Amazon’s Kindle Worlds: Instant Thoughts
Posted on May 22, 2013 Posted by John Scalzi 251 Comments
The Twitters are abuzz today about Amazon’s new “Kindle Worlds” program, in which people are allowed to write and then sell through Amazon their fan fiction for certain properties owned by Alloy Entertainment, including Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars, with more licenses expected soon. I’ve had a quick look at the program on Amazon’s site, and I have a couple of immediate thoughts on it. Be aware that these thoughts are very preliminary, i.e., I reserve the right to have possibly contradictory thoughts about the program later, when I think (and read) about it more. Also note that these are my personal thoughts and do not reflect the positions or policies of SFWA, of which I am (still but not for much longer) president.
1. The main knock on fan fiction from the rights-holders point of view — i.e., people are using their characters and situations in ways that probably violate copyright — is apparently not at all a problem here, since Alloy Entertainment is on board for allowing people to write what they want (within specific guidelines — more on that in a bit). Since that’s the case, there’s probably a technical argument here about whether this is precisely “fan fiction” or if it’s actually media tie-in writing done with intentionally low bars to participation (the true answer, I suspect, is that it’s both). Either way, if Alloy Entertainment’s on board, everything’s on the level, so why not.
2. So, on one hand it offers people who write fan fiction a chance to get paid for their writing in a way that doesn’t make the rightsholders angry, which is nice for the fan ficcers. On the other hand, as a writer, there are a number of things about the deal Amazon/Alloy are offering that raise red flags for me. Number one among these is this bit:
“We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.”
i.e., that really cool creative idea you put in your story, or that awesome new character you made? If Alloy Entertainment likes it, they can take it and use it for their own purposes without paying you — which is to say they make money off your idea, lots of money, even, and all you get is the knowledge they liked your idea.
Essentially, this means that all the work in the Kindle Worlds arena is a work for hire that Alloy (and whomever else signs on) can mine with impunity. This is a very good deal for Alloy, et al — they’re getting story ideas! Free! — and less of a good deal for the actual writers themselves. I mean, the official media tie-in writers and script writers are doing work for hire, too, but they get advances and\or at least WGA minimum scale for their work.
Another red flag:
“Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.”
Which is to say, once Amazon has it, they have the right to do anything they want with it, including possibly using it in anthologies or selling it other languages, etc, without paying the author anything else for it, ever. Again, an excellent deal for Amazon; a less than excellent deal for the actual writer.
Note that on its page Amazon makes a show of saying that the writer owns the copyright on the original things that are copyrightable, but inasmuch as Amazon also acquires all rights for the length of the copyright and Alloy is given the right to exploit the new elements without further compensation, this show about you keeping your copyright appears to be just that: show.
The argument here could be, well, you know, people who were writing fan fiction weren’t getting paid or had rights to these characters and worlds anyway, so only getting paid for their work once is still better than what they would have gotten before. And that’s not an entirely bad argument on one level. But on another level, there’s a difference between writing fan fiction because you love the world and the characters on a personal level, and Amazon and Alloy actively exploiting that love for their corporate gain and throwing you a few coins for your trouble. So this should be an interesting argument for people to have in the real world.
3. If this sort of thing takes off, I’m interested to see what effect it will have on the media tie-in market, and on the professional writers who work in it. Obviously it has the potential to greatly shift how things are done. If you are a corporate rights holder, for example, would you bother with seeking out pro writers any more, and paying them advances and royalties and all of that business? Or would you just open up the gates to paid fan fiction, which you don’t have to pay anything for and yet still have total control over the commercial exploitation thereof? Again, this is interesting stuff to consider, and if I were a pro writer who primarily worked in media tie-in markets, I would have some real concerns.
4. This won’t spell the end of unauthorized fan fic, and I’m very sure of that. For one thing, the Kindle Worlds program says it won’t accept “pornography” which means all that slash out there will still be on the outside of the program (Edit: to note not all slash is porn, although I wonder if Amazon won’t simply default it as such); likewise crossover fan fic, so those “Vampire Diaries meet Dr Who” stories will be left out in the cold. And besides that, there will be people who a) have no interest in making money and/or b) don’t write well enough to be accepted into the Kindle Worlds program (there does seem that there will be some attempt at quality control, or at least, someone has to go through the stuff to make sure there’s nothing that’s contractually forbidden). So if this was an attempt to squash fan fic through other means, it’s doomed to failure. But I don’t suspect that’s the point.
5. Speaking as a writer, I wouldn’t do something like this; I don’t generally like writing in other people’s worlds in any event (and when I do, I go public domain — see Fuzzy Nation) and I don’t like the terms that are on offer here. And of course I have my own things to write. Likewise, I would caution anyone looking at this to be aware that overall this is not anywhere close to what I would call a good deal. Finally, on a philosophical level, I suspect this is yet another attempt in a series of long-term attempts to fundamentally change the landscape for purchasing and controlling the work of writers in such a manner that ultimately limits how writers are compensated for their work, which ultimately is not to the benefit of the writer. This will have far-reaching consequences that none of us really understand yet.
The thing that can be said for it is that it’s a better deal than you would otherwise get for writing fan fiction, i.e., no deal at all and possibly having to deal with a cranky rightsholder angry that you kids are playing in their yard. Is that enough for you? That’s on you to decide.
I don’t think that this will become big or even significant business. My best guess is that this announcement shell demonstrate how Amazon is capable of running circles around the publishers without breaking sweat.
Personally, I love it. I had cooked up a similar idea, too through my own book series. We need more bards in our story-telling culture if we want these stories and characters to pass on and evolve in the coming generations. At this point, the only storytellers that can help shape well known properties are movie studios and publishers. Of course, the original author should get a cut. But if someone wants to write spin-off stories based on my tales, have fun.
Scalzi, you’re great, but you really need to stop propagating the myth of slash=porn. It’s not, it’s not, it’s not.
There’s a reason I put “pornography” in quotes there, actually. I think some slash can be porn, and I strongly suspect that Amazon/Alloy is going to look askance at any slash and may dump into the porn bin as a default. Indeed, I suspect that Amazon/Alloy is going to look askance at most instances of shipping, too, although that’s just a gut feeling, with no data to back it up.
Aileen, I took that to mean that since the studios are saying “no porn” their interpretation of that will probably ban even a hint of Damon/Alaric, despite the relationship being nearly canon on the show.
Doh! Beat to the punch by our host!
I am not a writer, but I do have some legal training and I would strongly advise anyone not to sign any contract that does not include specific reversion rights within a limited term. Also, no one should be able to use your ideas in other media without paying you. In the long run, any contract that takes rights (and therefore money) away from the writer is bad news. Far from helping publishing, Amazon is pushing a scheme that will deter writers who want to be self-supporting. Who can afford to write when future income from your work goes to someone else? These schemes will kill publishing.
@Aileen – I think Scalzi means that Amazon will *classify* all slash as “pornographic” or inappropriate or whatever, and exclude it accordingly, which….is pretty consistent with their generally dubious record on all things LGBTQ.
I guess this means my CASTLE Meets DOCTOR WHO story won’t fly then….
You’re right that the extreme limitations of rights kind of sucks – it sounds like a variant of the comics industry’s “standard agreement”, where if you create a character for a comic, the publisher owns it! (Bruce Coville jokes that he wonders if he’s now a Marvel property since Tammy and I turned him into a FBI Agent for WHITE TIGER: A HERO’S OBSESSION – and when does he get his own action figure?) I suspect that a lot of fans will, like comic fans turned writers do, basically “live with it” for the chance to write within universes they’re fans of – but yes, the warning needs to be put out there.
It’s true that a lot of us are looking at that deal and wondering whether Amazon will consider slash objectionable. Maybe they’ve learned from that time they “accidentally” categorized all those LGBT books as adult. I disagree about shipping, though. Shipping is the lifeblood of (fic-writing) fandom, and I think they know that.
(I’m glad you posted something this morning. I was looking forward to it, since you did such great takedowns of those epub contracts.)
Those terms are pretty nuts. I wouldn’t agree to them, ya know, assuming I wrote fanfic ever. Just… never give up your rights (on the other hand… I don’t think this program is for serious authors as much as people who write just fanfic).
I can see this being a good way for someone to break into the tie-in market (something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time), but the negatives! So much potential for things to go wrong. What happens when someone steals someone else’s fanfic and sells it as their own?
I’m thinking there will still be plenty of fanfiction, partly because so many fanfic writers start stories and never finish them and partly because lots of fanfics are just scenes, not full-fledged stories. My favorite fanfic community writes missing scenes from television episodes a lot — the “but what happened next?” moments. And it’s tough to see how there’s a market for that kind of stuff because so much context would be missing, plus they’re generally super-short. I’ve written a couple that are less than 1000 words.
As someone who writes fanfic about television shows and only for fun, though, I think it’s terrific. I surmise that my most-beloved show is never going to join the ranks of Kindle Worlds since it’s both obscure and cancelled (Eureka), nor would I ever expect to earn anything at all off of it, but I’d feel good about having the permission to write. Also, I’d actually be really delighted if the creators of Eureka reaped any rewards at all from my work, given how much pleasure they’ve given me with their work.
Well said. And nice callback to XKCD insight at the end of the next-to-last paragraph.
Dibs on writing fanfic about this blog. Not your novels. This blog. (You turn into your own cat.)
Most of us who write fanfiction do it for the joy of it. It’s a hobby for us, not unlike knitting or fishing or any other hobby you could name. All of the fanfiction authors I’ve seen discussing this know that it is a terrible deal and would rather keep publishing their stories for free than give over so many of their rights to Amazon. If we wanted compensation for our writing, we’d write original fiction. In fact, many of us do both.
I think Amazon will find that a lot of teenagers who don’t know better want to take them up on the deal and hardly anyone else. Certainly not the movers and shakers in fandom.
Every time someone attempts to monetize fandom, they fail (see also: Fanlib). I don’t foresee this being much different.
The terms for the self publishing arm are wildly different than the terms given to the authors who were commissioned to do this and at least in my case weren’t told of the self publishing arm. John, I’ve left my email in your CP if you want to hear more of the differing terms.
What Julie said.
I think one thing to ponder is whether this might eventually lead to a bifurcation of the fanfic community, between the “for the love” camp and a (possibly emerging in the future) “for the pay” camp. I don’t know enough about the fanfic community to speculate intelligently, but money does change things.
Also, the major difference between the Amazon thing and previous attempts is that in this particular case, Amazon has cleared the rights to some specific properties, and if works out for them, I can see other rightsholders wanting to get in on the action.
I would be worried about the part where your story ideas and new characters can be mined, if you ever intend to rework those ideas and characters into something that isn’t fanfiction. I’ve had, and have several friends who have had, characters that started out as “fancharacters” in an established world that were then tweaked and altered and used for original stories in original settings. It would be quite sad if a writer got paid for their fanfiction through this kind of deal, and then found they could never use characters and story ideas they came up with themselves for anything original again because Alloy or another rights owner picked up the fanfic version.
I think you missed the bigest point, John, which is that fan fiction is horrible, always, and without exception. The best of it is awful. From a business standpoint, trying to sell into a market where the quality is basically identical across products, and the price point is basically “free” is always a tough proposition.
Well, no, it’s not all horrible, always and without exception, and suggesting so (aside from being incorrect) is a fine way to wrench the thread into a derail. So in fact let’s not have a discussion on the inherent quality of fan fiction, please.
I’m certain that they would claim this bit: “We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.” is to protect the “Official” writers of the property from copyright complaints if they unintentionally use an idea that was in one of these works.
And while that is a legitimate concern, I do not believe it is the only, or even the primary, reason.
This whole thing is sounding like an amazingly terrible idea, for many reasons. One I didn’t see brought up: Isn’t fanfic usually all about the community? Like, comments and story in the same place, fanfic author interacting a lot with the fanfic readers, etc? I doubt changing the environment will help the medium.
I can understand the “you wrote it, we own it” concept, but they could handle it better. During Babylon 5, JMS was adamant about never ever ever sending story ideas since he would be legally unable to use them for fear of lawsuit over stolen ideas. Assuming that Amazon and Alloy are taking a “Don’t Be Evil” approach (and perhaps I’m too generous), this gets them off the hook for /happening/ to use the same story concept.
There’s nothing preventing Alloy from being more generous than this: they could give fanfic writers a story credit, pay them, etc. — but they need the lawsuit shield.
I’ll give Amazon credit for crafting this with the best (for them) possible terms that they could reasonably get away with. Anything worse would, in a reasonable world, lead to riots. (Speaking of which, I would love to see a fanfic riot. “Amateur writers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your cat-ears!”)
Here’s hoping Amazon is forced to relax the terms to something a *bit* more reasonable.
Yeah, I think I’ll just leave this stuff alone. I have my own set of worlds and characters that I may or may not write stories in, but the only “fanfic” idea I have so far is based on a work in the public domain.
I pass no judgement on (a) people who choose to make use of this new program of Amazon’s, nor (b) the quality of fan-fiction in general.
@joelfinkle – ’cause we know how generous and selfless corporations are we think they are going to pay them when they don’t have to?
I suppose it could, but fandom has a very long history of resisting outside influence and the terms of this deal disallow most of the things that fandom actually writes.
Another thing fandom will be watching closely is how Amazon treats fanfiction for one of the licensed properties, but is not published through them. If Amazon takes any action against it, fandom will push back and push back fiercely.
Yeah, I’m with Julie. So much of being involved in the fanfiction community is about being able to react to the source and have conversations about it through fic and through talking to each other; it’s about sharing excitement with other fans. And yes, often (thought not always) it’s also about writing the queerness and the explicit sex that the official corporate version won’t give us. So… take that away, and instead offer a not-guaranteed amount of money and the chance to have your ideas exploited for corporate profit…? I’m not seeing nearly enough benefit to make up for what gets lost, and I suspect a lot of established fanfic writers — as opposed to origfic writers who have been recruited to write & provide pull quotes for this program — will have similar reservations.
@ johannespunkt Yes, definitely. Fandoms live and die by the communities created around them.
If the contract is financially terrible for the fanfic writers, doesn’t that limit the for love/for lucre split in the fanfic community? After the first burned generation, anyway? No newbie writer will make much, and everyone who stays out of the Amazon deal, and practices in fanfic, and then sells something `with the VIN ground off’ will be a counterexample financially, as well as creatively.
Amazon has an incredible gift for monetizing stuff, however, I agree with you on all points, John.
As a side note, I’m already grateful to them for all the Twitter fake fan fic synopses. Somebody needs to hashtag them so we can all share.
As a writer of both fanfic and original work, my gut reaction to this is that it will be very bad for the fanfic community as a whole. People write fanfic for a variety of reasons, and many of those reasons are tied to the communal and social value of producing fan works within a fannish community. This non-commercial value has had the space to develop because up until now there’s been no real way to commoditize fan works (and fannish communities often actively discourage commoditizing behaviors). We can’t really know until we see how this plays out, but I can’t see any good coming from this for the communities that have been producing fan works.
In response to Jerome’s assertion that all fanfic is horrible: if you are attempting sarcasm, it isn’t coming across to me. If you are serious in that assertion, I would say that you are probably not very familiar with fanfic. There is excellent, often very interesting and experimental work that is being produced by people writing fanfic. Some of these writers only write fanfic and have no interest in professional publication; others also publish professionally. I won’t out them, but there are many pro-writers also heavily involved in the fanfic community, including folks who have been nominated for and won major awards. I assure you, the quality of their work doesn’t vary between what they write for money and what they write for fun. Honestly, the quality of what we would see out of this new initiative is the least of my concerns. There’s a lot of quality fanfic out there. The potentially negative impact on the community is far more worrying.
I’m not a fanfic writer myself but I think there is a likely possibility that is being missed by some here. Namely that if one of the licensors sees ideas and writing the really like from a writer who submits to this program they likely will approach that author, perhaps, for actual work for hire for the property in question. And that this contract would let them do so without the concerns that might arise if they were as others noted reading unsolicited works.
In a non-TV context I’m aware of at least one other example of this approach. Paizo has been working and even helped publish and distribute fanfic set in their world of Golarion. And many of the people involved in fan publications have been hired by Paizo (either as contractors for specific works or in a few cases hired as full time staff)
If I were running a tv series I’d certainly love to hire fans of that property to write for it. (See doctor who for what can happen when you let fans run the show and write for it…)
But people don’t write fanfiction for money. There isn’t a “for-pay camp”. I mean, there are certainly hordes of people who are happy to make a bit of money off of their fanworks, but that’s not usually the reason they make the fanworks in the first place; there are also people who offer fannish commissions when they are in dire straits, but again, that’s rarely if ever their primary reason for fannish creation.
And in the time it took to write that, everyone said what I said :)
It also makes me wonder to what degree this effort will allow Amazon to take over the slightly loftier, more official version of fanfic writing: derivative and unoriginal fiction that gets published through traditional means. An awful lot of genre fiction published over the past 50-60 years would have gotten slapped with the fanfic label if written today. (I’m thinking of mediocre Tolkien imitations in fantasy, in particular.)
So at one point in time, an author might have written a book that heavily borrowed elements and characters from other fiction right up to the thinnest possible legal line, but neither the publishers nor the reader cared, and the author got paid, and shelves swelled with zillions of quest-based narratives involving various magical human-ish types, and all was well. But now that whole publishing model might just disappear into something much less profitable for anyone but Amazon.
I write FanFiction that’s based on my life- does this mean Amazon wold own ME, now? Wold Alloy be allowed to profit off MY life + experiences? How could that possibly be legal?
Jerome, as someone who reads fanfic a lot: you are wrong. Yes there is a much larger quotient of bad writing in fanfic, much like I am sure there are quite a lot of hobbyists whose woodworking skill(for example) leaves something to be desired, because no one sets a quality bar for entrance into a hobby: all you need is the desire. But there is a lot of fanfic that’s not bad, and some that is downright good.
Hmm.. so Alloy is ‘generously’ allowing fanfic writers to play in their franchises. What do the *authors* who write for Alloy think about this?
Sorry John – crossposts
> For one thing, the Kindle Worlds program says it won’t accept “pornography”
The regular Amazon content guidelines also prohibit pornography, and yet erotica *and* stroke fiction are very much allowed. I’ve only seen the “no pornography” filter applied to sexual images, drawn or photographs. So if they follow their own precedent, that means sexually explicit language and scenes would be allowed, just not images.
The “worlds” I’ve seen mentioned so far seem to be largely teen-oriented (as far as I’m aware, not being part of any of those fandoms), which suggests to me that they’ll get more takers than ones with older audiences, but perhaps with an overall lower quality of writing?
I’m also wondering how they intend to make money off this – do people pay to read the stories, or is the income merely via advertising?
I also have the same concern many others have voiced, that in the fanfic community it’s common for writers to take their original characters, concepts and/or storylines and reuse them in purely original fiction, some of which has then gone on to be published (50 Shades of Grey being the most obvious example though I know of others), which would seem to be prohibited in Amazon’s scheme.
One positive did come to mind re this rights issue though – published authors have sometimes been accused of copying concepts from fanfic created for their own universes, and that presumably wouldn’t be an issue in this context. But it’s a very minor positive amidst all the negative.
I wonder how strictly they intend to control what is written? If someone writes an alternate universe story where everything happened differently, would that be allowed? How about a story where one of the heroes is portrayed as a villian? Or a story where two people who are canonically enemies fall in love/lust with each other, while the hero’s canonical girlfriend is portrayed as a manipulative bitch or something? There are plenty of storylines the original author/showrunner/etc may object to which don’t fall within the realms of pornography.
Regarding slash, the terms for this program are the same as that for the KDP program in general and they have very consistently allowed written erotica, though recently they have been marking a lot of items “adult” which limits their visibility outside of the book and kindle book sections. So the “no porn” clause still leaves it entirely up in the air.
I am so dissappointed by the ‘no porn’ thing. I would love to see the “My Immortal” fanfic on Amazon’s top list.
As a fanfiction reader, I find it hard to believe that this could work as a serious bussiness proposition. No, not all fanfiction is horrible, but (speaking solely from my personal expierience from the few fandoms I have participated in) only about 10% of it is of professional quality, a.k.a. something that I would be willing to pay anything for. And most of that 10% is short pieces, not something that could be priced even so low as 0,99 cents. I would be amazed if anyone managed to make money from this; fanfiction readers will have read enough of it to be wary of the quality and, if they ever try it, they will stick with fanfiction writers they know.
There is also the “danger” of alienating fanfiction readers; it has been known to happen that, when a writer withdraws a story from a fanfiction archive in order to (usually self-) publish it for money, readers feel betrayed, especially if the story is incomplete. It may be irrational, since readers are not entitled to these stories, but I suspect a fair number will resent being asked to pay for something they have gotten for free for years.
John, where did you find the contract terms? I’m curious to know if the contract is 1) exclusive (meaning I can’t put it on Ye Olde Pit O’ Voles) and 2) breakable (i.e., can I ever remove the story from Amazon, regardless of the rights grab?)
I doubt this is going to make that big a blip on fandom’s radar just due to the fact that comparatively few fandoms are most likely going to be licensed – for example, I doubt the gigantic anime/manga community is going to see ANYTHING under this, because I doubt they’ll have much luck acquiring foreign rights, assuming they even want to try.
Having said all that, I’m a writer of original stuff (two WIPs currently, at least two more on the settling shelf) who’s also working on a fanfiction. If my fandom joined the licensing groups and the terms weren’t bad, would I consider this? Probably. The money wouldn’t be the deciding factor, though – it’d be the sense of legitimacy and the reaching of a wider audience. Fun will always trump money when it comes to my fanfic writing.
Fan fiction is a world all on its own. Readers like me have been very grateful to many of the authors I have had the privilege to read and review their works for free. Financial situations in many of our lives do not serve for us to be buying stories. There are just many of us in all the different fandoms to allow this kind of commercialization to come to be. I feel I am not interpreting myself good enough. Some fan fiction authors do this for fun, other to let their emotions run wild. To enter a world that is not real and therefore escape their real lives. Many are hurting. Their writing is therapy. You can’t and must not put a price on a therapy that makes a person feel good about themselves for even an hour of their day.
Emma already touched on this, but, I just wanna say it too: why would you risk publishing on this Amazon thing when you could potentially turn your story into original fiction for potentially more money.
I mean, “50 Shades…” is the prime example. Start as fan-fiction. Gets popular. Turned into original fiction. Sells for a butt-ton of money. I’d rather err on the side of no money with the possiblility of original fiction then on the side of small amounts of money and no rights to any of the possible original ideas and characters in my work.
That being said, I’ve never read, nor written, fan fiction so maybe I’m just being dumb.
I’m not a lawyer, but the current properties are television series based on novels. Does Alloy Entertainment own the rights to everything in the novels, as well as everything in the series? If Amazon only has the rights to the television series, and a fan-author submits something with a character/plot reference from the novels that doesn’t appear in the television series, can Amazon be sued?
Maybe Alloy Entertainment contacted the original authors/agents, and this is a shared agreement, and everyone is profiting. That would be nice. But is this classifiable with ‘Unicorns exist!’
I guess if someone cares little for developing their fan fic stories and wants the money now, this might be their cup of tea. Otherwise, Amazon/Alloy hold all the cards. For a small fee they get to mine what could be a vast collection of story ideas and characters, then find their own writers to write follow-up stories the way they want to see those ideas and characters progress.
Yeah, I don’t like it. Not when one party is seeking to exploit another by tangling a carrot of small cash then ‘refine’ what is offered in whatever fashion they deem fit. My ideas are my ideas and I won’t let them go without satisfactory compensation, like a small tropical island in the Pacific.
Addressing Jerome O’Neil’s comment, second part:
From a business standpoint, trying to sell into a market where the quality is basically identical across products, and the price point is basically “free” is always a tough proposition.
Really now? Has anyone clued Dasani, Aquafina, et al. in yet?
I’m with Scalzi on the terms of the agreement, but there are other authors who do/have done media tie-ins who say that those terms are standard for that sort of work:
It seems like this more about exploring a new mode of producing media tie-ins and maybe helping blur the line between fanfic and tie-ins, less about trying to control all the fanfic.
I’m really damn proud of my fandom-based stories and my ears perked up this morning, I had the same basic reactions you did, namely about Amazon and the copyright holder owning the rights to my work. Sorry, but that is a HUGE red flag. My small hope about this is that they do only accept the well-written stuff (of which there is plenty online but often gets ignored by the public because there’s so much poorly written stuff) so that the general public starts to see that fan fiction is just as legitimate as fan art and its quality solely depends on the talent of the fan. But as for me, I’ll stick with putting my work on FFN and AO3.
(clicks save on Scalzi/Coulton fic and stores to hard drive)
With all due respect, sir, being monetarily compensated for fanfic isn’t a “better deal.” Gift culture has is own rewards—development of friendships, positive feedback, infectious ideas—and most of us delight in subverting the social standard and corporate norm. Making a deal at all would be selling our souls to the very devils we’re out to get.
John – thank you for bringing up the media tie-in angle. Reading the submission guidelines and mulling over the limitations being set, I don’t see this so much as an attempt to monetize the process of fanfic writing as it is to lower the cost/hassle of producing tie-in work while crossing one’s fingers and praying you trip over the next “50 Shades of Grey”.
This kind of writing has never dominated publishing – in fact, speaking as somebody who has collected novelizations for well over three decades now – oftentimes the books are gone from the shelves almost before you realize they’ve been released. While the Amazon set-up is likely to make it harder on professional writers to get contracts writing this sort of fiction, media tie-ins are historically contracted out on the basis of “who you know”. I can’t see where injecting new blood into the genre is universally a bad thing.
By the same token, as long as participation in this program does not somehow blackball a writer from seeking more traditional representation and exposure for their original works I’m really not sure at this point what it hurts?
I agree, one shouldn’t sign away rights.
But how did the fanficcer come to control any rights in the first place? It’s FAN fiction. It’s already a derivate work and as such violates the copyright of the original property owner. The fanficcer had no legal leg to stand on if he/she wanted to profit off their work – no matter how many original characters and/or concepts the work contained. The world was built by someone else, and that someone else owns the rights to derivative works. Period.
