Close

March 6, 2012

When Does Fan Fiction Cross an Ethical Line?

Swedish sports fan with painted face

Fan fiction, also known as fanfic, refers to stories written by fans about the characters, situations, or world of existing works created by others.  This definition sounds broad because the world of fanfic is broad.

On some level, everything from Wicked, inspired by The Wizard of Oz, to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies could fall under the umbrella of fanfic.  In other words, fanfic can be a legitimate and respected form of writing.

But do some uses of fanfic cross an ethical line?  And if so, where does that line fall?  When does a work honoring another’s creation turn into exploitation?

Ethical Issues Are Different From Legal Issues

I’d be the last person to say fanfic is evil, as I started down the writing path by creating a fanfic novel based on Harry Potter.  However, there are ethical considerations fanfic authors should respect above all else.

Beyond what’s legal or illegal as far as copyright, trademark, fair use, or derivative vs. transformative works, fanfic authors owe a debt of thanks to the original creator (after all, without the original work, the fanfic author wouldn’t have been inspired to use that as a jumping-off point).  And in return, I believe a fanfic author should never exploit the characters, setting, world—or the original author’s brand or fan loyalty—for their own gain.

Where Is the Ethical Line?

Others might disagree with my statement.  However, I’d be willing to bet that most people would agree  that it’s unethical for a fanfic author to co-opt the loyalty of fans of the original work for themselves in order to make money off their fanfic writings.

Unfortunately, this isn’t just a hypothetical situation.  Fifty Shades of Grey (FSoG) has reached a high-enough level of popularity in the media to garner a segment on the Today show.  What many of these media mentions fail to point out is that FSoG started out as a Twilight fanfic story called Master of the Universe.

Did Fifty Shades of Grey Cross the Line?

The characters in the fanfic version were called Edward and Bella, and readers enjoyed imagining those Twilight characters in this sexually-explicit, BDSM-themed—free—story.  The fanfic story became popular in its own right, to the point that fans of the fanfic story threw their own convention with the fanfic author, raising tens of thousands of dollars for charity.

So far, so good.

But let’s remember the story’s popularity was built on its association with the Twilight characters.  Without its association with Twilight, the story wouldn’t have received 20,000 reviews (on fanfiction.net) and gained those fans to begin with.

Next, the fanfic author took that same fanfic story that had been free, changed only the characters’ names, and found a small, unknown publisher (which seems to specialize in publishing “fanfic with the serial numbers filed off” stories) to split her story into thirds and charge US$7-30 per book.  She then had her fans, from back when the story was free, buy up copies (these are the same fans who paid for her to travel from England to New York for the convention, so yes, they’re that dedicated) and post hundreds of reviews all over the internet.

Boom.  Instant bestseller.  Segment on the Today show.  More publicity.  More sales.  Etc.

And all she had to do was use someone else’s characters and fanatical fandom ties to get there.

Can FanFic Ever Be Used to Make Money?

Again, this isn’t a post about whether or not the fanfic author broke any laws.  This post is about whether this behavior is right.

In this case, the fanfic author had used the names Edward and Bella, but hadn’t used the Forks, Washington setting or the vampire world-building.  The story instead takes place in and around Seattle, Washington, and rather than using Edward’s vampire nature to justify his behavior, this story uses his BDSM sexuality to explain his controlling manipulations.

Do those differences make it okay?  I don’t think so.

For starters, what’s considered “good” writing in fanfic is different from what constitutes good writing in professionally published books.  The FSoG books are garnering bad reviews from real reviewers because *gasp* they’re not written that well.  Complaints have ranged from incorrectly portrayed BDSM elements to robotic and cliché writing.

So what made these BDSM books more successful than the hundreds of other BDSM books out there?  One reason.  The Twilight fandom and this fanfic author’s exploitation of their loyalty.

On the other hand, if someone wrote a fanfic story where they’d changed so many of the details as to make the characters, settings, and world unrecognizable, and if they didn’t try to tap into the fandom of their inspiration, I think fanfiction can be used to make money.  At that point, if the story is unrecognizable, the fanfic author has added enough of their own imagination to create something new.  And by not using someone else’s fans for their own gain, they’re letting their story be judged on its own merits.

The ethical line for fanfic authors can be very gray and wavy.  As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies could be labeled a form of fanfic, and with a title like that, it’s certainly meant to grab the attention of  Jane Austen fans.  However, both that work and Wicked could also be termed parodies of the originals.  Parodies enjoy a different relationship with “acceptability” than straight fanfic, and they’re seen as less exploitative because they add something new to the story beyond just changed details.

So where do we draw the line?  I, for one, believe it’s better to stay far on the “safe” side of any appearance of impropriety.  Personally, I’d never write fanfic that dishonored my inspiration, and I’d certainly never try to make money off it.  (I didn’t post my fanfic novel anywhere, free or otherwise.  I viewed the experience as a writing exercise for my own enjoyment.)  However I’m interested in hearing where others fall on this issue and their reasons why.

