A fanfic author has decided to take her "Twilight" tribute out of the fanfic world and actually sell a "sequel" to Stephanie Meyers' best-selling series.
There's a pretty good summary of the issue here:
The author, who appears to also be her own publisher, is trying to claim she's safe, arguing that Meyers' characters are not copyrighted "because she never drew them or hired an artist to draw them."
She argues that "copyright law will only protect the characterization of a fictional character if the character is portrayed in a copyrighted work." Um, and her point would be what?
Now I know you're going to bring up the whole point about the fanfic world. There are tons of fan fiction stories out there. (Please note, however, that this is not traditional fanfic, in the sense that this writer is commercializing on her fanfic, or at least attempting to do so.)
However, most copyright scholars would argue that it is technically a violation of copyright because you're taking someone else's characters, world, and materials and using them without permission. One of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder is the right to make derivative works. That said, fanfic has been a cultish thriving cottage industry ever since Star Trek, though one even could call the various “pastiches” of Sherlock Holmes fanfic. One reason it’s frequently ignored by the studios and networks is because it helps to stir up enthusiasm among fans.
There are some creators, though, who really hate it and a few people who campaign loudly against it, claiming that if you write fanfic, you can never be considered a “real writer.”
That being said, some authors are flattered by the proliferation of fanfic and grant implicit or explicit licenses. For example, Neil Blair, an attorney with the Christopher Little Literary Agency, which represents J.K. Rowling, indicates that Ms. Rowling is “flattered by genuine fan fiction,” and as such, she has unofficially sanctioned some fan fiction sites by leaving them alone. To those sites that feature adult material, her agents have sent sharply worded cease-and-desist letters.
As for the example of fanfic in the Buffyverse, when asked what fans should do with their extra hour when Buffy was going off the air, Joss Whedon replied “Write fanfic.”
Some writes, like the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, actually collected and edited fanfic, then put out a quite successful series of anthologies of fanfic stories. She said she was explicitly allowing new writers play in her world (called Darkover) and it opened the door for a number of now-successful writers to become known in their own rights. However, she is rumored to have been sued by one of her fan fiction writers, and withdrew support of fanfic in later years.
Some authors have found that fanfic only serves to increase the economic viability of the underlying work, as the fanfic community gobbles up more and more copies of the original story.
Some people argue that fanfic falls into the category of “parody” and is therefore protected under copyright.
I don't have time to get into a discussion of copyright law on here (darn day job getting in the way...you know, the one where I happen to be an intellectual property attorney), but suffice it to say that Stephanie Meyers and Little, Brown publishing house are going to have a field day with this one.
*settles in and pops some popcorn*