I see this not so much as a cynical money grab on behalf of Amazon and Alloy, but rather as pushback against proliferation of “P2P” (pulled to publish) fan fiction turned “original” content. There was outrage in some literary corners over (ye gods, how I hate to bring it up, but here it goes) “Fifty Shades of Grey,” because E.L. James changed the names of Stephenie Meyer’s characters and otherwise filed off the serial numbers in order to turn the “Twilight” fan fiction “Master of the Universe” into something that allowed Random House to post some very nice quarterly financial statements. Something from which I’m sure that Stephenie Meyers, Summit Entertainment, and the other “Twilight” rights holders would also have liked to have seen some benefit.
With Kindle Worlds, fan ficcers do not need to file the serial numbers off to earn money from their fan fiction. The original rights owner is compensated, and the copyright remains with the original property owner so as to avoid any nasty “which portion of the work is derivative and which portion is original” fights. The presence of Kindle Worlds might also give copyright owners firmer legal standing if they choose to go after fan ficcers who try to profit from their work (“There is an existing platform that allows you to do this legally. Therefore, you owe us damages.”)
Yes, Amazon gets money, too, but what makes this situation any different from any other e-book distribution situation? If Google, Apple, Kobo and/or Nook (depending on who ends up owning it) want to get into the game, no one is stopping them.
The fanficcers who publish for love will probably continue to do so, and for free.
But this allows the rights owners to capture the fanficcers who want to publish for money, and are doing so now via P2P without any compensation going back to the original owner.
Oh, wait, Alloy Entertainment is Warner Brother’s book business. So the deal probably does cover both books and television. Neeeevvvermind
Alloy is a packager, which means it comes up with the concept, hires the writer, sells the package and (generally) retains the rights or some portion thereof.
The no “pornography” rule vs. the general KDP stance on “pornography” and “erotica” has been mentioned, but I’d add that Alloy also has a stake in what gets considered appropriate for publication. So a story might not be more graphic than material normally self-published via Amazon, but Alloy could still nix it out of fear the depiction of the licensed characters potentially damages their value on the more lucrative outlets.
Ahh. Did a little more research. Here’s an interesting post on the ‘firing’ 2 years ago of LJ Smith as the author of the Vampire Diaries novels. Smith apparently had no idea what “Work for Hire” meant back in 1990 when they published the first books.
The deal is with Alloy Entertainment.
Alloy Entertainment is a book packager. It used to have an agreement with Warner Bros. for film and TV rights, and then Warner Bros. TV bought them outright in 2012.
All of Alloy’s properties are work for hire. They don’t need to contact the authors of the book series; Alloy owns the copyrights. (The TV series are also work for hire; Warners owns all copyrights.) So both novel and TV concepts can be used without fear.
Kindle Worlds is a natural extension for Alloy. I can see it being more problematic for individual authors, or authors such as J.K. Rowling. Rowling owns all the print rights to Harry Potter, but the rights to film images and various character trademarks belong to Warner Bros.
Being not a writer and only a reader, I hold my favorite authors in very high esteem and see this as Amazon (and the publisher) once again trying to make as much money as possible while doing everything conceivable to change the culture of an author owning his/her own ideas. If they can do that, then can they take a guy (or several) off the street to write Honor Harrington books and toss David Weber out on his ear? (Just an example, he’s not an Alloy writer, to my knowledge.)
I think I am doing an excellent job this morning posting comments seconds before someone corrects me with the information I didn’t know beforehand. I know this won’t last.
“Saruby wrote: Who can afford to write when future income from your work goes to someone else? These schemes will kill publishing.”
Not really, IMO. There are plenty of worlds right now where the publisher acquires all rights, such as the Dragonlance and Dungeons & Dragons realities. Wizards of the Coast had contests every year for the best novel and bought it outright, like a car, and the characters were melded into the world. That concept has actually been a benefit to the reality and to the games.
“Julie wrote: Most of us who write fanfiction do it for the joy of it.”
My first written novel was an X-Files tie-in. I can only call it a tie-in because they really were publishing novels in the reality when I wrote it. Now, it’s fanfic. Good fanfic, mind you, but without a deal where I could publish it within the terms of the reality, it’ll be a trunk novel forever. Oh, sure, I could change the characters, change the background, etc. I’m capable of that. But it’s forever etched in my mind as X-Files and I WANT Mulder and Scully to be the ones who solve it . . . not some other people. So, part of me really hopes that Amazon can make this work, and expand it out into other forgotten worlds with a fan base built-in where writers like me can let their novels see the light of day. :)
“Sojournerstrange wrote: But people don’t write fanfiction for money. There isn’t a “for-pay camp”.
But what if there *was*? What if fanfic writers really could get real money for their books–and they were a hit? It’s happened and has built careers.
The contract isn’t great, I admit. And I doubt Amazon will allow tweaking by agents of already pubbed authors (and certainly not debut authors). But the concept has merit and would allow some people with some rocking stories to get out to fans who would love to read them.
And isn’t that what this business is all about? :)
The ‘guidelines’ make me laugh. No ‘pornography’. Well, Damon Salvatore’s never getting laid again is he? No ‘graphic depictions of violence’ (paraphrased). In the finale, Klaus decapitated a witch with a graduation cap! That wasn’t ‘graphic’ at all was it? So what exactly are you supposed to write in a world dominated by vampires? ‘The Salvatores Buy A Puppy’?
@Cathy: Fan artists are already able to get money for their art. They still aren’t doing it FOR the money, for the large part.
@sojournerstrange: But, if I have the choice between writing for love and writing for the money (whether original or fanfic), I nearly always opt for the money. It’s why I’m a professional writer. :D
Count me as another who writes both fic and original works, and who would never dream of trying to monetize the former. I may have made a few sales of my original stuff to people who also read my fic, and I also use fic writing as practice, to keep me sharp between legit projects, but that’s about it. Unless, I suppose, one counts the current work-in-progress, which was loosely inspired by a canon in which I sometimes write fic. But if that’s the case, then we’d have to consider every fantasy novel since 1937 to be Tolkien fanfic (and Tolkien’s work itself to be Beowulf fic?) so, no.
I enjoy playing in other sandboxes from time to time, but I have a deep respect for the work involved in creating original worlds and characters. The people who do that work should be the ones to make money from them. I wouldn’t have a single problem with folks making fanworks for my original stuff, unless they tried to make money from it.
From the other side, I fear this is going to have a chilling effect on the breadth and depth of adult fic and other stuff that would never be given a stamp of approval by the suits. Kind of hard to let one’s lizard brain roam free when you’re worried about producers and publishers looking over your shoulder. If people really want to find the naughty stuff I’ve written (under a pseudonym), they can, but I’d rather not mix that up with my legit career; both would suffer.
Would I like to write a tie-in novel for some of the canons for which I’ve written fic? Sure. Absolutely. But I’d do it through legit channels and with the guidance of the people who created the stuff to begin with. I would give it the respect and consideration that a canon work deserves, rather than the idle Id-tickling stuff I do for fic. And, more than anything, I’d expect the same respect as any other creator of that canon, rather than being treated like cheap labor they can use to expand their property without a lot of cash outlay.
Really great points, man. In the end, while I can see how it would feel good to put some effort into putting those fanfic dreams to paper, it’s better just to expend your effort to create your own worlds and become the license-holder.
To join the other fanfic fans who have posted (yes, some people are fans of fanfic as an entity with its own cultural norms, practices, heritage, and language), I agree that this is a disaster. It is my hope that Alloy and Amazon are not too invested in the scheme so they give up quickly, when they see the fannish backlash. If they are in it for the long-haul I hope they make a lot of mistakes that are well publicised and meet with negative press. If they are clever and go with a slow approach, building it up as a nonthreatening entity, but with a gradual chipping away at fan cultures as we know it, then there will be implications for larger fan communities. It won’t just lead to problems with fanfic, but it will worsen the situation across fandoms with artists, crafters (such as the famous cease and desist call on making Jayne hats), and who knows what else. Ultimately, I think KindleWorlds will fail because fans are a powerful lobby and fanficcers so far seem to be almost universally opposed to the idea, but I hope that failure is swift and relatively painless for fans.
I think the simplest way to see this is that it’s a very clever way to encourage fan fiction and thereby boost the fandom for the franchises in question. Locking up the rights reduces the risk of tiresome legal fights down the road if a published work (or TV show, or whatever) has a character which the fan fiction author thinks is based on her work. But meanwhile the fan fiction writers are writing “real” quasi-canon works.
The bad side: it encourages writers to stick with fan fiction set in other people’s worlds, instead of developing their own settings and characters.
In short: they’ve made a big and very attractive playground to play in, but that may discourage kids from hanging around the workshop and making something new.
I’m business manager for Peter S. Beagle, author of THE LAST UNICORN, and (as of a couple of weeks ago) the new guy in charge of rebooting the THIEVES’ WORLD property. I’ve also been a professional writer going on four decades now, starting when I was 18 years old. The way I started was writing children’s comic books for Gold Key. The titles were all licensed properties: STAR TREK, DARK SHADOWS, BORIS KARLOFF’S TALES OF MYSTERY, TWILIGHT ZONE, RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT, etc. When I started I also had a 9-5 job, but after 3 months I realized I was making more every month from my part-time comics work than from my full-time gig, so I bailed and never looked back. I’ve been self-employed ever since.
The point in this bit of personal experience that I think is relevant to the Kindle Worlds idea (and the other services that will no doubt spring up in its wake) is simple. Barry Malzberg once said the trick to becoming a good writer was obvious: “You just have to write your first million shitty words.” Because I could make a living from part-time work on licensed titles, I was able to get rid of my “real job” and devote another 160 hours every month to developing my creative talents. I got a lot better, a lot faster, because I didn’t have to trade away so much of my life for mere survival.
In my opinion, Kindle Worlds offers nothing but upside for a fanfic writer. You’ll get to do what you want to do anyway, just no longer on the sly; every penny you make is a penny you didn’t have to earn some other way, which buys you time; and your work has a much better chance of being noticed by the rights holders who inspired you (not to mention by other businesses on the lookout for people who show skill at the particular challenge of writing well within someone’s else universe…).
As for the “negatives” mentioned repeatedly in this thread, they mostly strike me as exaggerated or just plain incorrect. To the people saying “I would never give my copyrights away,” please remember (a) fanfic is derivative work that can’t legally be copyrighted or used commercially without permission from the primary copyright holder in the first place (and even then it’s still just derivative work that you only partially own); and (b) all copyright covers is the specific expression of an idea, not the idea itself. Under the Kindle Worlds program Alloy Entertainment might be able to use someone’s idea of turning all the GOSSIP GIRL characters into gay Lithuanian zombies, if they feel like it…but even if they did there would still be nothing to stop the original writer from pounding out a new draft with all original characters and then going forward with that.
Shifting gears, I’d like to speak from the rights holder perspective. Fanfic is great. It’s wonderful, and I heartily encourage it. But if someone who writes fanfic is trying to make money from what they’ve written, as some certainly do, then as a matter of both law and courtesy they owe the original rights holder yes/no approval authority and a solid piece of the action if approval is given.
I think this new opportunity is inevitable and possibly even overdue. The percentages and structures involved will no doubt shift and settle somewhat over time, as the actual size and nature of the market becomes clearer. But kudos to Amazon for getting it started.
@Cathy: Most ficcers aren’t professional writers :P
The best that could come out of attempt to monetize fanfiction for a fic writer is possibly de-stigmatizing the idea in general. Currently, there’s a massive double-standard between fanfic and fanart: a fanfic artist can sell his or her work with very little trouble, whereas a fanfic writer usually gets pretty nasty backlash. I’ve never understood the thought process behind it, so anything that possibly change (or at least ease) that standard is welcome.
@Cathy Clamp: If that’s your actual attitude toward writing, I’m not sure I’d want to read your books.
I’ve written fanfic. I enjoyed it, and a lot of what I enjoyed about it was the certainty that nobody could dictate the direction in which I wanted to go. For me it’s been a fun, creative outlet from the writing that I like to do and have to do for pay (the second is a subset of the former, as any paid writer knows) – fanfic is purely for “like” and can’t be dicated or wrenched into a standards or sales model. I wouldn’t stop anyone else from trying to sell their fanfic as-is – and I’ve read some that was good enough, that I would pay to read if I had to – but I personally think it’s a bad idea, both in the sales model to which you linked AND in that a profit to fanficcers might piss off the creators of the original material (and I do want the originals to keep writing/producing/filming it and be paid for it).
And John, thank you for nipping that whole “quality of fanfic” debate in the bud. Paid publication is no assurance of high quality, nor does free always mean crap.
Ack! I meant above, that the former is a subset of the latter on paid writing – one doesn’t love everything one is paid to write, necessarily, but one does love some of it at least. :-D
I have to admit, I’m finding this discussion fascinating. I read fanfic–quite a lot of it, but don’t write tons. I didn’t realize that it has somehow taken on a character/status that’s other than tie-in. But tie-ins of visual media has always existed and many writers have made a very comfortable career by writing books set in worlds belonging to others. Look at someone like SF legend Alan Dean Foster–who wrote equally as many tie-ins (from Star Trek to Alien Nation, Star Wars, Transformers, etc) as his original novels. To say that those books are somehow “less” than his original works is not really fair. It’s a different KIND of writing, but certainly not less.
I can’t imagine that the creative owners are going to look at Amazon as any different than the current publishers who already bid on the right to produce tie-ins. Okay, so they won the auction this time. How is Amazon and its subsidiaries/affiliates any different than any other print publisher who has contracted licenses on the duties and responsibilities they’ll have to satisfy the copyright owner’s reality? I guess I’m just not getting how they’ll be automatically be less likely to require quality, or somehow be allowed to cut corners on the worlds simply BECAUSE they’re Amazon. If someone could explain that, I’d appreciate it.
To a certain extent, this can be viewed as an extension of Alloy’s packaging program with Amazon helping. I don’t think it’s an entirely pernicious enterprise, especially because they could opted to pay authors nothing (a la Huffington Post). This is licensing lite, on a mass scale, so any and all nuance on might expect in a typical license agreement for a packaged property is going right out the window. Nonetheless, you have to start somewhere. As an opening salvo, I could think of worse, and more exploitative, fanfic monetization schemes.
I think readers have been surprised in the past (in regards to self publishing) how talented some authors can really be when given the opportunity. For authors who perform exceptionally well, I imagine they’ll be able to turn their fanfic into a real deal with Alloy. If their talent is bringing readers to to the franchise, then they’ll have leverage to negotiate for future books. There are many paths to success, perhaps one path is as the poet laureate of the Gossip Girl franchise.
Has anyone gotten a look at the non-compete clauses? Rumor is they are very broad, and very nasty. Worst case scenario, as far as I can tell, would be building a vampire reading audience through this program, and then finding out that Alloy or whomever can go after everything else you ever write about vampires, even if it’s nominally in your own world.
My first reaction is that this is awesome for people with enough money to exploit writers. They can make money off your work forever in whatever way they see fit, never have to pay you, and might be able to sue you if you ever decide to go off on your own in the same genre. That would be, um, pretty evil.
So…not at all surprising, imo. But then I am a cynic.
As a writer of both fanfics and original fiction, I agree with most of John’s points. It seems like fanfic writers would be getting the short end of the stick here. Most of us in the fanfic community do what we do out of love. If we wanted to get paid, we’d write and submit original material for publication, even if it means taking E.L. James’s route from Twilight fanfic to 50 Shades of Grey..
I think this is a good thing for one main reason: Predictions about the future of publishing are many, varied, and often contradictory. The best way to find what will work best for everyone involved is to experiment. However it falls out, the results of this experiment will be illuminating.
I’m sure there are fanfic writers who are hoping to get gigs in TV or tie-in writing, but the plain fact is that most people are not doing it for that purpose. In fact, many fan creators would prefer for the original creators NOT to “notice” them, and not because of anything as mundane and legal as copyright issues.
Every fan has a different experience, but love of and frustration with the source material are frequent themes. Even “fixit fic”, a subgenre that you’d think would be most motivated to join the hallowed ranks of semi/canonical status, is usually rewriting extant canon in a way that the rights holders probably wouldn’t allow.
I am not a prolific ficcer, but when I look at what I’ve written, almost every single thing I have up on the AO3 is for an event, and my longest fics have been gifts for other fans in this exchange or that — and I know I’m not the only person who has a similar works profile, in terms of writing mainly for exchanges. Many of them, gifts or not, explore overlooked parts of canon, often through divergence — not just alternate-setting AUs (which have certainly featured in commercial work) but interpretations and extrapolations which use canon as a jumping-off point and go on from there in full awareness that there’s just about zero chance the creator would have gone in that direction or approved of such ideas.
Again, every fan has a different experience. Personally, beyond immediate motivations like “gifting” in exchanges or “showing support for X” in themed non-exchange fests, fanfic is a way for me to make art that illustrates my experience of the canon, and a way to celebrate shared experiences of canon with fellow fans.
>>>In my opinion, Kindle Worlds offers nothing but upside for a fanfic writer. You’ll get to do what you want to do anyway, just no longer on the sly; every penny you make is a penny you didn’t have to earn some other way, which buys you time; and your work has a much better chance of being noticed by the rights holders who inspired you (not to mention by other businesses on the lookout for people who show skill at the particular challenge of writing well within someone’s else universe…).<<<
This massively overestimates the fanfic writer's desire for legitimacy and how much people are willing to give up for a few bucks.
Most of fandom has literally no desire to NOT be "on the sly." It's a community that isn't especially interested in the judgments of outsiders. Inkeeping with that, most of fandom has no desire to be noticed by the rights holders. Most of fandom has no desire to be a professional writer of any sort, much less a professional writer specifically of tie-in properties. The parts of fandom who do want to be pro writers (or already are) write original fiction for those purposes and understand that if they did want to make money off of their fanfiction, they could just file off the serial numbers and seek out a substantially better deal than what Amazon is offering.
And finally, fandom is not stupid. They don't see a quick way to make a few bucks and get notice (that they don't actually want). They, accurately, see a corporation trying to monetize something that they do for love and use them and their creativity as assets without fairly compensating them.
Fanfiction isn’t just something people write – it’s a community, largely a community of women. It has norms and values and offers benefits that only exist in the context of a gift economy, where what is created is offered up freely and shared in order to perpetuate that sense of community. We wrote an entire book (Fandom At The Crossroads) about the power of the fandom community and the ways in which fanfiction functions as beneficial both psychologically and socially. Turning fanfiction into a market economy will stifle the very things that make fanfic so powerful – and that would be a damn shame.
Cathy Clamp: When you say “fanfic”, do you mean licensed tie-in novels that are professionally published, or the kind of thing posted on ao3.org? I think most people here mean the latter, and talk about “fandom” as the decades-old community of people writing fanfic for free, which has its own rich history and set of tropes.
The thing about the fanfic community is, well, it produces the kind of stuff I don’t think professional publishers will want to take responsibility for. Not just for the pornography, but because marketing a book that’s a nuanced character study of someone in an alternate universe where all the social norms are slightly different than ours because people have very different genitalia (a real and very popular thing these days!) is… a specialized affair.
@staranise I have been getting the impression that many people think fanfiction is generally limited to the sorts of things that WOULD work as tie-in novels (but with more explicit sex, natch), when the reality of it is much, much more varied, as you indicate.
I am a novelist who has written five licensed media tie-in novels (a Buffy, two Angels, two Supernaturals) along with five of my own novels. At first blush, I don’t think fan fic writers who participate in this program are giving up any rights that licensed tie-in writers have. It’s a work-for-hire arrangement. You have no ownership stake. Oddly, since participating fan fic writers are paid royalties, they have the potential to make more than the licensed novelists make from work-for-hire. I’ve been paid a flat fee for each novel. Never a penny more in royalties. Once the work is done, and I’ve been paid, I see no further gain from the book. Here, with Kindle Worlds paying royalties, a really, really popular story could keep generating income for the writer. True, you don’t get a payment up front, but you could have a much longer tail of earnings from your work.
Reblogged this on write lies and commented:
I could see seriously dedicated fans not caring if the original production incorporated their ideas without credit or payment. ‘OMG MY XXXXX MADE IT’
I was just talking about this with other writers.
@Julie I’m thinking of the fanficcers I know who did make the jump to publishing their work as paranormal romance/erotica/etc. Not only did they have to file the serial numbers off, but the whole aesthetic of the story had to be tweaked. The audience’s expectations and understood shorthands and moments of squee were different. And even then, when my friends and I talk about new books on the market, some books just scream “this person learned to write from fanfic” because they feel so different.
Reblogged this on Frozen History Seven and commented:
I was just saying this.
“Apa wrote: If that’s your actual attitude toward writing, I’m not sure I’d want to read your books.”
Really? I find that odd, since my goal as a writer is to give the reader the best possible reading experience. I want to write a book that people can get lost in for hours or days, with characters that they can love with and can cry over. The fact that I’m being paid for it makes me all that MORE driven to create an amazing book. If I wasn’t getting paid, I don’t think I would pay nearly as much attention to detail as I do now. :)
@Staranise: I’ve read my share of slash and alternate affairs in fanfic. But that’s not all it is. The really, REALLY good ones are those that weave a believable plot that could stand in the reality. Sure, it’s fun to run wild on occasion, and I enjoy those too. But to create characters in the world that could stand the test of the regular viewers of the series/movie—to have the plot be one that would be a testament to what the world COULD be . . . well, I think that fanfic can have no better name than that sort of tribute.
Star Trek was blessed by a host of amazing writers that created characters who flowed back and forth between the books and the screen. I see that as an amazing leap into shared reality. :D
I think you’ve misinterpreted the copyright issue. Amazon retaining world-wide publishing rights allows them to publish your story around the world, possibly in other languages, but it doesn’t give them the right to republish your story in an anthology and not pay you. It does give them the right to use your characters, scenes, and events. This means that if you create a new Vampire or some Vampire event, something like The Gathering or Quidditch, that another author can use your character and event and reference your scene in their work possibly with a direct quote, i.e., each new author isn’t creating their own version of the world; rather they are adding to the existing world. This is exactly the case in most tie-in fiction. In Star Wars, many new characters, e.g., Mara Jade and Jaina Solo, are used by multiple authors. Planets, spaceships, fighting techniques, etc., are re-used instead of having to create something new in every book.
>>This massively overestimates the fanfic writer’s desire for legitimacy and how much people are willing to give up for a few bucks.<>And finally, fandom is not stupid. They don’t see a quick way to make a few bucks and get notice (that they don’t actually want). They, accurately, see a corporation trying to monetize something that they do for love and use them and their creativity as assets without fairly compensating them.<<
Since this program is entirely voluntary, I frankly don't understand your position. And doesn't it strike you as odd to get angry at someone trying to "use" the creativity of fanfic writers (with the permission of those specific writers), when most fanfic writers have never asked the people whose characters they are using for permission? Even if no money is being generated, fanfic writers are still getting a personal benefit from using these characters and tapping these sources. So long as a fanfic writer doesn't try to sell his or her work no laws are being violated, yes, but I can assure you that there are plenty of writers who feel that ANY fanfic is a violation of the characters they created, and feel great pain over it.
To expand on a point I made before – as a reader, I turn to fanfiction when I want something the original work can’t give me, and I think that’s true of most fanfic readers (in different ways). For example there’s a lot of “fix its” around – which doesn’t always mean the writers feel there’s something horribly wrong with the original work, it may be more along the lines of, for example, bringing a popular deceased character back to life. Other popular types include the AU (alternate universe) and of course the crossover. Another overwhelmingly popular reason for turning to fanfic is to see two (or more!) people get together who haven’t and probably won’t become an item in canon (including, but by no means limited to, slash fic).
Basically, if I want a story where Buffy fights a vampire and makes out with Angel, I’ll watch the show. If I want to see her have a romance with Cordelia or see Donna from the West Wing become the next vampire slayer, I’ll head to the internet for fanfiction.
There is of course plenty of fanfic around which does stay true to the source work (especially, I find, in fandoms where the original work has now ended and the only place for new reading material is fanfic). But a very large percentage of it is things which you would never, ever, find in the source material and often it’s those stories that many of the readers are looking for. If Amazon disallowed these kinds of works (and I don’t know for sure whether they would or not?) it would automatically rule out a decent percentage of their possible readership.
But then, if (as some other people have suggested) what they’re actually after is a new twist on the tie-in novel, then they may not be looking to draw in that other type of reader anyway.
Wow. Years and years and years ago, the Creative Commons licensing group was learning the exact same lessons that appears to be needing a relearning here.
What they’re doing sounds like a bastardization of CC-BY-SA. BY means attribution. SA means share alike. BY-SA works are licensed such that anyone can sell them commercially. If folks want to license their works in a NonCommercial way, CC has the NC option that you can add.
What KindleWorlds is doing is a bastardizaiton of the NC clause.
The BigNameAuthor / Publisher retains the right to sell the Fan Writer’s works commercially.
But the BigNameAuthor/Publisher will not allow the Fan Writer to sell the BNA works commercially.
This is really, really, really funny in a perverse way. Back when CC was first starting out, and tryign to figure out what sorts of licenses to create, people kept asking for non-parity licenses like this. The author gets to do BLAH, and everyone else can only do BLEH. And CC, for the most part, resisted making these sorts of licenses.
The one exception is the NONCOMMERCIAL license, but most people naturally understand that if a work is licensed for non-commercial use, then it’s an inherently one-way license.
What KindleWorlds is trying to do is the same thing a lot of folks tried to get CreativeCommons to do years ago: Try to present a license scheme as if its “fair” in the way that it has parity, but then have one small clause that changes the overall meaning of everything into something completely lopsided towards the author/copyright holder.
What KindleWorlds is doing is an inherently unfair license.
What they’re trying to do is implement an evolutionary writing algorithm to mine any good ideas out of a fictional world. And they’re doing it by creating a minor incentive for fans to write fan-fiction and get a bit of money for it. But once fans find the good bits from the world and publish them, KindleWorlds reserves the right to monopolize those ideas into the “official” world.
