Ownership of Fanworks

Recently, on a list where I lurk, the owner made a post banning “remix” stories where an author takes an existing fanwork and rewrites it. And when I say “banning,” I don’t just mean that such stories are not allowed but anyone found writing them, even on locked groups, will be banned.

(ETA: I want to clarify that remixes without permission of the original author are what is being banned.)

Now, I want to be perfectly clear that I am not criticizing the group owner’s decision about what is and is not allowed on a particular group or archive. I remain strong in my belief that this right belongs to group owners; anyone who doesn’t like it can vote with their feet and move on to another group or archive or start their own. There are groups to which I do not belong because I have strong objections to their fundamental principles and rules. I am not objecting to this particular rule. If I was, I would simply leave the group and skip writing a post about it.

What I find curious is the outrage that people feel toward “remixed” fanworks and what this says about our ideas about the ownership of artistic works. This is not the first time that I’ve encountered this idea, although it’s the first time that I’ve seen it incorporated into a group’s rules. Not too long ago, while doing maintenance on one of the sites I manage, I found a user profile that took similar umbrage to people using her original characters without her permission. (Whether this is because someone actually had used her characters or was a preemptive warning I don’t know.) And, in discussing the legal and ethical basis of derivative and transformative works, I have seen authors make similar avowals, that though they write stories based on another author’s work, they would not want stories written based on their own work.

Of course, no one who makes these claims is disingenuous enough to avoid the question of hypocrisy. Generally, this is resolved by pointing out that 1) Tolkien indicated in his letters that he wanted his work carried on by other artists and 2) the Tolkien Estate has made no move to shut down derivative and transformative work based on his books. To the first, yes, this is true:

I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.
~Letter 131 to Milton Waldman

More on that in a moment. To the second point, I hesitate to interpret the Tolkien Estate’s relative silence on fanworks as tacit approval. Since derivative and transformative works currently occupy a vast legal gray area and since lawyerly types provide good rationale why a challenge to the legality of fanworks quite possibly would expand protections of those works, then it seems just as likely to me that rights holders that currently wield some power to control works created at the fringes of that gray area don’t want more distinct legal definitions to make legal what they’d rather repress.

Personally, I’ve always been entirely laissez-faire with respect to my Tolkien-based works and published original works. I am stricter with respect to my unpublished original works simply because allowing aspects of those works to be made public would “use up” my first rights, which would eliminate most markets–and almost all of the good markets–where that work could be published. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever written anything based on my original work. However, plenty of other Tolkien writers have used aspects of my stories–from details, like names and timelines, to wholly lifting the universe as a setting for their own stories–in creating their own work. Do I care? Nope. I’ve never discovered my work being used without my knowledge. Would I care if I did? Nope. When people email me and ask if they can use details or the whole universe, I always grant permission and tell them that they don’t need to ask me again in the future. Credit is nice because that is the expectation whenever using someone else’s creation, but I don’t expect people to ask for permission to name Maglor’s wife Vingarië or to have Caranthir skilled in osanwë-kenta. Nor do I care if they decided that I did everything all wrong and decide to provide their own take on the questions my stories address. In fact, Another Man’s Cage was borne out of a desire to show the Fëanorians’ side of the story, which at the time wasn’t being widely addressed on the sites where I read. I have always felt that this community’s ability to use art and fiction as a means of expressing opinion and engendering debate is one of its virtues. I would much rather every hateful reviewer on fanfiction.net devote her energy to crafting the stories she’d like to read, to contributing her own perspectives to the ongoing discussion of canon. In fact, I’ve suggested to more than one of them that they do just that.

Given all of that, I find the opposition to using existing fanworks to develop one’s own stories a curious but ultimately illustrative perspective about our perception of the “ownership” of creative work. I’m sure that some of the people who declare their fanworks off-limits have also criticized authors like Robin Hobb and, more recently, Diana Gabaldon who voiced very vocal objections to people writing stories using their characters and universes. Both authors have been mocked by members of fandom for having unhealthy attachments to characters and scorned for their desire to control the way readers think about their stories. How do you reconcile criticism of published authors holding those views with acceptance of fan authors who experience similar horror, disgust, and disapproval at the notion of having their stories “used” by someone else?

