Fanfiction Vs Plagiarism – The Epic Battle (/Discussion)

Going into this post was a bit like staring down a can of worms that didn’t even belong to me. I had no business taking it, no desire to touch the thing and cracking it open will probably be considered grossly out of order. Because here’s the deal: I’ve no vested interest in fanfic. I don’t personally care whether people do or don’t write it and I won’t be branching into that territory any time soon. That probably means I should leave well enough alone and not try to discuss it, right?! WRONG! Cos I’m an opinionated SOB and I’m taking a metaphorical can opener to that can of worms right now- you have been warned!! (also- eww- why did I pick that metaphor?!)

So what even is fanfiction? Well for the uninitiated here’s a quick definition:

fiction written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, film, etc.

(Quite a loose definition- but for the purpose of this discussion, I’m not going to go down the “all art is fanfic” route. Let’s not stretch the term till it ceases to be useful here- savvy?)

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Alrighty then, I’m pretty sure that people already know that a lot of people are divided into the *love* and *hate* camps when it comes to fanfiction (and if you didn’t know that, welcome to the internet, where everything is tribalistic as fuck). Defenders of fanfic like to say “what’s the harm? it’s just a bit of fun!”- and for the most part I am inclined to agree- writing fictional things about an already fictional world is hardly something to get your knickers in a twist over. Plus- a lot of great (Mortal Instruments) and not so great (*cough* Fifty Shades of Grey *cough cough*) work started out as fanfic. Not to mention the fact that parodies, which in a broader definition might get included in this genre, would not exist without it. Would we want to be deprived of so much literature? Okay- I can already picture the people screaming at the computer screen “YES!” at the examples I just gave- but you get the idea. It has some upsides- so who is anyone to judge if this makes some people happy?

And yet… the detractors do make good points too. There is a major downside to fanfiction in that it is decidedly not original work. And therein lies the rub- because this so easily crosses into plagiarism issues and many not-so-easily-answered questions arise. At what point does the character become yours? Where does the original story stop and yours begin? What can you use this writing for?

For the last question there is a seemingly straightforward answer. Currently you are not allowed to sell/profit from fanfiction without the author’s permission. Pretty simple right? Well no. As we’ve already established from the other questions the lines are not so clear to begin with. And what makes it worse is that people have always and will always tiptoe up to these lines and try to cross them- like Cathy in Fangirl, unable to see that getting a good grade on her paper for work based on another writer could fairly be deemed as “profiting”. It doesn’t matter to her that universities have very strict rules about plagiarism- to encourage good practices and for you to think for yourself- this is an *injustice* and the professor just does not understand fanfiction (or *muh feels*).

Now here’s the kicker: plagiarism is not okay. I know that things tend to be oh so chill on the internet and we can’t always be responsible for remembering everywhere our ideas came from all the time- but man, wilfully taking a piece of work and passing it off as your own… Not cool dude. I’ve seen people flip out over someone pinching their artwork (and rightly so). I have personally gone a little bananas when a youtuber decided to pass off Roland Barthes work as her own (sadly she also decided to do the sneaky thing and delete all the comments pointing this out, rather than address criticism…). Plagiarism is theft- simple as that. Stealing ideas is a bit like stealing a piece of someone’s soul.

And this is where I have the most discomfort with fanfic. I cannot deny that fanfic is a grey area. Changing the names and tweaking the plot may not be enough- especially if there are lines directly lifted from the original (or in the case of Cassandra Clare, other works). Even for something as light-hearted as fanfiction, it’s easy to get lost in the dark. All I can do is offer a word of warning if you do decide to tread these murky waters: the line may not be so clear, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

So what do you think of fanfiction? Are you wary of plagiarism? Let me know in the comments!

Also: challenge for those with a good eye- since we’re talking lifting lines- who spotted the Shakespearean misquotation? 😉 

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105 thoughts on “Fanfiction Vs Plagiarism – The Epic Battle (/Discussion)

  1. daleydowning says:

    Fanfiction is something I do not find any reason to engage in.

    I love certain series, and I respect that they are what the author created them to be.

    Do I actually object to others writing fanfic? Nah.

    But I think it’s such a fine line as far as plagarism, and as a published author myself, I honestly have very conflicted feelings on the idea of someone coming up with fanfic based on MY own books.

    Liked by 4 people

      • daleydowning says:

        See, for me, there’s something about maintaining artistic integrity in there. Since I worked hard on my writing, someone else coming up with their own take feels a little insulting. Yes, we’ve all read a book and didn’t like parts of it and thought up our own ending or plot twist or different character decision. But putting that in a document and on the internet for the whole world to evaluate — as if it somehow really was part of the real book or that author’s creation — concerns me.

        Liked by 1 person

        • R.K. Lander says:

          That would concern me too! The key is whether or not the ‘writer’ claims your writing as her own, something that is not implicit to fanfic. Every fanfic author I know, and I know a lot, are very respectful to the authors they love and always include very explicit disclaimers. Yes there are exceptions, in fanfic and original fic.

