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20 March 2008 @ 08:37 pm
Fanfiction & My Views On What We Own.  
So, about a week ago, I received a PM from a fellow ff.net user. Not unusual. I get them from time to time, usually telling me to update an abandoned fic or telling me that someone would like to help add fics to my C2. Occasionally a crit, maybe just a spammer, but not often as PM's are a bit of a hassle to make tons of.

This time it was something that made me have to think...

"Yes, you may say that other people may want to take over your stories but
that doesn't mean that we do not own our stories. Copying our stories is a big
bad thing for me.

And, I think you may not care."



That was the entirety of the PM. All in all, kind of abrasive, but I get it. Copy write issues are a tough thing for fan fiction writers. A few folks are almost draconian with their idea of 'mine', even quoting them without notice can cause them to fly off the handle. Most are of the mindset that they'd like to know if you borrow ideas or original characters, but so long as you're polite, it's allowed. I'm of the mindset that I don't give a flying fu¢k what you take or how you want to use my fic, but ask that you try to refrain from out and out theft unless you're doing it just to start a tiff in fandom (in that case I'll play along as the hurt author then step back and watch the war with glee. I'm a bit of a fan of stuff like that and having advanced notice of it would be awesome.)

I think that the PM was spurred by my profile's blurb:
"If you see that something you like hasn't been touched in a month to a year, it's not gonna be finished and if you ask, or even if you don't, feel free to take it.

"I've gotten e-mails saying that either someone has stolen from me, or that someone wants to use one of my ideas. Let me make this clear- this is FAN FICTION... we as a collection of people own NOTHING that is posted here. Sure you can get copywrites and all that, but honestly we are just a bunch of addicts who love our drugs of choice so much that we express that by exploring the universes that others have created.

"Sure the copy-pasting of a fic and claiming that you wrote it is distasteful and honestly sickens me, but those that I've been turned to were honestly doing wonderful jobs and were much better at writing than I could ever hope to be. But then again I'm American and my English sucks. I have to admit, I've learned more vocabulary from Snape fics than from 13 years of public schooling."


Now, I'm not saying I support the thieves. I do not condone the out and out copy-paste change the name of the author thefts. However, I do support the exchange of ideas and the growth of fanon through the taking of ideas from one fic and using them in a wholly different way. Not to mention that the whole idea of fan fiction can violate copywrites to begin with. Therefore, as we are not working with original ideas to begin with, I'm not that possessive of the original ideas in my fan fiction to begin with.

Mm... I think I might need to explain this a bit.

Let say Author A writes a Harry Potter fan fiction with the idea that Hermione is the product of a secret plot from the Muggle MI-6 to create the ultimate in agents. You know, genetic tweaks, occult rituals, the whole kit & caboodle, but then the project was scrapped and dentists raised her. It's a moderately popular fic with an average of ten comments/reviews a chapter on ff.net. Then a month later, Author B writes a Hermione as an assassin fic where she's the product of an MI-6 experiment and received training but hides as a bookworm until a trigger word is said. Raised by dentists, school was kind of a cover for her training & brain washing until she was in Hogwarts.

Both fics are cool. Nevertheless, you can see how Author B was inspired by Author A's fic. For most this is a kind of a oh, cool, kind of thing. However, I have had a few folks write in reviews that Author B was coping me and needed to be reported. To that I said "Oh, cool. Thanks for linking me to this fic that I now love. And BTW, you are not my mom and can't tell me to hate this writer for liking my fic enough to remember my ideas." Then I'd let Author B know I love the fic and to keep up the good writing. What sucked was that the other writers tended to be far better writers than I was. You know better grammar, better grasp of plot, and far better characterizations.

Now, scenario two: Author A writes a gripping Stargate fic which delves into the mind of Rodney McKay and investigates his past with amazing details and near pitch perfect characterizations that not even the show writers can pin down. It's kind of an underground fave, not insta-popular, but the link is passed around and recced on LJ and mailing lists. It gets a few comments/reviews every week, nothing exceptional, but it's lasting pretty long. Then, Author B, maybe not intentionally, uses a few of the events, maybe mentions a few of the OC's in Author A's fic. It happens, especially when the fic kind of becomes personal canon without you realizing it. Now, how do you react? How should Author A react?

Do we ban Author B forever and ever because she didn't get a beta or didn't have a beta that knew the original fic? Do we brush it under the carpet and let it lie, or maybe let Author A quietly deal with it as she sees fit? Do we react in anger at the theft? Do we understand her and forgive?

I personally, if I were ever lucky enough to be Author A, would let Author B know in an e-mail just how flattered I was at making such an impression that she used my ideas in her fic. If she denies, I'd let it lie, but if she acknowledges it, I'd pimp that fic & writer out to everyone. But hey, that's just me.

However, I'm not sure how I'd feel if Author B happened to be me. I'd like to think I'd apologize if the situation required it and either take down or re-draft my fic if needed. But I know me, and if someone were flaming me for it, I'd retaliate by posting it everywhere (I'd amend my A/N's to credit the Author A, first.) Then by dragging up every piece of shit writing that the flamer had contributed to fandom. I'm generally a nice person, kind of a background person online, but still if you made me angry I can be a bit¢h right backatcha.

All in all, I know that this is a touchy issue in fandom, but in my very humble opinion, I can't really see why we need to throw a wank-fest every time this comes up. Not that I'm complaining, I enjoy watching you all rip into each other and try to turn the respective fandom into a battle zone. It culls out the weak and helps the smaller sects of fandom grow a bit.

But then again, what the hell do I know.
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Quirky Wordswiccan10 on April 29th, 2008 03:49 am (UTC)
Thats a healthy attitude
Ive been reading SGA for a long time now. Sometimes I read eight or ten stories a day. When it comes to publishing my own stuff, I'm kind of wary because I want to be sure that the idea isn't something I subconsciously picked up somewhere. But with thousands upon thousands of stories out there and not all of then cataloged, How can you really know if someone already wrote a Rodney (virgin) /Keller/John aliens made them do it story? (Yea I want to write this one).
caffiene addict & all 'round not awful person: McShepplsteward on April 30th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Thats a healthy attitude
Cool idea. I like it.

But that's the problem I binge on fic too and sometimes fanon makes it's way into my personal canon without me noticing. So that's why I take the stance I do.

But go for the fic- I'd read it!