Is it ever acceptable for a fanfic author to make money on their fanfic writings?  When does a fanfic author cross the line between honoring their original inspiration and taking advantage of it?  Does your answer depend on whether they made significant changes from the original source?  Is suddenly charging for a previously free story more acceptable if they improved their writing between versions?

(Note: I am not linking to FSoG here because I don’t want to encourage any more sales.  However, Amazon and other retailers carry the books  in print and ebook form for anyone willing to pay the expensive prices.)

Pin It

494
Comments — What do you think?

avatar
5000
Click to grab Unintended Guardian for FREE!
  Subscribe to emails for Comments/Replies on this post  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Kaitlin

Oh my gosh. I don’t even like Twilight all that much and that story makes me twitch. Generally, I really like fanfiction (I too got my start there, except from the Lord of the Rings fandom). It’s one thing to have fans based on your *style* of writing, but to *only* change the names and then sell the fanfiction? Eesh. If the names had been changed, significant editorial work and some plot shifting had happened, it would be slightly more acceptable, but at that point it isn’t just taking advantage of Twilight, it’s taking advantage of fans.

There’s just so much to say on this topic, since not only is it huge but I’m kinda passionate about it.

Chihuahua0

Hmm…that sounds like an interesting situation.

Technically, I think if the fan-fic version is still floating around, Meyers has the rights to sue. Yet again, it depends how similar the story is to Twilight.

Really, if Meyers doesn’t mind, not too much can be done.

Caren

Thank you for this post. THANK YOU. I said some similar things recently and I agree with every single thing you said.

If you’d like to see my thoughts, they’re here: http://carenl.tumblr.com/post/18614363940/50-shades-of-oh-no-she-didnt

Em
Em

Nice article. I’m not going to argue ethics with you or who used whom.

A little fact checking however is in order.

The author “convention” you speak of was nothing more than friends and the author getting NYC (and yes again in DC) for a girls’ weekend. Nothing more. At no time was she paid to be there or were her expenses paid by anyone other than herself. This is a Fandom rumor and gossip based on a private email that was done “tongue in cheek”, that was leaked and is now referred to by some as a pamphlet. It wasn’t. How do I know this? Because I was there, both times.

Yes, the author did help to raise $40,000 for an American charity through the Fandom Gives Back auctions.

The author has a loyal group of friends and readers. She didn’t force anyone to buy the books from the Twilight fandom. The vast majority of people who are now reading and loving the books and characters are not part of the fandom.

Yes, there are editing errors that an established publisher would have caught and fixed. Yet despite these errors, new readers are reading and recommending these books to their friends.

Next time you post something as fact, please take the time to check that your statements are accurate. You can contact the author via her website.

Best,
Em

BrookeLockart
BrookeLockart

Pretty sure those facts about her trip to NYC are not correct either. Also pretty sure she didn’t raise $40K herself for the FandomGivesBack and it’s public knowledge that she begrudgingly participated.

Em
Em

Where you in NYC or DC, Brooke? No, you were not. I was. It was a girls’ weekend. Quit trying to say otherwise. True she didn’t raise the money herself. Her “minions” forked over money in amounts ranging from $5 and up to be part of a team of bidders rather an outbidding each other. Teamwork helped raise that money for an outtake. As far as begrudgingly participated, she was requested to write a POV from the male character, which she did not want to do because she didn’t want to write in that POV. The blog post being distributed by Caren is also full of errors and speculation about the author’s intentions to publish. Since no one has spoken directly to her, this is another example of rumors and gossip and deliberately misconstrued information. As a published author I respect the opinion of Jami Gold. What I do not respect is fandom rumors and gossip spilling out onto other blogs. I’ve been called a white knighter, a minion, a vapid fangirl for sharing the other side of the story. Fine. Every story has two sides. I just hope that people keep an open mind that not everything they read is the truth just because it is on a LJ/tumblr/blog post. We all have different opinions and perceptions. There are dozens of authors who have pulled to publish their Twilight fanfictions, some with the same titles as the original fics. Why are they not being discussed on these blogs about…  — Read More »

Caren

Um, what? Everything I said in my post is absolutely one hundred percent true. You can’t dispute facts. And what I’ve said has nothing to do with personal feelings, as I don’t know Icy. It’s the principle of this whole situation.

I don’t understand how you can support this so blindly. Do you really not see what Jami (or myself) has pointed out about the ethical problem with what she’s done?

Put yourself in Stephenie Meyer’s shoes – hell, in ANY authors shoes – and imagine how you would feel if this were YOUR characters her novel was built on. Would you NOT feel cheated in any way shape or form that she used what you built to make herself a success?

Come on, Em, if you claim not to see the problem here you’re clearly choosing not to see it on purpose.