          Like

  2. Fictionophile says:

    I’m not a FAN of ‘fanfiction’. Back when I was the fiction cataloguer for our local library system we considered it a genre that could be searched in the catalogue.
    I remember cringing when I had to catalogue “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. In my personal opinion it is just so WRONG. Though this kind of work finds many readers, I will never be one of them.
    Also, in this category were works such as “The flight of Gemma Hardy” a supposed retelling of “Jane Eyre”. I read it, and though I got through it and it’s plot similarities to the original it was not even a pale shadow of the original work. Charlotte Brontë would be aghast!

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ahh I get that (gosh I am *not* sold on that book :/ I couldn’t get past chapter 1- I just wanted to read the original). Yep I’m with you- other people are welcome to it, but not for me. Ahh I get that- I’m the same about retellings that are done so badly- I just think that the original author would be rolling in their grave (and thanks for the heads up on that one- I won’t be reading it!)

      Like

  3. R.K. Lander says:

    Ok, I have plenty to say about this post, but essentially I am going to disagree with most of it, except this: plagiarism is NOT good. Agreed.

    However, one thing is fanfiction – writing spin-offs of your favourite series, films and books, and quite another thing is passing those worlds and characters off as your own inventions. The vast majority of fanfic writers credit authors and make a big point of doing so.

    A second issue for me is this: why do people consider fanfic as a lesser art? Because they are not creating a world? Wait a minute; is a medieval thriller set in Yorkshire creating a world? Or a contemporary romance set in New York? Where is the world-building? As for characters, there are indeed many writers who will take them as is and simply create new plot lines – not so interesting, admittedly, but there is some great stuff out there where the characters have actually been brought to life, characters that were grossly underdeveloped by the original author.

    I have read some amazing fanfiction, (no, not fifty shades), and I think it is just as easy to find bad stuff as it is with original fiction. Look at Rogue One – described as a Star Wars spin-off. Isn’t that a euphemism for fanfic? What’s the difference? As far as I am concerned- none.

    So, what is the point of fanfiction, you ask. To me, it’s purpose is to play in a universe you love, one which you don’t want to end. You loved it so much you want more, more adventures, new stories with your favourite characters. It’s entertaining, and certainly not produced with the purpose of earning money. As you said, THAT would be plagiarism.

    Did I rant?? Probably, but I am very interested in hearing what others have to say!

    Like

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Hehe ok- you’re entitled to disagree- the only trouble I’m having is seeing what you’re disagreeing on. Forgive me, but I really didn’t get into whether it was lesser art or not (I addressed the matter of great art, like parodies, arising from fanfic). And you’re entitled to enjoy/read/write fanfic, whether I choose to or not. As to the point about Rogue One- I did try to explain in the post that I wasn’t expanding on the basic definition for the sake of the argument- however I would put that in the category of “fanfic with permission”- same as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I also never asked the question of what the point of fanfiction is and don’t have a problem with people writing it (though as I said in a comment to someone else I can see why authors might be uncomfortable- especially as you said something about bringing characters to life that were “grossly underdeveloped by the original author”- I can just see why that might bother some people). Like I said, I don’t really see where your contention with my post is- because I really don’t disagree with you. My post was really about how the lines can be blurry between the points when it does become plagiarism ie using fanfic for uni work. Hope that clarifies things.

      Liked by 2 people

      • R.K. Lander says:

        What am I disagreeing to, ok, I’ll try to clarify that.

        You mention that a major downside to fanfic is that it is not original and therefore can easily cross the line into plagiarism. The fact that the author plays in a universe that is not her invention is not plagiarism. Unethical people pass off other people’s work as their own, be it fan fiction or original fiction. What I fail to understand is why you feel fan fiction is more prone to plagiarism issues.

        You ask when characters become your own. I don’t think they do in fanfic, but I am working on the premise that no money is being made. You also ask where the original story stops and yours begins. To me the answer is that the plot is the fanfic authors, it is a spin off, a story set in another writer’s universe and as such the plot is original, even if the universe and characters are not.

        You suggest that fanfic authors will shimmy up to that line where plagiarism begins and ok, but is that only true of fanfic writers? I think the answer is obvious.

        Your reference to university regulations comes much later and to be honest I don’t understand what you mean. If you are giving an example of plagiarism in general in universities, absolutely, but what is the connection to fanfic? To people paying homage to their favorite writers?

        In a nutshell, I agree whole heartedly with your criticism of plagiarism, but I don’t agree with the allusion to fanfic writers as being especially prone to it.

        Well you certainly livened things up on a Sunday evening!!

        Great prompt for some great debating.

        Liked by 1 person

        • theorangutanlibrarian says:

          Okay thanks for clarifying.

          I didn’t actually say that fanfic was in itself plagiarism, I was merely talking specifically about how fanfic can cross that line. I did not exclude other work from the possibility crossing that line.

          I made a couple of points about why this might be an issue if repurposed for something else- for instance work like Fifty Shades of Grey, where the main difference is the name changes, did raise questions of plagiarism at the time of publication. There were also prominent cases of plagiarism accusations against fanfic writers (eg the controversy surrounding Cassandra Clare’s work). If someone starts from a position of copying and then tries to repurpose the work, there’s a stronger chance it will have unoriginal or copied content. There is the additional issue of the connection to internet culture ie “borrowing” work casually.