Normally, authors avoid reading fan fiction because the fan-writer still owns the rights to anything thye publish, even if they can’t publish it because its derived from someone else’s world. KindleWorlds is saying, hey, lets try to leverage this fan base to our monetary advantage. Fans will write whatever they write, and we will reserve the right to monopolize any ideas the fans come up with and put them into our world without paying the fan for using their works.
Bad. Bad. Bad license.
This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened. Showtime/Viacom did it for “The L Word”, and there are other examples out there, tho obviously we’re talking about a MUCH larger distribution network, and a lot more “big names” involved. But I was thinking about it–both in terms of “why do I write derivative works?” and “Would I participate in a scheme like this?” And I have to admit, if I wanted to get paid to write derivative work, I’d want to write a media tie-in, where I retain some rights. When I am writing fan fiction, I am doing it in part BECAUSE the stories I want to tell could not be told in any other format, for any other audience. That’s why I tend to separate “pro” and “amateur” in terms of which arena you’re writing in, rather than whether or not you got compensation.
What has always been appealing to me personally about the creation of fanworks has been the freedom to write the characters and situations without restrictions on language, “the reset button”, and playing to the specific strengths of the medium as well as experimenting with the medium (i.e. more introspective character-driven pieces that work in prose but don’t work on-screen, playing with POV, language, interactivity, etc.) without the need to have a specific structure devised by the copyright holder. Where the author has the final say about plot and character, because the work is not a part of either official canon or an extended universe canon.
As someone who has written fan fiction since the late 1980s, it’s not–nor has it ever been–about whether or not I get paid. I am not writing fan fiction as practice, or to cut my teeth, or as a stepping stone to becoming a “real” writer. It is writing for the sake of writing, for the joy (and pain) of creation, and then sharing the work with other fans of the source purely for the sake of sharing the story.
Like I said, if I wanted to get paid, I’d write tie-in proposals and go after those contracts, and accept that the gig comes with the limitations it does, in exchange for the change to contribute a work to the extended canon of a property, with the trademark and/or copyright-holder’s blessing*. And yes, I am aware that it is no easier in most ways to be a tie-in writer than a writer of original fiction. It’s damned lot of seriously hard work, with a lot of masters you need to please up to and including the fan-base, for significantly less pay. And most of the tie-in authors I know do it for love as much as the paycheque, because why go after those jobs if you won’t have an emotional and personal connection to the characters and the world of the source?
If my goal is to get my fan fiction based on an existing canon out there to the mainstream readers, I actually have a much better chance of reaching my intended audience by posting to a fanfic archive–or even on tumblr or livejournal–than I do on Amazon.
If my goal, however, were to put my work in front of the people who tell the canonical stories, well… maybe. After all, the disclaimers and ownership of fanworks submitted to this scheme make complete sense when you look at it from the POV of “how can we legally ensure no copyright infringement and allow the writers of this TV show to read fanfic for the show?” The clear answer has always been “By getting the fan author to sign away those rights as part of the deal.”
And if my goal is to try and win a once-in-a-lifetime chance to, say, to have showrunner Julie Plec read my Klaus/Caroline epistolary novella? Heck yeah, I’d try it, since legally she is not allowed to ever read it (or, erm… she at least has to have plausible deniability.) I *might*. If that were my actual goal.
But if my goal is to get paid for the work? Nah. Not for me.
* Note that the trademark and/or copyright holder is rarely (if ever) the creators, in the land of film, television, and comics.
The fact that there are plenty of creators out there who think unlicensed non-commercial derivative works are awesome and nifty and they have no issues with the creation or distribution changes bugger-all, in terms of intellectual property laws. And I’m of the mind that so long as no money changes hands [aside from the production costs of either a website hosting or Xeroxing and binding a ‘zine] unlicensed derivative works are fine and dandy–both morally and in the fuzzy grey legal landscape.
I do think that the fuzzy grey legal landscape is always evolving where unlicensed non-commercial derivative works are concerned. But I don’t see this as significantly contributing to change, if that makes sense.
I like that people brought up 50 shades of crap. Somebody’s writing fan fiction about her craptacular fan fiction, and she sent her lawyer after them with a comment about how “You don’t steal other people’s ideas! You just don’t!” I’ll wait a minute while that sinks in.
As for this deal specifically… Here’s the thing. The people that make this stuff can already go online, read fan fiction, and take ideas from it. Especially if the idea isn’t that far fetched already. And who’s going to believe that because Jo Nobody wrote a fan fic about it, some huge author stole ideas from them? “Oh, I had ten books outlined! I’ve been planning this for fifteen years” is a believable counter argument.
I agree with what somebody else said. At least this way people who are writing fan fic are getting money from it. Not only that – how much is this going to boost their sales to be licenced from the powers that be?
Is it a great contract? Hardly. But it’s better than no contract. And if you want a great contract, write your own stuff.
Also, before anyone asks, no, I have not written an epic Klaus/Caroline epistolary novella. But if I ever do, those of you who know me know where to look to find it….
Reblogged this on Ashley D. Wallis and commented:
A bit scary for creators, although fan fiction isn’t my forte and I, like the author, have my own stories to write. It’s definitely something that needs to be reviewed closely before signing away your work.
Conner: In my opinion, Kindle Worlds offers nothing but upside for a fanfic writer.
Bah. That totally ignores the disparity of the exchange. If I give you $1000 for the complete rights to your work, then I turn around and sell them for $100,000, then, yeah, it’s “nothing but upside” for you, cause you got a thousand bucks that you didn’t have before. But in the overall scheme of things, you got screwed in our exchange.
What this offers fanfiction writers, and what it takes in exchange, is horrendously lopsided.
I’m a fanfic writer. I’ve been in and out of various fandoms for about 15 years now, and fic writers definitely have their own ethos and community. I’ve seen fanfic writers be shunned en masse for trying to sell their fic, partly because no one wants the rights holders to send a C&D letter, or bring the law down on the entire community, but also because it feels wrong. Tie-in novels are one thing, but fic operates in its own sphere, with its own rules, and its own set of moral judgments. Among the dedicated fanfic writers I know, not one of us thinks that this is a good thing. (Obviously, that could be sample bias, but I don’t think we’re unusual.) So, while there are probably a few writers who will take Amazon up on this deal, I doubt that popular fanfic authors will for a whole host of reasons, and one of those being that we stand to lose the very community that keeps us sane and keeps us writing in the first place.
And look, I write for a living, too, but not fun stuff. I write fic because I like that world so much, and it’s a way to interact with the source material and other fans. Also, because it’s a hobby, and it lets me be creative. I don’t necessarily want to write original work, because I do that in my day job, and the last thing I want to do is to come home from work and do…more work.
So, I think that what Amazon is proposing to do probably won’t pull in many people who are dedicated fanfic writers. It might pull in people who want to break into the publishing market, and think that writing a tie-in will mean an immediate audience, and a chance to get paid. It might even pull in a few fanfic authors who would like a payday. But my guess is that it’s not going to pull many of us in.
With respect, Connor, I think the creators who have a problem with fic-for-funsies need to get the sticks out of their asses. I respect the wishes of the authors who feel this way (I’d love to write ASoIaF/GoT fic, but won’t due to GRRM’s request), but I still think it’s silly.
Like it or not, most folks younger than, say, 50ish are used to having a great deal of their entertainment experiences be interactive. From “Choose Your Own Adventure” books in grade school to video games, RPGs, etc., these folks are no longer content to be passive observers of a story. They want to be right in the middle of it, interacting directly with the world and characters. This is especially important for those of us with strong creative streaks ourselves. Visual artists respond to this need by drawing, painting, cosplaying, etc. characters and scenes from their favorite stories (see: Alan Lee.) Musicians write songs (see: Led Zeppelin.) And writers respond, as we do, by writing. Our imaginations get sparked by the work of others, and we dash off in different directions.
I’ll be perfectly honest: the majority of the fic I’ve written is porn. I get excited by characters and/or their relationship dynamics, and I want to take them further than their canon ever would or could. Slash, for instance, is basically the only way most people will ever experience same-sex pairs in otherwise-mainstream entertainment. But there’s also a fair amount that I’ve written to explore minor characters, side stories, backstories, alternate-ending stories, etc., that canon also won’t or can’t do. In my primary fandom (for a now-cancelled TV series), the fic community has actually taken extras from some scenes and given them huge backstories and adventures that go well beyond what they’d otherwise have done on-screen. Yes, some fics are, essentially, extra episodes in the same vein as the show (not all that different from the legit tie-in novels for that canon), but the majority are things we would never see even if the show ran for two decades and each episode was three hours long.
And it’s because of this fact–that the majority of fic is the won’t-ever-make-it-to-canon variety–that I think this venture will ultimately fail. Yes, some fic writers may decide that writing canon-approved tie-in stories for the equivalent of a few bucks and a pat on the back is a swell deal. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to sit over here writing kinky OT3s and ancient-Rome AUs and 26 pages of backstory on Soldier #3.
In short: most of us aren’t doing this because we want to copy what the original creators are doing, or piss on their territory. We’re just interacting with something we love in a way that involves us on a deeper level than just sitting, slack-jawed while a single story plays out.
@Emma Welsby Re: Basically, if I want a story where Buffy fights a vampire and makes out with Angel, I’ll watch the show.
There are still folks out there DYING to read long plotty gen, structured like epsidoes, tho. I definitely fall on that side more often than not, in part cos of the way i was brought into fandom to start with.
When I first started reading/writing fan fiction when I was in high school, fan stories were often structured much more like episodes, because canon had ended (or was on hiatus) and fans wanted more of what they loved: i.e. new stories that felt like the show/films/etc. itself. Cancelled programmes just didn’t have comic book continuations, or official tie-in novels, to continue the story. A show ended, and that was it. We didn’t even have DVDs/VHS releases of the source 90% of the time.
(We also walked to cons through without shoes, uphill both ways. IN THE SNOW.)
The idea of reading only fanfic with non-canon ‘ships, Alternative Universes, fusions, crossovers, etc. because “if I want the show, I’d watch the show, not read fic” is actually a fairly new one in media fandom. I’ve always figured it’s due to the internet accelerating the average lifespan of the creation and consumption of fanworks. Instead of getting ‘zines at cons like Revelcon or MediaWest once a year, or through the post, now we log into LJ or Tumblr or AO3 the second an episode ends, and find post-ep codas and missing scenes and fix-it fic, etc. from a MUCH larger pool of fans than before.
We’re also much more forgiving of stories being made “canon-fodder” during the writing process, because the source keeps chugging merrily along while novellas and novels and series of novels get written and edited and posted.
Buffy and the The X-files were the first major online fandoms where I saw this shift, and I do find it pretty fascinating from a geeky “I want to make lots of spreadsheets and possibly powerpoint presentations about this!” kind of way.
connor: there are plenty of writers who feel that ANY fanfic is a violation of the characters they created, and feel great pain over it.
Well, luckily copyright law isn’t based on protecting the most fragile ego of the most fragile and neurotic author from ever having their feelies hurt about their works.
I write fanfic, and a concern I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is that if it this scheme catches on, it gives rights holders a new incentive to legally go after all the other, non-licensed fanfic writers. It sounds like this scheme of Amazon’s puts licensed, money-making works much more directly in competition with fanfic than tie-in novels have ever been. If Amazon decided that the free competition was something it cared about, it seems like it could very well drive the general fanfiction community underground again.
DataAngel is the only person on here to mention a point that is important to fanfic writers: Plagiarism. Most authors and readers in a fanfic community have heard or seen instances where a particular author’s story has been reposted on another site, under another name — not the actual author. In said instances, the author and the community rally together and often have the plagiarizer remove the stolen story.
But how will this be prevented in KindleWorlds? How can one tell if his story has been plagiarized and sold to Amazon without his consent? And if that happens, what legal recourse is available to the actual fanfic author?
For the record, on the copyright issue: original writing can be copyrighted, even if it’s within an otherwise-derivative work. So, while a fic writer may not have copyright on Buffy and Spike, she does have it on the actual words she’s putting into pixels. Someone else directly plagiarizing a passage from that work–or the whole thing itself–isn’t just getting in the way of the Buffy creators’ rights, but the fic author’s, too.
However, copyright claims in such cases do still have to pass legal muster, and the same potential fair use defenses the fic writer would use to justify poaching Buffy and Spike would apply to the person poaching her work. Direct plagiarism–passing off someone else’s original writing as one’s own–would more than likely fail fair use tests, as would offering the work for sale, especially if the original fic was not.
Incidentally, this is also part of why pro writers are advised against reading fanfic of their creations. If they–even accidentally–pinch lines or unique ideas from a fic, the fic writer can sue them.
As far as claiming copyright, that’s pretty easy. Just have to prove that it was produced before the plagiarized work was. Most word processing programs include date-of-creation data that can be used for that purpose.
/Not a lawyer, but I did get an A in my media-law class in J. school. :)
There are still folks out there DYING to read long plotty gen, structured like epsidoes, tho.
Oh of course, and I did mention that such stories existed in my comment (though possibly not as clearly as I could have), and I believe I also mentioned that fandoms where the canon has ended (including cancelled TV shows) seem to have more of this type of fanfiction, at least in my experience. And I’ve certainly read some of that kind of fanfic, but most of the time it’s just not what I’m looking for, which was my point – that there’s at least a fair percentage of fanfic readers who want something from fanfiction that we just can’t get elsewhere.
This may or may not be targeted at current fanfic writers, but I’m pretty sure it’s not targeted at current fanfic *readers*. They know they can get the same or very similar for free and probably won’t just happily start paying for it. So presumably Amazon is targeting the market that already reads Kindle selfpubs and shorts.
This does give Amazon an incentive to shut down the ‘free competition’ in the three fandoms it currently seems to have rights for. I’d be very worried right now if I was active in one of those fandoms.
What’s to stop someone from taking my fic from fanfiction.net or AOO or similar places and then posting it to this blasted KindleWorlds? How in the world will they ever manage to monitor that or deal with the complaints of stolen fic?
@Jo Very true. I’m not active in any of those fandoms on a writing basis currently though, I am a fan of ‘The Vampire Diaries’ (Don’t judge!). I’d be very worried about just that right about now if I did. This may well dissuade many who are actively writing in those fandoms from doing so for fear of being pursued legally.
“Well, luckily copyright law isn’t based on protecting the most fragile ego of the most fragile and neurotic author from ever having their feelies hurt about their works.”
How Americancentric of you Greg. There are countries with moral rights in their IP laws.
So does one have to register for a damn Kindle account before you can see the for real Legalese contract because that marketing speak explanation of the terms leaves a lot to be desired
Oh yes indeed Samantha, given the past epic wanks that have happened over fandom plagiarism it will be a giant drama trap when money is involved. Restock the popcorn.
Plagiarism of this kind already happens all the time with individuals and corporations taking fans’ and non-famous artists’ visual art/photography and putting it on their own products/publications. I don’t know how much of it actually gets resolved, but I’m sure there’s more instances of it than I know of.
>>Bah. That totally ignores the disparity of the exchange. If I give you $1000 for the complete rights to your work, then I turn around and sell them for $100,000, then, yeah, it’s “nothing but upside” for you, cause you got a thousand bucks that you didn’t have before. But in the overall scheme of things, you got screwed in our exchange. What this offers fanfiction writers, and what it takes in exchange, is horrendously lopsided.<<
In my experience (and I've been at this for 40 years professionally, working both sides of the creator/business equation) amateur writers tend to radically overvalue the worth of any given idea, and radically undervalue the phenomenal amount of work (both direct and accumulated) that goes into making an idea generate real money.
That's what you are doing here. In fact, your entire scenario is a straw man argument. It presumes that the person getting the $1,000 payment could have made the $100,000 deal if only the evil rights holder hadn't screwed them. But unless the recipient changed the story in question so that it WASN'T fanfic, and then on top of that was incredibly lucky or incredibly good at business (or both), then they could never land The Big Deal you describe. Because no "original" idea in a piece of fanfic, whatever it may be, would ever be enough to generate a $100,000 deal on its own. In any real world version of your theoretical construct, what makes the idea worth that kind of money is the boost it gets from the hard-won value of the underlying rights (which the fanfic writer certainly has nothing to do with) and the hard-won business savvy, connections, and talent of the rights holder/agent/management making the deal (which, also, the fanfic writer has nothing to do with).
For a specific example, consider any film based on a well-represented literary property. The person who wrote the first HARRY POTTER screenplay certainly got a lot of money, but I guarantee you it was radically less than J. K. Rowling or her original publisher or the film studio got out of the same movie. And that is exactly how it should be, because whatever original invention the screenwriter brought to the party was insignificant compared to the value contributions made by the other three.
connor: there are plenty of writers who feel that ANY fanfic is a violation of the characters they created, and feel great pain over it.
Greg: “Well, luckily copyright law isn’t based on protecting the most fragile ego of the most fragile and neurotic author from ever having their feelies hurt about their works.”
Adela: How Americancentric of you Greg. There are countries with moral rights in their IP laws.
Meh. America started out with a 14 year copyright term, with an option to extend it another 14 years. And no moral rights. We did OK. It was extended to 28 years with a 14 year extension in 1831. This was the state of US copyright law that allowed Mark Twain to make gobs and gobs of money writing the great american novel. Moral rights aren’t needed to create great works. 42 year copyright term was all it took.
But really, you point to exactly the problem I have with Moral Rights: This was about authors who “feel great pain” over their works. And you think Moral Rights ought to prevent any author from ever feeling great pain over their works. But some authors and some artists are simply control freaks, and the law shouldn’t bend itself under the amorphous blob that is “Moral Rights” to the point that the author or artist has such a monopoly of power that they can dictate whatever terms they want simply because anything less will cause them to “feel great pain”.
@A Mediated Life
>>With respect, Connor, I think the creators who have a problem with fic-for-funsies need to get the sticks out of their asses.<<
I actually agree with you, and (as stated up-thread) I personally support non-commercial fanfic based on the work of the writers and estates I represent. But many writers and reps don't feel the same way, and I felt it was important to point out it is mildly amusing to see fanfic writers who never asked permission to use other people's ideas in a huff over the notion that someone might, after actually PAYING them, wish to make money off of theirs. There's a lack of self-awareness in that which tickles my sense of humor.
I’m pretty sure it’s not targeted at current fanfic *readers*. They know they can get the same or very similar for free and probably won’t just happily start paying for it. So presumably Amazon is targeting the market that already reads Kindle selfpubs and shorts.
Hmm, yes and no. As a fanfic reader, if there was something I wanted to read on Kindle Worlds, I’d happily pay for it. I don’t read fanfic because it’s free! I’d even be willing to buy a story I’d read before to support the author & have a copy that’s properly formated for my Kindle. That said, I’d be a lot pickier about what fanfic I would read if I was paying for it and I’d be much less likely to take a chance on something I wasn’t sure I’d like.
Of course, I am also part of the market who reads Kindle selfpubs and short stories…
@Cathy Clamp: “My first written novel was an X-Files tie-in. I can only call it a tie-in because they really were publishing novels in the reality when I wrote it. Now, it’s fanfic.”
Unless you had a contract to write an X-Files tie-in novel when you wrote that novel, I’m reasonably certain that what you wrote was fanfic. I mean, theoretically there’s an action that could be defined as “writing what you hope will be a licensed tie-in novel on spec,” but what you’re describing sounds like fanfic from start to finish.
connor: In my experience (and I’ve been at this for 40 years professionally, working both sides of the creator/business equation) amateur writers tend to radically overvalue the worth of any given idea,
KindleWorld’s license reflects almost the entirely OPPOSITE view that you’re asserting here. Sturgeon’s law dictates that 90% of everything is crap. So, 90% of the fan fiction they get submitted will be crap. But they don’t care about the 90%, do they? No. They are looking for the 10% of the ideas that are truly valuable, and they’re reserving the right to take those ideas from the fan who wrote them and not pay the fan anything for the use of the fan’s idea.
If there were no value in the submitted works, then KindleWorld would have no problem dropping the harvesting clause from their license. But that there is a harvesting clause says that that is EXACTLY the value they’re looking for. A good idea from a fan that they don’t have to pay for.
….because making money off someone’s idea after paying them a nominal pittance is exactly the same as writing noncommercial tributes, parodies, and reimaginations that never compete with or supplant the commercial source material. Okay.
This is great.
So a company is trying to make money, and may be shaving the edge of moral. What else is new?
I can see good points to this. It might give some people a leg up on the start of a career.
But there’s no way in HELL I’d ever sign up for it. I may not be Dan Brown, or John Scalzi, but I’m making sales, and my career is expanding. Going to something like this would be a step backwards.
I’d also warn anyone considering it about the issues.
On the subject of copyright history and “moral rights,” you either don’t know what you are talking about or are trying to justify your position by ignoring the very real problems that ultimately generated the near-universal “life + 75 years” copyright term and the European “moral rights” language. It is in all parties’ best interests to have a clear and consistent set of copyright regulations that hold for as much of the planet as possible, since disparities only create openings for abuse that WILL be taken by willful bad actors. I have elderly clients who would be facing their retirement years in healthy financial condition, instead of poverty, if mid-’50s copyright law inconsistencies hadn’t put so much of their high-value early work into the public domain. (Which hurts more than just those stories: it also lowers the commercial value of the pieces these people wrote after copyright law was later regularized with most world standards.) As for “moral rights,” the essence of your position on the topic is that your right to screw around at will with someone else’s original work automatically trumps their right to tell you “no.” I happen to disagree with that…but even if I didn’t I’d be cognizant of the fact that said notion is intrinsically at odds with the other idea you are pushing about what’s fair (or not) in a rights deal. Shorter Greg: I should be able to do whatever I want with your work, but nobody had better do the same to me.
connor: see fanfic writers who never asked permission to use other people’s ideas in a huff over the notion that someone might, after actually PAYING them, wish to make money off of theirs. There’s a lack of self-awareness in that which tickles my sense of humor.
Jesus, dude. Do you not see a difference between hurting an author’s feelings versus selling their works for money without compensating the author?
You want to talk about self-awareness? Then you seriously need to grok something here: Fan fiction is the property of the fan who wrote it. That fan may never be able to commercially publish their work because it is a derivative of a work still under copyright term. But, really, understand this: fan fiction is the property of the fan who wrote it.
What if a self-publishing company made the following offer to authors writing original works: We’ll sell your works on-demand and give you a cut of all sales, and we reserve the right to steal your ideas and put them into our own works without paying you anything.
Most poeple would see that as outright theft, and a horrendously bad contract to enter into.
And the ONLY difference between this contract and the one being offered by KindleWorld is that one is for authors writing original works and the other is for authors writing fan fiction. They are both equallly horrendous. That you defend the KindleWorlds version is something I can only possibly explain by assuming you have a far, far, far lower opinion of fan fiction writers than “original” authors.
You know, I am sensing the two of you are about to take knives to each other, and I am at an event with a dear friend and don’t have the time right now to keep an eye on you to avoid you blowing up the thread. So in the interest of keeping the thread from becoming a shove-fest between the two of you, allow me to suggest the two of you take it into email. Connor, as you are new here, I will note to you that when I suggest email, that means “stop this particular discussion between the two of you HERE.”
I thank the both of you in advance.
We clearly disagree on a lot of stuff, but I’ll make one last try before I bail.
First, citing Sturgeon’s Law is just an excuse not to think. Sturgeon offered it up as a snappy off-the-cuff rejoinder to a stupid generalization, and more than once later commented that while it was a great zinger in the heat of the moment, it was really just as stupid a generalization as the one it commented on. (I knew Sturgeon, and heard this from his lips with my own ears.)
Second, your argument that Amazon is only interested in the “10% of ideas that are truly valuable” is nonsense. Amazon is interested in maximum retail selling, period.That’s what they do — they identify marketplaces with audiences and look for ways to move as much product as possible within them. If you imagine that there will be hordes of faceless staff readers in Amazon offices looking furiously for the Kindle Worlds stories with Really Good Ideas, you’re nuts. In any case, there is no great correlation between “idea quality” (whatever that actually is, since the whole thing is pretty subjective) and sales, as any bestseller list proves. Since there is no correlation, all Amazon will be trying to do is move as many fanfic sales transactions as possible, quite irrespective of whether fanfic A is better (or worse) than fanfic B.
Third, when you say “they’re reserving the right to take those ideas from the fan who wrote them and not pay the fan anything for the use of the fan’s idea,” you are wrong again. They certainly are paying for the ideas — the fanfic writer doesn’t get a flat fee, but an ongoing share in all direct sales. That may be less than YOU think they are worth, but it isn’t nothing. Beyond that, the position you take validates the analysis I made earlier: you are claiming that only the small original component in any piece of fanfic is what’s valuable, and ignoring the much greater value in all the other contributions that surround it.
Fourth, you are conflating Amazon and the rights holders. Amazon will not be able to take an original idea from a piece of VAMPIRE DIARIES fanfic and then go make a VAMPIRE DIARIES movie from it. They can reprint the story without paying more for it, but any such reprint will just increase author awareness and help generate more direct sales of the same pieces of fanfic, which the fanfic writer WILL get paid for.
Finally, the real-world version of the power relationship you are objecting to is when a rights holder hires someone to write a licensed tie-in novel. Based on the position you are taking, you don’t seem to understand that these are work-for-hire jobs, and that any new characters and material generated by a tie-in writer belong entirely to the rights holder. (Same for comics, in terms of ownership, though comic writers do today get income shares from the exploitation of what they add to the company-owned titles they work on.)
I saw your suggestion after I made my last post, and will abide by it. But I was bowing out anyway, as I said in that last message, as I have nothing else to offer.
One last. Following John’s wise suggestion/order, if Greg or anyone else wants to continue on these topics via email, I’m reachable at email@example.com.
As an author that wrote fan-comics before my own original material was published, this announcement interested me. I did notice one proviso that Amazon’s still hanging on to — no erotica. That’s 99% of Fan-Fic, period. Curious to see how much of the 1% they’re going to harvest for original ideas.