Also, Icy did not raise $40k for FGB. Her fans raised in the ballpark of $25-30k, and she didn’t even want to donate. She was forced into it. She admitted that herself. Just like she admitted to wanting to revolutionize the publishing industry while talking about her distaste for our entire fandom. Sam does an excellent job of proving that fact: http://gentleblaze.livejournal.com/514.html

Bee
Bee

Sorry if my typing is terrible. I’m still in awful pain from being forced by the author of Fifty Shades to buy her books. …

Oh no, wait. I forgot. I have a mind of my own! Isn’t that astonishing?

Also, if you can show me the part in Twilight, where Edward is a multi-billionaire entrepreneur with a penchant for BDSM and a HUMAN, then please point it out to me, cos I must have missed that part.

There are a group of infantile, jealous people in the ‘fandom’ who have basically been cyber-bullying the author of these books from way back in the day (yes, when it was still MoTU). They have resorted to name calling and threats and all sorts to get their feeble little point across.

Does it matter to anyone who loves Fifty? Hell no.
I bought these books of my own free will as I’m sure so did 120K other people.

As the post above states, get your facts straight before you join the ranks of the cyber-bullies.

By the way, a number of authors have been coat-tailing on 50’s success to raise their own profiles. Is that what you want to be known for?

Regards

B

E
E

The author of this book set out to con money out of her readers. As an ex fandom member, I was around when personal emails from the author were sent to another and then shown publicly. She referred to her fans and this fanfic in a less than flattering light, clearly stating that she was in it for the money. Her writing skills are less than sub-par and anyone with half a brain could have wrote the drivel that is and was Master of the Universe/ Fifty Shades of Grey. Not only are the authors ‘minions’ Or as they were known in the Twilight fandom as ‘Bunker Babes’rabid and pathetic, they are also vicious and brainwashed by this woman who is sitting back and laughing at how much money she has made from them.

Your review is spot on. This book should have never been published.

gisellelx

Thanks for this. There is mass confusion going on in the Twilight fandom about the ethics of fanfiction publication, and the fact that it is an *ethical* issue, apart from the legal one. I’ve also had more than a few folks insinuate that somehow these books took off on their own, over looking the rabid “Bunker Babes” and how they spurred the initial word of mouth. As to the facts above: James, as Snowqueens IceDragon, pulled in approximately 17K as part of the Fandom Gives Back charity fundraiser in November 2010. The remaining two authors on her “team,” Sebastian Robichaud and M81770, were responsible for the other 22K. I have zero idea if her fans paid for her to attend either the DC weekend or the New York one. I do know that most of my girls’ weekends don’t include itineraries which list “The Goddess Arrives!” next to the time anyone’s flight gets in. The real shame for James is that she had a huge following–judging from her review count, which numbered almost 60,000 on FFnet, she probably had over a quarter of a million readers, if not more. She could’ve published ANYTHING and her readers probably would’ve pushed it into the stratosphere. Instead, she chose to publish her existing work, which relies on the Twilight tropes to make it work. Whether Meyer sues, we won’t know, but honestly, she makes us all look bad. And I’m certain, whether Meyer does anything about this or not, other authors will look…  — Read More »

BrookeLockart
BrookeLockart

*slow claps*

Kimmydonn

I’ll pop in here since Gisellex speaks to the same points I made in my blog post about this back in May. You’ve written a fanfiction, gotten an active following and learned what it takes to write novel. Awesome!

Now do it again.

If James had written another BDSM story in another setting, using what she learned from writing Master of the Universe, I would have stood behind her and applauded her work. Because she repackaged her fanfiction, I feel she’s taking the easy way out and making less of the efforts of fanfiction authors who ARE publishing their own original ideas.

Edited to add link to Kimmydonn’s post.

Diana
Diana

Those are my exact thoughts on this whole debauchery. In my fanfic explorations I’ve encounter many stories that I thought were really good and the writing was beyond fanfic quality. I’ve also found a handful that were just perfection and thought to myself, the author should had considered persuing a writing career full time, because the stories, and specifically the way this authors had with words were THAT good. But if you come upon this exceptional talent that you discovered throughout the asociation this stories had with the characters you loved from a book, I think it is not a wild assumption to think you would feel conned if what you read for free and thinking actively in these other characters were to be sold to you later in the desguise of original work. I think if you truly believe in the talent this writers have, you should have faith in the fact that they should be able to accomplish trully original fiction. And regarding this matter (FSoG) in particular, I have not read it, nor when it was fanfic, not now that it’s sold as original fiction, because SMBD it’s not my cup of tee; however, from what I’ve been able to gather from different discussions, it seems, this particular story was very OOC and they find this to be an excuse to justify the fact that it’s simply and basically a con job. I’m talking only from my expierence, but when I read AU fanfic (and AU it’s…  — Read More »

Diana
Diana

Than you, Jami, for this lovely discussion you have set up. It’s been respectful and thoughtful and that can be hard to find online these days.

Jill
Jill

I just wanted to point out that there are numerous other published fanfics from Twilight, some even retaining the original name. Please make sure you include all those authors, also.

Janelle

I agree with you on the ethics of this. If the original author gave permission and/or were receiving royalties, things would be different, but this is just ethically wrong.

