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Writers of fan fiction from time to time get cease and desist letters from studio in-house lawyers demanding that they take down their work. While many of the original creators don't pursue the makers of fan fiction, some do, since more often than not fan fictions are blatant copyright violations. Occasionally, fan fiction writers will produce parodies, but most fan fictions are derivative works that attempt to continue or build upon the original work.
Copyright law generally protects the creator of a work of fiction from someone else coming along and stealing not just their exact words, but also their characters, settings, storylines, and even fictional space languages. However, many fans get so engrossed in particular works that they are compelled to create continuations or variations on their favorite stories.
The physical act of writing the fan fiction is not a problem. The problem comes when a person wants to share their fan fiction, and it is an even bigger problem if a person wants to sell their fan fiction. While selling, or profiting from fan fiction requires getting official licensing from the copyright holder, frequently, fan fiction is shared for free without consequence. Below are some tips for fan fiction authors to avoid legal trouble:
While copyright law doesn't necessarily protect original works from being parodied, reported on, discussed, or reviewed, most fan fiction doesn't fall into any of the fair use categories. Many are surprised to learn that most fan fictions aren't even considered parodies, as parodies require something more than just continuing or retelling the original. For example, a parody will add some form of social commentary/criticism on the original.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
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