          My mention of university work was to explain how work can be used “for profit” in more ways than just making money. (And I referred to a particular book where the character writes fanfic for university and gets a failing grade). The line of what constitutes profit is not actually that straightforward.

          And again, I didn’t actually say that other writers couldn’t or weren’t subject to plagiarism issues- just highlighted the ways this could be a problem for fanfic.

          Hehe well thank you. You too.

          Liked by 1 person

          • R.K. Lander says:

            Yes, I get that you didn’t claim the opposite was not true. However the post does seem to lean against fanfic with respect to plagiarism. You’re certainly not alone in your views of course and there is room for debate, as we have respectfully shown.

            Liked by 1 person

            • theorangutanlibrarian says:

              hehe ok- I think I can clarify again that the main reason it leans towards fanfic is because the subject was “fanfic vs plagiarism” not plagiarism in general. Hope that helps. Glad we could have such a respectful debate 🙂

              Like

  4. thesarahdoughty says:

    I think fanfiction is mostly there for the fun of it. Exploring new branches of what characters can do can be educational. Making money off them, is bad. I’m not 100% sure about The Mortal Instruments, but I do know Fifty Shades was fanfiction. And the only real difference is that Edward became a non-vampire turned billionaire. Names were changed and the supernatural bits were removed, but other than a few small details (inner goddess anyone? *Shudder*) it was stolen. And that writer ended up making millions, or is it in the billions now? I don’t think that’s right.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Krysta says:

    I don’t see a problem with fan fiction as long as you aren’t illegally profiting off someone else’s intellectual property. I think it could be a problem in a university writing course, however, if the point of a project is to create your own characters from scratch rather than imagining new scenarios for someone else’s characters. I also think there might be less world building involved and I’m not convinced by the example above that there’s no world building involved in setting your story in NYC. If you were to set a story in contemporary NYC, you’d probably still have to research the city, choose what kind of location you wanted, map out where everyone lives and where the major landmarks and settings are, etc.

    In the case of writing something like Harry Potter fan fiction, however, you pretty much already know everything about Hogwarts and what’s there and who’s inside. If you decide to set something in a cafe in NYC, you’d still need to figure out who works there, what they sell, who regular customers are, what the decor looks like, etc. etc. There’s more world building involved, I think, because you are starting with fewer pieces. I could be wrong about this, of course, but I would think this is why a writing teacher might want beginning writers to try their hands at setting up their own believable worlds without relying on someone else’s so heavily.

    Liked by 2 people

    • R.K. Lander says:

      Agreed to a point. NYC would need researching, but so would Middle Earth. MAny fanfic writers create Alternative Universes where there is certainly heapfuls of world-building. I think it is, at least comparable to original fic set in known places or eras.

      Like

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Very true. And yes, of course if you have permission, it shouldn’t be a problem. Yes you’re right- I think it might come down to the exercise you are being tasked with. The issue though is universities might not let you do it, even for practice. I mean, if the task was about character, it might do just as well to ask to write it in a blank room so that you’re not distracted by space at all- I can’t really imagine many writing teachers actively encouraging people to use worlds that aren’t there own, just because (in my experience) they are so strict about these issues. To give the example of Cassandra Clare- who had some accusations of plagiarism levied at her for her fanfic- and then subsequently the university she was at… I mean, my uni had plagiarism systems to detect any copying- I don’t know how a piece of fanfic would get passed that tbh (but again, this is my experience, and could be more specific to redbricks in the UK) Like you said, a teacher might just want to encourage beginning writers to try their hands at their own worlds- it’s surprisingly less complicated 😉

      Like

      • Krysta says:

        I suppose the judgment would depend on the objectives the teacher had for the course. For instance, if I were teaching academic essays and asked someone to write on the topic of, I don’t know, potatoes in America and a student submitted an essay that was a parody of Writer X’s work on potatoes in America, I would probably conclude that the assignment objectives were not met, even if the parody was very clever. The academic essay assignment probably asked the student to do something like 1) provide a clear and specific thesis, 2) use at least three peer-reviewed secondary sources, and 3) place the original work we read in conversation with the three peer-reviewed sources. Maybe the parody had an argument but it wasn’t the type of argument we were working on improving for our course. Maybe the parody didn’t use three peer-reviewed sources. Maybe the parody was excellent but it simply didn’t demonstrate that the student is capable of writing the type of academic essay necessary for the course.