I also wonder about people who record covers of songs, then sell them on iTunes or whatever. Do they give royalties to the person who wrote/originally recorded it? Similar to reading free fanfic, I enjoy listening to/watching videos of covers on YouTube, but when there’s a link to buy it, I always wonder…

Great post!

Patrick Thunstrom

This is a complex issue, and one I’ve had to debate about recently with someone going after a ‘fan comic’ that is making some money off of their comic. That issue was that one fan artist ‘stole’ from another fan artist and both were making money on their work. In this case, I made it clear that you couldn’t hate one artist on standards you upheld the other on.

In general, though my problem with fan works is what was explained: What makes ‘good’ fan fiction according to the fanfic community does not make good writing in any other case. That’s a serious problem.

In this case, though, she could have made money in a number of other ways that would have avoided an image of impropriety, so I don’t think it’s so much the money that bothers me, as the manipulating sales data using the co-opted fan base.

Ali
Ali

This entry is why many people are so upset. It has nothing to do with being unhappy for someone’s success. It crossed a huge line in the sand. I’m unsure how the blatant using of “fans” is so overlooked. This was not a writing exercise; a ‘getting your feet wet as an author’ experiment. No, this was an entire story, feedback and built in fanbase used for profit.
As for the “tongue in cheek” email, well, I suppose that is all interpretation. I’m often humorous but to boldly say she was above everyone, how she didn’t WANT to be a part of that fandom charity ‘event’? Well, I’m sorry, I can’t spin it any other way than negatively. I do find it highly amusing that she has lots of guard dogs defending her honor but not once has she attempted to speak out via social media or her website. Sometimes, I find silence is an indicator of guilt not of nobility.

And lastly, addressing errors and writing structure, no article written has been remotely kind in regards to quality. The people featured in the NY Post article that began this media storm all but called it poor writing; “I didn’t think it was a great book as far as writing goes”, “the writing was lame” and “it’s no masterpiece”. So what, are you confirming what the author has acted like all along? Bad is fine as long as it’s making money?

gaby
gaby

I see all points and agree with many opinions. Many good ones at that. The reality though is that her 20k+ reviews and fanfiction fanbase would not b enough to put it on bestseller list. Me being a huge twifan wouldn’t guarantee I buy it or read it. In this case, I am huge fan of MotU and yet did not buy book. Not because I dont support her but because I can’t picture anyone else other than ExB. We also have fanfict authors who gain fans thru their stories and then publish a original book and target their existing twifans. I’ve said it before its all about money. Ethical, legalities and/or morals included can b attached to many many books, movies & plays, etc. Look at how popular vampires got after SM Twilight books gained notoriety. I don’t know facts on this but either true blood and/or vampire diaries was/were published before twilight and people didn’t show interest until after twilight. Every will ride some coattail at any given time. Its just how it works. Didn’t EP get published too? Which I loved too. So as long as it doesn’t get on bestsellers list its OK? She also had huge following. Link to purchase book is on her blog. Why aren’t people buying it? I have to just say this… all books have editorial issues but if story captivates u it will suck u in. Obviously the case with FSoG. These people reading it have secret desires of getting…  — Read More »

Caren

<3 Gaby.

Re: EP/Sempre – Jessica did *heavy* editing on that novel before she self-pubbed. It wasn't just character names that were changed.

gaby
gaby

I bought it! Haven’t received it yet.my point in mentioning EP is that I would have never found it had I not been twifan. Again I’m grateful for having found amazing talent through a shared passion of so many of us. As for Sempre, the Mafia prince will always be Edward 🙂
I think its time we all let this be. I can’t stand to see such a wonderful community that is the Twilight Fandom divided like this. We are entitled to our opinions and that’s what’s great about all this. Lets just b civil.

DMarie
DMarie

I have to chime in on the “look how popular vampires got after Twilight” argument. Vampires have always been popular, yes Twilight was a phenomenon that others have used to push them forward. That is not the issue, if the work is original then great, but FSOG was not original.

Bo
Bo

Interesting post. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and there are lots of people on both sides of this argument. Unfortunately, and this is just my opinion, this is becoming less about publishing fanfiction than it is a personal vendetta against an author. Case in point: at a 2009 Comic Con Twilight Fanfiction panel, the administrator of the largest and most popular site dedicated to Twilight Fanfiction said that the introduction of all-human stories to the Twific world opened up the arena for these stories to be published. In her words, these stories “bore little resemblence” to Twilight except for names, and that they could easily be published as a stand alone fiction. Several of the authors on the panel that day seemed to agree, and there was even discussion then that the much lauded story “Wide Awake” was currently being submitted to publishers and film producers. So the idea of publishing fanfiction is not new. In fact, even before FSoG, several well known fanfiction authors published books and the Twilighted site itself even gave birth to a publishing house. Those authors even published their books with the exact same name as their FF stories. And as we speak, there are other FF authors who have had books released within the last 2 months. So what’s the difference? The difference I see is that at its core, while many of the detractors may not like or agree with P2P (pull to publish), their real beef here is with this story…  — Read More »

BrookeLockart
BrookeLockart

I believe the writers at the Fan Fic Panel that spoke about AU fiction and publishing, went on to create a publishing house that — you guessed it — published Fic. The comment at the panel was self-serving.

gisellelx

Yes, people are up in arms about this author.