I think it shows how close many of us share Hobb and Gabaldon’s views, whether we like it or not. It’s easy to tell a creator to get over the use of her work in ways she doesn’t expect or approve of. It’s a bit harder when it’s your precious character or your well-reasoned perspective that is being “trashed” by someone else. I say this with full admission that my own laissez-faire attitude doesn’t come easily. I can’t say that I would be happy to discover a canatic’s version of AMC up on the web. Or my original stories reduced to porn. I would feel that my work and its purpose were being misunderstood. But, ultimately, I would accept the author’s right to “misunderstand” my work however much she wanted because I believe deeply in the importance of this right.

It is the right that underlies all derivative and transformative work. It is the acknowledgment that creative people will usually respond creatively when faced with strong emotions, be that love or loathing, and that to place some works off-limits to creative transformation is repressive of creativity. It is recognition of the fact that, as humans, our first response to art has always been to redo it or retell it, to personalize it to our own beliefs or experiences, to make it our own.

Judging by the letter above to Milton Waldman, Tolkien knew that. He knew that great myths and stories didn’t arise from a single source but became part of the cultures to which they belonged, which required giving access to those stories to all members of that culture. If we choose to believe that our stories, poems, and art based on his books are carrying on his legacy rather than robbing him of it, then I think we need to think as well about how we respond when others take the same freedom with our own work.

ETA (16 June 2010): Nora Charles has this post on Dreamwidth about remixes, including links to a remix challenge posed by the original creators that went horribly wrong when a story was posted that was unexpectedly critical of the original universe. It’s an interesting look at some of the issues that arise from writing in a shared universe, as we all more or less do.

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21 Responses to “Ownership of Fanworks”

  1. Juno says:

    BZWH??? They ban even remixes made with the permission of the original fanauthor/fanartist?

    And seriously, such hypocrisy just BOGGLES my mind. How can you write fanfic and then get up in arms when other people use your fanfic for more fanfic??? I. Don’t. Get. That.

    IDIOTS.

    That’s what I think those people are hypocrites. And idiots.

    Concerning your original work, of course different standards apply. That’s where the original goal of copyright kicks in, namely protecting a creator’s livelihood (note: the term already implies the span of time for which that protection was originally intended &endash; the author’s life).

    Oh, GAH.

    Can you mail me which list/archive that was? Because I didn’t get that, and if I happen to be a member of that group/place whatever, I need to quit NOW.

  2. Dawn says:

    Juno, the group in question permits remixes as long as they are with the consent of the original author. What I wanted to discuss here wasn’t that group’s rules but the assumptions and attitudes that create knee-jerk opposition to use of a creative work, original or fannish.

  3. Michelle says:

    That. Yes. Totally!

    (And I read the statement on LJ, had a knee-jerk reaction and then wondered what the backstory was.)

    Anyway. Tolkien basically “allowing” fanworks is all good and fine, but it assumes that you need an author’s permission to be inspired, sit down and write. No one can stop you from writing, not Anne Rice, not Diana Gabaldon and certainly not some fan. As a courtesy, I would probably not post something for those fandoms online – but that is only a courtesy. Fanfic usually doesn’t simply stop because an author says so. After Anne Rice’s outcry, VC fanfic went underground. It didn’t disappear.

    So essentially, Tolkien’s statement puts us in a comfy place. But it doesn’t mean that writing for fandoms without such a “notice” is off-limits or plain wrong. What I’m trying to say is simply this: Bringing up this particular Tolkien-quote to justify what we’re doing is like reaffirming that we have a minority complex and need Tolkien’s approval. And I don’t like that at all.

    And don’t get me started on the whole hypocrisy of “don’t take my story/character/idea”. It just rubs me the wrong way, always has, always will.

  4. Dawn says:

    Michelle, that’s a good point about the way that that particular quote is used to reaffirm something that shouldn’t need reaffirming. I’m always slightly amazed that writers would think that the decision to write something would be so calculated as to wait for permissions. Have they never been seized by an idea with such force that it won’t wait? Have they never heard of authors who faced ridicule, imprisonment, and even death for having dared to write? Do they think fanfic stands a chance against that?? 😀

    I agree with you that courtesy would prevent me from sharing in public something that the original author had indicated she didn’t want made public. Likewise, I have never publicly acknowledged the poem that pissed me off so badly that I started writing AMC. 😉 Similarly, courtesy would compel me to ask fan authors before borrowing details from their work. But I don’t find any of the above unethical or inappropriate.

