Is fanfiction copyright infringement?


Can you imagine the court costs if they sued everyone who wrote FF? They’d go bust.


No argument here. I’m NOT arguing that people shouldn’t write fan fiction. I write fan fiction. I read fan fiction. And you’re right – not many fandoms want to risk pissing off their fans. That doesn’t change the law; it just lowers the risk of being sued.

I only want people to know that it IS copyright infringement, and if an IP owner gets pissy they CAN sue.

It’s like using photos from the Web without owning them. The chances of being sued are incredibly minuscule. But if you are sued, you will lose.

I choose to drive over the speed limit occasionally too. If I get a ticket, I am not a victim being unfairly targeted. I made a choice knowing the consequence.

I just want people to make their choice with open eyes. I am willing to take the risk. But that’s MY choice.


Perhaps so long as the FF is not a direct word for word copy, then it’s not so likely to get noticed. I’ve done one but it’s an almost totally different scenario than the movie.


Yes, it’s illegal. Since it’s not earning any money, and may be growing the audience, most publisher’s won’t go through the effort of suing or issuing take down notices. But they can.

As for liability, it would land on you, not Wattpad. If you read the terms and conditions of using Wattpad they require you to ensure you have the right to post whatever you publish. But as I said I don’t think it’ll happen.


I don’t know it what world you live in, but fanfiction, in its true nature IS NOT copyright infringement.

So long you keep a non-lucrative nature in your work, fanfiction is and always will be allowed and not punishable by copyright laws. You can’t punish someone for being creative and because a part of that “”""“belongs”"""" to someone else, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is instantly copyright violation.

Think of this way, if I decided to change the name of the characters and the place where they occur (slightly), what would happen? Pretty much no copyright law would be able to touch me and I would have free allowance to publish my book for monetary purposes. It’s a small matter, and should never EVER endanger or take over the creativity of the author himself.

I will jump forward with this to a final strike: Take Life is Strange as an example. The story’s continuation (Life is Strange 2) will not roll out with the same two characters many love. And yet, look at Square Enix’s response: “We hope to see this story rolled out and extended by our fanfictions that we have read and like […]”. The very corporation that created the game is giving an incentive on fanfictions, so, what could ever make you claim it’s generally a copyright violation?


Where did you get your law degree?


If it’s not a violation, why are you saying it has to remain non-lucrative? Are you claiming it’s legal if free, but illegal if sold? That wouldn’t make sense.

The owners rarely make a stink about the free stuff because it’s good for the fandom and results in MORE sales for them, NOT because it’s legal and they have no recourse. They CAN sue for damages, even if you don’t try to sell it, but it would be horrible PR. Definitely not worth it.

As for your example, so what? There are some owners who are very supportive. There are some who aren’t. There are some who are in some situations and not in others. That doesn’t mean anything.


If you change the names and places, then it’s not fan fiction any more ;-). The very thing that makes it what it is, is you are tapping an existing community. And, yes, as long as you are doing that in a way that’s not producing money, they are likely to leave you alone. But they COULD ask you to cease and desist. For instance, if you wrote fan fiction that turned a character into something that the original author found objectionable (say a mass murderer) they could as that it be taken down, because you are “tarnishing” their intellectual property.

50 Shades of Gray started out as Twilight Fan fiction…but once the names and places got changed it became a separate property.


iirc fanfic is iffy because they rely on fair use and other similar laws.

fanfic relies on these laws to remain lawful.

however once they are commercial, they become a violation.

there is also a certain threshold before a similar work is deemed as plagiarizing so the works that could become new property are probably very different from the original work in the first place.

as usual, i am not a lawyer so blahblahblah. you should still ask a lawyer and not rely on whatever i say


I was always under the impression that fanfic falls roughly under fair use.


Post #6 above addresses Fair Use as a defense.


If Article 13 is enforced, it could scupper all fan fiction.