        In the same vein, I would assume that some instructors would feel fan fic wasn’t meeting the objectives of the writing course. Especially as colleges become increasingly about professionalizing rather than simply taking time away to pursue knowledge or become cultured. Students in writing courses in many cases are preparing for writing careers. You can’t currently write fan fic for money (except I thought Amazon somehow was allowing sales of certain fan fics? Or maybe they’ve stopped because I can’t imagine that’s profitable when you can get fan fiction free.) so writing fan fiction for the course probably would be inappropriate. Whether an instructor worried about plagiarism would likely depend on the specific assignment and how it was presented. (Did the student submit the work as if they were the original creators of the characters and world? Was fan fiction explicitly or implicitly discouraged? And so forth.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • theorangutanlibrarian says:

          Sorry it took so long to reply. But in a way, I’m glad it did, cos it meant I was able to check some things with several people
          In the UK parodying another author’s work for an essay- unless specifically asked to write satire- would not fly. I don’t know if this is because we have stricter rules regarding plagiarism, but I will lay out what it’s like in the UK to give a clearer picture. Even at A Level it’s taken seriously, but once at university you have to sign a contract every time you submit a piece of work and your work gets checked against a computerised system (called Turnitin- I don’t know if you use that in the US?) to see if you have copied anything. This then gets checked by the tutor (though I think it’s if it’s over 50% it immediately gets flagged) so unless you had permission to do a parody for a writing class, you’d most likely be looking at academic misconduct. Like I said, this is very serious in the UK and you’re given the information about what could be considered plagiarism at the start of your course.
          Like I said, it’s a legal issue in the UK, so it really is out of the professor’s hands (basically the uni doesn’t want to get sued, which is why you sign a contract taking responsibility). I think this is less to do with professionalising and more to do with the academic practices in the UK and as far as I’m aware isn’t new. That’s kind of why I find it highly unlikely that people would be allowed- let alone encouraged- to write fanfic.
          Sorry for going all technical here, I just wanted to be clear why I think this would be such a big problem and was one of the reasons I wrote the post. And sorry for being all serious- hope it wasn’t too boring! I hadn’t heard that about Amazon though- maybe the original author gets a cut? (you know, like when someone does a cover in the music industry?)

          Like

          • Krysta says:

            Interesting. I think maybe some of the responses here are because of different academic cultures? Plagiarism in the U.S. isn’t considered a legal issue, as far as I know. Instead, it’s usually first handled by the instructor who will likely meet with the student to try to determine if the plagiarism was deliberate or an accident. Consequences can vary based on the meeting but the instructor may have discretion to fail the student for the paper or the class. And then they’d likely report it to some sort of honor board or academic standards department who would keep a file on the instance and organize any hearings. Other schools might have a different process where the instructor doesn’t determine consequences but instead immediately sends the paper higher up to the honor board/appropriate department. However, I would say that in most cases nothing more serious happens than a failing grade for the paper and/or course unless the student were to grossly plagiarize multiple times.

            We do have Turnitin and other similar programs. However, there are some instructors and departments who feel that asking students to submit papers through such a service creates the impression that they don’t trust their students. So using these services might be discouraged in some schools/departments.

            I would also say that what constitutes appropriate work is largely left up to individual instructors. Some might want freshman, for instance, to write very standard academic papers with the expected format and conventions of the discipline. Others might accept more creative work because they don’t want their students to be boxed in by what’s expected in a discipline. So I think whether a U.S. school would accept a parody of an essay would be determined by the individual instructors and what their philosophies are.

            It’s interesting that the academic culture in the U.K. is so different. I think fan fic would be allowed in the U.S. but only by certain instructors who were open to it.

            And I think the original creators had to sign an agreement with Amazon, but I can’t imagine many people would pay for fan fic of Dragons of Pern or whatever if they could access free Dragons of Pern fan fiction elsewhere…

            Liked by 1 person

            • theorangutanlibrarian says:

              Quite possibly! As far as I know this comes under infringement of copyright, so I get why they look at it this way. Very interesting- I think it largely comes down to a different attitude- because I’m sure the end results are not much different (notwithstanding the scary lingo they use over here)
              Ah well it’s a shame they would discourage it, but I can sort of understand. At the end of the day, I personally think it’s less to do with trust and more to do with maintaining standards.
              Yes true. Hehe yeah it is interesting!
              Ahh that makes sense! hehehehe yeah I know right!!

              Like

              • Krysta says:

                I don’t know. It sounds like the U.K. system might discourage plagiarism a little more? When everything is up to the individual discretion of the instructor I think you run the risk of instructors not looking as carefully for plagiarism because it’s a nightmare collecting all the evidence, having a meeting with a student that can turn into an argument and/ or showdown, submitting all the paperwork, etc. etc. If you automatically put everything through Turnitin you’d already eliminate the problem of instructors who feel something is sketchy but don’t want to spend an hour trying to figure out why. And I think the evidence should immediately be passed to a department whose sole job is to deal with the plagiarism so they can meet with the student, decide consequences, etc. Then the instructor isn’t wasting their time penalizing a lazy student. I really don’t think schools are doing students a favor by being lax on plagiarism. Better to be caught as a college student and corrected than to be caught years later in the midst of your illustrious career.

                Liked by 1 person

                • theorangutanlibrarian says:

                  Yes very true. I definitely agree with you there. It’s more difficult if you put it on the instructor (and not in my opinion fair on them to have to make that decision). Like you said, it can get ugly. And I one hundred percent agree with you. I think learning about this was one of the most important things I learnt at uni, so I would fall on that side of the debate. Definitely agree with you there!