  5. Michelle says:

    Well, upon doing some further thinking I suppose it’s a bit like mania. If Tolkien says “write fanfic” fandom is happy and waves about this quote like a flag. But when Gabaldon says, “just don’t” (okay, so she wasn’t all that elegant about it, but I guess a lot of that could be attritubed to the fact that she had noooo idea about fandom) she’s an evil bitch. So I either accept both, or I don’t care about neither. Authors aren’t there to reaffirm my secret desires (of writing wild Lord John/Jamie slash) and bash them the moment they disagree with me. They’re people, too.

    A lot of fandoms don’t have a quote like that and they’re still thriving. Not many shows are tongue-in-cheek enough to put a wincest writing fangirl in an episode. So everyone else has to make do without it. And it’s working just fine.

    Again, I respect authors. If someone says, please don’t I will (maybe grudgingly) accept that. But what I do in my own four walls is up to me. The distinction between dreaming about characters in my head or on paper is tiny.

    (And all this is not even taking into account the artifical 70-year copyright expiration date, which suddenly makes it totally fine to take characters, ideas and settings from authors and use them for your own stories.)

  6. Oshun says:

    That particular notice popped in my own little corner of the fandom also. I had a reaction also, which morphed within a few minutes into ‘whatever.’ I agree that plagiarism is beyond the pale, but fanfic trying to understand the concept of “remixing” made me read it two or three times to be sure I understood.

    It wasn’t the ban itself that bothered me, but the anywhere, any time aspect. I guess the perpetrator would have to be reported, since the ban was against writing it anywhere and not simply on that particular site. What if it was on someone’s hard drive and said hard drive got hacked? Would that count? Oh, never mind. I am not being serious. Remixing in general even with permission does not appeal to me. I worry it could be hurtful in such a small world largely composed of amateurs and hobbyists (although some very serious ones–I would include myself there).

    I know you don’t mind people using your expanded version of the world of Feanor and his boys, because I have used yours and you always have been generous and gracious. I have also asked permission and credited you and I guess technically those were certainly not remixes but in some cases a continuation of and in others a what-if based upon some of your identifiable ideas. The writing of those, over time, has led me farther and farther away from what originally triggered my impulse to begin writing these same characters. That is natural and how those things work.

    I am flattered beyond belief if someone uses a part of my world. On the other hand, I would be a little mildly miffed, if someone with access to my work, but who has never commented upon it, had taken particular details that I introduced and run with them without so much as a note to the effect that they first read it you-know-where. I’d have appreciated a nod or a wink in my direction. But no big deal. We are either all thieves or none of us are.

    I am not talking about plagiarism here, but a question of ‘If you liked it the first time, why didn’t you say so? I don’t get that many reviews.’ (Crackle-snort here at myself.) Not a principled question at all. I will continue to ask you or tell you if I decide to delve into another new and different part of your fan fiction that I haven’t used before. It just seems polite. We operate in a small, rather personal circle.

    On the other hand, I don’t, for example, write Ellen Kushner letters and tell her, ‘I just wrote another little story based on your novels.’ I know she does not mind because she has said so publicly and her circle is big. She makes her living writing those books, is published in many languages, is highly respected in her field, wins awards, etc.

  7. pandemonium_213 says:

    I especially like Oshun’s assessment that “we are all thieves or none of us are” and strongly agree with the following:

    It just seems polite. We operate in a small, rather personal circle.