Only in Europe, right? They couldn’t touch fanfiction of non-European properties on Wattpad, could they?


Not sure if you have them, but we are notorious for these shady lawyers who hit people over their Ts and Cs if they have a business. It is not totally impossible that they latch on to this law but I think it is unlikely.


It would have a knock on effect, though not be so detrimental to countries outside the EU. Using a VPN would get around it.


It will hit a lot of writers, for many it could be their favorite or best friend online. It goes for EU and ETLA (unless they define a deal.)

They can’t upload new content that’s copyrighted. Think: fanfic, fanart, memes, song covers, photos (even recognizable photos in photos may be taken down automatically if it goes through.) And the system won’t know if you have paid for the rights to share it so it’s going to be a mess we all should say NO to. :sweat_smile:


Rather than trying to explain it, it might be easier if I just post some links for you to read.


There’s a difference between being inspired by elements of something and fan fiction though.

Taking exact characters and writing about them is what I think Gabaldon objects to.

There’s a difference between being a tribute/cover band and being inspired by another band, or even doing a cover but putting your own spin on it…

Realistically every artist, author, & musician is influenced by the things they see, hear, etc. because we don’t live in a vacuum.

Gabaldon was indeed inspired by an episode of Dr. Who to set her story in Scotland during the time of the rebellion and in a nod to that inspiration named her character Jamie.

But the last name Fraser wasn’t even taken from the actor Frazer Hines - it was chosen from her research that a Fraser of Lovet’s regiment survived the Battle of Culloden (crucial element of her story to have him survive this massacre). She didn’t even know the actor’s name was Frazer because the episode of Dr. Who she watched on PBS cut off the credits for their donation pledge request.

So… Not exactly fanfic.

And yes there’s time travel but that didn’t really come from Dr. Who either - she originally started to write just straight historical fiction but Claire came onto the page sounding way too modern and so rather than fight the natural tendencies she had in writing Claire she went with it.

But then she had to account for this more modern woman character… She used the standing stones which in mythology have always been a portal - usually between departed souls and the living world - so she decided to make it a time portal instead.

She is essentially a pantser - snippets of things come into her mind or through her research which inspire her and she writes down these fragments and then puzzles them altogether.

It’s totally different than sitting down and saying “I’m taking these characters from this author/writer and placing them in the scenario I want.”

I have a Romance story inspired partly by Kit Harrington and his role as Jon Snow. So the male love interest is a 28 year-old attractive actor who is starring in a very popular period drama tv show. It deals with the challenges the MC has as an assistant at his talent agency when she gets involved with him.

But to me that’s not fanfic though because it has absolutely zero to do with who Kit is as a real person. It’s just a jumping off point…

It’s also influenced by Samuel Beckett’s use of duality and Absurdist pairs. Plot and character elements from Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” are also part of my inspiration.

But again you can’t call it fanfic of either of those things.


I think in a simple term: If you make money off of a fanfiction that takes the characters and just puts them in a different scenario and you have no connections to the original publishers, I think that can land you in some sticky water. I.e. a Hermione and Draco romance story.

Fifty shades is a fanfiction of twilight, but that one is fine since everything was changed except for the character personalities.

There is a lot of Fair Use that protects fan work. In truth, fan work helps to promote and support stories. I don’t know the nitty gritty details, but most times someone just tells you to take it down if that’s what they want. I am not familiar with rights to sue, etc. I do know some fandoms are very explicit about how they don’t like fan stuff. The best bet is to research your fandom and the creators/publishers.

If Article 13 from the EU gets passed it could make things more difficult as hosting sites would now become responsible, but there is still time for the wording to allow more Fair Use.


Any sort of fan fiction, including drawings/paintings, I know DG will come after you for.

That’s why you never see fanfiction for Outlander. Frankly, like many other things with DG, she takes things to the extreme and it’s disheartening. I’m not a fan of her anymore (for many other reasons, but the fanfiction is one of those reasons).