                  Liked by 1 person

  6. dragonsandzombies says:

    I don’t know, I don’t personally read fanfics..anymore^^. Some friends and myself were having fun lots of years ago and tried to find the weirdest ones (which mostly included soccer players getting paired up and the Italian national team having gangbangs & orgies everywhere!!!) Um. Ok. I MIGHT have sneaked into this.. okay, let’s not talk about my dark teenage years 😀

    I think it’s okay if you do it for yourself or even share with friends. If kids write, it has to be encouraged, even if it’s some filthy Harry Potter smut. As long as they don’t profit from it and try to make money of it, I don’t see how it could hurt anyone, apart from my eyes.

    And I’ve seen lots of people turn into really good writers after they started with fanfics. They all started their own original stories after.

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      hehehe fair enough (oh my goodness that sounds absolutely hilarious!!! can’t stop laughing about that)
      Yes that’s very true- it really is only a problem when it’s repurposed for profit. hehehe true!!
      And yes, it’s really good that people use it to propel themselves into writing other things 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Charlotte says:

    I used to love reading fanfiction (when I was 12) as it was free and already had characters and tropes that I loved. I think it’s strange that some people try to profit from their fanfiction, as just changing the names does not make the character seem different from the original character. It was weird the Cath from Fangirl chose a fanfic lol, that’s not being creative at all. When I read it i was like 😒 Writing fanfiction is kind of embarrassing, why would you want to show your teacher 😂 I guess writing fanfiction should just be a hobby and you shouldn’t get too caught up in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      That’s fair enough! Yeah that’s where it starts to get into trouble for me. And I agree with you about Cath- it’s also throws up a helluva lot of copyright issues if you use fanfic for uni (and she didn’t even change the names *facepalm*) hahahaha yeah there is that element too LOL!! Very true!! Loved your comment- thanks so much for sharing!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. littlebookynook says:

    I’ve never really been very big on fanfiction, I’m not sure why, it has just never been my thing. And I think one (of the many) reasons why I don’t like 50 Shades is because it was fully ripped off Twilight and the author became a millionaire based on someone elses hard work. It really, really annoys me. I’m actually surprised Stephanie Meyer never did anything about it actually (unless she has and I just never saw anything). I think, sure, write fanfiction for yourself if you want to practice writing. However I think that’s where it should stay!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Fair enough! So so true- I was so surprised that did well- especially when it was plagued by copyright issues when it was first going to publication. I can’t believe it ended up being so huge :/ I think there were scandals at the start- but it didn’t really go anywhere. Yes you are so right!!! That’s what I think exactly- thanks so much for your comment!! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Rachael says:

    Fan fiction can be a really great practice ground for writers. My first written novel in elementary school was a hybrid of Harry Potter (but set in the United States instead of England) and Sailor Moon, with me as the main character (of course!).
    But I’m not going to lie, I do have some issues with writers who wrote fan-fiction and then took it down from the site, changed the names and other details, and then published it. Yes, we writers take ideas from media around us (and the best writers steal according to Mark Twain) but it feels a bit lame for them to profit in that situation.
    Or I’m just jealous of their success…
    I also have to admit that I don’t really read fan-fiction because back in the day when I was curious it was difficult to filter out the scary stuff or the smut.
    And some of non-cannon ships hurt my head. (But to be fair there are others that I react to by nodding and saying, “yeah, I like that” or “I can’t really get behind that one actually happening at all but that’s still a cool ‘what if.'”
    And when I was on Tumblr way back in the day that seemed to be mostly what Tumblr and there was some fabulous art to go with those narratives.
    But omygosh this post made me laugh. Definitely “ew” to the worms!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yes that’s very fair! hehe that sounds cool- I definitely think it’s good practice.
      Yeah that’s where I start to have a problem too. Once it goes from “fun” to something more serious- well then I have a problem. hehe yeah- true- though I think in context there weren’t things like elaborate world building, so it was more like stealing a narrative structure or technique 😉
      hehehe I know right- sometimes I hear things that make my head spin- sometimes I think they’re a cool “what if”… others it’s more like ?!?
      Fair enough- I’ve never been into tumblr, so that must be one of the reasons fanfic passed me by.
      hehehehe thank you!! Yeahhh don’t know where that came from 😉

      Like

  10. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer says:

    I have an interesting POV in that I also have no vested interest in fanfic, but I have a brother who LOVES it and reads it now more than the books he originally started reading it for. He loves the cross overs and the merging of worlds and characters from more than one series. It is almost it’s own kind of writing… not that I think it’s good or right though. In fact it’s plain wrong… I can see why authors let it go as it may drum up new business as long as their is no profit by the fanfic writer but that seems wrong to me too… like that Harry Potter fan who got in trouble because he thought Rowling liking what he did as tact permission to make money off her work… great discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ahh I get that. I have loads of friends who’ve been really into it- so I do have an idea about it. That is really cool how much your brother loves it!! 😀 Yeah I do largely agree- I mean for me I get weirded out by people using it for anything other than fun (I guess most of the time it’s out of sight, out of mind). oh yeah I remember that!! Completely forgot about it! Yeah there have been *so many* plagiarism scandals around fanfic in the past. I think the only thing is people have to be made more aware of the legal issues it throws up :/

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Vijayalakshmi Harish says:

    I don’t read fan fic, so I can’t comment on that. But plagiarism is never, never okay. Btw.. through the whole post I kept thinking of that guy who read Harry Potter fan fic and thought it was the real thing 😂

    Liked by 2 people

        • daleydowning says:

          Because fanfiction is one step away from stealing someone’s else work. And I’ve heard that many published authors feel the same way.