    My RL experience in the world of peer-reviewed scientific publications (and I have a few ;^)) it is best to err on the side of acknowledgment, whether you are citing someone’s research upon which you build (well, this is essential in publications and you’ll have your ass handed to you if you don’t do this) or in the little “acknowledgments” note at the end of the paper in which the authors thank those who have provided helpful feedback or have proofread the paper. One does not have to write these acknowledgments, but it is good manners to do so, and it tends to encourage good behavior of others who read the work and are otherwise cantankerous primadonnas. ;^)

    I extrapolate those behaviors in the milieu of scientific publication to fan fic, regardless of whether it is “legal” or not. It is common courtesy within the framework of our little world to ask before borrowing from another’s work. It’s what allows the troop of bonobos to live together more or less peacefully. No wait. That entails lots and lots of sex. I’m mixing up my primates here. Anyway, one need not ask. There’s no hard and fast rule about that, just as there is not one for acknowledgments in peer-reviewed papers. But it sure greases the wheels of society, whether fan ficcish or otherwise.

    As for my personal take on remixing, permission granted or otherwise…heh. Only one person (besides myself) has the guts to tread into the Pandë!verse. I’ve seen some things that seem to be inspired by my hackery, but this could be due to similar interpretations of a common source of text.

  8. Pink Siamese says:

    I’m amused whenever I come across a fanfic writer who gets all up on the prissy horse and trumpets their absolute ownership over their plot, their modifications to the canon, and their original characters. I’m just like….what? It’s okay for you to play with Tolkien’s characters and storyline and world sans permission, but it’s not okay for me to play with Lothiriel, Princess of Imladris without your express permission? Snort. Eff that noise.

  9. Rhapsody says:

    I had to stew on this for a while and now that I am done cooking ;)…. I am a tad confused, if you state that fiction is fiction, no matter if it is a fannish work or not, why do you still expect people to treat your original unpublished/draft works? Why should a fannish writer not be upset when people take the work of another, especially when it’s still a work of progress, simply because they write in a world of another anyway. I have seen it happening more than once that author a was working on a piece for a long time, shared stuff with author b and just before posting, author b takes a run with this, remixes it a tad to make it fit her ‘world’ and turns the whole issue around by accusing author a of theft when a still decides to post it (o_O). As Oshun said, in a small fandom such acts can set a very negative tone and will ruin the atmosphere in an otherwise happy environment. But why is there a difference to your view in o-fic vs f-fic, does the fannish writer also not loose her first rights with her own take on a fictional world?

  10. Dawn says:

    Rhapsody, I’m sorry I wasn’t clear. :) First rights in publishing are a legal issue. If I post a flocked, unpublished o-fic on LJ and someone really likes it and decides to write and post on her own LJ a story based off of it, then there is a chance that I then cannot publish my own story in the majority of markets because the first rights have expired. First rights gives a publication dibs on printing your story for the first time; most publications–and almost all of the good ones–buy first rights. Now once I publish an o-fic story, I don’t care who writes what about it or using it.

    I didn’t address unpublished first fanfic drafts in the post because, honestly, I’ve never heard of that happening. To me, that sounds like a violation of trust in a beta-type relationship and seems a different animal than what I brought up here, which was fanfic writers who use an original work without permission from the original creator and then expect their own published derivative/transformative works to have immunity to being used in a similar fashion. To me, that not only seems a bit hypocritical but points to the fact that many of us–even those who claim to be liberal on the question of fanworks–have a little Robin Hobb at heart. :)

  11. Dawn says:

    Continuing comment replies (all out of order, I know–sorry!) …

    @Michelle:

    Authors aren’t there to reaffirm my secret desires (of writing wild Lord John/Jamie slash) and bash them the moment they disagree with me. They’re people, too.

    I’m glad that you said that. Given how authors in general (fannish or otherwise) tend to react when their work is treated in a way that they didn’t expect, I always wince a little at the invectives lobbed at authors like Diana Gabaldon and Robin Hobb. I think that their stances are deplorable but, also, largely uninformed, and both authors have removed their rants from public view, so I like to think that both realized too late how hurtful they were to a broad section of their fanbase. And my personal view is that derivative/transformative work is part of being human, so I totally agree that approval (or disapproval) of the author matters little.

    (And all this is not even taking into account the artifical 70-year copyright expiration date, which suddenly makes it totally fine to take characters, ideas and settings from authors and use them for your own stories.)

