Fan-fiction and copyright

There is a very interesting discussion on Diana's blog in response to her latest post, which has to do with OUTLANDER fan-fiction, copyright, and a particular moral conundrum Diana is facing at the moment.

Just to summarize briefly -- you really should go read what she says (and the many, many comments from readers!) for yourself -- here are a few of the most important points.

Diana says:
OK, my position on fan-fic is pretty clear: I think it’s immoral, I _know_ it’s illegal, and it makes me want to barf whenever I’ve inadvertently encountered some of it involving my characters.
She goes on to lay out a number of the arguments in favor of fan-fiction (I won't list them here) and explains in detail why she disagrees.
But writing stories about characters whose creators are not only alive and kicking, but actively writing about those characters _themselves_...sorry, guys, it’s just not on.
Here's the conundrum:
Recently, a couple of people have drawn my attention to a person who’s been posting on various boards about fund-raising for an uninsured friend named Stacie who has breast cancer. Her (the poster’s) idea for fund-raising is to auction off a custom-written piece of fan-fic, involving Jamie Fraser and Emmett someone (who I _think_ is from Twilight; I sort of hope it’s not the willowy young “bottom” from the TV show “Queer as Folk”…). She hastens to note that it won’t be slash, but will otherwise take the bidder’s tastes into account—and of course, all proceeds will go to Stacie’s hospital expense fund.

She did not, naturally, ask ¬_me_ about this. What would I have to say about it?

Well, the question here, of course, is—what _do_ I say about it? Do I write to this person and tell her to cease and desist, and too bad about Stacie, thus seeming heartless? Do I give this manipulative project my blessing, thus opening the door to an endless parade of piously disguised fan-fic “charity”? Make it clear that I disapprove of what she’s doing, but stop short of forbidding her to do it, and turn a blind eye if she does?

I’m not exactly asking for a vote here [g], because it’s my concern, and I’ll do what I think is right in the circumstances—but I’d be interested to know what y’all think.
If you want to tell Diana what you think, click on the link above.

I am sort of ambivalent on this issue. I've read and enjoyed a lot of fan-fiction over the years, mainly Star Trek [original series] and Harry Potter. I used to pay money occasionally for printed copies of longer (novella-length) fan-fiction works, back before the Internet made such things readily available for free. I know people who enjoy writing and publishing their own fan-fiction stories. Some of this stuff is REALLY awful; some of it is quite good, thought-provoking, emotionally powerful.

But I can certainly understand why the existence of fan-fiction (of whatever quality) makes Diana upset. Jamie and Claire and the rest of them are, after all, her characters, her creations, the basis of her entire career and livelihood. And yes, certainly she has the right as the author (and holder of the copyright) to decide how others can use those characters.

I suppose the question really is, does the existence of OUTLANDER fan-fiction take away from readers' enjoyment of the books? Are the people who write fan-fiction breaking the law, or just being rude (borrowing the characters without permission), or doing it out of a sincere love for the characters and the universe Diana has created?

Provocative questions, to be sure. <g> I'd like to know what you think. Feel free to comment here, if you don't want to post on Diana's blog.

Related posts:

Fan-fiction and copyright: Diana's response
More on the fan-fiction controversy
Diana Gabaldon's official fan-fiction policy
An apology from Diana
One final comment about fan-fiction


Merrymags said...

The gal who's going to write the fundraiser fan-fic of Jamie and the Twilight character posted at LOL a few short weeks ago. She asked our opinion of the idea. Judie, the founder of LOL, informed her that Diana was not in support of her characters being used in fanfic. The subject, as a whole, was roundly disapproved of there in another, related discussion.

For myself, I have little experience in reading it and would generally not care one way or the other. It's different for DG's characters. Maybe it's because they are so fully fleshed out in her Books. Or, I feel there is no real way for off-shoot scenes to fit into the story lines unless Diana writes them because only she knows the motivations, mindsets, reactions, etc., of her characters.

All in all, it's been a dynamic discussion at her blog.


Jane said...

I think the whole issue was made worse because Diana went overboard in her explanation and was actually somewhat insulting. It is obvious she feels strongly about this and I don't blame her. I don't read fan fic myself, nor do I write it. I certainly respect her opinion about it, but she went too far in defending her opinion and wound up offending people when it wasn't necessary.

I have seen many authors state their opinion when they don't like it and why, but I have never seen anyone do it like Diana. I also haven't seen those authors get the kind of responses I am seeing on her blog. I think there is a connection. Lots of drama because the initial blog was full of drama. Love it in her books, not so much in her dealing with fans.

ibeeeg said...

I do not read fan-fic, doesn't interest me. It most especially does not interest me in relation to Diana's books. Her stories are epic, thinking fan-fic would not do it justice whatsoever. Beyond myself not liking to read fan-fic, I do think it can be a way for someone to further their writing skills. I see my daughters (grade school) take off with their writing through the vehicle of fan-fic. They eventually move on from that to creating their own story. Beyond all that, I do not think anyone should get paid for writing fan-fic. That seems a bit ridiculous, the story on the whole is not theirs. As far as Diana going overboard, I must read the boards for a better opinion but my initial thought is, so be it. For goodness, it is her work for years...and years... They are her characters, she has made them come to life. If she does not agree with fan-fic, so be it. If I knew the author does not like fan-fic, I most certainly would not write it let alone obtain money from it.
Interesting topic.

Jane said...

Since my last post I have come to discover "Creative Commons" and the rules applied to fan fic. Jim Butcher has adopted this, along with Mercedes Lakey and it sounds like a nice compromise, to me anyway. But I will admit since I don't read fan fic it doesn't matter anyway.

The ponies and ice cream got my attention right away.

Check out the links to Creative Commons and Mercedes Lakey. I think both Butcher and Lakey are realizing something many authors don't want to admit. The internet is powerful and things change, so go with the flow, to a certain extent.

Janet Romano said...

I am a songwriter and recently found out that a former musician friend stole 2 songs of mine, recorded them, and put them out on a CD with his name as the copyright. (I hold the copyrights.) Those are MY songs - for better or worse - I wrote them, their mine - my creations. I can completely understand where DG is coming from. It's not that she doesn't want to help this poor woman but Jamie and Claire are hers - her creations. I feel like my house has been robbed and my possessions stolen. I imagine it's the same for her.

Anonymous said...

I have read some amazing fan-fics in my time; I mean really great stories. Of course I can understand Diana's response and I have to agree with her. (Who would pair Jamie with ANYONE from Twilight is demented) That being said, the real problem of course is the fact that this work is intended to make money. That is a no no!

Sirena said...

Overall, I feel that fan fic is a person's goodhearted attempt to get to dwell in a world an author creates - generally, meant in a complimentary way toward the author. But I really do understand DG's fury at this - the idea of Jamie and a twi character creeps me out massively. Yuck. But I also get another poster's point that fan fic can really be a great creative outlet for people (teens, etc...) and add layers for fans to explore between books. If posted on a not for profit, protected site, with the authors blessing, I don't see the harm. But WITH the author's blessing :-) which in this case is clearly a moot point.

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