Going back to my post the week before last, I discussed whether or not fan fiction specifically should be encouraged–about whether or not they are harmful to the original content creator.
Since Claire herself was a well-known fan fiction author before she was professionally published, this begs the question: are fan-works an act of plagiarism? Most people would say “it depends”, but at what line does fan-work stop being an enthusiastic sharing experience to become straight out plagiarism?
Sites such as Fanfiction.net and Archivesofourown.com are a place for fan fiction authors to share their works. They are able to post, tag, like, and share their own and other people’s work for free. Is this harmful to the owner of the original content?
“I am very honored every time a reader loves my characters enough that they feel the urge to write about them,” Amman says, “I very much enjoy reading fan fiction based on my books.”
As an author, Amman has reason to be critical of fan works created of her original content, and made it clear that, although she loves seeing people’s reactions to her books, she draws the linewhen it comes to whether they are simply creating content for the sake of it, or drifting into territories of plagiarism.
“Speaking from a strictly legal standpoint, fan work is plagiarism,” Amman says, “In my opinion, fan work is a great way to begin sharing your work, honing your skills, till you get strong enough to come up with your own original art (even more so for writing)… So, where do I draw the line? Personally, I would say go town as long as you consider it a hobby. If it’s becoming serious, with a good following and a prospect of livelihood, use your fan fiction to lure people to your own original work instead.”
In other words, Amman has no problem with fans creating works based on her content so long as the hobby remains just that, and that the creator draws attention to their own original content instead of simply staying with fan works as a livelihood.
A lot of fan fiction writers and fan artists do simply share their work. As mentioned before, they share their creations on free sites such as DeviantArt, Tumblr, and Fanfiction.net. But there is also a community of people who charge commissions for their creations. This means that they will accept writing or art prompts from someone based off of a fandom for a certain price.
Is this reasonable?
One of Tumblr’s own fan fiction writers, Femke, (known on Tumblr as femfictie), doesn’t think so.
“I think writing fan fiction is something you should do for yourself because you enjoy it,” Femke says, “Of course you can do commissions, but the characters aren’t yours, so asking for money to use those characters doesn’t seem right to me.”
So while Amman was a little more lenient, Femke doesn’t think people have the right to charge money for their works at all. However, they both seem to agree that creating fan works should remain a hobby, and not a way to make money.
“Commissions (are) sort of like a gray zone,” Femke says, “Is it plagiarism? I don’t know. But I don’t feel like it is ethical.”
Both agree that making fan works seems to be a creative hobby. So why are people drawn to creating fan works? Why do people spend hours on end, creating an art piece or a story about a world someone else created?
For me personally, as I mentioned in the last post about fan works, I myself began writing fan fiction at a very young age, and continued doing it through middle school.
For me, I wrote because there were certain scenes that never happened in the original content that I wanted to see written. I wrote what I wanted to read. If there was a character whose backstory I felt was inadequate or too short, I created one for myself.
It also helped develop my writing abilities, and posting on sites such as Archivesofourown.com was a great way to receive positive and constructive feedback from people just as enthusiastic about the original content as I was.
“I think the main reason why people draw fan art or write fan fiction is because it’s fun,” Femke says, “You read stories or watch a series and you get attached to the characters and you want more than the source material has to offer, so you create your own material.”
Fan work creators interpret the original content in their own way and put it in a work with their own style and influences, mostly for no profit.
“I love fan fiction because it exists as all these “what ifs”, allowing readers to dream and spin stories in way that are more fitting to their souls, but in a way that is respectful of the original work,” Amman says, “It is also a great exercise for writers-to-be who want to improve their skills but don’t have their own story yet.”
For many fan work creators, their works are practice for their original content. It helps the artists develop their style and gain feedback from other users of the sites they post it on.
In a way, the artists are spreading their love for the original content, creating interest in the original story and characters through their own interpretation of them. This can influence others to flock to the original content, giving the creators more publicity.
But there is still the question: Are fan works a form of plagiarism?
“I think that if a whole book were to be born of fan fiction, then it would be appropriate to rename the characters and call it an independent story,” Amman says, “It has been done before; If I am not mistaken, Fifty Shades of Gray was born as a Twilight Saga fan fiction.”
It may depend on how a person defines plagiarism. Amman believes that it is passing someone else’s work off as their own.
Femke agrees, but elaborates on the subject:
“Using the characters in a setting you yourself are creating isn’t (plagiarism), since you clearly state (or it is implied) that the characters aren’t your own,” she says.
Fan-works can be a creative outlook for artists, and a way for creators to experiment with their own style, but at what point does that style begin to hurt the original content creator, if ever?
Where should the line be drawn?