However, there’s still a vocal contingent of us who’ve been willing to make ourselves unpopular by voicing that this practice is wrong whether it’s done by the nicest, sweetest author and best writer in the fandom, or whether it’s done by a writer who behaved as badly as SQUID did.

I was in the position last year of telling a fandom friend I would not be buying her book because she’d published it with one of the fandom “file the serial numbers off” publishing houses. She got very angry. So yes, some people might just attack someone who it’s convenient to attack. But some of us hold a hard line, because it’s about the ethics, not about the person.

Bo
Bo

This is what I’m talking about. “Behaved as badly as SQUID did.” Behaved badly? As someone who was there in the beginning reading the story when it was posted on Twilighted and interacting with the author, I’d like some clarification about “behaved badly.” I’ve heard all sorts of stories about premediation on her part to “use the fandom.” As one of those readers, and I can only speak for myself, I can say I don’t feel used by her anymore than any other fanfiction writer whose story I read and who later published. She is a Twilight fan, like most of us. She came to the fandom and to fanfiction the same way many others did. She never insulted them because she is one of them. I’ve never heard or read an unkind thing from her about her readers or most of the fandom (the ones not insulting and saying unkind things about her). She has expressed surprise that so many read and liked her story and has been humbled and somewhat shy about all the attention. (And just so you know, yes I have met her and talked with her. These statements come from personal knowledge). Joking tweets can be taken out of context and used against any of us; and they were with her. This isn’t a joke to her. This is her life and she’s endure some pretty hateful comments because of inuendo, gossip and untruths. The idea to publish came as the story progressed. She wasn’t…  — Read More »

Caren

Why do every single one of her fans say the argument is personal? I hate that this is the best defense anyone can come up with.

It’s not just about Icy, though the recent attention she’s received has brought the subject back into the spotlight. Just because her name and/or “novel” are being used as the biggest example does not mean she’s the only one guilty. Stop trying to make this personal when it’s not.

I don’t know, nor have I ever spoken to, Icy, but I’m still against everything she’s done to this fandom and what she’ll likely do to it if this continues.

Sunny Snark
Sunny Snark

Bo,
Thank you for so eloquently stating what I feel, too.
The level of nastiness in this ‘debate’ eclipses any legitimate discourse. It surpasses the real issue and sets a bad point for any writers in FanFic or self-publishing.
And, I completely agree with you, Bo, it is interesting that the source of so much of vitriolic rants appear to come from some of the prior FanFic authors themselves.
I call on all the intelligent, sensible peeps in this fandom to join me in asking for a little peace and love for our hardworking authors and to celebrate their success, rather than condemning them.
PS: I was at one of the visits Icy made to the US, and she wouldn’t even permit me to pay for her drink, something a friend does for another; not payment for their ‘visit’.
Peace,
SS

Roe
Roe

The problem with these books is that the author cashed in on the popularity of the series and had planned to from the start. She didn’t give a damn about the ethical issues, nor about any kind of infringement of Stephenie Meyer’s characters. Dress it up any way that you want, the origin this story will never go away. It’s Edward and Bella with whips and chains thrown in for good measure. I hope one day E.L. James or Erica as I knew her, is exposed for this fact.

Sorry if that offends anyone. It’s just the truth. I liked this review because it’s honest. These are cold, hard facts.

AE
AE

Thank you for this post. You have been able to say what I have been unable to articulate. It’s not the legal, it’s the ethical. I am a member of this fandom (writer and reader) and this just hasn’t sat well with me. I never read this story in the fanfic version, nor did I have any interest in spending $30 on a paperback (!) but I have read a couple of other fanfics turned published novels and they all lack the same thing. Character building, world building and massive edits. But why wait to edit, truly edit, when you have hundreds of built in fans ready buy your $30 (!!) paperback and bump you up the charts and write glowing reviews, which again garners interest and bumps you up the charts and gains notic? Selling books is a numbers game (Amazon is the king of this) and when you have a built in marketing machine like the Twi-Hards behind you there is little you can’t do. Just look at Kristen Stewart. I’ve been waiting for some authors to weigh in on this, because so far it’s just been sheer publicity. As an author you would know something seemed off and unusual about this situation and the massive success of this book. In a world where you have to be a BIG DEAL to get notice how did this little book make it? Dig around a little and the truth is there. And another note: The fandom is quick to…  — Read More »