In re the creators get to use all your ideas thing, what if you look at this in light of the whole Zimmer Bradley Darkover fanfic kerfuffle? Someone else already pointed out JMS’s problems with story ideas above. There was actually, if I recall right, one incident where a fan actually guessed and posted ahead of time a plot twist that JMS already had planned for future episodes, and JMS had to chase the fan down and get him to sign a waiver.
So perhaps this is fundamentally a way to work around that particular problem? Not to say that would make it any better of a deal for the fanfic writer if it was, but at least it’s understandable from that point of view.
I must say I’ve learned a lot in this discussion and am rethinking some of my initial reaction. Thanks all for sharing so many diverse viewpoints. This is one of the reasons I love this blog.
All these throwing numbers around for what is and isn’t commonly written in fanfiction made me curious.
The most popular fandom on AO3 right now (except RPF — I’m not going there) appears to be “Marvel (movies/comics)”, with 43,884 works. Because AO3 allows you to easily sort by pairing and rating, we can tell the most popular pairings:
1) Steve Rogers/Tony Stark, 5554 works (not canon)
2) Erik Lehnsherr/Charles Xavier, 4666 works (not canon)
3) Clint Barton/Phil Coulson, 3159 works (not canon)
4) Clint Barton/Natasha Romanova (comic-verse canon, unclear whether it’s movie-verse canon)
5) Loki/Thor, 2511 works (not canon)
So of the top five pairings of the most popular pairing on AO3, only one is canon-compliant (the lone het pairing). Four of five are slash, one is arguably incest AND slash, although technically Loki and Thor aren’t biologically related.
Divided by ratings:
General Audiences, 11,600 works
Teen and Up, 14,101 works
Mature, 6,508 works
Explicit, 6,982 works
Unrated, 2,998 works
Erotica/pornography — works rated “mature” and “explicit” — comprises only 30% of the total (probably slightly higher if we factor in some of the “unrated”, but only slightly).
Sorting by “kudos” (something of a rating system), the top five most-liked works are:
1) Steve Rogers/Tony Stark, rated Teen and Up
2) Loki/Tony Stark, rated Mature
3) Steve Rogers/Tony Stark, rated Mature
4) Steve Rogers/Tony Stark, rated Teen and Up
5) Steve Rogers/Tony Stark, rated Explicit
Works #1, 3, and 4 are by the same author; I’m not sure if I should pull them out of the dataset or not. Nevertheless, while the majority of fic is not rated “mature” or “explicit”, three out of the five most-liked works are. All five most-liked works are slash.
Obviously, this is only a snapshot of one fandom on one fanfic site at one moment in time, and AO3 is popular in only one segment of fandom (it attracts a different crowd than, say, ff.net). Please don’t extrapolate these data to all fanfic everywhere. However, I do think it’s interesting to have some actual numbers to look at.
Thanks @Kess, take into consideration that Ao3 is still a baby site compared to AFFnet, FFNet and other sites like HPfan fiction and solely pairing sites.
Eloi, you are codrdially invited to the Morlocks’ dinner party. Bring something…juicy.
Hannibal is at the gate; there goes the neighborhood (#irony in the pre-Alanis Morissette sense)
Take note that Hannibal, who learned and emulated much of the Roman Army, was not feared by the Romans for being an inferior warrior.
Anyway, my biggest concern from the Big Picture POV is that this is another step in Big Media’s recent blatant disregard for anyone’s copyrights but their own. For instance their fraudulent take-down notices of Cory Doctorow’s novel Homeland and others’ books and movies. And yes, I realize not all Big Media is responsible for the rent-seeking actions of individual companies or even the MAFFIA, but I could easily see Alloy or Amazon or some other publisher or distributor with kleptomaniacal tendencies staking a claim to fair use works as “fan ficiton” and claiming the creators should have gone through one these nice new “legitimate” (i.e. corporately-policed) channels they were so “generous” to set up. I can just see How It Should Have Ended becoming Disney property by extrajudicial fiat, and independent satire will be something they teach about in history books.
There was a time I would’ve dismissed my own concerns here as paranoia, but, more often than not, the major media companies have shown such contemptuous disregard for both fair use and the copyrights of lesser mortals that I now view any disagreement that doesn’t end in the little guy/gal getting the legal department’s cannons pointed at them as the exception. I’d say we should send in the Space Marines, but they claim to ownership over all the fucking Space Marines. Act now, use the dictionary while it’s still public domain.
I don’t write fan fic, but my understanding was that that was something rights-holders had other means and ways of doing, e.g. wielding the DMCA like a mace. Besides, even if that isn’t the explicit goal, I have a hard time seeing how this isn’t another brick in the walled garden Big Media seems intent on building around the First Amendment.
Meh, I’d say the writing’s on the wall.
At which point slash writers will compare notes and (correctly) call Amazon/Alloy out on catering to homophobes to protect their “family values” market share. After which they’ll reverse course and draw the ire of the homophobes. You can’t please everyone, but you can sure tick off everyone. As a sage once said, this will all end in tears. I’ll get the popcorn.
I don’t think this is really the same. In this case they aren’t trying to disenfranchise enfranchised authors, they’re just trying to herd cats. But if I had any hope of ever becoming a professional fiction writer, I’d give this particular slaughterhouse a ten-mile berth, or you may find that ideas forged in the fires of Mount Fanfic are unavailable for you to use in the Valley of Orginality.
Depends. Can you afford to take Amazon to court for a protracted battle? They’ll claim (correctly) that you never had any rights to it in the first place because it isn’t you’re properties. You might be able to claim fair use, but unless you have a secret stash of legal funds or you can get some massive Kickstarter love, I wouldn’t hold my breath about ever getting credit for your creations.
Some folks gotta eat and don’t have the privilege to give the one-fingered salute to everyone who writes for profit. If you don’t want to make money, good for you; but telling writers that do that they’re “selling their souls” is sanctimonious, snooty and elitist.
Yeah, my first thought when I read John’s post was, Isn’t Vampire Diaries the series where the publisher canned the original author over a plot-disagreement and then hired ghostwriters?
Is that like the opposite of being psychic? :)
I gather that the appeal for many, if not most, fanfic writers is not writing, but exploring characters and worlds they love past the end of the page/credits.
I’m unconvinced of your implicit assumption that at least most fan fiction writers would ever have any interest in writing original ficiton, or vice versa. That seems like saying filk-for-hire would draw talent away from original musicians. The reasoning seems extremely flimsy to me.
I’ve written a lot of original fiction just for fun and personal amusement. I’ve written precisely one short story of fan fiction (re: Sapphire & Steel). In neither case was there ever any danger of one becoming the other. I wrote them for different muses.
@ Connor Cochran
Sure there is; it’s called a cease and desist letter.
Their tears are sweet refreshing ambrosia, their sobs the music of the spheres.
Well, you see, corporate art is EVIL…so selling art to corporations is supporting evil…so making art unless you’re already well-off enough to do it gratis is immoral…so poor people can only ethically make art if they starve or talk an arts foundation into supporting them with grants…but rich people are immoral because they make money…loop…(# Hipster Catch-22)
Not so long as it’s voluntary and opt-in, no. It’s if they use it as an excuse to start going after KindleWorlds fanficcers’ other works under non-compete, and then if they use it and the inevitable imitators as another tool to unravel fair use, that it will be unfair. Right now it’s just a really really bad idea.
They are paying them; they’re just not paying them scale. Buying cows for beans isn’t theft, it’s just slimy.
The UK courts may beg to differ. Unluckily, even here in the States we live in a world where the entry costs for defending fair use in court hoist it out of reach of most private citizens and smaller concerns, such that flying under the radar is better protection from rapaciously litigious rights holders who fallaciously believe that copyright is unlimited license to dictate to others what they may say on or about their properties.
@Mandi M. Lynch
Gotta give that ladder a good swift kick!
All creative work is derivative. That doesn’t mean that the solution is to sell it to the lowest bidder before someone can contest your ownership. The solution is to stop treating generic ideas and plot twists as commodities. Stories, not themes, plot-devices and character arcs, are legitimate commodities. The purpose of copyright is and was to protect attribution and make certain the author of a specific work gets paid. The purpose of copyright is not to stifle creative derivation. I’ve been writing stories for well over a decade. Sometimes I discover ideas I’ve had are not as original as I thought, and sometimes I find another author has published a work featuring a similar idea since I wrote it. And I know they came up with independently, because I’ve only ever shared one small short story of mine with a friend I trust. None of that bothers me, and still wouldn’t even if I wanted to publish, because ideas are not stories and buying into a world where the general form of an idea is something a corporation can erect a fence around and charge rent is a horrible course of action. The persistence of mutable ideas is evidence that a mere idea is not enough to be an original work or art, not that ideas need to be locked away.
@A Mediated Life
And very easily edited, like all metadata. IANAL either, but a IP lawyer should have no trouble demolishing that as admissible evidence. If fair use was equally enforced, I’d agree with you. As it stands, it’s largely an issue of how much justice you can afford.
That raises some interesting questions. Will KindleWorlds accept international submissions, and will they have to tailor their terms to each country’s IP laws and definitions of libel? Can Amazon say superinjunction? :D
It’s naive to think that because they’re not the same, rights holders won’t use one to crush the other if they can. You let the camel’s nose in the tent at your own risk.
Now if you’ll all excuse me, I have some Nutella porn to go write…
To throw a bit more gas on the fire and speaking of licensing, publishing drives higher-margin product sales – that’s the point, so the profits are not limited to book sales. In fact, those can be, and often are, a loss leader gateway to the world of product licensing and intellectual property monetization in its many forms. Alloy’s parent, Warner Brothers, is no stranger to that world and of course that was the appeal of the deal. Amazon is providing scaffolding for Alloy’s IP foundation without breaking the bank. Pretty smart.
This could actually start a ‘new’ type of genre writing (if that is the right term). Take the great concept of a fanfiction challenge.
Somebody has written an interesting universe. Another person suggests a plot bunny, such as the main character not making the same decision as they did in the original story, and including certain specific elements. Other people then write stories based on that challenge, with their own twists and interpretations. (Eg ‘Ship of the Line’ Buffy the Vampire Slayer challenge – http://www.tthfanfic.org/Challenge-7035/Ship+of+the+Line.htm)
The ‘best’ of the challenge response stories are collected into an anthology and made available for 99c.
Great value for money in a universe you are already a fan of with lots of original ideas and styles.
I am a fanfic author and avid reader. I would love to see kindle book collections like this, especially for sci-fi series that have been cancelled/finished. Currently I have to search through C2 communities, and the vast majority of the stories are not (and never will be) finished. This sort of organisation would make reading fics a much better experience for me as well as being a spur to write more simply for the thrill of making into the lists!
But, most Fanfic authors live on reviews and feedback, and this often helps improve the quality of the fic. To me, this means most stories will still be put onto the free sites while they are being written. Will they then be eligible for Amazon? Will they have to be taken down before being submitted, or after, or at all?
Will Amazon take the fanfiction sites to task for having early/alternate versions of stories that are now part of the Kindle Words library? What about almost identical stories due to the above mentioned fic bunnies and challenges?
Seems to me, if money is involved, free fanfiction will get more scrutiny from the powers-that-be, and will suffer for it.
To paraphrase a fanfic author responding to an invitation from FanLib, I fail to see how Amazon thinks this will make money. Actually, I know how it can make money for Amazon: through Amazon charging authors a fee for every story submitted. There is no mention of fees at the Kindle Worlds page for authors, but I bet you there will be fees up the wazoo, and the vast majority of authors will pay more in fees than they ever get in royalties. Kindle World will take money to run. Who is going to review the stories to make sure they meet the guidelines? Who wil help authors having formatting issues? Who will handle conflict resolution? Charges of plagiarism? FanLib tried to get volunteers to do that work, and failed. No doubt about it: Amazon will charge authors for this service, just as it charges hefty fees for its “regular” self-publishing.
Speaking of plagiarism, I’m worried that people will grab other folks’ fanfic and try to submit it to Kindle World to collect royalties. Egad. Just one of the many things giving me FanLib flashbacks right now.
There are fanfiction authors who will be attracted by Kindle Worlds; FanLib proved some fanfic authors would like to be rewarded with cash for their efforts. But FanLib also proved there won’t be many.
Okay, as a fan-fiction writer, I look at this and shudder, because to me it reads basically as a massive attempt by copyright holders to limit what fanfic writers can do and make public.
Fan fiction, as far as I’m concerned, is a natural outgrowth of fiction and story. It’s something we all do, something we learn to do as kids, telling our own stories with the characters and archetypes other writers give us to play with. When my cousins and I “played Star Wars” in our grandparents’ back yard on school holidays, we were doing fan fiction. When my brother and I made up our little family theatrical performances of sketches and such for our parents to watch, we were doing fan fiction (and meta fiction as well). When I wrote a walloping great epic (in longhand, green ink) as a teenager that involved me and my friend meeting and getting into relationships with our current favourite band, that was definitely fan fiction (and BOY am I glad I predated widespread internet access there!).
Fan fiction is part of the creative process – people will play with other writers’ toys, whether those writers like it or not.
What this agreement with Amazon does, however, disrespects both the serious fan writer (who tends to write for love of the character, or love of the story, or both) and the serious professional writer (who writes to make a living, as well as for love of the story and/or character). I suspect it comes out of the attempt to catch the next “Fifty Shades” writer, or the next Cassandra Clare, or whoever, and get them tied down to writing popular copy for the benefit of the copyright owners. The logic, such as it is, being if they’re getting paid (even a pittance) for writing the fanfic, then there won’t be the same incentive to file the serial numbers off the story and shop it around publishers the way E L James did.
Others have said the properties in question tend to be ones which are followed largely by younger people, which to me implies both Amazon and Alloy have a possibly distorted notion of who the typical fanwriter actually is (much like the late lampooned Fanlib did back in the day). I can see this kind of thing being attractive to the kinds of people they think are the majority of fanwriters – the very young teenagers who are writing in a sort of hormonal frenzy of adoration. But in fact the majority of fanwriters, from what I can tell, are in their early-to-mid twenties and older. The better writers are generally the older ones (in my rather prejudiced opinion) because writing well itself is a skill and a craft which improves with practice, and the older you get, the more time you’ve had to practice the skill. I’m in my early forties, and I know I have a number of contemporaries out there in the world of fanfic writing.
For myself, I am most definitely Not Interested in Amazon’s deal (even if they extend the offer to the fandoms I write in). I write primarily for me, and my stuff on AO3 is there mainly because I picked up an idea and followed it to the conclusion I thought was logical. It may not coincide with what the copyright owners want, and most of the time it doesn’t really coincide with what the wider fandom is interested in. But I wrote it for me first and foremost. I’m not after the money – I do it for the fun.
I just wonder where the sales will be coming from, why pay for fic when I can get it for free?
is it fanfic when there are constraints on what can be written? Isn’t it just work-for-hire?
@Cambias: it encourages writers to stick with fan fiction set in other people’s worlds, instead of developing their own settings and characters.
Why? Why should anyone be encouraged to write something they didn’t choose to write, because it’s somehow “worth more” as fiction?
I think that it’d be best to stay away from value judgments on original work versus derivative work in this argument. Not unless you want me to start listing all of the famous and celebrated derivative works out there… you know, starting with Hamlet and King Lear, through His Girl Friday (which was both a remake AND genderbent at that) and finishing up around The Beekeeper’s Apprentice series of novels which are admittedly somewhat terrible, but hugely commercially successful novels about Sherlock Holmes in his retirement.
Writing is writing. To say that choosing to write fan fiction is somehow preventing writers from writing original fiction, or prizing original fiction above derivative works is wearing blinders. You’re missing why people write what they do, why others read what they do, and what wonders can exist even when you take someone else’s characters and setting, and tell a new story.
You can’t tell me “Hamlet” was okay, but would have been better if Shakespeare would have junked Thomas Kyd’s characters and invented his own. Then it really would have been a good play.
The same way you can’t tell me, for example, Tom De Haven’s novel It’s Superman! isn’t a fantastic remix of the Superman story, even tho he’s not Seigel & Shuster. Or The Long Halloween can’t possibly have any commercial or literary value, because Jeph Loeb didn’t create Batman and it was work-for-hire.
It doesn’t matter if it’s work-for-hire, as pastiche, a transformative work that remixes or recontextualises the original work, or a new take on a very very old myth or fairy tale. Good writing is good writing is good writing, period. And by its nature fan fiction isn’t less worth *as fiction* than creating than original work. Unless your only motivation for telling a story is “is it saleable?”
This may come as a shock, but that’s rarely if ever why anyone writes fan fiction.
I should add, I’m not saying all fanfic is “Hamlet” and fan fiction writers are Shakespeare. I am saying writing original fiction is not the be-all and end-all for most people. And new work derived from earlier works is not inherently lesser than original fiction.
Great article with excellent food for thought. The only thing I disagree with is right at the end:
“The thing that can be said for it is that it’s a better deal than you would otherwise get for writing fan fiction, i.e., no deal at all and possibly having to deal with a cranky rightsholder angry that you kids are playing in their yard.”
I would argue that this is NOT in fact a better deal than you would otherwise get, since you’re being taken advantage of in a really crass manner and allowing these franchises to farm your labor for almost nothing. I would argue that it’s a much better deal to simply write fanfic the way people who write fanfic have done for millennia*: i.e., for fun, for community, for love of the story, not for money. That way you have the same satisfaction of writing but without the corporate hammerlock, plus you retain full control over your product :)
* OK, The Aeneid wasn’t actually called fanfic at the time, but it still counts…
I’ve written fanfic. Lots and lots and LOTS of fanfic. Way too much, probably.
There’ve been times I wish I could have put up some sort of virtual tip jar; oh if I had a quarter for each feedback my most-popular-ever wacky crossover has gotten!
Instead, I just hope that some of the folks who’ve read enough of it to know they can trust me to do a decent job of storytelling might eventually take a chance on shelling out for one of my original works.
As for this latest scheme? Not for me. Nope.
Re copyright and fanfic, there is an imperial frack-ton of misinformation out there about what ‘fair use’ and ‘derivative works’ mean, and I would urge absolutely nobody to rely on “what I read on my favorite fanfic site” or “IANAL, but…” The only thing you can fairly say about copyright issues and fanfic are a) it’s a case-by-case analysis in most situations, b) it’s often a gray area and c) it gets a lot LESS squishy if you try to make money off it without permission.
Regarding this ‘deal’, what I think Connor and a few others are missing is that this is not a generous opportunity to monetize one’s fanfic. It’s a call for authors to write work-for-hire derivatives from an existing property, but it’s targeted at the fanfic community, apparently under the assumption that fanfic authors will leap at the chance to have a totally legit opportunity to get paid for something that is, or at least resembles, fanfic, and thus perhaps may be a tad less demanding than otherwise.
Worth noting: I suspect the “no porn/explicit content” rule will be policed by Amazon the same way a similar rule is policed by fanfiction.net – namely, via vendetta.
Policing by vendetta works this way: the company/organisation hosting the site puts up a rule (eg “no explicit content”) and then expects their users to comply with the rule. If the users are found not complying with the rule, the infringing work is removed. Many users comply. Many others don’t. Eventually, the fact this rule isn’t really enforced becomes something of an open secret within the user community. Someone with a fancy to make a name for themselves (or a grudge to work out) starts reporting “infringing” works to the administrators, who don’t bother checking the works (they’ve got their own jobs to be doing) but instead just remove the stuff which has been reported.
Start popping the popcorn now, and reserve your seats at fandom_wank.
I’m a fairly prolific fanfic writer, I’ve also written SF and RPGs professionally. There’s nothing about this “offer” I like, from either perspective; while some writers will undoubtedly go for the money, it seems to be set up to exclude anything that isn’t bland “more of the same” fanfic – no crossovers, no slash etc., a VERY restricted set of fandoms. And it’s probably going to lead to a whole flock of Cease and Desist orders from Amazon as they try to stifle the alternatives.
I won’t buy them, write them, or read them, and I sincerely hope that this idea sinks back into the ooze it emerged from.
I think the “we can steal your work” clause is actually a useful and important thing.
Wait, wait. Hear me out.
I suspect that it’s less about the world owners’ desire to steal the fanficcer’s work than about stemming any potential lawsuits that might arise from accidental idea overlaps. Say that a fanficcer and one of the world’s main writers independently came up with the idea, “Linda’s character arc is boring, so let’s turn her into a werewolf.” Fanficcer publishes story, while the main writers are independently setting the werewolfing for season 6. While there will still be conspiracy theories about the writers cribbing off the fanficcer, at least legally their asses will be covered.
Greg: What KindleWorlds is doing is an inherently unfair license.
Gulliver: Not so long as it’s voluntary and opt-in, no.
Nonsense. The FDA exists because even if people buy snakeoil on a “voluntary and opt-in” basis, it’s an entire waste of money at best, or dangerous at worst. Bank regulations exist because even if people sign some indentured servitude contract on a “voluntary and opt-in” basis, its still wrong and unfair. Nearly every single con-game in the history of the world works on the mark entering into the con on a “voluntary and opt-in” basis. And despite being voluntary and opt-in, con-games are unfair.
The idea that “voluntary and opt-in” is a magical make-everything-fair spell is libertarian wishful thinking.
The bad side: it encourages writers to stick with fan fiction set in other people’s worlds, instead of developing their own settings and characters.
In short: they’ve made a big and very attractive playground to play in, but that may discourage kids from hanging around the workshop and making something new.
We don’t need to be saved from our hobby, thanks. No more than kayakers, rubber-stampers, fibercrafters, fantasy sports league players, Civil War reenactors, and/or those people who save every cent they make so they can take six months off work and backpack around the world need saving from their hobbies.
Personally, you couldn’t pay me enough to write original fiction, because spending months or years when no one bu me cares about my work (the stories that hold my soul), and then coming home – if it sells, if it finds a publisher, if it earns enough to produce royalties. Hot damn, there are enough things in my life to make me depressed without making that my vocation.
And even then, if you took all that away, if you handed over an agent and a publisher and a said, “GO”, a lot of us wouldn’t take it because we simply do not want that.
And not wanting that? Wanting to spend decades in a community that provides us with friends and conversation and commiseration and an audience who cares about our work out of the box, eschewing “Original” fiction writing entirely?
That is okay.
(Incidently, I keep in touch with a single person from high school. We became friends when she invited me to a Firefly-watching party.)
Jack Passarella (Hi there, long time no see!) has the right of it. This is purely work-for-hire, like any tie-in novel. Whether it starts life as fanfic or commissioned (as is the case with most tie-ins) isn’t relevant.
As to the legalities, back in the dawn of fanfic there was a lawsuit, Paramount vs fan-created work. Paramount won, and the upshot is — ANYTHING you create in a copyrighted universe belongs to the copyright holder, and that INCLUDES original characters and settings and events — and the copyright owner therefore has all rights to use them as it pleases.
So the fact is, fanfic writers don’t lose anything they owned in the first place. And this is also why tie-in series authors use one another’s original characters (eg.Mara Jade) — the author doesn’t own them, the venue owner owns them, and lends them for the purpose. Venue owners don’t have to let fanficcers use them at all (remember the early LucasFilm attempts to put a stop to all fanfic? Futile on the whole, but they can legally make examples of you if they wish.)
In short, your fanfic is already 100% legally owned BY the copyright holder, no matter how much original material it contains (and no matter how loudly you scream to the contrary).
If you’re good enough to get noticed and paid, maybe you’re good enough to make a living as a writer, too. If not, you’re no worse off than before.
As to the “fanfic culture” — maybe y’all don’t remember the days of mimeo’d and offset-printed fanfic (yes, I’m that old), but — some people made a very nice side income from that. Some lost their shirts on printing costs. Some broke even. But the notion that there’s a culture of “free” didn’t come along until internet fanfic archives made it so. Now no one need risk several hundred dollars on upfront printing costs; conversely, no one makes several hundred dollars on a best-selling fanzine anymore, either.
So — I fail to see a downside. You lose nothing you “owned” in the first place. And I do see a possibility that the best fanfic might garner a wider audience, and that the best authors might make a few bucks for their efforts. What’s wrong with that??
Any thoughts on how this is going to affect the original creators? I’m not surprised that it is Alloy leading the way. I’m sure their contracts with their writers allow it. I don’t imagine your publisher is going to send an e-mail tomorrow saying they have licensed the Old Man’s War Universe to Amazon fanficcers, but could they? Do you know what kind of sub-right sale this would be? Does anyone know if it is covered in boilerplate contracts for the Big Six?
I don’t think it is just a matter of the sad feelies for the creators of original content if someone else gets to make money off their ideas. As Tolkein discovered, getting things right in your contracts is really, really important. If anybody has any information about how a publisher might describe this kind of licensing in a contract, and what kind of language could protect your property from being licensed out to fanficcers, I’d like to hear about it. Thanks.
I have been searching for the lawsuit mentioned – Paramount vs. fan-created-works – and can’t find mention of it anywhere. Reziac, do you possibly have a link?
John, thank you so much for this blog entry. It’s given me a lot to think about regarding fan fiction and original fiction.
Woman of Letters and Reziac–
Yes, I’d like to see a citation for that lawsuit. Despite being old enough myself to dearly miss the days of printed media fanzines, I’ve never before heard it suggested that Paramount (or anyone) has the legal right to grab original concepts out of unlicensed fanfiction (as opposed to licensed tie-in work; and as opposed to C&Ding fanfiction itself, should it choose to).
I don’t know of a Paramount lawsuit regarding fanfic. I do know of a lawsuit about unauthorized use of original works, and ownership of rights to the resulting derivative: Anderson v. Stallone, 11 USPQ2D 1161 (C.D. Cal. 1989): “Anderson’s treatment [i.e. script] is an infringing work that is not entitled to copyright protection.”
The question of whether an individual fanfic is an “infringing work” would be decided on a case-by-case basis; there’s no bright line test for the difference between “derivative” and “transformative” uses of a copyrighted work.
1: “Giving your rights away”
No one is going to give you the right to write in their universe, if you can charge them for “using your ideas” in their universe. If for no other reason than that the mere fact that you wrote about an idea the author had, first, would preclude the author from using his / her idea unless he / she paid you off.
Not going to happen.