          The fact something a random person put on the internet, claiming to be related to Harry Potter, was wrongly identified as the real thing, shows just how unnecessary a behavior like “fanfiction” is.

          Like

          • R.K. Lander says:

            I do completely disagree with this. Fanfiction is not related to stealing anything. It is respectful fans playing in worlds they love. They are no more prone to stealing than any other writer who copies other writes’ ideas. Plagiarism happens everywhere: fanfiction, fiction, you name it and you will always find examples of plagiarism, indeed I am sure there are more cases in fiction than there are in fanfiction.

            Like

        • daleydowning says:

          And I’m sorry, but I honestly don’t see what there isn’t to understand about people stealing someone else’s hard work, changing a few plot details and throwing in a different setting, and then not expecting to get sued.

          People who publish fanfiction and then claim it to be their “own” are lying and committing fraud.

          Admitting you were inspired by another’s work is one thing.

          And there’s enough crap on the internet, anyway, enough wrong “information” and false claims — we don’t need more of it.

          Especially not when people who say they’re aspiring writers really need to learn to create their own stuff.

          Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      hehehe yeah I read about that- it was actually a really funny story- I think he should have realised it was fanfic when there was full blown sex in a kid’s book- or Dudley committing suicide for that matter. That and he got what was coming to him for not getting it somewhere proper- if he tried to download it somewhere and got that instead… well then he deserves to read about Harry turning into a flying lion 😉 Thank you so much for reminding me of that with your comment 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • daleydowning says:

        I can see someone who was totally ignorant of what HP was actually about believing that the fanfic was the real thing – I remember shortly before book 7 was officially released, reading an article on BBC World News about someone in China who printed a few hundred copies of a HP fanfic, in their language, but put the actual cover for Deathly Hallows on it, and were selling it in their city as the real thing! They were charged only with fraud, since the content wasn’t in fact anything that would be in book 7 (Rowling’s publisher checked), so copyright/plagarism didn’t come into it. Really weird, though! And so mean because they took advantage of innocent people who had no idea what was going on!

        Liked by 1 person

        • theorangutanlibrarian says:

          Ah yes I heard about a lot of things like that years ago leading up to book 7’s release. I think part of the responsibility has to be with the guy who tried to download it off some site (probably thinking he could get it for free) instead of stopping by a library or a bookshop. Especially since at the time a lot of people were conned because they didn’t want to wait for the official release date and thought they could get illicit proofs somewhere :/ But yeah, I agree it’s really wrong for people to try and profit off of someone else’s work.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. RamblingLisa says:

    I am not into FanFic but my daughter writes a lot of it along with doing the drawings (she works manga style) and has asked me if she can host it online but due to plagiarism there’s always that fear in me so she isn’t allowed but at least we have the ‘pleasure’ of reading it!!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. calliopethebookgoddess says:

    I used to write fanfiction and I don’t see anything wrong with it when it’s up on a fanfiction website for other fanfiction lovers and writers to read. I think it’s a fun way to show love for a book and when fanfiction writers create their own books to publish based on their fanfictions, I don’t think it’s plagiarism. I’ve read lots of books that were once fanfics based on other books and I would have never guessed it was originally based on another book. I agree about the gray area and I don’t really read or write fanfiction anymore but I think it’s a good thing

    Liked by 3 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yeah for sure- I agree that it’s fun. However, there have been legal issues for books like Mortal Instruments and Fifty Shades when they were first coming to people’s attention- so it’s worth being aware of. There’s something in copyright law that protects against derivative work- which is changing or building on a copyrighted work and only the copyright owner can do it. Of course you can use some things under fair use- but you have to change it a certain amount for it to not be considered copyright (I think the legal term is “substantial similarity”- which is nice and vague enough that it’s easy to fall into a trap). Sorry for getting all technical here, just wanted to share why it could be a problem. Like you said, it can work- but it does depend on who owns the copyright as well and if they’re willing to sue.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Nel says:

    I tried to read fanfiction once. It didn’t take for me. However, I will say I do enjoy reading stories by beta readers for the author I review for. They have permission like you mentioned to write them and sell them. It’s like a new feature on Amazon called Kindle Worlds and people can write stories in the world the author created. I think technically it is fanfiction but maybe a different type? I’m not sure but it’s nice because certain “fade to black” scenes that were left to your imagination are expanded upon in a shorty 60 page novella or something. Overall, I agree with all your points. I think you made some great ones for sure. There is definitely a line and it’s definitely wrong to make billions of dollars off someone else’s plot.