Cora
Cora

What’s interesting is that no one has picked up on the fact that The Writer’s Coffee Shop and Omnific Publishing are both independent publishers who started up to publish Fan Fiction. The majority of the books they accept are Twilight Fan Fiction because the people who started those companies were readers of Twilight Fan Fiction. For the most part, when they started they had no qualifications to run a publishing house. None. They gathered like minded individuals who saw the potential, and flew by the seat of their pants. (They might have employees on staff now that were already established in the industry, since it’s been two years, but at first they didn’t.) They were readers and lovers of Twilight Fan Fiction. What were they good at? For a start, they were smart business women. They knew exactly who and what to tap into, targeting the big stories with lots of followers. Not the stories that were well written and with some substance, but only the ones which were popular. And in the Twilight community 90% of the time that means they are the stories that have a high content of sex. And we all know, sex sells. So, maybe we should change the focus from these authors publishing their stories to these two publishers who have taken no ethical responsibility in the decisions they have made. You want to tap into an existing fanbase and start your company using your customers, fine. But do it responsibly and do it…  — Read More »

gaby
gaby

This is exactly what I was saying on twitter to some people. These publishing Co. Should be held accountable. If not for legalities than for ethical reasons too. They should b responsible for the work they throw out there. I can’t emphasize enough..”its all about the Benjamins”.

V
V

This is a tricky subject. I still find that both sides have good arguments, at least the serious arguments, lol. On one hand, why not let someone publish their stories? The storylines are often so OOC within the original work they were inspired by, that it just can’t get any father than that. The author will just have to prove herself later on with original works, but more than that, if people are willing to buy her books and as long as the authors don’t forget where they came from, I see no big issue. I personally wouldn’t pay for something I read for free though, but if people want to, why not? On the other hand, I truly feel like as much as a fic author has an amazing story to tell, whether it’s AH or AU or whatever, it’s the fact that it was posted in a particular fandom that made people read it. In this case, would people have read MotU if the paring had been Esme/Sam? Alice/Aro? And so on? I truly don’t think so at all. It was because the story was under Twilight and the pairing was E/B that made people even take a look at it and THAT, to me, makes fics not entirely the author’s. Yes, the storyline it’s theirs and it’s the storyline that makes people stay reading the fic, not just the pairing (at least in some cases), but they had in mind characters that were not theirs. It makes…  — Read More »

TRF
TRF

About the storyline, one of the things I enjoyed of MOTU was how, being an AH, the twists in the story followed the original. There was a lot of parallelisms. I also can’t see the characters as others than E and B, and not just SM’s characters but the characters that many fanfiction authors have created, as a collective. You know what to expect when you begin a fic, despite the OOC it claims to be. So… I won’t buy the books. This is a personal decision. And I don’t find this path correct, fair to the sense of fanfiction.

Melinda Collins

Wow! This one is a ‘hot button’ issue, isn’t it? A lot of comments already, but I’m still going to add my two cents worth. 😀 No, I do *not* think it’s acceptable for an author to make money on their fanfic writings. It’s not original them (the characters, especially) , it’s someone’s else’s genius, heart, blood, sweat and tears. And the original author alone is the one who should benefit from the ‘fruits of their labor.’ Fanfic authors cross the line between honoring and taking advantage when they begin to charge for that work instead of looking at it the way it is most times: a fun learning experience (like you’ve stated). I almost want to say that my answer does depend on whether or not they’ve made significant changes, and that’s simply because the author could take ‘concept’ of the main characters and throw them in a different world (location, scene, predicament) to the point – most times – that the story and characters are nothing like the piece that inspired it. I don’t think I’d support charging for fanfic no matter how fabulously written the book is. If the author is *that* good with their writing, get back to the computer, plant your butt in the chair, and plot out an original story. 🙂 Whew! I feel a little better. Sorry if that came out as a rant, but I saw that spot on the ‘Today’ show and it really just struck the wrong chord with me…especially…  — Read More »

Mel
Mel

I appreciate this article very much because it has been able to convey the feelings of so many of us that have had a problem with ‘Fifty Shades’ otherwise known as ‘Master of the Universe.’ The main point this article hit on is ethics. James has made a mockery out of the Twilight fanfiction fandom and all that it has represented. We, as readers and writers, found our way to fanfiction after something struck us (good or bad) with the Twilight series. Many people have written for the fandom, including myself. Fanfiction, in and of itself, is taking parts, ideas, or any number of similarities, and applying them to a story of your own. What some fans of ‘Fifty Shades’ is failing to understand is, James used Stephanie Meyers characters to write her fanfiction. She read the Twilight series and something sparked the idea in her head. IF that had not happened, she would not have written Twilight fanfiction. She would have written her own original work. Where the words her’s? Yes. Did she create her own ‘world’ for the story? Yes. However, that is where her independent ideas ends. She took characteristics of the characters and applied them to her story. Example: Edward is a rich, controlling man who lives his life in solitude. He was adopted as a teenager and the trauma from that and what occurred, has made him incapable of having any romantic relationships. (Please note, I mentioned nothing about him being a vampire.) Christian: He…  — Read More »

Nell
Nell

Yeah, see that’s the thing. She DIDN’T change that much. The names, yes, the setting, sure but nothing else. The descriptions of their eyes, hair etc. are verbatim from the fic AND then Twilight as well since it was a knockoff to begin with.