2: It sounds like this is a royalty agreement, no? In which case all Amazon is saying is they get to publish your story wherever they want, not that they don’t have to give you any royalties for it.
LucasFilms runs an annual competition for fan movies. One condition of entry is that you sign the rights over to LF. When I wanted to screen one particular winner at a convention (Trey Stokes’ Pink Five), I had to get that company’s permission.
I personally wouldn’t do this (I am pretty sure I saw that the authors are only getting paid 35% of net and that doesn’t seem worth all the time and effort) but I think that the people who do it for the love of it will be thrilled no matter what the pay or what kind of poaching will be going on for corporate gain. If someone who writes fanfic for the love of it had their story used for a TV episode I think they would probably be over the moon. And then, if they were smart, they would use it to their marketing advantage to boost the rest of their writing.
Is this a horrible deal for professional writers? Yeah. Absolutely.
Is this a horrible deal for amateur writers? Sort of, but not really.
Lets assume the worst happens and Amazon publishes your great PLL novel full of original characters, inventive story lines, and amazing character development on established characters. So much so that the producers incorporate elements of your novel into the show.
1) You still get paid for the Kindle sales. Publishing a book in paper form would dramatically increase sales for Kindle as well, so you would see more money if not indirectly from a published book. Its not the same as collecting royalties on the book itself, but its something.
2) You still get credit, and credit has a lot of value – particularly for a non-published author.
3) If its really that good, you’d probably get jobs out of it. Writer turnover is pretty pervasive, and if show runners are curbing your story for their show, then its likely either the show itself or another production will want your talent.
4) If you get royally screwed, turn to the internet. Make your case, and gather support. The rank and file will almost always side with the creator, and enough pressure could garner a better deal, or at least generate enough publicity to help secure a new project via another production/publisher/kickstarter/etc.
Maybe its because I just watch True West last night, but anything that can sneak real talent past the gatekeepers of the entertainment industry is a step in the right direction…
As people have said, this is enough of a deal for amateurs (especially in a world where fanfiction is pretty unmarketable anyway) where I think people will go for it.
Also, intense fans may be perfectly happy to see their work used. A lot of people enter contests that sign over full rights just because of the chance to have one of their writing/art heroes look over their work.
It’s not a good thing, but I don’t think it is going to toss a wrench into the traditional system.
The fandoms that they licensed arent even big fandoms. Yeah the shows might be popular, but their fandoms are nothing compared to The Big Three. I don’t think we have much to worry about. If they somehow managed to license The Big Three, anime, manga, or certain popular webcomics then we might have reason to worry, but as it is now there are millions of fans producing amazing works for these fandoms. And since most of what I read is on Ao3, I can download the ones I like in an ebook format without paying a cent.
John, now that I have mulled Kindle Worlds over, I’ve come to a different conclusion. Kindle Worlds isn’t an attempt by Amazon to cash in on fanfiction; it’s an attempt by Amazon to “re-brand” traditional tie-in novels as fanfiction. I think the folks saying “this is just tie-in work, and that’s why the author rights are so crappy” are correct. Amazon is calling the tired genre of tie-in novels “fanfiction” to increase readership through “buzz” (that concept so beloved of Internet-era marketing hacks). Original work authors concerned with getting “Kindle Worlded” should consult their contracts regarding tie-in rights; they probably have nothing to worry about.
Amazon’s goal of creating “buzz” has succeeded. But the buzz will fade quickly once folks realize Kindle Worlds isn’t something new. I’m still having FanLib flashbacks, however, since FanLib (which got its start with sponsored tie-in work) also thought it could appear buzz-worthy by claiming to be in the fanfiction “business.”
Did I say everything? I said this. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because I have libertarian sympathies, I take a libertarian stance on all things contractual.
The FDA, for all it’s corrupt inefficient gate-keeping, protects fools from poisoning themselves. As much as I want to live in a society where people take responsibility to educate themselves about foods and medicines, and the function of agencies like the FDA is to transparently study and inform rather than opaquely prohibit, I don’t want them feeding cyanide to their kids to get us there. In our society, the FDA serves a useful purpose, and I live in the real world. Bank regulators, as they currently dysfunction, serves a somewhat less useful purpose, and tend to be considerably more corrupt (particularly investment bank regulators, if the incidence of scandals is representative), but I believe the way banks are regulated should be changed, not abandoned, and that the government doesn’t hold them to account enough because bank lobbies have far too much power for the common good.
That is all I’ll say on those two topics in this thread, because I don’t want to be responsible for another derail.
Con-artists commit fraud. This shit deal isn’t fraud. Amazon and Alloy aren’t lying to anyone as far as we know. If they do, that will be fraud and then it’s time to invalidate the agreement. Right now they’re offer to pay beans, not magic beans. I don’t think fanficcers should take them up on the offer, and I’ll tell them as much, but I won’t bar their way.
I would hope that you get to read a significant portion of the work before paying… I don’t think I would ever pay for amateur works sight unseen. Seeing as submission is free, this will inevitably become a sea of crap with a few gems in it (which hopefully float).
I write both fanfics and professional works and while I would love to monetize my fanfics, I would never do it on Amazon’s predatory terms. I do 100% of the work and get just 35% of the rewards? Excuse me, is that actually considered fair? Or maybe I’m just expected to be “grateful” for not being sued $150,000 for each work infringed. That’s like saying, “Don’t start whining about wanting civil rights. You should just be grateful you’re not enslaved any more like you deserve.”
But at any rate, I wouldn’t pay to read fanfics in my fandom unless I was pretty darned sure they were going to be what I want–and that’s a rare commodity. But, I would be willing to pay the authors I liked handsomely. Just not through a parasitic intermediary who scoops up 65% of the profit for themselves.
A few more points:
– Fanfic writers use preexisting characters and settings and are sneered upon for their lack of originality and creativity. Historical fiction writers use preexisting characters and settings and win literary awards for their originality and creativity.
– Fanfic is not easier to writer than original work. In fact, I’d say it’s harder. In original fiction, there’s no “wrong” way to writer a character, mood or setting. In the more canonically based fanfics, you have to match the mood, characterization, and setting of the original story. You also have to be familar with the original material instead of just making everything up off the top of your head like an original writer can.
– I didn’t quit writing fanfic when I started publishing stories for profit. In fact, I still enjoy writing fanfic more than doing original work.
I think it’s ridiculous that fanfic is illegal. The Constitutional reason for copyright’s existence is to promote the progress of science and art. So why is making art illegal and punishable? How does forbidding people from making art promote the progress of art? Copyright no longer serves its original purpose.
Meh – what on earth are “The Big Three”?? I’ve been in the fanfiction community for over a decade now (and have been very multi-fandom for most of that time) and I can’t think what fandoms you’re referring to. There are certainly some fandoms with far more fic than most, but three specifically?
Another fan fiction writer chiming in…
I agree with the poster above who see this as basically a form of media-tie-in with a marketing flourish — “Fan Fiction!” Like others, though, I do worry that this could lead to a much more concerted effort to crack down on fan fiction, as a means of eliminating the competition.
Do I see myself writing for Kindle Worlds? No.
As with most things, I went about fan fiction ass-backwards, in that I got my start writing original fiction and now have a two (small press) published novels. Several months ago, a couple of characters from an existing work/universe got in my head and I thought, “Why not?” and did the play-in-someone-else’s-sandbox thing. My story has a fair amount of readers. While I’d like to credit that to my writing abilities, the truth is that it’s mostly a function of using a wildly popular character within a sizable fandom. I have to admit, as an author whose original stuff is largely ignored, the insta-success of writing fan fiction has its appeal.
But…I took the leap into fan fiction because it was a way to explore a fascinating character and a non-canon ‘ship in whatever manner I saw fit. And yeah, I like the immediacy of the reader reaction, the community. I have no plans however, to write another fan fic when I’m done with this one.
Frankly, writing actual media-tie ins has never interested me, since I find the guidelines too restrictive.
Gulliver: Con-artists commit fraud.
I said “What KindleWorlds is doing is an inherently unfair license.” And you turn it into… Well, (huff), what they’re doing isn’t illegal
Being LEGAL doesn’t make the deal any more FAIR, though.
There are all manner of legal approaches to swindle people of their money. And those approaches are UNFAIR whether they are LEGAL or not. There are quite a few ways to specifically swindle people who want to be writers. One example is the poetry scams. These can be run in a technically legal manner, but they are intrinsically unfair, intrinsically a bad choice to take, and it is nothing but a good thing for groups like WriterBeware to try to warn people about this legal-but-scam being committed by confidence-men and confidence-women.
A writer like Scalzi pointing at this KindleWorlds license and pointing out how horrendously bad this deal is for the fan writers it is targetting, is nothing but a good thing.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because I have libertarian sympathies, I take a libertarian stance on all things contractual.
Dude, this quote:
This shit deal isn’t fraud. Amazon and Alloy aren’t lying to anyone as far as we know. If they do, that will be fraud and then it’s time to invalidate the agreement. Right now they’re offer to pay beans, not magic beans. I don’t think fanficcers should take them up on the offer, and I’ll tell them as much, but I won’t bar their way.
And this quote:
“FDA, for all it’s corrupt inefficient gate-keeping, protects fools from poisoning themselves”
You admit this is a shitty deal, but god forbid anyone try “bar their way”, even if that might only mean AbsoluteWrite strongly recommending that writers not accept the contract. Because that sort of interferrence could quickly slippery slope into another corrupt, inefficient, gate-keeping regulatory group like the FDA who really only exists to protect fools from their own foolishness.
Everything you’re saying here is the very epitome of the libertarian stance on all things contractual and all things regulatory.
These terms sound to me like these publishers really really don’t want another 50 SHADES OF GREY situation where the writer gets stupid amounts of money by accident instead of the publisher as god intended (bitter laugh).
I said nothing about it’s legality. I said it isn’t unfair. Voluntarily giving your money to someone for a crappy deal isn’t unfair, it’s just dumb. This isn’t fraud. This isn’t a scam. It’s just a shit deal.
Perhaps you think fraud necessarily implies legality. It doesn’t. Fraud can be considered independent of the law. Please note definition #1a:
intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right
Please direct me to where Amazon or Alloy are perverting the truth about KindleWorlds.
I not familiar with poetry scams, but if they operate as that link you provided indicates, making offers they don’t deliver on, they are indeed scams. If it’s a legal scam, then the law that addresses it is dysfunctional, which is a separate discussion from the topic of this thread. Now we’re talking about legality. From what John and others I respect have said, WriterBeware is an upstanding organization. If they were calling non-scammers scammers, they’d be open to libel suits, so I’m just going to provisionally take your word that those poetry scams are scams, and that makes them, to the best of my severely incomplete knowledge of the Amazon/Alloy contracts, not the same as KindleWorlds, so I don’t know why you’re comparing them.
Absolutely, and you’ll notice I added my support at length to that sentiment in my first comment on this thread. What I didn’t do was call it a scam, because that would be a lie without actual evidence, of which I have none, that Amazon or Alloy are in fact scamming fan-ficcers.
I said I was done with that subject, but I can see I failed to make myself clear why these are not the same as KindleWorlds, so now I’m going to be a big fucking hypocrite.
Selling someone poison and underpaying someone for writing fan-fiction are not even in the same league. They’re barely on the same planet. I don’t know where you get that slippery slope nonsense, but I evaluate Pfizer and Alloy on rather separate criteria because the world is not so simple that all industries and businesses firms can be regulated or not in the exact same way. The world is not made up of absolutes. Just because someone supports civil liberties like the Bill of Rights doesn’t mean they endorse every anarcho-capitalist and/or fiscal conservative talking point you hear when someone says libertarian.
I stated what the FDA does and agreed with its necessity. That is the opposite of the libertarian stance on food and drug regulation.
And that is the end of my discussing the FDA or any other unrelated topic in this thread. If you want to discuss KindleWorlds, Amazon and/or Alloy, I’ll be happy to oblige.
I started writing in earnest for NaNoWriMo a couple years ago in my late twenties. I posted it on fictionpress for critique and have received 10,000 hits and three dozen reviews, very few of which contain some kind of useful insight. Then last year, I made my first foray into fanfiction. In seven months I’ve received 250,000 hits (roughly the same number of words) and 750 reviews. Insightful reviews still come in the same proportion, but the sheer number makes writing fanfiction more than worth it to get eyeballs on my writing.
So Amazon’s move, which makes sense in terms of trying to monetize all the work fanfiction authors put in, puts all that in jeopardy. I know you say it won’t put a stop to fanfiction completely, which is true, but generally the fanfiction community is respectful of those authors who don’t want us writing in their worlds (personally I think it’s their loss — I started reading the Dresden Files because of cross-over fanfiction set in that world — but there you have it). So with a viable(?) means of extracting revenue from fanfiction authors, we could see a number of copyright holders insist that this is the only way it’s okay.
I am curious about how the Vampire Diaries thing works though. Surely L.J. Smith had to have given her blessing, not Alloy Entertainment. Either that or L.J. Smith agreed to some rather poor terms in selling the TV rights.
I wonder if I could, for instance, write my own fan fiction in my own fictional universe, put my wife’s name on it, and collect the licensing fee for the fan fiction as the original author and she collects money as the fan fiction writer.
Jeff: That only works if you assume that Amazon will be shelling out more money to each licensor in license fees than they’ll be taking in as revenue from that property. Otherwise, you’re just paying Amazon a cut of your profits to provide a service you don’t need (serving as a middleman between you and your wife) … which makes it a pretty silly get-rich-quick scheme.
I think what makes me most “Er, wait” is the apparent claim of “No, this isn’t work for hire — we just want all the rights to your IP.” I would be less disturbed if they said, flat-out, “This is work-for-hire. You submit it, and if it’s accepted, the IP-owner gets all rights to the story. So long as their contract with Amazon permits (which is currently life+70), Amazon will sell it, give you X% of the sales price, and keep your name on the meta-data and cover.”
Work-for-hire is a thing that some people do. I’ve done it. But this “no, no, it’s all yours — except that it’s not” makes me want to sidle away at Mach speeds.
“I suspect that a lot of fans will, like comic fans turned writers do, basically “live with it” for the chance to write within universes they’re fans of”
I find this comment very interesting because while I’m positive it’s true for many fans, a lot of the more organized and hardcore fic writers wouldn’t feel like that at all. I can write fic about whatever I want whenever I want and the approval of rights holders is of no interest to me. In fact, being offered it as though I don’t already have a right to fair use actively repulses me. If this bad deal spawns a whole new strain of fanfic, I suspect the divisions will be social and about the desire for legitimacy rather than about money.
If I were motivated by profit, I’d file some serial numbers off and look for a real book contract.
I write professionally. I also read and write fanfiction because I want to explore some aspect of a created world that the original fiction (and published media in general) in question cannot or will not explore, and which reflects my reality and interests. For example – Tolkien’s universe from the perspective of Peoples (Men, Dwarves, Elves, Hobbits, Valar etc) of Colour.
I don’t see the Amazon initiative being likely to change this at all. If anything, the experience of fandom has been that PoC, or Queer characters in longstanding universes (Earthsea, the Last Airbender, Star Trek) are more often whitewashed/straightwashed when they are bought by corporations for mass exploitation.
Amazon’s Kindle Worlds: Instant Thoughts – Whatever
Honestly, the more reactions I see the more I think that those fanfic writers who want to make money by writing are already trying – by writing original fic alongside it, or sometimes by filing the serial numbers off their fanworks, or by writing fanfic of public domain works. All of those promise a far better deal and far more profit potential than this Kindle Worlds. And for those fanfic writers who aren’t interested in writing for a profit (*waves*), this offer isn’t exactly relevant. Especially because it asks us to give up a lot of the non-monetary rewards of fanfic.
In many ways, Kindle Worlds looks like you get the worst of both worlds – lose the community and feedback and audience and the chance to write exactly what you want without oversight or marketing concerns that you have when you write fanfic, but totally lose rights to your work (so you don’t even have the grey-area maybe-fair-use-maybe-not rights of a fanfic writer right now) and get far, far less money than you would trying to sell original works or public domain fic. I fail to see the appeal.
Has there been any discussion about teens participating in this? It seems to me, considering the source material, that a lot of the fanfic for those Alloy entities is being written/read by teens. To submit/upload a fic would be the equivalent to signing a contract, wouldn’t it? Does that then mean that for a teen to participate in this, they would need parental consent to complete the transaction? And how many teens want that? Especially in regards to their fanfic. My teenage niece who reads/writes fanfic would not want her mother involved in either the purchase of or upload of her fanfic pursuits. Wouldn’t you think that a large portion of these particular fandoms would be basically cut out of this process? We assume that most fanfic writers are older, at least college age, and that might be true…but they’re writing for LOTR and Sherlock. Less so “Pretty Little Liars”.
Kaz, what I learned from FanLib* is that many of the writers attracted to “legitimatized” fanfiction were not mainly interested in money, but in increasing the size of their reading audience, and therefore getting more feedback, feedback (preferably adoring) being the coin with which fanfiction authors are paid.
When FanLib rolled out in 2006, AO3 did not exist**. It was extremely difficult then for fanfic authors to gain a large audience — and by large I mean more than a hundred people. Fanfic authors were dependent on individual recommendations by readers through blogs such as Livejournal. In larger fandoms (Harry Potter, Stargate Atlantis), dedicated fanfic archives and regular newsletters made it easier for authors to gain readers, but still a fanfic author with a thousand or more readers was quite rare. In that environment, FanLib’s [bogus, as it turned out] pitch to increase readership held appeal to some.
Ironically, because of AO3, the fanfiction “success” bar has been set higher. Fanfiction stories with 1,000 readers are common, because AO3 makes it easy for readers to find stories with the attributes they want (fandom, genre, characters, length), and readers can presumably assess the quality of a story by its number of hits, kudos, and comments. [I’m sure you know all this; I’m putting it down for those who don’t]. An author craving more feedback may be tempted by Kindle Worlds, because Amazon has the marketing power to gain an author millions of readers, not thousands. But as I said in an earlier comment here, I don’t think Kindle Worlds is what Amazon is pretending it is — legitimatized fanfiction — but is just a standard tie-in contract. I think fanfic writers who want a wider readership and/or money will quickly realize Kindle Worlds is a poor way to realize their goals.
*I maintained an online site dedicated to shredding FanLib.
**FanLib’s attempt to monetize fanfiction was the main reason the fan-owned, non-profit AO3 came to be.
Gulliver: This isn’t fraud.
Jesus christ. Let me point out again that the only person who has used the word “fraud” on this thread is YOU. The only time I used the word “fraud” in my comments was later on when I quoted you.
It is an UNFAIR contract. And the fairness or unfairness of the contract is independent of whether it is “fraud” and independent of whether it is LEGAL. Which leads immediately to this:
Voluntarily giving your money to someone for a crappy deal isn’t unfair
Libertarianism would insist that “fair” requires only two things: not-lying and agreement-without-duress. And when I said this was an unfair deal, the first thing you said was “Not so long as it’s voluntary and opt-in”. So congratulations, you don’t have libertarian sympathies, you are a true blue Libertarian.
It is not a fair deal. It is not a fair exchange. It is not a fair trade. And your repeated insistence to enforce the libertarian mindset, doesn’t change that.
A fair deal is an equitable deal. Both parties get value out of the deal in accordance with the value they put in. This is not an equitable deal. If a fan writer comes up with some idea for a story or character development, the licensor gets to incorporate them without further compensation, regardless of how valuable those ideas might be.
A fair deal is an equitable deal, and that means that paying someone beans for their cow is unfair.
You define “fair” by the libertarian definition. A thing is FAIR “so long as it’s voluntary and opt-in”.
The most you’ll do is throw some emotive terms that do nothing. You’ll admit paying someone beans for their cow is “slimy”. You’ll acknowlege that this fan-fiction deal is “shitty”. But remove the emotive meanings of those terms and they mean little more than “something vaguely bad is happening somewhere over there, but we can’t and shan’t do anything about it”
Your entire disagreement with me on this thread boils down to me saying this deal is unfair and you trying from multiple angles to redefine fair to mean the limited libertarian definition of not-lying and opt-in. And there’s no way I’ll take that definition as legitimate. Every time you get bent out of shape because you think I misquoted you or put words in your mouth comes from me always discussing this as a question of whether or not its FAIR and you trying to pull the meaning back to the libertarian definition.
This is an inequitable deal therefore this is an UNFAIR deal.
And your libertarian protestations about this deal being not-fraud and opt-in are irrelevant to the fact that this deal is unfair.
@Emma Welsby – The Big Three in most fanfic communities are the three big medias: anime/manga, video games, and novels. The biggest series under those labels would be Naruto & Inuyasha (anime/manga), Kingdom Hearts & Final Fantasy (video games), and Harry Potter & Twilight (novels). I’m just looking at the stats from ffnet and not off of AO3 or other, more specific fanfic sites that cater to certain fandoms, which have a smaller number of works on the offer. The more obscure the work – short/cancelled/not that well heard of – the more it tends to have a closer knit community about it, but most fanficcers I’ve talked to are usually in for the community and discussion of ideas than they are for the the money/fame. So this breakdown about KindleWorlds is nice to hear and I think I’m going to avoid it.
Thanks for the explanation. I’ve never heard the phrase used before and would dispute “in most fanfic communities” but then the community as a whole is so huge that even though I’ve been in multiple fandoms & on multiple archives/livejournal/etc, there’s still very large sections I haven’t glimpsed, with their own terminology! But I would have thought TV shows were far bigger than video games?? And a glance at their top fandoms on FFN would support that.
Hmm. I’ve just re-read Meh’s original comment, and this bit doesn’t seem to agree with your interpretation:
“somehow managed to license The Big Three, anime, manga, or certain popular webcomics”
If the Big Three included anime, why mention it again?
Thank you. I’m learning a great deal from this thread. I had a vague notion fanfiction had it’s online community centers, but was entirely in the dark on any details.
I disagree. Fraud is one of several things that can render an agreement unfair.
That it would. I disagree.
You would be assuming that there are no other criteria by which it could be unfair, but which I don’t believe KindleWorlds meets. You would be wrong.
Is that like a true Scotsman? I don’t do partisan politics. But if you prefer to think of me as an “-ian” to an “-ism”, I won’t take offense. I stand by my beliefs, not labels.
KindleWorlds is indeed an inequitable way to source tie-in-fiction, as someone above pointed out. Fan fiction writers can continue publishing as they have been through peer-structure channels and/or they can submit tie-in fiction in whatever the conventional manner is that tie-in-fiction authors do so. If and when KindleWorlds is used as a pretext to go after independent fanfic communities or kill traditional tie-in markets, then it will rise to the status of unfair.
No, there’s more to fairness than that. You’ve simply not shown me where KindleWorlds meets any of those other criteria.
Going back and rereading my first comment in which I initially replied to you, I can see that the misunderstanding was my fault. I should have said In this case, all else about KindleWorlds being equal, not so long as it’s voluntary and opt-in, no. I mean all else being equal in the direct sense of as long as nothing else about KindleWorlds changes. I apologize for being vague.
Yeah, and if I walk up to some stranger selling muffins and offer them a penny for the recipe rights, I’d be a slimy shitty asshole. Doesn’t make it unfair. If I walk up to them and offer to sell them a medicine they need right then and there to save their life for more than they can pay, then it’s a different story because the choice is no longer really a choice. Choice really does matter. One common libertarian misconception regards the conditions under which choice is real. Another is that choice occurs is a vacuum, whereas in reality it may or may not effect other parties.
There is lots you can do about it. You just can’t justly outlaw it in this case.
The only time I got “bent out of shape” was when I had to choose between clarifying something I’d miscommunicated or sticking to my promise to end my part in that line of discussion. And I was “bent out of shape” over my own feet of clay, not anything you did. I admit you’re a bit, ah, energetic in your debate style, but you’ve always, IMO, been respectful, rational and argued in good faith. That, to me, is far more important than politics. If I thought you were intentionally misrepresenting me, I wouldn’t give you the time of day.
Okay, let’s agree to disagree on that. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say I did agree with your criteria for unfair. What do you propose to do about KindleWorlds? Do you think it’s a scam?
Z: “I do 100% of the work and get just 35% of the rewards?”
But you’re not doing 100% of the work. The creator(s) did 100% of the work — creating the world, the characters, the basic plotlines that form the canon, etc. You are using their work and that’s why people are interested in your tie-in work and why it has the emotional impact it does. This is even more so regarding films and t.v. shows where in addition to the written words, you are getting the benefit of the director(s)’ work, the actors’ work, the special effects, etc., to get interest in your story. 35% is a not horrible collaborator’s cut for the tie-in work you do for someone else’s stuff which you don’t own and never will own. I’m not saying it’s a good tie-in contract, because it’s not from the sound of it, but the cut isn’t entirely off what the tie-in writer in this case is actually contributing to what is already a standing body of work the tie-in writer did not create.
Fan fiction isn’t illegal. There were brouhas initially, mostly from Hollywood, but if you’re not making a profit from it, they let it stand as homage expression these days. But if you are making a profit on it, you’re taking away income from the author/creators to profit from art they created and you co-opted, using their fame and fan base to make your money. Essentially, fan fiction has the original creators of the art as co-writers, but if it’s profit-making fiction, then those original creators aren’t getting paid for their work that you are using. Why should they have done all that work and not get a cut of your profit from their creation? You’re stiffing them and it’s infringement. As for copyright, that’s pretty much the only reason that authors get paid anything for their work and get paid what was agreed upon. Without copyright, not only would Amazon not have to give tie-in “Worlds” authors a cut of their writings, they’d just simply snatch your work off a fan fiction site, sell it and credit the author as anybody they liked. No contract needed. No legal recourse for you.
But the reality is that Alloy Entertainment and Warners, the rights holders who have given Amazon the tie-in merchandising sub-license for the t.v. shows more than the books (which Alloy owns wholly,) have no real interest in milking these stories for ideas. They have stables of screenwriters, authors, editors — they don’t need fan fiction writers. Even if there was a good idea, it’s very unlikely that they’d be able to use it anyway, especially for the t.v. shows. They have the harvesting clause to protect against lawsuits and because film studios cover the legal bases from the arrival of aliens to the second great flood.
