I have recently become aware that more than just a few authors of fan fiction have turned their past time into a career. However, I will contend that this seemingly innocent act borders on the unethical and probably even enters the realm of unlawful.
Fan Fiction is when readers of a popular book want the drama or action to continue, so fans write short stories on a fan-fiction-website so that other fans of the original book and/or characters can keep reading new exciting scenes. Some of these works are a direct continuation of the book, while others (dubbed as “Alternate Universe (AU) Fan Fiction”) take the characters from the popular book and place them into a completely new and different setting. Most authors take no issue with Fan Fiction, though a few take it more seriously as it infringes upon the copyright protection by it being a derivative work.
The ethical dilemma at hand is when authors of Fan Fiction leverage the success of their fan fiction stories and then sell them as a book. For example, this article points out how 50 Shades of Gray author E. L. James started out as a Twilight fan fiction writer. She wrote one of the most popular fan fiction stories ever entitled Master of The Universe (MoTU), which had over 40,000 comments. It was an alternate universe (AU) fan fiction of Edward and Bella, meaning they were in a different world, different circumstances, weren’t even vampires, but the character’s relationship was the only thing that remained the same. Master of The Universe was then deleted from the internet and published, almost word for word, as 50 Shades of Gray. The largest difference is changing the character’s names from Edward and Bella over to Christian Gray and Ana. While the story is unique and belongs to E. L. James, the author certainly used the popularity of the Twilight series to make her fame, which is very unethical (and potentially unlawful) in my point of view.
E. L. James is not the only one either. The Submissive by Tara Sueme is another that originated as a Twilight fan fiction. And again, Beautiful Bastard, originally entitled The Office, is another Twilight Fan Fiction that has made it to publication. The more you look, the more you will find; and they aren’t just from Twilight Fan Fiction either, it’s everywhere.
Please share your thoughts on this in the comments below.