    Lol–so true! That particular argument against fanworks always amuses me, mostly because it seems cooked up to justify … well, the majority of stories in literary history and a good number in modern literature, while also allowing the author to scorn those evil fanficcers. I ache just contemplating the logical gymnastics involved! 😀

    @Oshun:

    It wasn’t the ban itself that bothered me, but the anywhere, any time aspect. I guess the perpetrator would have to be reported, since the ban was against writing it anywhere and not simply on that particular site. What if it was on someone’s hard drive and said hard drive got hacked? Would that count? Oh, never mind. I am not being serious.

    I don’t think it’s totally outside the question, though. I know that I’ve engaged in some playful fannish activities with friends that I trust. Some of these activities would probably get me banned from this group, if one of my trusted friends decided to be less trustworthy. 😉

    I’d have appreciated a nod or a wink in my direction.

    I agree with this and with Pandemonium’s expansion on the topic. From a practical standpoint, getting permission from the Tolkien Estate to write Silmfic is a very different matter from emailing someone on an archive or LJ and asking to use details. (To say nothing of the fact that, legally, I don’t think that the TE could approve fanfic, while we are all free to approve writings spun off of our own fanworks.) And, yes, credit is absolutely essential.

    @Pandë:

    Carrying on what I just typed to Oshun, I agree that asking first is polite and crediting afterward is essential. This is a very different animal from writing to the Tolkien Estate and asking, “May I write this story where this happens based on JRRT’s Silmarillion?” Most archives provide a means to contact authors, to say nothing of the fact that most people know each other in Silm fandom.

    But I can forgive not asking. I agree with both you and Oshun that not crediting or acknowledging is unacceptable. Giving credit for ideas not your own is regarded as ethical and honest behavior in both the scientific and literary worlds.

    However, I would ask: Where does one draw the line? For example, AMC was directly inspired by a poem that I read on ff.net five years ago. The poem was basically along the lines of “Maedhros is evil,” and I remember a comment left that said, “This poem convinced me that Maedhros was the true villain in the Silm.” That made me angry enough that I wrote a novel in reply! 😛 At what point does “inspiration” become “remixing”? Several people have told me that they were inspired by AMC and my other Fëanorian stories to start writing their own. They borrowed from my work to varying degrees and sometimes covered the same topics or events that I had. At what point did these become remixes?

    Since we all work from the same source material, as you note in your remark about the Pandëverse, I think it becomes even more complicated to draw the line. If I read The Apprentice and was inspired to write my own story about Annatar’s influence over the Gwaith-i-Mirdain, at what point would that stop being “inspiration to explore deeper into a source text” and become a “remix”? (I’m not posing these questions only at you, of course, just kind of thinking aloud! :) ) How does one prove that a story is a remix if the author isn’t up-front about it?

    @Pink Siamese: It’s certainly interesting and, I think, puts more than a few fanficcers into the uncomfortable shoes of authors whose attitudes they profess to disagree with! :)

  12. Michelle says:

    @pandemonium:

    It is common courtesy within the framework of our little world to ask before borrowing from another’s work.

    Yes. I agree with that – or rather, I work from the same standpoint. I admit that (since I’m a very slow writer and stories tend to spend a long time in my head before I write them down) I can never be quite sure of all the sources that influenced me along the way. But I always try to acknowledge people and ideas – whether fannish or “original”.

    I think most of us would act like that. But why then, don’t we do the same with the author of the canon source? Of course, there are many reasons not to ask an author that particular question. But it puts a lot of fairplay and understanding in the fannish circle while not doing the same for the author-fan relationship. I fear, it’s an issue that cannot be resolved, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it…

  13. Randy says:

    Juno, the group in question permits remixes as long as they are with the consent of the original author. What I wanted to discuss here wasn’t that group’s rules but the assumptions and attitudes that create knee-jerk opposition to use of a creative work, original or fannish.

    It wasn’t just remixes. The objections were also to gapfillers, parodies, and the use of original characters and scenarios with attribution but without permission.

    My reaction was, please — we borrow Tolkien’s work without asking and put our own spin on it, so how can we be upset if someone does the same to us? Sauce for the goose, y’know?

    I always cite my sources of inspiration. If I want to stay on good terms with the original author, I ask permission. If not, I’m not so punctilious.