But the main purpose of this deal is because it sells the books and t.v. shows they already have and merchandise from those even more than before, and makes the advertisers who fund things very happy and willing to buy more ads. Writers who want to do Worlds will buy DVD’s and books from the series. They will get their friends and relatives to buy them. If they self-publish, they are likely to do so with Amazon. They are likely to buy their law mowers and clothing from Amazon as well.
Pretty Little Liars is a huge hit for Alloy/Warners, for instance, not so much for its ratings or even downloads as it is for the large communities, like Tumblr, on the Net that chat about the show and everything connected to it. That’s why real fan fiction has grown so huge the last ten years. The fake fan fiction tie-in approach further spreads the love, which means more ads online and for the shows because advertisers think it will get them eyeballs — that’s Alloy/Warner’s income. Which means more people getting interested, buying posters and T-shirts as well, which is way more income than tie-in fiction. People don’t even have to read/buy the Worlds fiction. Its sheer existence is a massive publicity campaign, part of Alloy’s multimedia platform, that will hawk the shows — and spin-off shows, books, films, etc. — through Amazon.
It’s not a great deal for the writers who sign up. Professional writer for hire arrangements, which Alloy uses to actually write the official books for these series, are better. But it does potentially let those authors build up a fan base of their own off of the fame of the series, which can translate to sales of self-published original works or deals with a publisher for original works. The Worlds writers are writing ad copy. Worlds will last as long as Amazon can convince Hollywood/web businesses that this service will get them more ad money. And since Amazon started their own network, in competition with Netflix and Hulu, this arrangement with prominent shows/producers can give them an edge in what is a much more profitable business.
Greg: But remove the emotive meanings of those terms and they mean little more than “something vaguely bad is happening somewhere over there, but we can’t and shan’t do anything about it” Your entire disagreement with me on this thread boils down to me saying this deal is unfair and you trying from multiple angles to redefine fair to mean the limited libertarian definition
Gulliver: let’s say I did agree with your criteria for unfair. What do you propose to do about KindleWorlds?
You are doing exactly more of the same, from yet another angle. You suggest a hypothetical situation in which you hypothetically agree the deal is “unfair”. And your next immediate question is to determine whether or not we can call it “unfair” such that the word “unfair” becomes as meaningless as your words of “silly” and “shitty” are, i.e. Something vaguely badish going on in some general direction, but not enough detail or information or whatever that we could ever possibly do anything about it.
“You just can’t justly outlaw it in this case.”
Again, more of the same. You’ve viewed this entire thing through the lens of people calling this deal “unfair” might lead to someone outlawing this sort of deal, and god forbid that happen. So your first tactic is to argue that it is in fact fair by a very restricted definition of the word. But a fair deal is an equitable deal and this deal isn’t equitable. So, now you’ve changed tactics to approach from the other end. You’ll offer a hypothetical in which the deal is labeled with the sequence of letters “unfair”, but your first question is What do you do about it? And wrap up with this beauty: You just can’t justly outlaw it. So, you’ll offer a hypothetical that it isn’t “fair”, but in the same comment, you switch gears to say regulation wouldn’t be “just”?
You’ll grant that in the “Jack and the Beanstalk” fairy tale, an adult swindler paying a young boy a bag of beans for a cow is “slimy”, but you won’t say it’s “unfair” or “unjust” because you’re terrified that might lead to someone trying to outlaw it. I mean, god forbid someone put restrictions on the sort of contractual agreements that children can enter into with an adult. What kind of world would that be? Beans for a cow is slimy, sure, but unfair??? Absolutely not.
So, nothing’s changed. You merely reiterate the libertarian view in various flavors and from different angles. This hypothetical scenario of yours is yet another iteration of the same thing. You’ll hypothetically agree to call it unfair. But then you bring in a new term, justice, and assert that this thing called justice cannot allow this to be regulated. Sure, sure, maybe hypothetically speaking you might agree that it is a (air-quote) unfair (air-quote) deal, ok, fine, whatever, but even if we do agree it is “unfair”, the real problem is that justice says we can’t outlaw it. So, our hands our tied.
All you did was take “fair” and lump it into the same category as “slimy” and “shitty”. Vaguely badish things happening in that general vicinity, but nothing detailed or specific or extreme enough to ever contemplate doing anything about. And then when “fair” was lumped into the list meaningless emotional words, you bring in a new word, “justice”.
I keep trying to point out to you this pattern that you’re doing here. And instead of maybe stopping a minute and seeing this pattern, you just keep doing the pattern.
I’m concerned about corporations exploiting the bifurcation between “pro writers” and “fanfic writers.”
They’ve figured out that there are good fanfic writers. They’ve figured out that some fanfic is salable. And they’ve figured out that “fanfic writers” are an underclass that the pro writers are not interested in protecting, owing to longstanding tensions over copyright and a sense of “write your own damned worlds (or you’re not one of us).”
If a fanfic writer sells a sci-fi story to Kindle Worlds in this deal (providing there’s a sci-fi world to write in), can they apply to SFWA for membership? I’ll bet not.
That’s a problem: do we have an Untouchable class of writers? I’m concerned it will lower standards for everyone. (I connect this to what’s happened to labor unions with outsourcing, the watering down of rights by not extending union membership globally, or supporting unionizing in other countries.) The gates of respectability are closed to fanfic writers.
Fanfic culture as it stands won’t embrace Kindle Worlds, no. But fanfic culture changes with the wind. The fanfic group, The Organization of Transformative Works, isn’t railing against Kindle Worlds; they’re taking a stand to protect Fair Use, that’s it. In fanfic circles I’m not seeing the blowback we saw over Fanlib in 2007. Amazon is offering something Fanlib didn’t — payment. The experienced fanfic writers agree with you that it’s a raw deal and are urging people to “self publish instead!”
I think the issue isn’t payment though. It’s the respect that payment implies.
Heck, a few years ago I would’ve thrown some fic at Amazon just to get my fiance off my back about all the time I spend writing: “See? I’m getting paid.” But would I have given them the works that were important to me, that I spent a year researching? Hell, no. Trouble is, some of my better works are the ones I threw together on a whim. Losing rights on a story that turned out better than you thought would really, really suck.
Hmmm, what about ship-porn? There was no specifically mentioning of slash porn, there’s lots of porn in ship as well. I’m a slash writer, but just want to raise the question whether het-sex isn’t considered porn “g”
As for everything else, thanks for your article, it made me think and while at first I was excited at the Amazon concept, I had come to some of your though processes myself, wondering how this will really go down in reality AND how much they might ‘rape’ my story even before it gets permission to be published. It’s like handing over control of my work and that feels a bit creepy imo.
I was just about to look into this (not because it’s something I would actually do, simply because I was curious), and I’m so glad to have stumbled onto this article. It’s a really interesting concept, and it’s a real shame that it seems to have immediately shot into “money grab” and/or “idea grab” territory. It’ll be interesting to see which direction this goes in next, and if it becomes more friendly towards the fanfic writer. I’m interested too, as you said, about how it effects media-tie ins. I mean, I assume as a media tie-in writer that I would lose all rights to anything I write since it’s in someone else’s universe, but writing a fanfiction and then seeing parts of it become “canonized” later would be a completely different experience. Hopefully, as someone mentioned in the comments, you would be approached to write the canon works, rather than having the ideas and content simply used in a canon work without any discussion.
No, the questions were not rhetorical. I seriously want to know. Given that you think it’s unfair, what solutions do you propose? And separately but related: do you think KindleWorlds is a scam? If so, why?
I did no such thing. I disagree that KindleWorlds in unfair. I also think, quite separately, that it would be unjust to outlaw it. Beyond what we are already doing, discouraging people from participating, I’m curious what solutions you or anyone else propose. I’m open to possibilities I haven’t considered.
That’s your definition of fair. I don’t use fair and equitable as synonymys. Fairness is more complex than equitability, and equitability is only one of several variables in evaluating fairness. But we are not going to agree on the semantics, so I was trying to move past that disagreement and see if we could find some common ground on actions.
I probably should have said: Given that you regard it as unfair, what do you propose to do about it?
Fairness, justice and equitability are not meaningless, nor are they emotions. I get the sense that no matter what words I use to try to use to explain why I view KindleWorlds as fair but inequitable, and permitting it as just, that you will impute categorical errors to my reasoning.
a) KindleWorlds is a slimy, shitty, inequitable deal.
b) KindleWorlds is not an unfair deal because no one has to deal with them, they’re not, as it stands harming the wider community, and they’re not using it as a substitute for an equitable deal previously the standard. Authors can still write community fan-fiction. Authors can still, AFAIK, submit traditional tie-in works by conventional channels. And authors can still file off the serial numbers and seek submit their stories for publication as original fiction.
c) Outlawing the Amazon/Alloy contracts (at least insofar as I understand them from John’s post and this thread) on offer would be an unjust imposition of my opinion of the value of KindleWorlds on authors that may disagree with me. Who am I – or you, for that matter – to tell them how to publish?
So yes, in this case I am taking a stance that aligns with a traditional libertarian approach. On KindleWorlds, I think the libertarian stance happens to be correct, though not for precisely the same reasons a “true blue” libertarian would. On everything, not so much. Generalizing from a libertarian stance on one case to a Libertarian ideologue is fallacious.
Got to say I’m with the “It’s not doing any harm but personally I’d avoid it” crowd.
I think the thing is not to look at it from the perspective of a fanfic author though, but more from the prospective newbie author who sees a way to get their name in lights by attaching it to an existing property, and using it to jumpstart their career.
Is it a shitty deal? Hell yes, but I’ve written for shittier deals before – when you’re a nobody, you take what you can get because one more thing published is one more step up the ladder, and maybe it’ll be the one that gets you noticed enough to get a decent deal the next time. At worst, it’s one more published work you can add to your portfolio, and if you’re desperate enough for an “in” then any actual money from something you’re writing this early is a bonus.
So yeah, I don’t envisage it getting much attention from fanfic authors who want to turn their hand to actually going professional. I see it more attractive to would-be professional authors who are looking for a way to break in.
This idea of Amazon’s…? Is brilliant. Speaking as a writer published in the past,and a fanific reader (big fan of slash fiction) and someone with a legal background, this is a way to screw both the original creators of the material and the fanfic writers. And its no coincidence that Vampire Diaries is amongst the first licenced. LJ Smith got sacked from her own creation. now someone can do fanfic under licence, then their original take on it be re-packaged etc, then they can get sacked too.
Unless/until the relationship between creators of copyright and those who want to creat new stuff based on the original gets sorted – not just writing but games, tv, music, if you look on YouTube thousands of machinima, animation,song parodies, edits/mashups of tv series and films, you name it is being created, often of very high quality, by the next generation of artists- this divide and rule tactic will work.
I repeat: Both creators of original content and creators of derivative content will get screwed. Without lube.
I dont know how accommodation can be reached. My sympathies are in both camps. Even though out of print, if I came across writing using my work/ideas/characters/voice etc I’d be extremely pissed off.
Yet..As a fanfic reader, I’ve read brilliant writing in several fandoms that was better than the original tv writing, and thought the writers should be recognised for the talents they are. I dont know if different mediums should be treated differently. If stricter conditions should apply according to whether the original work is a novel, as opposed to a song, or a video game. What I do know, is that the contracts for artists/creators are often heinous. And we sign them, sign our rights away because we want the publisher/film company/record company etc to market and distribute our work in a wider way than we can.
I’m not well-versed in the arena of copyright or law, so I can’t say whether this proposal is unfair (though you explain very well how it sounds unfair, Scalzi). What I will say is that I don’t think it’s something that will work.
Why not? Because I read fanfic, and I read professional writing, and I’ve written fanfic, and I’ve also written things that I thought might one day be something I could get published. And one thing I noticed was that, while fanfic and fiction have a lot in common, there are differences between them that simply don’t translate well. There are things I’ve written easily in fanfic that I wouldn’t write if I was trying to get published. There’s a whole…tone to the fanfic genre as a whole that doesn’t necessarily sync well to professional writing, and it’s not just about erotica, although erotica is one area where it’s most pronounced (I tend to skip sex scenes in books, but I’ll willingly read them in fanfic, and I do think that that’s to do with the difference in tone.)
The thing that makes them different, I think, is intimacy. Fanfic is largely written by women, and I think maybe that’s helped set the tone for a lot of it — but there’s this kind of willingness to explore the characters, to see them vulnerable, and to quote Ursula Vernon, “fan fiction, particularly the freaky and occasionally slashy stuff, has made an agreement with itself to suspend shame”. And I know for sure that when I read published novels…yes, you can get into the characters head, yes, you can see them broken-down, but there’s some things that I don’t like to read there because it feels embarrassing, like I’ve seen too much of a stranger’s private life. And I can’t explain exactly why that dichotomy exists, but…fandom is built on the intimate and the vulnerable and frequently the whimsical. And there’s this sense that that kind of thing simply wouldn’t work well if you try to drag it out into publication, because it isn’t very…well-armoured, for lack of a better word. Fanfic is something that has to be sought-out, as opposed to being on display.
And that’s why I think it won’t work — because the two models just don’t mesh.
Gulliver: Who am I – or you, for that matter – to tell them how to publish?
There is plenty of copyright laws out there to tell people how to publish. “Fair Use” has been evolving quite a bit over the years. Not so long ago, a powerful lobbying group tried to compare the VCR with the Boston Strangler. The law denied them their overly emotive metaphor and as a result, the law tells them how to publish.
The law has (or at least it used to have) pre-scribed rates for a musician to publish a cover version of an existing song. If I wanted to make a cover version of “Poker Face”, I could look up in a table based on how many records I intended to print and figure out how much I’d have to pay. Lady Gaga has no say in refusing to allow me to make a cover song. (It’s been a while, so I don’t know if its still this way or not).
Also, I just have to point out yet another libertarian frame: “who am I – or you … to tell them”. The law is not ME telling YOU what to do. The law is WE agreeing to what WE will do. The libertarian frame won’t acknowledge that.
So yes, in this case I am taking a stance that aligns with a traditional libertarian approach.
I’ve been trying to tell you that for two days now.
Icarus: “They’ve figured out that there are good fanfic writers. They’ve figured out that some fanfic is salable.”
Again, that’s really not what’s happening here. This is an advertising gimmick for the t.v. shows/franchises to get fans of the t.v. shows more invested in the shows, not the fan fiction. They don’t care about the fan fiction. But they do care about the fan attention that is given to the fan fiction as an extra as a way to draw more eyeballs to the shows. (That is not the same as fan fiction being salable or profitable.) They want the loyalty of the fans and fan writers to the shows, which they get by being friendly to “fan fiction” and throwing some money at them for “official” fan fiction, which is instead a form of tie-in fiction.
Kindle Worlds won’t get a qualifying market rating for active membership at SFWA, not because it’s tie-in work, but because Amazon is not selecting the work, except to exclude erotica. It’s paid work, but it’s not a “sale” to Amazon. It’s not work that Amazon wants; it’s work that Amazon is letting get sold under license to promote the t.v. shows/franchises. SFWA is concentrated on helping authors mainly who are selling the license to their works to publishers, magazines, film studios and the like. This deal is not that sort of deal. It’s an invitation to play in somebody else’s sandbox so they can plaster ads all over it. It’s like being paid to participate in a focus group.
Obviously, giving your best ideas over to these shows, even though the odds are a million to one that they’ll ever use them, would not be bright. But your writing in the sandbox can act as an advertisement for your writing. Nobody cares about your writing. They care about the shows, and because they do so, they might read your writing in the sandbox. But what you write isn’t canon; it’s a toy. But it’s a lot of eyeballs potentially playing with the toy, and they might buy other original stuff you write if they like it enough. You will never be part of the Pretty Little Liars empire. You can, possibly, get some side benefit out of it.
Writers wanting to break into partner publishing would be better served trying to get a professional tie-in gig instead — doing an official novel for Wizards or Halo, etc. If you do those and they do well, the publishers are then interested in publishing your original work. Whereas they won’t have any interest in “fan fiction” you did for a franchise they can’t use for marketing. But if you’re self-publishing, then Kindle Worlds might be useful since the first issue in self-publishing is letting people know you exist. Do the Pretty Little Liars script you’ve always wanted to see but know will never be produced. The money you get for it is twaddle and you will own no rights to it because Alloy owns Pretty Little Liars and all its characters, not you. But the eyeballs from Pretty Little Liars fans might pay off later, especially if you want to write YA fiction of your own and if you’re self-publishing.
But check the terms of the contract. The “rights grab” is not the big issue — you don’t have any rights to Pretty Little Liars; it’s whether Amazon can put your name on things you didn’t write and if they can tie you up beyond the stuff you write for them in Worlds. (These are issues of professional tie-in work as well.) But seriously, if those problems aren’t in the contract and you chose to write for Worlds, quit acting like you own the sandbox just because you strung some words together. You don’t own squat and you will have to play by their rules if you want to go into their sandbox and get (token) cash for it.
I don’t think that’s a big interest of most fan fiction writers, getting paid for their stuff. And the free stuff is going to be more attractive to fans, especially as it often mashes more than one show/book universe together. So fan fiction culture is not endangered in any way. And I suspect that most of Worlds will be either straight t.v. or book series that are already tie-in or writer for hire franchises anyway. There’s not a lot of usefulness in it for a standard author/publisher. Not every advertising gimmick requires a seismic cultural shift in response.
Marsha Prescod: “LJ Smith got sacked from her own creation.”
No, she didn’t because she didn’t create Vampire Diaries. Alloy did and they own the rights. They came up with the idea and they hired Smith as a writer-for-hire to work for them and they told her what they wanted her to do. That’s why they then could decide to have a new writer-for-hire. She didn’t sign her rights away to her creation. She took a job, and one that paid her pretty well. It also gave her the chance to publish her own original fiction, for which she kept all the rights as the creator, and had the Vampire Diaries fans — and fans of the show on which she did nothing — as her fan base for those works. That’s not to say that she didn’t work hard on the series, but Vampire Diaries wasn’t hers from the beginning. She never had the copyright. She was not the creator. She continues to get her cut from the books that she did, even though she got fired. But she doesn’t get a cut from the further books that other hired writers are doing.
Should she have been compensated even more for the books she did, etc.? Quite possibly. I’m not a huge fan of Alloy’s book packaging. But it’s hard to conceive of a situation in which you could insist that the rights owner and creator can’t fire someone they hire. The Worlds situation however is different as it is tie-in fiction, but it’s not a straight writer for hire. Alloy isn’t hiring these writers. But if the writers want to make money off of Alloy’s creation, this legally lets them do so while Alloy gets to use them to market the shows. Which has utterly nothing to do with Hollywood or the music industry, or even most of book publishing.
Kat, I agree with your analysis. I also agree with what Marsha Prescod and Zephyre say.
Regarding what Zephyre said about the intimacy of fanfiction: I believe the intimacy occurs because fanfiction can be an ongoing dialogue between readers, writers, artists, and vidders in a fandom. I have written stories for specific readers and writers, based stories on the fan art of others, and been given art based on my works. There is an intimate social dynamic to fans’ transformative works which businesses like Kindle Worlds are unlikely to nurture or sustain.
In reference to Marsha Prescod’s thoughts: FanLib was around during the writers guild strike; FanLib had the gall to adopt the slogan “FanLib: Where the stories continue” at the time. Before (and during) the strike, there were pro writers who saw FanLib as a threat against them during negotiations.
Stewardess: “There is an intimate social dynamic to fans’ transformative works which businesses like Kindle Worlds are unlikely to nurture or sustain.”
Absolutely, but they aren’t trying to nurture or sustain it. They are trying to do ads. On sites/communities like Tumblr, say, these shows have Tumblr blogs (ads,) that provide lots of photos and goodies for people on Tumblr who then use them on their Tumblr and other blogs where they are doing their fan art, fan reviews, fan fiction — free ads. Some Tumblr people will arrange to allow advertising directly on their blogs for which they are paid. Worlds is an extension of that approach — have fans come and write stuff (free ads,) and have it one of many destination spots for fans, to whom Alloy/Warner/Amazon can then also advertise the shows, other shows, Amazon, Amazon’s products, etc.
That’s why they are calling it fan fiction instead of tie-in fiction — to let fans know that they can look around. Even if the fans don’t buy the fan fiction itself, they are still exposed to a giant ad. The fan fiction is not really the product — it’s the marketing lure. And as marketing, it’s unlikely to be as close, creative and interactive as other fan sites, in the same way that an official website for a t.v. show is not as close, creative and passionate as an unofficial fan site for that show. The unofficial fan sites remain for as long as the people who created them want to do them. It’s independent of whatever a studio does for official show sites. But they do try to make those official sites on Tumbler, Facebook and the Net, etc. fan friendly to sell the shows. Worlds is pretty much the equivalent of having a fan contest with a prize of getting to meet the stars of the show and maybe do a walk on in an episode. It’s a bit more lasting than that, but it’s the same idea. They just want to get you interested and keep you interested in the show and other shows they have.
I’ve written professional fiction and fanfic. I’ve edited and published professional fiction and fanfic. They are two different worlds but this is not the first intersection of them to cause angst. I really don’t see this as that big of a deal.
For a few rights holders, this makes sense. For a few fanfic writers, this makes sense. How many readers does this make sense for? I think with Amazon behind this, enough readers is the answer to that question.
Will this evolve into something else? Why not?
Is it it slightly slimy? Well, yes but that’s not actually Amazon’s fault. Alloy is already slightly slimy in the way that comic book companies and music publishers have been for decades. No news but the discussion here is interesting. Thanks, John.
You know that’s not always true. There are reasons we don’t just hold plebiscites and enact any law that’s popular. Jim Crow laws weren’t We agreeing what We would do. They were a power elite agreeing what freedmen would do. And, to be crystal diamond clear, I am not comparing IP law to Jim Crow laws. I am pointing out that the tyranny of the majority is not merely some libertarian fantasy.
Is there some circumstance under which allowing these contract terms does more harm than disallowing them? Maybe. Do those circumstances obtain? I’ve yet to see a convincing argument that they do. You and I finding them inequitable, and/or you finding them unfair, is a highly subjective evaluation with which others, people who would actually pursue them, may dissent.
Laws are good precisely when they are carefully thought through and their full ramifications considered. Laws are almost always easier to create that repeal. There should be good, robust, objective reasons for restricting the freedoms of the citizens in any democracy. The Ancient Athenians learned that the hard way because they had no precedents from which to draw. We have the whole of recorded democratic history from which to learn legislative caution. I make it point to keep that in mind. If, in your eyes, that is a libertarian mindset, so be it, but I just consider it prudence.
Until you can tell me exactly what you think We should agree We and Everyone Else should do about KindleWorlds contracts, and why you believe that’s the best course of action, I’m inclined to leave it up to the authors themselves to decide if they disagree with your and my evaluation. If you can show me the what and why, and I find the argument compelling, you’ll get my vote to change legitimacy of these contracts.
“They were a power elite agreeing what freedmen would do. And, to be crystal diamond clear, I am not comparing IP law to Jim Crow laws. I am pointing out that the tyranny of the majority is not merely some libertarian fantasy.”
I don’t understand how an example of a powerful elite demonstrates the tyranny of the majority. Or, for that matter, how the tyranny of the majority is reflected in a single business (with ground shaking foot stomp ability) setting field defining contractual terms.
Or is it different if it’s a business? I lost the thread in that paragraph.
White men had a majority, all in fact, of the votes in the South during Reconstruction. Still, it is probably not the best example of a tyranny of the majority since the minority was disenfranchised. I withdraw it. Ancient Athens, though it started out great and built a heck of a society and economy, was a better example anyway, as the populist executions (most famously, but by no means only, of Socrates) exemplified. My only purpose in mentioning it at all was to counter Greg’s incorrect assertion that government is what We agree We should do. Government is not, and never can be, wholly unanimous. There are always costs to laws, and those costs must be balanced against the benefits we who support them expect them to bring.
My question would be, at what point is the right point to limit what authors can do for hire? Because if you regulate the contracts publishers can offer, you also regulate which opportunities are open to authors. If it’s an objectively bad opportunity, then there might be good reason to reign it in. But if it’s a matter of opinion, and if it might be good for some and bad for others, then there is going to be some collateral lost opportunities for authors. Basically, show me how KindleWorlds actually harms the opportunities for fan-fiction authors who don’t want to do business with them, and I’ll consider that it might be a good reason to prevent those who do want to do business with them. I’m quite open to the possibility that KindleWorlds may wind up doing just that, and I’ll be very interested to see how things evolve. By the idea that our will should override those who want to do business with KindleWorlds strikes me as patronizing.
Also, you raise an excellent point I’ve waiting for Greg to point out. If KindleWorlds really is able to reshape the field of publishing, then it may merit more stringent regulation above and beyond the existing regulation of publishers. But from a whole-market standpoint, right now it seems like just another work-for-hire route.
My single biggest concern with KindleWorlds is their apparent expansive copyright land-grab and the non-compete clauses to which some here have alluded. While I realize that they want to avoid lawsuits if they decide to use an idea from a submission in the original property, the potential to go after authors who later file off the serial numbers and try to publish their ideas in an original story (i.e. not incorporating any of the properties they didn’t create) is really quite unacceptable. If they start doing that I think Amazon and Alloy should get slapped and slapped hard. And I think forcing them to include a clause that says they’ll only go after authors that use properties they didn’t create would be a fantastic use of the law right now.
Gulliver, dude, you’ve completely lost one important bit of perspective here: the natural state of ideas, expressions, inventions, and similar endeavors intellectual is…. public domain. Copyright law is an unnatural contrivance that humans agreed upon amongst themselves. It doesn’t exist in nature that way. We got together to agree to abide by it for various reasons.
So, the very libertarian core of your argument: “Who am I – or you, for that matter – to tell them how to publish?” that entire line of LIbertarian thinking totally collapses when anyone realizes that we already are telling people how to publish, because copyright only exists as a fabrication of the law and without that law, every work of writing, every expression captured in fixed medium, immediately enters the public domain.
