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The Ethics of Fanfiction

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Arthellion, Nov 21, 2019.

  1. Agayek

    Agayek Master of Death DLP Supporter

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    Honestly, I think charging for fanfiction is a non-starter. I just don't see how to justify it without taking the ideas of intellectual property and copyright and throwing them right out the window. And while I definitely think modern copyright is far too excessive, getting rid of it somehow manages to be even worse. In my view, copyright should start from the first publication, and then the IP enters public domain a generation later (read: when the work becomes part of the public consciousness; if I had to put a hard time on it, I'd say somewhere in the 25-40 year range, probably 30 years). After that point, charging for fanfics is just fine, but before then, the IP rights need to be respected and you shouldn't charge for it.

    That said, at the same time, I think that a Patreon style thing to support a fanfiction author isn't in and of itself bad, if it's used correctly. That is to say, instead of "I wrote this thing based on someone else's work, pay me if you want it", it's more "I wrote this thing based on someone else's work, feel free to read it, and I'd really appreciate it if you tossed me a couple of bucks for it".

    I think it's fine to write fanfic, and then earn some money from people who liked it enough to reward you for it, with the important caveat that you're not doing it for the money. As long as it's something you'd do anyway, regardless of the cash, then I just don't see an issue with an author taking money when it's offered to them.
     
  2. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I would feel morally icky if I had a Patreon and my only creative output was fanfiction, because that would essentially be making money off fanfic and I am not okay with that. I mean, if you have a Patreon, you set it up with the expectation that it will make you money, and if you're telling yourself something different, you're just being dishonest.

    I think it's cool to use fanfic to build up a fanbase, but then if you want to sell them something, it should be your own ideas at the very least.
     
  3. Agayek

    Agayek Master of Death DLP Supporter

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    For sure, and I totally get the argument there. Personally, I wouldn't go for a Patreon or whatever at all.

    I just feel like there's a worthwhile distinction between "I am doing this thing for money" and "I am doing this thing and getting money". If it's something you're already doing, and that you'd be doing with or without the money, I wouldn't hold it against someone for taking money they're offered.
     
  4. Joe

    Joe The Reminiscent Exile ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    [​IMG]


    I've considered the Patreon for a while - in the form of serialised writing that eventually ends up as full ebooks, then rinse and repeat. Anyone on the forum actually got one up and running?
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2019
  5. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    I think the biggest thing fanfiction gives you is an audience. Maybe it's less taxing than creating a whole world, but writing in someone else's allows you to practice the components of writing and have many invested people give you feedback, even if it's a bit rubbish. That's hard to find with original fiction when you are just starting out.

    Fanfic exists in a grey space without much policing. Charging for fanfic or publishing it could lead to authors and original creators coming down on the community to protect their own interests and that would be a damn shame.
     
  6. thattin

    thattin Second Year

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    What are people's thoughts on paid fanfiction for things like BBC's Sherlock? While technically it's an old IP, what they're writing for is a much newer, nearly distinct thing. How does it apply to other TV shows like Battlestar Galactica which have been rebooted?

    A final one is what's people's opinions on fanfiction of real people, historical or otherwise? I think it's a bit creepy myself but it's not exactly an unpopular fandom.
     
  7. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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    My view is basically if it's public domain, it's fine. (And Sherlock is as of 2014 according to some quick googling).

    Older TV shows I'm iffy about. The thing is corporations are much more likely to hit back against paid fanfiction with their lawyers so the likelihood of retaliation (and the precedent that sets) makes me lean towards don't risk it.

    Still living (or recently deceased people) is creepy. Historical figures, such as say napoleon are okay as long as, yknow, don't character assassinate them
     
  8. Majube

    Majube Auror

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    That's what most of them do I'm fairly sure, most are savvy enough to set up a patreon or gofundme and put out/update a new chapter and talk about how they're struggling and would anyone be willing to help them out by donating, thank you so much this will be so helpful! And then boom when I check it out they've usually surpassed their goal :rolleyes:

    I'm not looking down on them it's pretty damn smart but its not like they are the fanfic writers who say 'I want X reviews before I post another chapter' nahh these are the authors that have a bunch of fics, regularly update, and have large wordcounts. It's like youtubers or 'influencers' an etc, they're just cultivating an audience and using it.
     
  9. cucio

    cucio DA Member

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    Monetizing fanfiction could be like selling covers of pop hits, I'm sure there are publishers out there crunching numbers and lawyering up to see if it's viable. Perhaps something like YT deals with music publishers, where the author of a cover and the copyright owner split the ad revenue.

    No matters how you paint it, making money out of another people's IP doesn't sound right if they don't get a cut, since few readers would give a ff writer (or a musician) the time of day if they weren't riding on a popular work coattails.

    On the other hand, most popular culture works are so heavily derivative that slapping on them the words "creation" and "intellectual property" seems arguable.
     