  14. Dawn says:

    I’m sticking by my intention not to comment on the rule itself. I just reread the post, which I still have saved in my inbox, and that is not the impression that I got, but I am a lurker on the group, I do not know the admin personally, and I know nothing about the history behind the rule. So I’d really not comment further on the rule but would rather focus on the attitudes that inspire these feelings generally.

    Otherwise, I think we are in perfect agreement. :) Credit for work that is not one’s own is considered correct and ethical behavior in the literary community–I don’t think fandom should be any exception–and while I agree with Oshun and Pandë’s point that it is polite (and usually very easy) to ask before borrowing another person’s work, I certainly don’t think it is the grave offense that some people in fandom make it out to be. (Nor do I think that they are saying that, for the record.) Sauce for the goose indeed!

  15. pandemonium_213 says:

    Since we all work from the same source material, as you note in your remark about the Pandëverse, I think it becomes even more complicated to draw the line. If I read The Apprentice and was inspired to write my own story about Annatar’s influence over the Gwaith-i-Mirdain, at what point would that stop being “inspiration to explore deeper into a source text” and become a “remix”? (I’m not posing these questions only at you, of course, just kind of thinking aloud! ) How does one prove that a story is a remix if the author isn’t up-front about it?

    Well, there have been previous “Annatar’s influence over the Gwaith-i-Mirdain” stories placed on archives well before I was sucked into the vortex of fan fiction. I think the authors would rightly say they were inspired to explore deeper into the source text just as I was. But our visions are extraordinarily different. More recently, a couple of “contemporaries” have been inspired by my visions, but each has acknowledged this. I am grateful for that courtesy. So that’s inspiration.

    “Remix” as I see it, brings in much stronger parallels and obvious themes. For example, if someone wrote about a young smith working under the tutelage a scientifically astute and power-hungry master teacher, I’d assume that could be defined as a remix as you young whippersnappers call it ;^).

    Randy (assuming this is the infamous Randy_O) gave an excellent example of a cinematic remix on his forum: The Magnificent Seven remixed from The Seven Samurai.

  16. pandemonium_213 says:

    Michelle:

    But why then, don’t we do the same with the author of the canon source? Of course, there are many reasons not to ask an author that particular question. But it puts a lot of fairplay and understanding in the fannish circle while not doing the same for the author-fan relationship

    A good question, and you’re right. It’s not one that is easily resolved. But I guess I’m looking at fannish circles as being social networks versus the realm of copyright and patent law.

  17. Ithilwen says:

    As my own tics are unauthorized remixes of Tolkien, I can hardly get too bent out of shape if I come across an unauthorized remix of my own stories.

    I can understand why some people find such remixes upsetting, but despite what copyright law implies, we can’t own other’s thoughts. And certainly anyone writing in Silm fandom ought to be cognizant of the dangers of being too possessive of our creations!

  18. Randy says:

    “Remix” as I see it, brings in much stronger parallels and obvious themes. For example, if someone wrote about a young smith working under the tutelage a scientifically astute and power-hungry master teacher, I’d assume that could be defined as a remix as you young whippersnappers call it ;^).

    I had to ask what a ‘remix’ meant, and it turns out that a remix uses around 75% or the original material in the original author’s own words, but has a different ending and intent. This makes me a little uneasy, even though the new material and gist of the story are the secondary author’s unique work.

    Randy (assuming this is the infamous Randy_O) gave an excellent example of a cinematic remix on his forum: The Magnificent Seven remixed from The Seven Samurai.

    Infamous — that would be me! Another example would be the movie ‘Cruel Intentions’ based on ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’, or ‘The Outrage’ which is based on ‘Rashoman’. I’d call that more of a homage — same plot, new setting, and we all recognize the story. I find stories like that very entertaining, whether the copyright on the source material has expired or not, which in the case of the two Japanese movies, it hasn’t.

    A good question, and you’re right. It’s not one that is easily resolved. But I guess I’m looking at fannish circles as being social networks versus the realm of copyright and patent law.

    I always ask if I like the person and don’t want to burn bridges, but I have written at least one serious story as a critical answer to an author who would happily see me run over by a bus.