But then, another consistent pattern of Libertarian thinking is the simple logical fallacy of argumentum ad crumenam, that anything that produces money is good, and anything that opposes the making of money must be opposed. You accept the legal fabrication that is copyright law because it lets people make money. You oppose even a hint of legal fabrication of regulating copyright law for no other reason than because it might restrict someone’s ability to make money. This nonsense about “who are we to create one law or another” is nothing more than a smokescreen to misdirect from the argumentum ad crumenam at the core of your argument.
Who are we to create laws to prohibit someone from offering this sort of license or contract? Really? Well, then who are we to create copyright law in the first place and alter the natural order of things and take things out of the natural public domain and put them into an artificial monopoly for exactly 149.3 years?
“Who are we to legislate?” is nothing but a Libertarian smokescreen to pretend that the current multi-level web of artificial legal contrivances we live under are somehow the “natural” state of things and any new legal restrictions would somehow be unnatural and an abomination.
As you said, you are embracing the very core of Libertarian thinking on this, but you don’t seem to realize what that actually means. At the core of your argument is a libertarian logical fallacy so glaring that it’s impossible to ignore it.
“You just can’t justly outlaw it in this case.”
Oh, really? We can invent an entire layer of copyright laws, with extremely complex legal contrivances and fabrications such as “Fair Use” and “work for hire”, we can upset the natural order of things and remove things from their natural state of public domain for a hundred years or more, but we can’t and we shan’t outlaw or regulate or restrict or hinder in the slightest legal way this sort of license???
No, it makes no sense. All you did was start from the result you wanted, the libertarian: by god you better not get in the way of people making money, and everything else after that is an attempt to roadblock anyone heading in that direction and a emotively laden magic show hoping no one will pay attention to the LIbertarian lurking behind the curtain.
Voluntary and opt-in? Even that is nonsense in this context. Copyright monopolizes something that is naturally freely available to all. Copyright takes something out of the natural state of public doman and monopolizes it to a small set of individuals. And then we all agree to enforce that by law for various reasons, but the idea of voluntary and opt-in has been removed. You don’t “opt-in” to copyright law. You don’t get to decide you’re going to ignore copyright law and treat everything as if its public domain, and you’ll just “opt-in” for the parts you like. No. It is mandated by the people upon all the people.
At which point, if you follow the standard Libertarian playbook, you will now argue that the current state of copyright affairs, the contrived laws we have regarding copyright today, are exactly and perfectly balanced, and any NEW restriction whatsoever MUST upset that delicate balance. Or perhaps, you’ll handwave the current state of copyright contrivances with smoke and mirrors by bandying about words like “just” and maybe even “fair”, and outlawing this must be “unjust”.
Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll stop for a fricken second and listen to what you’re saying and maybe hear the libertarian insanity that is at its root. I am sometimes naively optimistic that people can do this.
I need to know a good reason why this thread needs to become a general discussion on copyright. If there’s not a genuinely compelling reason, then I suggest we come back around to the topic at hand.
Likewise, please take the previous paragraph, replace the word “copyright” with “libertarianism” and then proceed from there.
You’re arguing general principles, I’m arguing about a specific case. My concern in this case is making certain people can do with their art as they like, money is tangential at best. It’s been three days and we haven’t made much progress in convincing each other of what the topic is, let alone what the answers to specific arguments are. I think this is a good place to table this discussion. Thank you for a stimulating debate. Have a good Memorial Day.
Mission creep. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Time magazine did a lengthy article on fan fiction a couple years ago. Some writers like it, some hate it. Good read.
Scalzi: I need to know a good reason why this thread needs to become a general discussion on copyright.
““Who am I – or you, for that matter – to tell them how to publish?” is a loaded question. It comes loaded with a preconception of copyright that is entirely wrong. It would be like having someone compare the VCR to the Boston Strangler and not be able to counter with something reflecting a sound basis for copyright.
When the core of every argument offered by a person is a libertarian talking point, its kind of hard not to point out the pattern. Gulliver did eventually say he is “taking a stance that aligns with a traditional libertarian approach”, which was really all I was trying to get him to see.
And in establishing that one thing that he and I both agree on (that his argument is Libertarian), I think we also established that he and I pretty much won’t agree on anything else here, so, yeah probably a good time to declare that we agree to disagree and leave it at that.
That’s a really good article behind that link. Does a good job of explaining fan fiction to people who’ve never heard of it. Talks about authors who approve and authors who disapprove. And goes into the legalities a bit. Worth bookmarking. Thanks.
Gulliver: Thanks, I saw your response. I’ll leave it at that so as not further any additional off topic discussion.
Actually, of these two statements, Marsha Prescod’s is more accurate.
First: The Vampire Diaries series was originally packaged not by Alloy Entertainment, but by Daniel Weiss & Associates (aka DWAI). DWAI was a more or less traditional book packager, whose best-known property was probably the Sweet Valley High series. In 1997, DWAI created a subsidiary called 17th Street Productions to pursue cross-media development of its literary properties; in 2000, Alloy Entertainment bought both companies.
The Vampire Diaries books predate Alloy’s association with DWAI, and, like many of DWAI’s titles from that period, were — rather oddly in the world of work-for-hire contracts — jointly copyrighted by DWAI and the author, in this case L. J. Smith. I was, around that time, personally acquainted with several writers doing work for DWAI, and in the majority of cases, the novels in question were essentially the author’s original works. At most, DWAI might supply a title or a very broad series concept, but the author of a given title would be fully responsible for creating characters and plots and for writing the book itself. As it happens, I myself was briefly involved in a project that might have become a DWAI-packaged series, which also worked in exactly this way.
This is not to say that DWAI, its 17th Street subsidiary, and/or Alloy never developed or outlined series projects in-house. There are sources online that document such practices at all stages of the companies’ history. But I’m personally confident that L. J. Smith, and not her editors at DWAI, did all of the substantive writing and development on all seven of her Vampire Diaries novels.
John C. Bunnell, are you certain that the VD was “jointly copyrighted by DWAI and the author”? Because if that is the case, I cannot see how they could just fire her and hire another to write the sequels. Perhaps she wouldn’t have been able to continue the series on her own, but, if she also had the copyright, Alloy wouldn’t have been able to publish more books without her consent.
As for your statement “But I’m personally confident that L. J. Smith, and not her editors at DWAI, did all of the substantive writing and development on all seven of her Vampire Diaries novels”, I wouldn’t think this matters. If a packager tells an author “write me some books about vampires” and they make a “work for hire” deal, the packager would still own the copyright, despite the fact that it was all the author’s ideas and development. That’s the nature of work for hire, even though it might be more usual for packagers to have more definite ideas about what they want the author to write.
are you certain that the VD was “jointly copyrighted by DWAI and the author”?
Copyright page of first VD book says: “Copyright 1991 by Daniel Weiss Associates and Lisa Smith.”
1) I never said Smith didn’t do lots of work on the series. Clearly this was a series where she was, initially, free to experiment. A writer for hire works just as hard as a writer doing an owned creation. But it’s a job writing, not being a rights holder.
2) I said I wasn’t real happy with Alloy’s book packaging approaches and I’m not. They are better than some, like James Frey’s obnoxious operation, but nowhere near as good as some, like James Patterson’s operation. Book packaging saves publishers money by doing a whole buttload of services and offering multimedia platforms, but overall packagers are largely unnecessary and while it can help some authors starting out, it’s not a great deal for them.
But the point was, writer for hire arrangements don’t have anything to do with regular partner publishing deals where a publisher licenses from a writer rights from the writer’s copyright, or with the music industry, or with what Amazon/Alloy/Warner (Alloy is now a division of Warner,) are doing in this case, which is a different sort of writer for hire. It’s easy to cry that all these companies, including small presses and electronic platform vendors, are snatching rights away from authors, but reality is more complicated and each situation is different, legally and in contribution. And I find it hypocritical as some here have been arguing, that authors who do hold copyright and full ownership should not get money for their creations being used by others, but those using them — and the fame from them — think they deserve more copyright rights in those stories that are based on someone else’s work, characters and copyright. Creatives apparently have no rights, unless it’s a fan writer making something derivative. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. More on that later, and reiterating that I think fan fiction is peachy and many writers of it grand.
So how is L.J. Smith a copyright holder on VD and got fired? All Smith keeps saying is that she was a writer for hire and got fired and Alloy owns all the rights. Neither she nor Alloy have divulged exact contract terms. But you can’t actually get fired if you’re the copyright holder or joint copyright holder. So what happened is that she sold her name. A book packager like 17th Street/Alloy has a number of different arrangements with authors as did publishers who did/do work for hire/tie-in. There is work for hire for a fee, where you don’t get a royalty cut. There is work for hire where you are only partly writing the work and the packager editors are writing part of it and directing exactly what will be written — Alloy does that a lot and that’s how Sweet Valley High was written. There are other gigs where you do get a royalty cut and author credit and a fair amount of freedom to muck around in the world and create stuff. There are packager deals where it’s not a writer for hire — the author is a joint copyright holder with the packager. It depends on the contract terms.
One of the things that they did for the far more common writer for hire arrangements in the sixties up into the nineties was that you had a name, maybe a pseudonym, one you may be given by the publisher, and you wrote under it and the publisher owned the rights to that name and could keep having books written under that name. (This caused a lot of legal finageling in the romance fiction market.) So the “copyright” is in your name but not given to you. The publisher owns that name contractually, at least for the series, and can do anything they like with it in regards to the series. And the writer for hire agrees to this.
Smith wrote four VD books back in the 1990’s under a writer for hire contract with 17th Street. She agrees it was a writer for hire contract. Smith then took a break from writing. The series was retired but the company still owned it. When Warner did the t.v. series in the oughts, they reissued the books and they approached Smith to write more books to go with the t.v. series. And she negotiated a much better deal, with a top agent helping her, but still a writer for hire contract because she did not have any copyright rights in the work. (And she did it again with The Secret Circle for them.)
Warner wanted the books to move closer to what was being written for the t.v. show. Smith didn’t want to do that, so they found another writer. That writer could have probably written under the name L.J. Smith (it depends on the terms of the contracts.) But Smith has written her own original works in which she has copyright in that name, which was also allowed in her contracts, there’s the Internet, etc., and so Warner instead has her as “Created by L.J. Smith” on the new books, so she continues to get her contractual credit, and she gets her cuts on the previous books she wrote, and that’s it. Plus, the exposure she got which helps sell her other books too.
The Worlds deal is not the same as a regular writer for hire arrangement for Alloy. It’s a marketing gimmick. But that doesn’t mean that the contract is not to be taken seriously. It’s highly unlikely they will use anything written in Worlds for official books or t.v. shows. But the non-competition clause, however, depending on how it’s worded, could be a real problem. For ninety percent of writers, the Worlds deal is something not to touch with a ten foot pole. For a small percentage, it might be semi-useful, depending on the contract terms.
But it isn’t a “rights grab” because they already own all the rights and always did. They are not coming after non-profit, unofficial fan fiction, and no one is being forced to sign a contract and write for Worlds. There’s enough exploitation in the arts world without melodramatically making up stuff. But this is exactly why contracts and copyright law MATTER. Authors, all kinds, do not get paid without it. I have tried, for example, to explain some of the ramifications of Amazon’s contract with self-publishing authors for Kindle (which is a bit of a rights grab but one that may be tolerable,) but what often becomes clear is that people really don’t understand what literary property rights are and what contract terms mean half the time. Instead, they keep making up Star Wars scenarios, with valiant rebels and evil empires while signing contracts that make my eyes bug out.
So if you must put it in those terms, yes, Worlds is the evil empire. Go write fan fiction somewhere else then.
@Marina & Kat Goodwin:
Let me be clear: I’m not disputing the premise that the Vampire Diaries books were written under work-for-hire contracts. Nor do I dispute that such contracts generally give the writer very little post-publication control — if any — over their work.
I posted because I believe the statement that “[L. J. Smith] didn’t create Vampire Diaries” is inaccurate. Based on my personal knowledge and experiences regarding DWAI’s operating practices in that period, it’s my considered opinion that the Vampire Diaries books were Ms. Smith’s creation in every meaningful creative context — irrespective of the contractual framework, or the current ownership of the copyrights and trademarks,
It ought to be emphasized here that what DWAI was doing back then was deeply weird by the usual standards of work-for-hire publishing, and that the weirdness has rippled forward into the present. The dual copyright notice David quotes above is exceedingly strange by American WFH standards — and even today, the Alloy-produced and ghostwritten sequels to both the Vampire Diaries and Secret Circle books are copyrighted in L. J. Smith’s name alone. (Trust me; I checked this over the weekend, and was astonished.) That wouldn’t be unusual in Britain, where — for example — Doctor Who tie-ins are copyrighted to the author (not the BBC) and there’s “moral right” language on the copyright pages of the books. But it is wildly non-standard for US tie-ins/ and work-for-hire franchise fiction.
Without actually looking at the specific contract language, we can’t know exactly what legal or financial interest Ms. Smith retains in the more recently developed Vampire Diaries and Secret Circle properties. In any traditional WFH situation, the usual answer would be “little to none” — but here it’s harder to be sure given those very odd copyright notices. Clearly creative control of the franchises now rests with Alloy…but if even Alloy acknowledges the series’ copyrights as belonging at least in part to Ms. Smith, then there may still be a joker left in the deck. (I’ve encountered the proposition in at least one quarter that the application of work-for-hire contract principles to works of fiction may be legally questionable — the problem being that, much like the legal status of fanfiction, the issue has never been squarely litigated to a judicial conclusion.)
Anyhow: in technical terms, Ms. Smith may not have been “fired” — but in operational terms, she had creative control over the series through the first seven books, and was working on an eighth at the point where Alloy took that control away from her. And as a practical matter, that’s close enough to “fired” that I don’t find the usage inappropriate.
I guess my question would be what makes this any different from the way Marvel and DC have been operating for decades?
For example, Iron Man 3 is one of the highest-grossing superhero movies ever, and it features an antagonist and a storyline created by writer Warren Ellis when he wrote the “Extremis” story for Marvel several years back. Ellis won’t see a dime of Iron Man 3’s profits. He may get name-dropped, but he’s not getting any of that movie money. He won’t even get a dime for other comic stories that use the Extremis concept. Every single one of the X-Men movies are based heavily on the stories and characters Chris Claremont created for Marvel for nearly twenty years. Other than a cameo in X-Men: The Last Stand, what’s he getting for his contribution? Nothing. Nor does he get paid for the continued use of the characters he created unless they’re sales of stories he wrote
This is a work-for-hire deal. If you’ve got a great original creation you’d like to hang on to, then you probably shouldn’t use them for Kindle Worlds. But if you’re an unknown writer, you could probably get some exposure for your original work through Kindle Worlds.
J.C. Bunnell: DWAI’s practices with the copyright weren’t odd; they were old and traditional. It was common practice to have an “author name,” often the name of the first writer for hire, and then have all the writers for hire write under it. In romance, this used to happen as a contract arrangement without a writer for hire agreement — publishers could keep using an author’s name even if the author left the publisher. Obviously this was problematic, so authors sued and worked new contracts to end the practice in regular romance fiction. But when it comes for writer for hire contracts, ownership of the name may be involved, though it’s less done now.
Smith was contacted after having done books of her own by 17th Street about doing vampire books with certain parameters. She could have said no, made up her vampire books and sold them. It was the 1990’s, not the 1970’s, and YA was already hot. She said yes instead. When they came to her in 2008 to do more books, when situations were different, she could have said no again. Instead she negotiated a contract with the help of a top notch agent. It was that contract that she was fired from, which means the contract included language with the terms under which they could fire her. If she actually owned copyright or partial copyright, that wouldn’t be possible and she would have had a very good lawsuit. But for these particular series only, the name L.J. Smith is essentially an incorporated/trademarked entity not owned by Smith but used as a credit with cuts of revenue contractually agreed upon. So basically, there are two L.J Smiths — the author and the one that Warner owns for Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle.
Which again, doesn’t have anything to do with Worlds or fan fiction. The poster I was responding to was trying to lump everything together, with the artist of any kind always ripped off by whatever entity they work with and having their rights taken away. Which is very far from the case. Smith took on a writing assignment and she took it on creatively. But she didn’t have rights in the property that were then taken away from her against her will either. And fan fiction writers have no rights to the properties they use whatsoever.
Percival Constantine: It’s a very different situation than with the comics industry. Comics writers were often professional writers for hire and the comics companies owned all the rights. But there were also often actual copyright arrangements that were violated, resulting in lawsuits, etc. For the past thirty years, writers and artists have often been involved contractually as also sort of like producers. They are often getting a cut of multimedia revenues, depending on the arrangements.
But the writers for Worlds would not be operating like comics writers. They would essentially be doing something more akin to shared world anthologies, but with fewer copyright rights. They are dealing with a movie studio — Warners. If you want to get in bed with a film studio conglomerate as an amateur writer for hire, don’t expect to keep any rights.
@Kat I’m pretty sure that JCB conceded everything in your last response (“I’m not disputing the premise that the Vampire Diaries books were written under work-for-hire contracts. Nor do I dispute that such contracts generally give the writer very little post-publication control — if any — over their work.”). It’s just that he feels whatever the legal outline, that, in his opinion, Smith is still the creator. (“I posted because I believe the statement that “[L. J. Smith] didn’t create Vampire Diaries” is inaccurate. Based on my personal knowledge and experiences regarding DWAI’s operating practices in that period, it’s my considered opinion that the Vampire Diaries books were Ms. Smith’s creation in every meaningful creative context — irrespective of the contractual framework, or the current ownership of the copyrights and trademarks,”)
TL;DR: Your (JCB & KG) last two posts essentially agree with each other.
David: As to whether Kat and I are essentially in agreement — well, no. We clearly do not agree as to how the Vampire Diaries books originated.
Kat Goodwin:: I know how house names work, but in all my perusal of old-line “teen sleuth” books and newer packaged fare, those early-’90s DWAI books are the only ones I’ve ever seen wherein a work was jointly copyrighted to the packager and the author. If you can point me at another instance of that formulation from a different packager, I’d count it enlightening.
I’d also question the statement that “Smith was contacted after having done books of her own by 17th Street about doing vampire books with certain parameters.” That simply isn’t possible, because 17th Street Productions didn’t exist until 1997, and the first Vampire Diaries book was published in 1991. I’ve described the nature of my own associations with DWAI and its operational practices; it might be helpful if you’d cite the sources or experience on which you’re drawing for your characterization of Smith’s and DWAI’s early interactions.
David again: My apologies for running long above; I was drawn deeper into the legal quagmire than I’d intended. My primary purpose here has been to provide the most specific and accurate information I can about the origins of the Vampire Diaries books and the history of DWAI, 17th Street, and Alloy. [Daniel Weiss’s profile on LinkedIn is helpfully detailed in this regard.]
“I’d also question the statement that “Smith was contacted after having done books of her own by 17th Street about doing vampire books with certain parameters.”
I apologize for not knowing the exact dates of all the company name changes, :) but I got the basic information from, among other sources since I was actually trying to find out if there was anything about specific contract terms, a Smith interview: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/the-vampire-diaries-tv-show/articles/94266/title/lj-smith-fired-from-writing-own-novels
“When I was called by an agent and asked to write the vampire trilogy, that agent wasn’t from a publisher, but from what is now Alloy Entertainment, Ltd. And they are a book packager. A book packager sells books, already made with covers and all, to publishers, like HarperCollins—my publisher for The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle. And both these series were written “for hire” which means that the book packager owns the books the author produces.”
As you can see, she was approached specifically for the project and it sounds like it was specifically meant for HarperCollins who wanted one. The fact that you almost did another sort of arrangement with DWAI doesn’t mean that was the only type of arrangement that they were doing. As we’ve discussed, we don’t know the exact terms of Smith’s first, or more importantly for her firing, her second contract in 2008 with DWAI/17th Street/Alloy/Warner/Pick a Damn Name. But since they seem to have owned the right to the name L.J. Smith in use for only the Vampire Diaries (and Secret Circle) series, then having a copyright notice for both the company and the company owned series author name makes sense, especially regarding foreign markets, which were inclined to copyright infringement. Copyright regulations do change over time, so copyright notices do too.
But what is clear from Alloy, HarperCollins and Smith herself, without any of them going into exact detail, is that they approached her to do the series the way they wanted in the early nineties. Then they approached her again in 2007, 2008 to do more books to go with the t.v. show. And then they had a lot of conflict about what should be in the books and they evoked the clauses of her contract that let them replace her. As she seems to keep saying, there was a copyright in her name but she doesn’t have copyright and Alloy owns them. So she agreed to the use of her name in this way. We don’t know the specifics of those clauses but she and Alloy agree that it was a straight writer for hire arrangement.
So it’s really not a legal quagmire, although we don’t get to know the details. But what we do know is that she was asked to write specific books, she signed a writer for hire contract, did it again in the oughts and Alloy (or whatever their name is,) own all the rights. In return, she got and will continue to get royalties and author/creator credit, and run-off from the fan base for her own novels. And I’m sure that she worked very hard on those books for Alloy. They were stupid to do it, I think, but Warner who bought them probably insisted.
It doesn’t sound like a great contract, which is again why things like contract terms, copyright law and literary agents matter. But again, it’s not a rights grab. They hired her and she agreed that they would own the series for the gig but she has author credit for the books she did and royalties. And it’s not the same situation as the Worlds contract. That’s another type of writer for hire tie-in arrangement. The Worlds contract is not as serious on one hand, but it may actually be more egregious in terms on the other. I haven’t seen the full Worlds contract. If you’re going to seriously consider it, get someone who knows literary property right and film law to look at it. Amazon does have a habit of rights grabbing and film studios do contracts that read they have the rights “throughout the universe in perpetuity” so that’s what you are dealing with.
@KatGoodwin: Thank you for that link; it’s useful, and fascinating. But I draw different conclusions from that text than you do.
First: Ms. Smith admits right up front that her knowledge of packagers is limited, so it’s risky to rely on or extrapolate from what she says about the packaging process. (Example: she says packagers edit heavily because the writers they hire need heavy editing. In my experience, exactly the opposite was the case; the writers I know who worked for DWAI — and other packagers — were invariably picked because they were quick and required very little editing.)
Moreover, what she says about her writing process is specific: “[E]ven though I have written the entire series, I don’t own anything about The Vampire Diaries.” and “[T]he truth is that they’re not mine, even though I write every word.” [emphasis added] And in her description of the editorial interplay over Midnight, it’s clear that she was able to preserve her editorial vision for that book despite her Alloy editors’ attempts to impose theirs. That situation would never arise in a normal work-for-hire relationship; it’s telling — in Ms. Smith’s favor — that it did in this instance.
My original point therefore stands. DWAI and Alloy did not create the original Vampire Diaries books; they hired Ms. Smith to do that.
And again, y’all aren’t disagreeing by now, at least apparently:
KB: LJ Smith doesn’t own the rights to the Vampire Diaries.
JCB: Sure, but she’s the one who did all the writing.
KB: She may have worked very hard on them but there’s no rights grab here.
JCB: Okay, but she was hired to create them.
Percival: I guess my question would be what makes this any different from the way Marvel and DC have been operating for decades?
Legally, not much. But when a pro writer takes on a “work for hire” job, they know how it works and they know what they’re worth and they know if the money is reasonable or not.
A lot or writing scams revolve around the scammer tapping into a lot of naive people who have a lot of misconceptions about how the industry works (for ex, you have to pay to get published, you have to know someone to get published, the big publishers don’t want the little guys to get published, the big publishers don’t want new authors, etc). The poetry scams have been running forever. The self-publish scams have been running a long time, but really took off after POD came along. And the number of scammers out there posing as “agents” and convinced wanna-be writers they they need to pay them money to be their agent just boggles the mind.
If these guys were looking to pay a reasonable rate for a work-for-hire, they’d hire a professional author and offer them a professional rate. But they’re not, so…
This whole discussion ignores one key fact. By law, as a derivative work, the rights ALREADY belong to the copyright holder. No matter what the fanfic writer creates that is “original” it ALL belongs to the copyright holder of the base work. In practice, this has been held to mean that fanfic writers cannot profit from their works, BECAUSE THEY DONT OWN THEM, and as such are entitled to no profit. This contract only sucks insofar as current law sucks for writers of fanfic. In fact, it sucks a tiny bit less. Not that, as a one time writer of fanfic myself, I would be interested in Amazon’s very one sided “gracious” offer. Any fanfic author serious about going pro–and many are simply hobbyists, which is cool–is going to want to reserve rights in order to use original elements in original stories. THAT is a much better way to make money…
Good news! Amazon has accepted this thread for publication in their new Kindle Worlds program.
Dejah: . No matter what the fanfic writer creates that is “original” it ALL belongs to the copyright holder of the base work.
It’s been a while since I was reading everything related to copyright law, so things may have changed. But my understanding is a bit different than yours. If I wrote fan fiction of “Old Man’s War”, then those specific fan-fiction words would be my specific expression, and it is specific expression that copyright covers first and foremost. Which would mean that Scalzi would not be legally able to simply copy and paste my fan fiction into his next novel. They’re my words, my expression, even if they come from his world. So he cant use my words, my fan fiction of his world, without my permission.
At the same time, my fan fiction is derived from Scalzi’s copyrighted works, so I can’t publish them or do anything beyond Fair Use without his permission.
Story ideas aren’t copyright-able. It’s the specific expression that is copyrightable. So, if my fan fiction has a good idea in it that Scalzi decided to use in his story, then he could try doing that. The problem, historically speaking, is that if an author uses an idea that occurred in fan fiction previously, then the fan might try to sue Scalzi for using the fan’s idea without the fan’s permission.
This, as I understand it, is why authors as a general rule avoid READING fan fiction based off their own work.
Because copyright has an interesting little wrinkle different from patent law. In copyright law, if you come up with an idea on your own, then it doesn’t matter if someone else had that very same idea before you did. So, as long as you don’t read fan fiction, then you’ve got legal precedence for protecting yourself.
(in patent law, it doesn’t matter if you come up with an idea on your own. If someone already has an active patent on your idea, you’re infringing on their patent.)
