Monday, September 16, 2013

I Got This Great Idea Where Harry Potter and Spiderman Meet Christian Grey . . .

What characters lurk in your imagination?
At a writers conference I was asked by a several people about plots involving established characters.  Maybe not quite Harry Potter, Spiderman and Christian Grey (50 Shades of Grey), but not far from it.

Such works have become such a mainstay on the Internet that they now have their own genre:  Fan Fiction.

The Internet is full of additional story lines with Harry & Hermione and Ron -- some amateurish, some surprisingly well done, and some, well, down right pornographic.  The same is true of Katniss, Bella, and a whole host of fictional creations.

I have a great story idea that's even better than the original.  So what's the problem?

The problem is an aspect of copyright protection called derivative works.  The copyright protection which attaches to any original work (without registration or even a copyright symbol) protects not only that work, but any derivative work.

So if you create the next James Bond, or Katniss, or Harry Potter, or Harry Bosch, no one else can write stories using those characters, at least not without your consent and license.  Noted thriller writer Jeffery Deaver is writing the new James Bond novels 50 years after the death of Bond creator Ian Fleming.  He is the latest (and probably best) in a line of subsequent Bond writers.  But all of those writers have been selected by and contracted with Ian Fleming's heirs.

So what about all those fan fiction sites?  What about imitation being the sincerest form of flattery?

The reality is that publishers and authors seem to be willing to turn a blind eye to fan fiction - as long as it is not for profit.  That's not the law. They could send take down notices and sue over those stories and websites.  But it appears the marketing executives and legal departments of various publishers have decided that as long as no one is doing it for money, it probably helps spread enthusiasm among devoted fans.  And who wants to go around suing some of your most devoted fans?

But the instant money enters the equation, the dynamics change.  Publishers will sue in the drop of a hat to pull down fan fiction that is offered for money.

So if you are a fledgling author, instead of trying to think of a grown-up Harry Potter novel, or what happens when Elvis Cole and Stephanie Plum are hired to work opposite ends of a case, think up your own characters. 

After all, that's the challenge and excitement of the creative process.

photo credit: <a href="">Anna Fischer</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

No comments:

Post a Comment