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ah I totally get that- I tried it once or twice too and it didn’t take for me either. Yeah that’s basically what I felt- I didn’t get it. Huh that’s so strange- but I figure it’s probably similar to doing a cover of a song- as in the original author gets a cut. Thank you so much!! I’m so glad you agree 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  15. LizScanlon says:

    You opened a can of speculative worms. Great post as always, I love how you put your point across so clearly every time.
    I personally haven’t read fanfic, so I don’t have an overview as to what it would be like, but you do ask great questions in terms of plagiarism and damn right- that is never OK.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Athena | AmbiGaming says:

    Excellent thoughts. I can understand your points, but being someone who does write fanfiction and posts it on a fanfiction website, and who has met other fanfiction writers online, I’d say that fanfiction authors know they’re borrowing material, and are simply playing in another person’s world for their enjoyment and the enjoyment of others.

    But, to play this to an extreme just for giggles, Rogue One could be considered a sort of “fanfiction.” It’s a story set in the Star Wars universe, but was not written by the original author. It’s not owned by Lucas anymore, so everyone is okay with the movie existing and turning a profit. Also, as someone who also writes original fiction stories, I know that once my characters “walk out the door,” so to speak, I don’t own them anymore, much like a parent doesn’t control what the world does to their children once they are out in the world. You can only hope the world is kind to them.

    I think fanfiction often gets a bad rap because, unlike publishing a book, all the stories that might not be of a good quality can still be published online, whereas to publish a book there are all manners of hoops to jump through. However, re-writing a work almost exactly as originally written and saying it’s yours is always wrong, and I’ve yet to find a fanfiction that is a direct lift from the source material like that (thank goodness!).

    Like

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thanks! sorry for the delayed reply, this got caught in my spam. As I said in the post, I don’t see any issue with people doing it for fun and I think that’s totally fair enough.

      I got into a whole discussion about Rogue One with someone else (sorry trying to remember everything cos it was so long ago I was talking about this) but I’d describe that as fanfic with permission- same as Cursed Child- so there’s no legal or moral issue there.

      And yes, that’s true to an extent, it’s just the small issue of intellectual copyright means that authors *can* take issue if someone uses their work for profit (again specifically for profit). A lot of authors have either changed their stance (like J K Rowling, although there were some cases in the past) or decide not to take issue.

      But there wasn’t an intention to denigrate what people do for enjoyment or criticise writers online. I have however unfortunately seen work which directly lifts from its source material (even when it was published!)

      Liked by 1 person

  17. booksawayblog says:

    Ooh, see I love fanfiction (good ones at least lol) and I think it’s so cool how you can take an existing idea and world and expand on it. However, it’s never occurred to me that it could be considered plagiarism!

    I tend to find that a lot of the fanfics I read mention the owner of it, whether it’s the lovely JK Rowling or Marvel comics etc. Especially on fanfiction.net, where I think it requires you to say who the fics based off. ANYway, that’s just my two cents 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    This is a brilliant discussion post– I love it. I totally get where you are coming from here. I personally used to write fan fiction in my youth. Why? Because I had aspirations to be a writer with no real inspiration of my own. I found that by writing what I already knew and loved I began to develop my own voice on paper. That said, I also learned that I basically have no real creative side, so I stopped. But I know a lot of people use fan fiction writing to get their creative juices flowing.

    That said… I am so confused about how things like Fifty Shades and The Mortal Instruments are allowed to become what they have become. They started out as fan fiction, right? So when do we say it’s changed enough that this content has become something new? And who gets to decide that?

    Finally, the plagiarism thing really ruffles my feathers in scholastic settings. I definitely agree that plagiarism is NOT okay. But all the schools I have ever worked with don’t have official plagiarism policies. So, teachers get to make the choice on their own. That’s fine when the teacher is reasonable– but I had a student once who wrote a story for their science fiction English course which had mechs in it. The teacher told them it was plagiarism because of the mechs, plagiarizing the whole Gundam series. They had to write a paper explaining how their story wasn’t plagiarism citing other mech-focused works and how their characters/plot don’t even resemble the Gundam series. This poor kid had to do hundreds of hours of research to prevent from being kicked out over a paper which wasn’t even remotely plagiarizing. It was a HUGE deal at the teacher conference that quarter. Where does the line get drawn? Who has the power to do so? And under what circumstances do people get to defend their works?

    Such a pandora’s box.