  10. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I guess it would come down to "do I trust what this person is saying?" but in your example, there's no practical difference. I guess one could argue that you'd still be selling your ideas (the story you write in a borrowed IP) and that's pretty much what a lot of Let's Play YTubers do (they didn't make the game they're playing) but the distinction is that the YT thing has largely been figured out over the last decade. Fanfiction is still very much a grey area.

    Ultimately, I come down on the side of not making money from writing fanfic at all and I haven't heard an argument to convince me otherwise.
     
  11. Shinysavage

    Shinysavage Madman With A Box ~ Prestige ~

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    While in some ways I'd love to be given money for my half-baked ramblings, the idea of making money off fanfiction does make me feel pretty uncomfortable in a way that clearly doesn't occur to younger fans - the amount of stuff I see on Tumblr about 'buying someone a coffee' if you liked their update staggers me. I think it's worth mentioning that you're not allowed to mention such things on AO3, although saying something to the effect of "Follow me on Tumblr/Twitter/whatever if you liked this" and linking to your patreon or whatever there is fine.

    That said, I do think the wider attitude to fanfiction is changing, if slowly. In the Supergirl fandom, for example, for the last few years some people have got together to write stories for a fan-zine which then goes on limited sale, all profits donated to charity, and they also send a copy to the cast and crew, and they've had nothing but positive responses about it, even though the stories in question are exclusively about a non-canon ship that the show have not always been keen on. I can't imagine something like that happening ten years ago, even with someone like Rowling who has always been basically fine with fanfic as far as I know.
     
  12. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter

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    I agree public domain is fine.

    I think accepting (rather than asking for) money is another thing that shifts my perspective from don’t do it over to neutral.

    The thing with Patreon though... the half dozen or so I donate to automatically charge me when content is updated. It’s used more like a subscription service than a one time donation.

    On the other hand if I had a fantastically popular fanfic and people were telling me they wanted to pay me, I’d be trying to find a way that allowed them to do so without stepping on my morals.
     
  13. Nemrut

    Nemrut The Black Mage ~ Prestige ~

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    The thing is, there is no clear line and under the currents laws, there really can't be. The patreon thing framing the whole issue as a tipping jar is certainly a valid solution but I 100% understand why it feels like a technical workaround to so many people (because it kinda is, let's be honest). But I also respect and understand why it exists. If someone writes a 400K AU and that is free to read for everyone, which took them time and effort to write and post, well, why not accept a bit of money for it? I liked reading it and want to read more from it. They liked writing it and want to write more of it but also need to pay for rent and food. Seems like an obvious solution there.

    On the other hand, of course, they are not entitled to any money, since they are not forced to write it in the first place. They could have gone out and written an original story and published that or failing that, worked a different job.

    But it's not really about that. We all love fanfiction and want more of it because it provides things original publishing just doesn't do and under the current systems in place frankly can't do. So, yeah, it is a gray area. In some ways, those writers are making money of fanfiction in a way, on the other hand, it is also our right to finance whoever for them to be able to afford taking the time to write fanfiction.

    I don't really see that as harmful to the original writer or creator though. It's not really taking away anything there. Most people read fanfiction after they have consumed the original. So, chances are they already purchased the original story via book or whatever or have consumed it otherwise. So when they then give some fanfic author on patreon 5 € so they can keep writing, I absolutely do not see that as money that would have otherwise gone to GRRM in this case.

    And while I respect him not liking fanfiction of his work in general, it is a bit harder to respect that stance in the light of the fact that HBO and D&D really ended up treating his series worse than many fanfic authors did and his hard, moral stance of his characters being like his children didn't really stand up to the HBO money. I don't blame the dude, I would have also taken the HBO deal, but I see the stance "well, HBO took a shit on my story for money but that's okay but anyone else doing it is not" as not a great hill to die on.

    Then there is stuff like the various Star Wars books, comics and side stories and what have you. Hell, even things like Episodes 7-9. I remember Lucas not being cool with fanfiction for a while, but being okay selling the rights to the story otherwise.

    To be clear, am not against the story creators earning money of their products but I kinda wish they stopped pretending it is about the sanctity of their stories, because it clearly isn't.

    Long story short, generally speaking, I am not against the patreon trend since that seems to be on the safer side of the moral gray area that fanfiction operates in. I am also chiefly against monetization in fanfiction in general because of the threat that poses to fanfiction in general. If someone outright sells their Harry Potter fanfiction on amazon as kindle stories, well, that can have a serious backlash if taken far enough on everyones ability to write fanfiction. But honestly, rather in favor of updating IP laws in general. Would like there to be some middle ground between someone else profiting off your work and screwing you over and not allowing anyone else that is not a mega corporation from being able to tell stories in that.
     
  14. Chengar Qordath

    Chengar Qordath The Final Pony ~ Prestige ~

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    I have that Patreon up and going, yes. It's technically for anything written I produce, fan-work or not ... but the vast majority of my output these days is fan-work because that's what's popular.

