COPYRIGHTING LAW REGARDING FAN FICTIONSoliman Law Group
Fan fiction has become increasingly popular over the last few decades. It used to be limited to the science fiction realms of Star Trek and Star Wars but now has a huge following of writers and readers for almost every popular television show and film series across several genres. Any person has the right to create their own writings in private. It becomes a legal dilemma when they publish these writings or videos online and build a following. The fan fiction creator could be slapped with a cease and desist letter from an attorney representing the person or entity who holds the copyright for the characters and universe involved. There are some things to know and as always, some exceptions to the rules.
If your “fan-fiction” is meant to build on the universe of the storyline such as the many novels that expanded the Star Wars universe then you need to have written permission to use specific words and copyrighted phrases from the owner.
Aspiring writers who want to write a spec-script can do so but they should never publish these works in a way that asks for money. Most spec-scripts are portfolio examples a writer provides to an agent or writer of another show that they are looking for work. Rarely will the writers or producers read a spec-script for a show that they actually work on.
If the fan-fiction is meant to be a parody, then it must have a clear vision of a social or thematic commentary. Most fan fiction does not fall into this category and merely uses the same characters in similar situations as what the original author had intended. If you do have a video channel that shows parody style videos and you use copyrighted items, then know the copyright holders may not share your same views. Be able to support that you are using the material as parody and be careful not to use specific logos whenever possible.
From time to time, a legitimate parody troop or even a large show is slapped with a cease and desist letter. Make sure to follow up with these notices by sending the cease and desist letter and your parody video to an attorney who understands copyright laws. If you can not afford their advice, then strongly consider taking the specific post or site down, as you could be hit with large fines and have your entire site removed forcefully.
It is perfectly legal to have an online blog or video channel that reviews shows and movies and even projects and theories into the world. This will rarely cause any trouble, as long as there are no copyrighted images on the screen. If you need to describe a scene with a screen grab, then try adding graphics on top of it to show that you are pointing out details within in.
The two main problems that can arise are when the fan fiction writer tries to profit from the original work without the consent of the copyright holder. Even if you are not asking for money, try not to have your posts pop up as the main search results when anyone performs a web search for the original content. These problems are easily avoidable and overall, fan-fiction can be a fun way to express your interests in a show or movie, meet other like-minded people, and practice writing.