There are PDF’s all over the internet of MotU and a side-by-side comparison would show that it’s barely edited. BARELY. Certainly not enough to say it was thoroughly edited by their “editing staff”.

Frankly, I’d love to see someone (that has that kind of time) do a side-by-side.

PS: Bravo to you for having the cajoles to post this. Icy fans are rabid and give the fandom a bad name in their white-knighting/inability to see another opinion.

Beansy
Beansy

Hi Nell,

You’ll find that a comparison of the first chap has already been done. Even the most basic of punctuation errors carry over to the retail version. I’m saddened that people have paid $7-30 for this. This generation is forgetting what good writing is all about.

The publisher should be held accountable for its blatant lack of respect and integrity.

The link is here:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/65785689/50ShadesofWTF.pdf

Aredeetea
Aredeetea

It’s funny how people are so up in arms about FSoG stealing from SM. Yet it’s perfectly okay to distribute ELJames’ intellectual material by posting the pdf to MotU all over the internet. Expending countless hours trolling each and every article, blog, and not to mention all the time it takes to create all those socks.

And kudos to you, Jami, for never mentioning the author by name. So respectful of you to skirt around trashing someone by not making it personal.

Beansy
Beansy

Hi Aredeeta,

The material I posted from 50Shades is readily available as a free download on multiple sites where you can purchase the book. In fact, I took it from one of those sites. I’m not distributing it or charging for it. In fact some would consider it’s promoting the material.

As for the FF side of it, that can’t be copyrighted. It’s FF.

Regards,
Beans

aredeetea
aredeetea

I’m not talking about the portion of the story for comparison sake. It’s well-established that EL wrote both, MotU and FSoG. I’m not sure what point people are trying to make with that. She wrote them both. Everyone knows that and no one is disputing it.

I’m talking about people who are posting links to the full text of MotU, often with the comments – “Why buy this crap when you can read it for free?” with the link.

And as for the copyright laws related to FF, granted I’m not in any way, shape or form a lawyer, but I know there was recently an issue where someone stole a fanfiction story and had it published as a book. Basically word for word. I don’t know the details about the publishing house. The publisher, though removed the book from publication. I’m not sure if any legal action was taken against the plagiarist.

Obviously it’s not as simple as saying it’s been on the web, so it’s free access. There IS such a thing as intellectual property even if it was posted online. Even more so if it was removed by the author in my opinion.

And along with the concept in this blog of the distinction between what is legal and what is ethical, I would certainly make the point that distributing MotU, weather legal or not, is being done in a less-than-kind manner.

tulchulcha
tulchulcha

You’re confusing the matter here. Bottom line according to law fanfiction can’t be copyrighted. Period. Many slap “copyright” statements on their fic but the bottom line is once something is posted as fanfiction it cannot be copyrighted. It’s a derivative work.

Now, the thornier issue of books that have been published to Amazon by people who do not own them. That’s the downside to self-publishing. First off, “publishing” something you did not write is both unethical and illegal. Doubly problematic is that you’re claiming copyright and making money off fanfiction that can’t be copyrighted or sold for profit. Most likely the “publishers” would take it down for both reasons.

Once something is posted as fanfiction it’s out there, and the author can’t do a damn thing about it because it is not copyrightable. If people distribute it you have no recourse. You can’t sue over the distribution of a work you hold no copyright to in the first place. That’s what makes this situation even thornier. Can FSoG be copyrighted since it’s an almost word-for-word copy of the derivative work? That’s entirely unclear in the law.

allryans
allryans

“I’m not sure what point people are trying to make with [the portion of the story for comparison sake].”
They are trying to make the point that she made minimal, if any, changes to what was Twilight Fanfiction and what has become a NYT bestseller. No overhaul. They aren’t saying anything about whether or not she authored them both.

“There IS such a thing as intellectual property even if it was posted online.”
Intellectual property like the intangible aspects of a character well-established by another author? Oh yeah. Intellectual property means a lot of things. It is far more correct to assert that the inherent presuppositions readers brought to a story labeled “Twilight Fanfic E/B” have more ownership with Stephenie Meyer than to say that the word for word reposting of any Twilight fanfic (when giving the original fic author credit) has any ownership at all.

“I would certainly make the point that distributing MotU, weather legal or not, is being done in a less-than-kind manner.”
Distributing MOTU is only mean-spirited depending on where you stand on the issue. I personally feel I am doing readers a service giving them a link to the fic pdf because it saves them money. And pulling a fic offline does NOT entitle you to police its distribution. Check the ff.net TOS. You do not own your fanfic. In any form.

