Back in February, I was blogging about some of the expressed preferences of authors of supernatural fiction books in terms of fans suggesting new storylines and making other uses of characters from existing books (eg fan fiction). Many authors in this genre (eg Stephenie Meyer, Anne Rice, and Charlaine Harris) have made comments on their own blogs in which their views range from being “uncomfortable” with fan fiction and similar activities to attempting to prevent any fan fiction by publicly refusing to authorize it. For example, Anne Rice posts on her blog:
“IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM ANNE ON “FAN FICTION”
Anne has posted the following message regarding fan fiction: “I do not allow fan fiction. The characters are copyrighted. It upsets me terribly to even think about fan fiction with my characters. I advise my readers to write your own original stories with your own characters. It is absolutely essential that you respect my wishes.””
I wont’ get into debates here about the copyrightability of fictional characters (or otherwise), although I do touch on it in a forthcoming article on moral rights in the blogosphere (forthcoming, Fordham Intellectual Property, Media, and Entertainment Law Journal – more about that later).
Another example of an author’s stated preference is perhaps more realistic/articulate than some of the examples I previously blogged about, and can be found on the blog of a relatively new supernatural fiction author, Diana Rowland. She perhaps states more clearly the concerns that Charlaine Harris appeared to be hinting at in the blog post I wrote in February. Harris had stated her concerns as follows:
“Q. Can I post my cool story about Sookie on this site?
A. No, and I’ll tell you why. No fanfic can appear on this website. Not only does it make me feel strange to have other people use my characters, but there are legal issues to consider.
Here’s an example:
Enthusiastic Reader: Wouldn’t it be great if Sookie adopted Hunter?
Would be okay.
TooEnthusiasticReader: Wouldn’t it be great if Hunter came to Sookie’s house and said, “Aunt Sookie, can I play in your attic?” And then Sookie let him, and Hunter came down and said, “Did you know there’s a ghost in your attic?”
This is NOT okay.”
I noted that this was a little unclear in terms of the law and in terms of what Harris was trying to convey to her readers. I think Rowland actually does a better job in her FAQ when she states that:
“I have a neat idea for what you could do with your characters in a future book. Can I send it to you?
Yikes! No! Seriously.. just… no. Trust me, I’m head over heels in love with the fact that some of you have become so invested in these characters. But sending me ideas, or fanfic, or anything else of the sort puts me in a really uncomfortable and sticky position that I’d prefer to avoid. I know things about my characters that no one else does, so you’re going to have a tough time coming up with scenarios that I haven’t already thought of that remain true to their backstory. Plus, to be horrid and blunt, the last thing I need is someone claiming that I stole their idea. I’m sorry, and you would probably never even dream of doing that, but we live in an entitled and litiginous world, and there are crazy mofos out there!”
Here she gets at the dual concerns of her own artistic integrity and trouble down the line with potentially litigious fans. I think this was how Greg interpreted what Harris was getting at in his comments on my February blog post, so I thought it might be interesting to actually post Rowland’s FAQ because this seems to be more clearly getting at the concerns Harris was trying to address.
Fascinating to compare Rowland with Rice. Rice comes off as hubristic about her authorship & ownership and uses that mindset as a basis to prohibit fanfic. Rowland seems enthusiastic about the creativity of her audience and apologetic about the fact that copyright law prevents her from accepting or endorsing their derivatives. Personally, I like Rowland’s approach better!
Maybe when Rowland has been around as long as Rice has (and has been through as many public religious conversions), her attitude will change!