If my info about copyright isn’t completely out of date, then that would say the KindleWorlds deal is not a good thing for fan fiction writers. Because what this deal says is exactly how you explained copyright law in your post: what is the author’s belongs to the author, and what is the fan’s belongs to the author too.
My understanding of copyright law is quite different from yours. But like I said, it’s been a while since I would read all things copyright related. So maybe things have changed.
A well thought out argument! (Especially for being early in the debate) I’m inclined to agree. After reading this announcement on Amazon’s site, I was imagining all of the things that could go wrong with the setup, mostly how it affects us as writers. Thank you for addressing it and hopefully helping to warn authors of the possible pitfalls.
David: “And again, y’all aren’t disagreeing by now, at least apparently:
KB: LJ Smith doesn’t own the rights to the Vampire Diaries.
JCB: Sure, but she’s the one who did all the writing.
KB: She may have worked very hard on them but there’s no rights grab here.
JCB: Okay, but she was hired to create them.”
Nicely succinct. :)
JCB: “Ms. Smith admits right up front that her knowledge of packagers is limited,”
Well, no, she says that back in 1990 when she signed a contract, she didn’t know what writer for hire contracts entirely meant. Now, I think Ms. Smith seems to be a nice person. But I have to feel that she’s exaggerating just a bit here. If she’d signed a contract back in 1975, say, I’d buy that she didn’t understand writer for hire agreements. But in 1990? And she had a literary agent to advise her at that time and had already published two books of her own and so was familiar with book contracts. She certainly was completely familiar with it by 2008 when she signed a new writer for hire contract and signed yet another one for The Secret Circle. And she was represented by a top notch agent at that time to advise her as well. More to the point, Ms. Smith worked with Alloy for years and was perfectly familiar, more than most authors, with how book packagers worked. And when they fired her, she acknowledges that they had every right to do so legally and that she knew it.
“it’s clear that she was able to preserve her editorial vision for that book despite her Alloy editors’ attempts to impose theirs. That situation would never arise in a normal work-for-hire relationship;”
No, again. There are, again, many different write-for-hire arrangements and they vary in the amount of latitude. (You might find this interview interesting regarding this company: http://winstonegbert.wordpress.com/2011/11/04/meet-the-man-who-wrote-the-sweet-valley-bible-introducing-former-sweet-valley-ghostie-and-editor-j-e-bright/) Alloy does a lot of editing and rewriting (often editors are the authors,) but they don’t work on every project in the same way. It depends on the line and the circumstances. Dragonlance writers for hire, for instance, have considerable latitude to come up with stuff for that universe, often bringing whole book ideas and outlines to Dragonlance, whereas Star Wars tie-in writers, even very famous ones, have very little latitude — everything has to be approved. In some write for hire situations, there’s a very detailed outline, in others, not.
In this case, the company came up with the concept of what they wanted and then found a writer to develop that concept. Smith came up with the characters, and wrote every word of the books she did — in any philosophical sense, she is a creator. But she did not create the series herself. She fulfilled an assignment based on a concept created by the folk at DWAI/Alloy, which they were doing on all cylinders for numerous YA and middle school series. Smith got full author credit for her work and she retains a “created by” credit.
But she was not in charge of the overall direction of the series. Alloy was and that seems to have been the problem. Alloy had t.v. writers doing the show, another writer doing a tie-in prequel series and they needed Smith to coordinate. And Smith wasn’t comfortable doing that. So they replaced her. They didn’t do it nice and they didn’t do it smart, far as I can tell, but contractually, she had agreed to this arrangement three different times with this company. Because it was their concept and they just hired her for it. That doesn’t mean that she didn’t work her heart out on it, come up with cool stuff or for that matter, stand by her principles. But it does mean she did understand the terms of what was going on more than perhaps she claimed in the wake of the firing. And it does mean that she was not fired from her own creation, despite what she created for it.
Worlds is at the same time a much stricter and much more freeflow arrangement. Writers can make up whatever they want — within general parameters, but they aren’t going to have any impact on the franchise. Unlike most tie-in arrangements, it’s not really part of the franchise. It is instead offering author/fans an experience of what it would be like to write for them, except you’re really not. That’s not really the issue. The issue is whether Amazon/Warner is trying to further restrict the author’s writing outside of the Worlds fiction. But anything that’s getting sold in their name in relation to these franchises they want to keep a very tight lid on.
So the issue is contract terms, not ownership of your words because it’s write for hire and you won’t have any ownership. If there is a non-compete clause that is not strictly limited to the franchises, that’s a definite no there. If there are option clauses, that’s an issue. If there are restrictions on what the author self-publishes with Amazon, that’s an issue. If there are bad clauses regarding payment to the authors for their tie-in fiction, etc. Just as Smith had to evaluate the contract clauses of the contracts she signed, Worlds hopefuls will have to do the same. Hindsight is not good for you when it comes to contracts with giant media conglomerates, even for a publicity stunt.
[sigh] And David gives me grief for running long….
Kat, clearly we’re never going to see eye to eye on this. But I’d point out to the gallery at large that your conclusions as to Ms. Smith’s “creator” status suffer from exactly the same rhetorical flaw you ascribe to mine — that of generalizing from anecdotal examples of other projects in which DWAI (or Alloy) was involved. You look at the Sweet Valley series and assume that Vampire Diaries was managed in the same way; I look back on my own experiences and those of friends working for DWAI at around the time VD was created, and extrapolate from those examples. And I think anyone who reads through our exchanges will be able to tell which of us is more familiar with the corporate history of the companies involved.
Meanwhile, David at least has recognized that I’ve been trying to focus on a very narrow point, rather than wading into the larger legal issues surrounding work-for-hire, tie-in fiction, and Kindle Worlds.
That said, one observation that does touch on Kindle Worlds itself: one non-trivial point that remains to be clarified is which version(s) of Vampire Diaries Alloy has actually licensed — Smith’s, as reflected in the first seven books, or the TV series universe, whose continuity differs dramatically from the original print series. From a fanfic writer’s perspective, these are essentially two different canons, and it will be interesting to see how Amazon treats material written for one as opposed to the other.
So, Kat, irregardless of the legal status, do you think Smith is *morally* the creator of the Vampire Diaries?
Picking up on a different point entirely from Kat’s most recent post:
I’d be very, very cautious about describing Kindle Worlds as “work for hire”, which has a specific legal meaning in publishing and copyright terms. It’s true that most professional tie-in and franchise fiction is published under work-for-hire contracts, yes (including, per the present discussion, Vampire Diaries), although I know of at least one genre-savvy attorney who argues that the work-for-hire framework is actually legally inappropriate for genre fiction.
But fanfiction is a slightly different kettle of derivative works, and Kindle Worlds complicates that equation even further. Most particularly, Kindle Worlds is built at least in part on substructure developed for Amazon’s self-publishing business — and if Amazon (as seems likely) ends up charging KW authors any sort of setup or service fees to those uploading works to the KW publishing program, I think it would be next to impossible to argue that works uploaded on that basis were somehow “works for hire” in the proper legal sense.
JCB: “You look at the Sweet Valley series and assume that Vampire Diaries was managed in the same way;”
I most assuredly did not assume any such thing. If you’re going to keep bringing up this topic with me, you must read all my wordy words more carefully. :) What I said was that there are many different ways to do writer for hire and that DWAI did writer for hire contracts in many different ways with different authors/editors. I gave the Sweet Valley article as something you might find interesting in that it shows ONE way that DWAI did writer for hire arrangements of its biggest property, and I gave numerous examples of other arrangements of writer for hire, some of which DWAI uses. (They also do more traditional original fiction not-writer-for-hire publications, or did.)
Ms. Smith’s deal with them was clearly different from the Sweet Valley arrangement — and that was my point. Her deal with DWAI was different from that and it was different from the deal that you did or almost did with DWAI as well. Clearly she had a lot of latitude on the series, akin to Dragonlance and other franchises, but there were limits. And those limits got tighter from pressure from Warner. Ms. Smith was tired of the limits and did not want to coordinate with the t.v. series, even though contractually she was required to do so at Alloy’s instruction. So they replaced her, while she kept her credits and revenues. But from what she has said, she does not legally have copyright; it’s not a joint copyright deal. It is an arrangement akin to t.v. writers, as someone mentioned, though different. (T.V. writers have a union first off.)
I edited writers for hire on some series for a publisher and that was a different deal as well — no rewriting of their stuff, just editing, but there were parameters and outlines approved, etc. On a western series with about four writers under one pseudonym, for instance, one of the writers kept writing threeway sex scenes for his volumes and that was a no-no for that series, so we had to tell him to cut them. (I bring this up just to be wordy.)
I share your unease about calling Kindle Worlds material a writer for hire arrangement. But it is technically a kind of writer for hire arrangement, different from more standard contracts. For ease of use, I suspect writers can do books or t.v. series, but the main interest will be in the t.v. series. It is highly doubtful that Amazon will charge the writers anything for doing the World fiction — that would defeat the purpose of the PR effort. But again, I haven’t seen the whole contract. But it’s definitely not the same arrangement as regular self-pub on the Kindle. And again, it’s also not fan fiction. But from a PR standpoint, it works for them to call it that.
David: “So, Kat, irregardless of the legal status, do you think Smith is *morally* the creator of the Vampire Diaries?”
Trying to make it a “moral” issue again creates a Star Wars scenario which isn’t really in place. Especially when we really don’t know the details about many aspects. I said that Smith is a creator of the series and artistically she was the main creator. She came up with at least the initial set of characters in their initial form. She wrote the first four books. She wrote the first set of the next books, the series revived by the t.v. show. She wrote another series in a writer for hire contract with Alloy. She was given a conceptual assignment that she provided the material for. That makes her an artist; it doesn’t make her an owner. And she did not originally come up with the concept, though she created the initial canon, formatting, etc. in coordination with Alloy and with HarperCollins.
Should there be no writer for hire contracts, no tie-in books? I don’t think that’s necessary and I’m a big supporter of the talent of tie-in writers. Should writers, comics writers, writers organizations all work to improve and mitigate unfair contracts and improve terms? Absolutely. But when you take a job, you are giving your work to that company at their direction on terms you and they agreed upon. That’s different from what you create on your own. There’s a distinction.
Fan fiction is a third thing — it’s a homage and it’s a collage. It’s creative expression. But it doesn’t make you the creator of another’s work just because you borrowed their material, entitled to milk it for cash. Likewise, the creator/owner of the work can’t borrow your exact words (though ideas are not copyrightable.) But the owner of the work doesn’t usually want to use your words. They have their own, words or shows so good and/or fun that you just had to use some for fan fiction. And Worlds is something else again.
I said that Smith is a creator of the series and artistically she was the main creator.,/i>
So that’s a “yes,” then?
Darn it! Missed the tag.
I said that Smith is a creator of the series and artistically she was the main creator.
So that’s a “yes,” then?
KatGoodwin: I promise, I’ve read every post you’ve made on this web page, some of them several times over — and unless you are claiming direct, firsthand knowledge of Smith’s interactions with DWAI (and later Alloy), you have no better evidence for your conclusions than I have for mine.
You also keep assuming that I’m unfamiliar with the business of publishing, packaging, and work for hire. Let me disabuse you of that notion. In over 25 years of professional book reviewing, mostly in SF and fantasy (Dragon Magazine, Amazing Stories, Publishers Weekly, etc.), I’ve probably reviewed more tie-in and packaged fiction than any other professional critic in the genre. I’ve met (online and in person), corresponded, and traded publishing gossip with writers of WFH fiction for dozens of different franchise and collaborative universes. (Though I am morally certain I didn’t invent the phrase, Jeff Prucher’s exhaustive SF dictionary Brave New Words cites a column of mine as the earliest known reference for the term “shared world”.) I am also moderately well versed in the history of children’s series fiction, from Tom Swift to Trixie Belden and the Boxcar Children.
It’s the sum of that experience, plus my own interaction with DWAI and some of the writers it worked with, that leads me to characterize the early-’90s DWAI packaging projects I’ve been describing as odd and atypical. But I’ve done my best not to over-claim based on that experience, while your posts assert your conclusions about the nature of Smith’s and DWAI’s interactions as if they were indisputable. As I said above, we’ll clearly never see eye to eye on this — and I think that Whatever‘s readers are sharp enough to form their own thoughtful conclusions based on our posts in this sub-thread.
I have to quibble with Kat Goodwin here. She writes,
While I’d certainly agree that the fanficcer, having not been the one to create the world and characters and gather the original fanbase, hasn’t done 100% of the work, I can’t agree that their having put a significant amount of words down on the page in original sequence counts for 0% of the work. It takes time and craft and effort to do that. But saying “The creator(s) did 100% of the work” in creating the fanfic implies precisely that the fanficcer did 0%–which I think does fanficcers immense disrespect. I think it’s also disrespectful to suggest that fanficcers bring nothing to the table of their own that garners emotional impact.
The fanficcers are hard-working writers who are simply standing on the shoulders of extremely obviously visible giants; but we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants to some extent. We only differ in which bits we borrow and, of course, how we stand in relation to copyright law.
JCB: “and unless you are claiming direct, firsthand knowledge of Smith’s interactions with DWAI (and later Alloy), you have no better evidence for your conclusions than I have for mine.”
I have not claimed direct, firsthand knowledge of Smith’s interactions with the company. I have in fact claimed several times the opposite — which you agreed was the case for both of us. I have, however, when Smith was fired and further now as a result of this discussion, read articles about it and Smith’s interviews about it, and on the basis of what those things said, we are able to draw basic facts, such as that she did not have a joint copyright. I also know a good deal about writer for hire arrangements. So when you claimed that writers for hire don’t ever have editorial freedom like Smith had, I disagreed. It is not at all unusual for writers for hire to have considerable freedom in what they come up with for their assignment, depending on the franchise. It is more common with book publishers hiring writers than book packagers, but it is not an odd arrangement in that field. And Smith’s own interviews say that she did not have the arrangement that you are talking about that you had with DWAI. So I’m going to keep disagreeing with you there.
That doesn’t mean and at no time have I said that you don’t have knowledge of the industry. What I have said is that your arrangement with DWAI was not necessarily the same sort of arrangement that Smith had with them because they made and make different types of arrangements. (Did you have a Sweet Valley High type of arrangement with them? No. Therefore, DWAI did not always use the same type of arrangement with all authors.) And based on what Smith said and what has been written about the company, including different types of writer for hire arrangements they use, there does not seem to be indications or concrete facts that hers was the same as yours. Further, again, she was fired based on the arrangement she made with Alloy in 2007, 2008, not the early 1990’s. I am not making absolute conclusions about all of Smith’s situation because we don’t have concrete details — either of us. But based on the facts we do know, Smith was neither tightly controlled nor completely free as a joint owner in her arrangements with DWAI and then DWAI/Alloy. And this is not an oddity in writer for hire work (though is less common for Hollywood franchise tie-in work like Star Wars and Halo.)
We’re going in circles now. All I can do at this point is to encourage the rest of the gallery to read the entire dialogue (and the statement of Ms. Smith’s linked in one of the posts therein), and to exercise their own judgment as to which of us has made the better case.
I’m doing two posts and hoping that this is okay with Scalzi, given length issues.
Nicole: “While I’d certainly agree that the fanficcer, having not been the one to create the world and characters and gather the original fanbase, hasn’t done 100% of the work, I can’t agree that their having put a significant amount of words down on the page in original sequence counts for 0% of the work. It takes time and craft and effort to do that.”
It does, but no one asked them to do it. So they aren’t a stakeholder who is contributing anything to the world of the story, to the series of the story, etc. Any initial attention they get is because they are writing about the world, characters, plots and themes that the authors (or shows,) created. (I say initial because they then can develop their own fans for their work, though those fans come from the fanbase of the other person(s) creation.) They borrow without asking, which is fine if they are not trying to get money for the creating author’s creation they are using.
Their writing is their writing. No one else can use that exact writing unless they agree to it (such as Worlds is proposing sort of.) But that’s rights to their writing — they have no rights to the universe or universes and the characters they are using. They had 0% involvement in the creation of those worlds. And they can’t sell their fan writing because they are directly using all the work that the creating author did. So the claim that fanfiction writers did “100% of the work” is problematic. This was a discussion of legal rights, not the personal investment of the fan fiction writer.
“I think it’s also disrespectful to suggest that fanficcers bring nothing to the table of their own that garners emotional impact.”
First of all, I do respect fan fiction writers and think that fan fiction is great. (Well, okay, some of the slash fiction is not my thing, but I don’t stomp on it either.) But second, fan fiction writers cannot demand respect from people just because they felt like writing a Star Trek/Supernatural mash-up. Their stories may get a considerable positive response — for themselves as writers. Their work, however, doesn’t contribute to and has no impact on the original creators. They are not bringing anything to the table; they have no seat at the table.
This is not about disrespecting fan fiction. It’s about the legal rights fan fiction writers have in regards to Worlds and other issues. Some people in the thread seemed to be claiming that they should have complete control over the sale of their work in somebody else’s universe, while the creating author should have no control of works that used their material.
” but we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants to some extent. We only differ in which bits we borrow”
That’s a bit disingenuous. So now the original creation used is unimportant? Why are they using it then? An author doing original work may be inspired by a well-known work, but also by many other factors and is creating their own characters, themes, universes — as well as words. A fan fiction writer is using somebody else’s work directly — the exact characters, worlds and plots and sometimes direct words — that someone else wrote. That’s not “standing on the shoulders of giants.” That’s taking their stuff and it is a significant distinction. It’s not the same thing. And people read a fan fiction story not because the fan fiction writer wrote it but because it uses the original material. Again, this is initially the case. A fan fiction writer may then build a fan base — but that fan base did not come at first for the writing, but for the world(s) someone else created.
So the point was that the claim that fan fiction writers do 100% of the work is not at all true. The original creators do 100% of the work of creating the universe, characters and groundwork plots — and more importantly of creating the emotional bonds that endear the work to fans. The fan fiction writer makes use of all that work someone else did to weave a set of words because the fan fiction writer feels like it. If the fan fiction writer works hard or doesn’t on those words, that doesn’t come into it. Fan fiction writers can make beautiful art, but it is co-opted art (a form of art.) And they owe that art to the creators that they co-opted it from. Without the creators, their fan art doesn’t exist. I think claims otherwise are kind of disrespectful to the creators of the works used, which is part of what I was objecting to.
The Worlds plan is to say that we will actually pay you for your words and sell your stories as part of the greater licensed community of this creation. But then you’re part of the license and have no rights beyond the sale revenue, and no longer any rights to your exact words because you sold them to us. I’m not inclined to see this as a great deal and most people deeply involved in fan fiction writing would have no interest in it.
“to exercise their own judgment as to which of us has made the better case.”
Made the better case about what exactly?
Kat: Fan fiction is a third thing — it’s a homage and it’s a collage. It’s creative expression. But it doesn’t make you the creator of another’s work just because you borrowed their material, entitled to milk it for cash.
It’s hard not to notice that your posts consistently maintain a fairly advanced tone when discussing original authors but are unable to mention fan fiction writers without dropping to emotionally loaded language like they’re “entitled” and that they “milk it for cash”. This would seem to reflect a bias you have and it’s difficult not to wonder if this bias has crept into your arguments.
Do you not approve of fan fiction authors? Perhaps you merely tolerate them because the law won’t get rid of them?
It does, but no one asked them to do it.
Which is irrelevant.
So they aren’t a stakeholder who is contributing anything to the world of the story
There have been works that the original author considered “derivative” but the courts decided were sufficiently different enough that they were legally considered original works in their own right, even though they used the same world or characters as some original still under copyright. “The Wind Done Gone” comes to mind. The copyright holders of “Gone with the Wind” sued for infringement. The courts ruled it Fair Use which didn’t need permission of the original authors.
They had 0% involvement in the creation of those worlds.
Again, irrelevant. The only measurable difference between fan fiction and a commercially publishable work derived from another work is whether the original is in the public domain yet or not. Whether the original work is under copyright protection or not does not in any way change the amount of work the not-original author does. Pretending a fan fiction author does no work simply because the original is still under copyright while the law recognizes and allows all authors to make money off of works in the public domain, is an arbitrary line drawn for its convenience to your argument.
Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” didn’t make Christopher De Vore’s job any easier to create the 1990 movie version of the play. And in opposition to your argument, the work to create the 1990 movie would be the same whether the original was still under copyright protection or not.
The work needed to write “The Wind Done Gone” is the same whether the court ruled it Fair Use or ruled it Infringing.
Your arguments around fan fiction mostly boil down to using emotionally charged words to demonize what fan fiction writers do. And what’s left of your arguments about fan fiction, such as that their non-involvement in the creation of the original world has any affect of the amount of work they do to create the derivative, is just simply wrong.
I agree 100% with your initial thoughts, and, as “preliminary” as they may be, from the POV of a writer, this is a raw deal. Avoid it like the plague.
Further, I do think that gullible writers will jump on the bandwagon thinking this is a great way to get noticed. See also HuffPo bloggers who contributed to the site only to make Arianna Huffington an even bigger millionaire since she then sold the site to AO hell. Compensation to bloggers = Zero. Huffington’s cut: $315 million.
Writers who are willing to work for free are no better than indentured servants.
Reblogged this on Prattle On, Boyo and commented:
I agree 100% with Scalzi’s initial thoughts, and, as “preliminary” as they may be, from the POV of a writer, this is a raw deal. Avoid it like the plague.
Further, I do think that gullible writers will jump on the bandwagon thinking this is a great way to get noticed. See also HuffPo bloggers who contributed to the site only to make Arianna Huffington an even bigger millionaire since she then sold the site to AO hell. Compensation to bloggers = Zero.
Huffington’s cut: $315 million.
Writers who are willing to work for free are no better than indentured servants.
Kat – Yes, fanfic writers do 100% of the work.
Disney didn’t invent Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. So by your reasoning, “they aren’t a stakeholder who is contributing anything to the world of the story, to the series of the story, etc.” Disney might disagree with you; as a fanfic writer I certainly disagree do. I could go on and on in this vein, pointing out creations that didn’t require any “real work” by your definition. The Aenied? Virgil created it with effortless ease! Bambi? Disney didn’t have to do any work at all on that! Once the charactes and plot have been defined, anything built on top of them doesn’t require any effort at all to make. It’s like magic!
Or what about writers who create historical fiction? They don’t invent the historical personages, the settings, or even sometimes the plot; instead they borrow these from the framework of history. This is no different from a fanfic writer who borrows characters, settings, and an overarching plot background from another story. Yet by your reasoning historical fiction writers aren’t doing any “real work.” I hope historical fiction writers are aware that they didn’t put any effort into their books, like you say. Everything is so easy once the characters and plot have been defined for you already! Magic!
Enough with the double standards. I’m sick of being treated like a second class artist just because I choose to craft ideas around existing themes. Where were the original creators when I was working for hours on the plot, discussing ideas with my friends, editing the scenes I had written, imagining new dialogue, developing the characters beyond the paper cut outs I was given to work with? Did the original creators help me with any of this? No. They didn’t put any blood, sweat or tears into my story whatsoever. They put in the original inspiration; I put in the actual perspiration and also a sizeable dash of my own inspiration. But all they can say is, “I had the original idea, so now I deserve to control everything you made. Pay us! You have no legal rights and we own you!”
I repeat: It is unfair that an author does 100% of the work and receives only 20 – 30% of the profits thereof, while 65 – 80% of the profits go to those who did 0% of the work.
John- one thing that did pop out is however that this could possibly be a good way for an aspiring writer to get a little bit of published under their belt, which could possibly less to them being viewed as a future profitable writer, and maybe make them more eligible for advanced and deeper consideration on future publication of books that are not in other writers universes. Could it not be a stepping stone to validation and bringing someone on the radar screen of one of the big publishers?
Just a thought..
Love your work.
I’m laughing at all the concerns. This is a fantastic opportunity for unknown writers. I write with the goal of entertaining readers. To do that, I need people to read my work in the first place.
Fan fiction is an excellent opportunity to connect with a large readership who are already interested in the content you’re writing.
If you have the chops to go pro, a deal like this is an awesome way to expose a large readership to your work very quickly. For someone who has other self published ebooks or eshorts for sale, a successful fan fiction could lead to an increase of sales of your own original fiction. It could help with building a fan base of your own—if you have what it takes to go pro.
Like any other genre, if you’re writing only for money, you will probably not succeed as a paid author. Fan fiction is no exception to that.
Assuming the fan fiction author genuinely enjoyed the original work, that author should be more than thrilled if their work is mined. Also, if your work is mined, you can bet you have been identified as a writer with real potential. That could lead an unknown author just about anywhere that author chooses to go with writing.
Amazon has already empowered authors like never before with digital self publishing. An author can make more money per copy, sell those copies cheaper, and continue selling those copies for the rest of his/her life without worrying the book will go out of print. Why the fear they would suddenly choke the life out of authors? Authors are necessary to sell books, publishing houses are not. Nor are publishers any longer the gate keepers, deciding what readers will and will not be reading. Those days are almost gone. Amazon had a lot to do with that. They’re not going to crush the talent that allows them to be in business.
Everything is changing rapidly in the publishing world. Opportunities never before even dreamed of by writers are presenting themselves on silver platters one after another these days.
To the bold go the rewards. To nowhere go those too fearful to take advantage of these amazing new opportunities. Write your stories, love your work, work hard, and the money will come.
@ Jerome O’Neil: Why don’t you just shove this and this in your pipe and smoke them?
@ Cathy Clamp: It sounds to me like you’re saying you only write for the money, which is totally the wrong reason to do it IMHO. You should write for the enjoyment of it with the money being the bonus that helps pay the bills.
@ Everyone: Personally, given the choice between money and shouty comments about how much people love my stories (original fics included), I would go for the shouty comments each and every time. The good feelings they give me could never be replaced by money, no matter how much it is.
“I like that people brought up 50 shades of crap. Somebody’s writing fan fiction about her craptacular fan fiction, and she sent her lawyer after them with a comment about how “You don’t steal other people’s ideas! You just don’t!” I’ll wait a minute while that sinks in.”
Oh. That’s… precious… <_<
I personally don't buy the "any contract is better than no contract" argument some are making. No. Just no.
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