  19. Dawn says:

    I had to ask what a ‘remix’ meant, and it turns out that a remix uses around 75% or the original material in the original author’s own words, but has a different ending and intent. This makes me a little uneasy, even though the new material and gist of the story are the secondary author’s unique work.

    Yes, that’s a completely different basket of eggs and not at all what I understand “remixing” to be. I wish the original post had been clearer on how they’re defining remixing, but oh well.

    From a creative standpoint, I haven’t much respect for people who do that period. I’ve seen a few Tolkien fanfics that lift whole passages or extensive exchanges of dialogue from the books. If I wanted to read that, I would just read the original.

    If it’s done without attribution to the source, then it’s plagiarism, pure and simple. And even fair use–which I stand by in my own choices about how to use other creators’ works–would not cover borrowing 75+% of an author’s work. I know the one site I write for allows up to 50 words, quoted, though I suspect that is an intentionally conservative estimate.

  20. Michelle says:

    Popping in again, but not leaving much coherent thought (I think I got too much sun today *g*).

    For a few examples of remixing, I’d recommend this amazing website: http://remix.illuminatedtext.com I’ve read around there a while ago and found it very fascinating. Though, I think for a remix truly to make sense a reader should know which story is being remixed. Otherwise it’s only half the fun. So I suppose remixes should be always accredited or the whole idea doesn’t make sense.

  21. Dreamflower says:

    Coming in a tad late to this discussion, but I have to say I find it fascinating.

    I have an essentially different emotional reaction to statements by the authors and creators of source material than I do to fanworks. JRRT’s famous statement pleases me, and gives me warm fuzzies, but I do not think that without it I would refrain from writing fanfic. I can’t know this for certain, because I was aware of that statement before ever writing my first fic, but I don’t believe it would have made a difference. The same goes for others who approve of fanworks of their material– I get a kick out of knowing that they know and like the idea. Those who disapprove, however, often upset me not because of their disapproval but because of the way that disapproval is often voiced.

    I find it fascinating that for so very many of us, the catalyst for our own first ventures into writing and posting fanfic is *not* the source material, but another fanwork! It was certainly so in my case, when I read Lulleny’s “The Prodigal Took”. I loved the story, but felt that it ended too soon, and was inspired by that to continue on with what could have happened next. Fortunately for me, raw newbie that I was, the only thing I knew to do with it was to ask her if she’d like to see it. I had no idea how to post to an archive at the time. And also fortunately for me, she was gracious enough not only to read it, but to beta it and explain to me what I needed to do to get it posted. Looking back now, I realize just how gracious that really was, as I am sure that the ambiguity of her ending was intentional, and my own continuation of it was rather fluffier than her taste.

    But it was her graciousness that stuck with me, and I know that for me, the essence of participating in fandom is to encourage others in the same way.

    I’ve only been part of a couple of remixes, and enjoyed the experience very much, although I was slightly disappointed in one that the remix of my own story did not make more changes than it did. I actually would have *liked* to see some of my assumptions challenged.

    But I am always rather puffed up to recognize when other writers have borrowed elements I’ve created for “my universe”. Of course, I like it when there’s attribution (I’m vain that way) but I also like it when there’s not, because that means my idea has entered into that area of fanon that is so widely accepted that few know the origin of it.

    In only one case can I recall being upset with such a borrowing without attribution. Perhaps it was because of who did the borrowing, since I don’t care for her work as much as she seems to for mine, or perhaps it was because it was a co-written story from which she borrowed (making it not just my own idea that was appropriated) or perhaps it was because the idea was so unique (a rarity in fanfic), or perhaps it was the way she used the idea, or maybe a combination thereof.

    But however ticked off it made me, I would never have called her on it. I write fanworks, she writes fanworks, it’s hypocritical for me to object to the use she makes of my stuff. I’ve mentioned it to a friend or two in private, but I’d never dream of making a public kerfuffle of it!

    The truth is, we fanfic writers riff off one another all the time– that’s how fanon is born, after all.

    I consider it polite and gracious to acknowledge the debt we owe not only to the creators of our common sources, but also to our fellow creators of fanworks that inpsire us. But there is a difference between good manners and making a “rule” of some sort.

    That’s just me, I guess.

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