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.

One thought on “The Dark Side to the Rise of Fan Fiction

  1. It certainly is a muddy point, no? Writers passing off work based on an already published series as their own and publishing it? AND making money? Not so long ago, such a notion would have been inconceivable, at least here in America, but the publishing industry is changing. It’s no longer clear-cut whether it is more efficient to publish traditionally through a publishing house or to self-publish on one’s own, and now it’s legal to publish a fanfic as a unique and legitimate work all its own if you change just enough of the original story material to call it your own. And even that’s changing. Amazon just recently announced its Kindle Worlds platform, which allows writers to legally publish fanfics of certain licensed series acquired by Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1001197421). Whether it’s ethical or not doesn’t seem to be a real issue anymore; Amazon’s proving that by simply acquiring the rights to the series, and works such as 50 Shades of Gray were not only published, but have sold quite well internationally. 50 Shades of Gray alone sold more than one million copies by the end of June, last year, just eleven weeks after its launch, (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-18618648). It’s been a bumpy couple of years for the publishing industry, and it would appear that the ride’s not yet over. Who knows? In a few years, it may be legal for a fanfic writer of any series to get paid to write about the characters they love.

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