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Thank you so so much for your comment- I loved how in depth it was.
      I really don’t think it’s a bad thing for people to try out writing with fanfic and it can be really good for developing as a writer and a lot of fun.
      But yeah, when it comes to Fifty Shades and Mortal Instruments, it’s a real problem. What people don’t seem to know is that both of those books faced legal battles and controversy because of plagiarism (I’ve just been surprised to find people don’t know that). Even if they did end up being really successful, I just think it’s worth bearing in mind that they weren’t immune to plagiarism disputes. So yeah, there is a real legal problem about deciding when something’s new (I mean, in my personal opinion Mortal Instruments was changed enough in the end- but a lawyer might have disagreed- it was really upto the owner of the copyright, in that case Rowling, as to whether she wanted to pursue that)
      Anyway, yeah- I agree about scholastic settings. I’m really really surprised at that to be honest. At UK unis it’s a huge deal, but they all work within the same guidelines (they always give you policies, you have to sign contracts about not plagiarising with every essay, they have a computerised system to check it called TurnItIn and you will face academic misconduct if they suspect you of it- and I would have said this was just Russell Group except that I had this conversation with someone else and checked, it applies to all unis in the UK). To be honest, I think it’s just a good idea to be clear about what is/isn’t allowed before people ever get to writing assignments.
      But yeah- with regard to the mech thing- that’s one word and if it turns up in lots of sci fi sources, why is it a problem? That’s like getting annoyed about the presence of elves or even orcs in a fantasy :/
      And my goodness yes- it is such a pandora’s box!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

        I’d love to hear what Rowling and Meyer would have to say on this topic. Particularly around how they decide to fight their battles and what sorts of things they need to prepare for it. I mean, it’s got to also be complicated in the small world of authors to figure out where your line in the sand is. You don’t want to alienate new authors, but you want to protect your work… Do you know of any existing resources (videos, articles, interviews, etc.) where authors discuss this topic?

        That’s really cool about UK unis. It’s been over a decade since I was in Uni, so I don’t know if perhaps the American schools have something like that now? I doubt it, but one can hope! I agree– there should be clarity in what is and is not acceptable in writing assignments. At the same time, that would really intimidate me… the idea that I might be conducting plagiarism without even knowing it? That would haunt my writing, honestly.

        Whew! Good thing I’m out of school!! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • theorangutanlibrarian says:

          Yeah for sure!! I totally get that. And they don’t want to end up getting a backlash from readers who want to read the new books as well. I don’t unfortunately.
          Yeah it is! I honestly don’t know about all us unis, but having spoken to a couple of people on here it doesn’t seem to be quite the same. Yes for sure!! Oh gosh yes, but as long as everyone’s given clear instructions it should be fine though
          Hahaha yes!!

          Liked by 1 person

  19. One Man Book Club says:

    I think fanfiction is the ultimate form of flattery… As long as credit is given and all that stuff.

    Hugh Howey is a huge proponent, and by intentionally inviting fanfic authors to play in his Wool world, some really great stuff has bubbled up… Not to mention more people reading his books. Have you seen Kindle Worlds? It’s Amazon’s answer to this question. Basically, an author can allow their “world” to participate in Kindle Worlds. Prospective fanfic authors can then write their fan fiction, following published guidelines, and Amazon will publish their book for them. It’s pretty cool and a great win-win solution for all sides.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Yeah that’s fair.
      I have heard of Kindle Worlds- that’s an interesting idea- though I can understand why people wouldn’t be willing to pay for it 😉 But I am board with it- cos it’s such a good way to get round that- and it’s like musicians who do covers of other people’s songs- so I think it’s a good idea 😀

      Like

  20. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    I am very late to the party (once again) and don’t tread the murky waters of fanfic to have a ton of useful insight ready, but I do have a friend who writes fanfic. She never profits though and is blatantly clear on the fact that it is fan-fiction and always credits the original work. I see what she does as a sort of tribute and common thing in the world of fandoms. Since I am a fan of retellings and re-imagings I also have ask myself to take into consideration that these also fall into a similar territory do they not? When I look at it from that perspective.. the waters become even murkier haha 😉 Great post. And really, I just rambled instead of contributing 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Briana says:

    I have no issue with fanfiction unless, as you say, someone is profiting from it. Mostly I think of selling it as “for profit,” but you raise a good point about using it for college credit for a creative writing class or something. That’s definitely something I would run by the instructor. (And, yeah, I kind of have issues with thinly veiled plagiarized works that were actually picked up and published by major publishing houses.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      I get that. Yes I’m mostly think it’s fine- I just think there are times when it starts to get questionable- especially repurposed fanfic :/ And yes, it’s worth asking the instructor. I got into a really long discussion about this with Krysta, but I’d just assume it’s not worth trying in UK unis.

      Like

  22. Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

    I’m not a huge fan of fanfiction and would rather stay away from them. I do not enforce the idea of forbidding them however. It would be nice if they don’t however become a product on the market and just something that you can access for free on the internet (withe a mention somewhere what the source material is). Plagiarism is hella bad indeed. As a student/researcher I’ll always frown at anyone who dares go down that path. Great post though. Love how you tackled the subject. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Zezee says:

    My view of it is pretty simple but that’s probably because I don’t read fanfic and don’t engage with that culture at all. I think fanfic is a great way of showing appreciation of work you admire but if it’s published or the creator somehow receives monetary benefits from or receives benefits from it without giving credit to the source material, then I’ll see it as plagiarism.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. twogalsandabook says:

    I agree… and am happy to say I have never read any of those tales you pointed out (or any like them, for that matter)– they never had any attraction for me. To me, it is a bit like riding on the coattails of someone else, if not outright plagarism, so why waste time on something that really isn’t original? Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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