    As for the ethics of it ... well I'm definitely guilty of being one of those fanfic authors who these days mostly produces OC stories with few familiar elements of the IP to hook in new readers. It's also part of why I feel more morally okay with making some money off of it: even if I'm playing is someone else's sandbox, I'm throwing out a ton of my own original story, character, and setting elements.

    Also, I'd say long-running corporate-owned IPs are definitely in a different area morally than newer ones. The comics industry is a good example of this, given that the vast majority of comic writers, artists, and editors started out as comic fans. Not to mention some of the various reboots, retcons, and massive plot shifts end up feeling a lot like someone's clumsy Fix Fic.

    Outside of comics, Star Trek is another pretty good example, especially because of the current mess with the state of the rights. When both Paramount and CBS have to produce something that's at least 25% aesthetically different from actual Star Trek (and it's a 50 year old franchise with a lot of fans involved in production) I find it hard to say that the official product is that much more legitimate than fan works.

    As for monetization ... making monetization of fan-work something set in law rather than it's current legal grey area would almost certainly involve kicking some percentage of the profits over to the rights-holder. It only seems fair to share it out to proper creators, and I doubt we could ever get corporate IP houses to accept a looser hold on their property without offering them something in return.
     
  15. Seratin

    Seratin SwoleTroll ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I find written fiction to be completely different to anything else.

    I'm very uncomfortable with people making money off of an author's world but I'm generally okay with it if someone accepts donations for let's say a Naruto Fanfic.
     
  16. SeekingSerenity

    SeekingSerenity Third Year

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    I don't read the any of stories created by authors who in same shape or form get monetary compensation .
    Fanfiction is a medium that was created and pioneered by people who did what they did purely on passion without anysort of monetary motive.
    A gathering of people that really liked something which in turn inspired them to create stories,drafts, waste time and effort just for the privilege of having their ideas seen by other people with similar beliefs without expecting anything back. I would even go as far as to say that fanfiction is "pure" or "magical" . A special place.

    Even if most if 95% of the content is terrible and even if the authors who create it are just a bunch of amateurs dweebs with no hope of ever getting better i will still respect them more then people who ride the fanfiction wave exploit what has been build on the back of others then proceed to discard to when they realize it's no longer necessary, which in turn slowly turns the ff scene into a perverted soulless mess.

    This process has already started btw. A lot of authors have patreons/paypals spam their dumb plz donate then proceed to churn out COMMISSIONED "content" get $$$ and inspire others to follow their lead. They realize really well that they wouldn't have ever never made it if the fanfiction follower demographic wasn't there so while they still have a gullible audience they will proceed to do this very same thing until they milk it dry.
    Let's say 5 years ago this sort of thing happening was unthinkable . Do you see how fast the wind tends to change . I really hope for the fanfiction future that this trends trend will die out. But that doesn't seem likely . People are becoming even more and more accepting which is lunacy to me.

    Involving anything of this sort to ff is a big NO for me.
     
  17. Joe

    Joe The Reminiscent Exile ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Hmm... I could see using fanfic and updates to funnel readers to the Patreon, but then offering an update subscription for original work. I think I'd be cool with that. Treat the fanfic pool of readers with a story that is sort of an advertisement. 'If you like this, then check out...'

    Hell, I've already done that without Patreon. It'd be naive to think some of my commercial success wasn't supported by my fanfic reader base.

    Do I feel ethically compromised about that? I do not. If anything, I feel kind of like I was owed something after 2 million words of fan fiction. Which is silly, as nobody forced those words out of me. I suppose once I got popular I felt an expectation to finish the stories....

    Eh. It's a good thread question, and I don't have a clear answer.
     
  18. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    @Joe, imo you're in the clear---you didn't sell fanfic, you sold original work. I think using fanfic to build up a readerbase is fine.

    An argument could be made that using a known IP to build a following and then selling your OF is still indirectly profiting from fanfiction, but I think it's a flimsy one. Does Christopher Nolan profit from working on the Batman IP because he used those movies to build a reputation? Certainly. But he hasn't put the Bat-signal in his original scripts.

    I'd say some lines are being crossed when, for example, a fanfic author releases original work and keeps a Patreon, because there's really no way of knowing whether the money coming in is because of fanfic or original fiction. That's why I personally wouldn't use Patreon unless I did it under an identity completely unrelated to the name under which I have published fanfiction---but that's my personal stance on this.

    Ngl, I harbor an ambition one day publishing original fiction, so what I've said itt is with that in mind.
     
  19. Agent

    Agent Professor DLP Supporter

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    What's the opinion on a YouTube-like monetisation system for Fanfiction? Not being paid directly for writing the content but rather for whatever ads there are? Of course, if we started getting unskippable adverts then readership would probably plummet but I see it as the literary equivalent on YouTube Gamers.
     
  20. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Personally, I'd rather not. Imo if you're into fanfic, it should be for the love of the game, so to speak, but I understand that people will monetize anything they can.
     
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