plot structure - the rules of writing – has given fan productions a bad reputation

If, on the other hand, you care what others think about your writing, if you crave the admiration of your peers, then you must learn the craft of writing, learn to welcome critique and aim to grow creatively! There is still a thriving, supportive fan fiction community out there (see article) for you to be involved in but be warned, whilst not many are as critical as the flamepits of FanFic.net, your fellow readers and writers will expect, appreciate and reward effort and excellence!

For readers, fan fiction is a bit like amateur theatre: you have to go into it with an open mind, knowing that it might have flat-spots and the occasional typo, otherwise it'll drive you up the wall! If you do show tolerance though, you will be rewarded with an entertaining experience.
Why do I write fan fiction?

I make no bones about the fact that I am a fan of Star Trek – so much so that I have found myself describing ethical and moral problems to my kids in terms of the plots of certain episodes! The parables of Star Trek! It's not unique to Trek either for I've noticed that my son does the same thing with parables from The Simpsons and, more recently, from The Matrix!
Over the years Trek has grown into a vast mythology of archetypal characters and world views. It quite frankly represents an immense playground for the imagination that I just do not have the willpower not to dabble in!

In the course of parenting my two children I have had to think carefully about the life concepts that I have passed on to them and this has often made me question long-held beliefs: Adulthood, manhood, tolerance, social justice ...

I recently wanted to write a series that dealt with the themes of aggression, bravery and honour and could think of no better framework to build my premise in than the diametrically opposed cultures of the Klingon and Vulcan in Star Trek. This shrinks the universality of my message though because it means that a knowledge of the basic world-view of Star Trek is vital.
Whilst I would like my fictional series "Tales of Death and Honour" to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, my readers must understand what a Klingon is. It just won't make sense otherwise – who are these people and why have they got such a topsy-turvy attitude towards life and death?

Therein lies the great advantage of using Star Trek fan fiction though. The series is so pervasive through Western Society and beyond that there would be few who can read the English language who would not have a working knowledge of it!

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Old 12-01-2008, 04:10 PM   #13
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I accept what you say, but the fundamental question I'd ask is why you feel a need to use someone else's "property" in your fiction at all? If you want to write, then why not write original fiction, rather than setting it in somebody else's "back yard"?

No disrespect, but you say that you aren't claiming any rights over anyone else's intellectual property, but I'm sure you'd accept that you are, nonetheless, making use of that property without their permission. That seems ethically wrong to me, regardless of any legal aspects of the issue.
Harry, I don't think you get the point of fan fiction based on what you wrote here. Fan works have been around for thousands of years mostly in songs and live storytelling as creators take one person's work and build off it and spawn new ideas and stories. The King Arthur legends are a prime example of fan fiction.

The big difference is when the first bards started stories about King Arthur they didn't have a corporation sitting in LA waiting to sue their asses for copyright/trademark infringement.
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Old 12-01-2008, 04:19 PM   #14
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I'll be the first to admit that fan productions are not, in their base form, meant to be high art. My contention has always been that fan films, for example, are not created for the benefit of their audience but that they are a way of “we-the-people” vicariously becoming a part of our fan obsession. If you have the cash and the drive, you could write, produce, direct and star in your very own Star Trek film!

Readers of fan fiction are often turned off by the way that much of what they read is badly spelled, ungrammatical and stylistically poor and unoriginal plots that have little regard for established canon, especially in the way that canon characters are used.
Ah, I think you're going to hate me. I'm always disagreeing with you....

It's kind of funny you mention "Readers of fan fiction are often turned off by the way that much of what they read is badly spelled, ungrammatical and stylistically poor and unoriginal plots " because that's one of the reasons I'm reading fan fiction in the first place! I got tired of buying books and finding plot holes the size of Alaska, bad plots, bad characterizations, and typos every other page...I swear I've read better fan fiction and if you find the good authors that have editors for their works you can find stories that are moving, epic, and tightly plotted.

I kind of have to disagree about fan fiction/works not being high art. The fans who are talented and creative put a lot of effort into their stories and lately with the move to Livejournal I've seen challenges that incorporate music vids/artwork/icons for the stories. It's just with fan fiction there isn't a filter so writers can write what they want to write and not just what a publisher thinks they can sell so while yes you do get some bad stories but you also get the truly wonderful storytelling experiences too.

For me, I've been meh about published works lately because so many of the books sound the same and all the plots are derivative.
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Old 12-01-2008, 05:22 PM   #15
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Stephen King (who often writes about the writer's muse, even in his fiction) once wrote that all authors process their stories differently. Picture a horse standing next to a pond, and how two different authors might write a story about that scene: Louis L'Amour would write something about the horse's owner stopping to get a drink before heading out into the open prairie. Stephen King would write about a creature coming out of the pond and eating the horse. Neither is right or wrong; they just process it differently.

I think it's the same for fanfic authors. I've written some myself. You enjoy a story, you like thinking about it, and you want to work out a problem or an issue or a question in fiction, rather than discussing it in a forum like this one. It's just a different way of processing. You like a character, you think, "What would this character think about so-and-so," and you try to get inside that character's head and write about it.

It's not a matter of "use your own characters." It's really not that simple. In some cases, I would say that the authors are simply plugging in the canon characters into a story of their own making, but such fan fictions are usually not very popular, because the characters don't act like the readers expect.
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