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Is fanfiction stealing intellectual property?

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2017 | Intellectual Property

Since the modernized fanfiction appeared in a magazine paying homage to the original Star Trek series, the world of fanfiction has evolved into a life of its own. The inception of fanfiction websites made such creative expressions more accessible, spawning derivative fiction for every conceivable literary genre. While some authors in New York and elsewhere welcome and even encourage fans to show their appreciation in this unique way, other authors argue that fanfiction violates their intellectual property.

In the world of fanfiction, writers may take the characters a published author has created and place them into new situations, taking them in directions the author may not have imagined. Fanfiction websites exist for thousands of books, such as Harry Potter, Twilight and even some classic works of literature, such as To Kill A Mockingbird. Copyright law may protect writers of fanfiction since those laws allow for derivative works as long as the authors abide by the fair use doctrine.

Fair use means that under certain circumstances, an author has the right to use quotes from an original source without seeking permission. This is a delicate doctrine that many fanfiction writers may not understand, and this gets them into trouble with the original authors. For example, the author of Catcher in the Rye sued a fanfiction writer who penned an unauthorized sequel to the original book.

Fanfiction allows New York readers to remain with characters they love and explore new directions for a story that already exists. Fanfiction writers rarely expect to get published and generally share their work with other fans. However, when authors feel use of their intellectual property has gone beyond the scope of fan appreciation, they may seek the advice of an attorney to protect their rights and their property.

Source:, “Fanfiction: A Legal Battle of Creativity“, Bailey Gribben, Accessed on Oct. 8, 2017