Anonymous asked: This is probably a stupid question but… Is it alright to try and get a fanfiction published? Not like normal fanfictions but ones with a twist? For example, if it’s fiction, making it seem like reality?

Not a stupid question.

There are a couple of aspects of fan fiction writing to be considered here. The first is whether or not your fan fiction is based on copyrighted work, and the second is how attached you are to keeping your fan fiction in its current fan fiction-y state.

If your fan fiction is based on stories that are in the public domain (like Pride and Prejudice and Romeo and Juliet), then it is definitely okay to try and get them published in all of their wondrous fan fiction glory (see example).

How do you know if a piece of writing is in the public domain?

If your fan fiction is based on stories that are copyrighted (like Harry Potter or Homestuck), then you’ve got decisions to make. You can:

  1. Change all references to the canon of that copyrighted work in your story (major plot points, canon-specific character names, places, and objects) and try to get the updated version of your story published, or
  2. Give up on trying to make money from publishing your fan fiction until the work on which your fan fiction is based becomes part of the public domain.

Why is this an issue? Because making money of off copyrighted work is seen as theft of intellectual property. It may even be theft. Fan fictions are considered something called derivative works under United States copyright law.

Derivative Work: A work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications, which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”. (US Code)

For more on derivative works and fan fiction, read these:

Basically, writing fan fiction is fun and awesome practice for character and plot development, but it is illegal in the United States (where most people who write fan fiction are from) to publish copyrighted work as your own. If the fan fiction isn’t copyrighted or you happen to have the publisher/author’s express permission, then go nuts. Otherwise, avoid the law suit and play it safe by either removing all resemblance to the copyrighted work or by not trying publish your derivative works in the first place.

Thank you, and I hope that helps! If anyone has anything to add about fan fiction and copyright law, or if you have any corrections on this post, please message us. Also, if you have any questions about writing or publishing, hit us up!


Bonus: For a very interesting examination of copyright law and derivative works, check out the four-part video series Everything Is a Remix by Kirby Ferguson. Also, Kagenoneko suggests Remix and Free Culture, both by Lawrence Lessig, for more on this topic.

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    With the introduction of published fanfiction into the mainstream such as Fifty Shades of Gray and the Mortal...
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