Rae
Rae

The only book I’ve read that was at some point fan fiction is Sempre. And Jessica did heavy editing, as Caren said in an above comment to Gaby. There were entire plot points changed, characters were changed, the content was obviously cut down significantly and was written in third person narrative unlike the fanfic (which was 1st person, alternate POV change). That takes a lot of work. She didn’t “ctrl+F and replace” as I understand FSoG to be (I did attemp to read MOtU so I am familiar with the story) . It’s not even recognizable as fanfic. And she donates a percentage of the profits gained from the book to a Anti-Human Trafficing organization. I think making the jump from fanfic to original fiction and using parts of the fanfic story are fine.. afterall the authors spend hours and hours working on these stories – putting blood, sweat and tears into their writing and ideas. They put themselves out there emotionally. I’ve read an embarrassing amount of Twilight FanFic in the last 3 years and I believe there are A LOT of amazing fanfic writers who could be published. And A LOT of stories have absolutely no resemblance to Twilight (other than character names). I think alot of authors also had these plot ideas before even becoming involved in the fandom (as I know to be the case with Sempre/EP) and the fanfic arena gives authors the confidence to continue on if their writing is well received. If fanfic…  — Read More »

Carradee

Hey, Jami. I hadn’t heard of this particular incident before you brought it up. I agree, that fanfic authors shouldn’t profit from fanfics that have their serial numbers filed off. But here’s why I can’t unilaterally agree with you: some fanfics aren’t fanfics. Some “fan fiction” is so AU† and OOC†† that it has no resemblance whatsoever to the original story, except the character names and locations… maybe. Sometimes those aren’t even the same. It’s like someone watches Firefly and Serenity and says “Hey! What if River were a guy and Simon a girl—and they escaped on their own, without Mal and crew—and they aren’t space pirates, they’re air pirates, like airships—and Simone (’cause she’s a girl, yanno) is acrophobic and guy River has to use his psychic powers to keep Simone from realizing they’re off the ground—and—and—and…” …At which point the author has produced a story that’s actually original despite the Whedon kickoff. The story may or may not even be in the same genre. In that case, I see it as the author being inspired by the originals. The problem then comes from such actually original previously being published online as fan fiction. Which is a problem, I think, because it’s admitting a tie that might leave you open to lawsuit. Hey, I have a Star Wars AU vignette—which is still posted over on FF.net—that needn’t be considered fan fiction. I’ve actually come up with a novel idea wherein that would be the prologue. It contains no names,…  — Read More »

Juliebee
Juliebee

Apologies in advance as I’m writing on my phone.  One other thing that I don’t think has been mentioned is the fact that the twilight fandom’s sense of “betrayal” (for lack of a better word) is that Ms. James used a number of Twilight “fic-isms” in her story.  What do I mean by that?   There are a massive number of Twi fics that all use certain fandom cliches which I *don’t* believe were part of the original Twilight series (e.g. Bella’s serial lip-biting). That has been done to death in fan fiction.  In addition, before jumping on the so-called BDSM bandwagon, another Twi-fic trilogy written by Tarasueme (The Submissive, The Dominant, The Training) were wildly popular for their time.  In my opinion, more enjoyable stories and well written.  My point is this:   The twilight fanfic community really is that – a community.  Many women have forged real friendships here.  These are women who visit each other, phone, skype, etc.  They pre-read each other’s stories and offer advice and never ask anything in return.  I think that possibly having an insincere opportunist among us really hurt many.   I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me part of the bad taste that this leaves in my mouth is that the author also used other fandom stories, phrases, and ideas that weren’t hers to begin with – over and above the more obvious link to Meyers’ original stories.  I used to be much more involved in the fandom but…  — Read More »

Jan M
Jan M

I am an avid Twilight fanfiction reader– probably bordering on fanatic. I read this story originally as fanfiction and was fairly blown away by it. The story itself is original– quite original, in fact. Yes, in the original version, she used the character names from Twilight which is what drew me to the story in the first place. The subject matter was something quite foreign to me and was an eye opener. The original story has been pulled and the author totally re-worked it into something that doesn’t even come close to any of the original Twilight stories. The ages of the characters, names, the locations, the plot lines all deviate so completely from Twilight that I fail to see where any ethical lines are being crossed. Every author and writer gets some of their ideas from somewhere else; as an author yourself, you know this. Most of the writing in fanfiction is dismal, but occasionally I come across stories that are just so good. Master of the Universe was one of those stories. I not only read it once, but read it again. I am thankful for the fanfiction writers who practice and hone their writing skills in the Twilight fanfiction genre. The stories are free and they all attribute their source material to Stephenie. No one is profiting illicitly from Stephenie’s material. E. L. James wrote a good story. It certainly isn’t literary excellence, but it simply is a good story. It was obviously so good that it…  — Read More »

evaporation
evaporation

Jan M, Hi! I am so relieved to read a response from a well informed Fan Fic afficianado! I loved MoTu from Chapter one. Robert Pattinson is my whole reason for looking at Fan fiction at all.Not Edward! Icy created a story line that I and a lot of women totally enjoyed. Obviously the proof is in the publishing.Ethics I think here is not the problem….jealousy is.I bought all her books.I reread them all the time. She has given a lot of women something wonderful to fantasize about.I thank her for them.I hope she continues to have great success! I am one of her rabid fans!

Click to grab Ironclad Devotion now!