I Think Stephanie Meyer Needs to Start Suing

Another person has gotten a book deal from Twilight fanfic. In other words, they took characters Stephanie Meyer created, utilized information about those characters and scenarios she developed in her books, and expanded upon them. And then, when their derivative works got popular, they changed the names and maybe some slight details, and got book deals. With major publishers. Who should be willing to shit a brick and go after anyone who tried that with one of their author’s intellectual properties.

I think fanfic is wonderful. If you love my characters enough that you want to invent other adventures for them, great. As long as it’s free and as long as your debt to my work is clear, it seems like great free publicity.

But the second you’re making money passing off my characters and my plot points as your own? And getting paid for it? I’d be pissed.

Maybe Meyer has some kind of licensing arrangement with these guys and, if so, fine. Make her rich.

But if not, I think Meyer needs to sue–not just for her own benefit, but so there’s legal precedent about whether this is legal.

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10 thoughts on “I Think Stephanie Meyer Needs to Start Suing

  1. I think the odds are excellent that she has a deal that gives her a share of the proceeds from these. I would never have imagined the audience for fan fiction until I noticed the incredible range of Star Trek and Star Wars works.

    Trying to rip off a publisher of that size as well as an author who could give the future works a case of Inky Ebola would seem to be stupid. But sadly not impossible,

  2. Besides, I am waiting for the attack of the Harry Potter fan fiction, if Rowling allows it.

  3. Coble will probably know for sure, but my impression is that Rowling is thrilled with fanfic as long as it remains clear fanfic–free, obviously indebted to her, and respectful of her creation.

    I’ve no doubt, with as touchy as her publisher is, that anything else would be quickly squashed.

  4. In grad school I commented to the professor that Wordsworth had copied word for word something another author had written, incorporating it into Intimations of Immortality. He explained that using another’s words was not considered stealing/plagiarism. The prof said it was very common and not a litiginous matter until the 20th century. So!

    I had never heard of this issue and do not read either authors.

  5. You hit on something I’ve wondered idly before. At what point does this level of borrowing become okay? Wide Sargasso Sea, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the book whose name I can’t remember that Wicked was based on, could all be considered “fanfic.” Is there an official statute of limitations for this kind of thing?

  6. Yes, Kris, there is a statue of limitations. Once the work goes into the public domain it’s open season for it. Dead authors, without someone maintaining their estate often lose copyrights much sooner (see HP Lovecraft).

    I agree, B, Meyer should sue. I’m very pro-fanfiction, and freedom of expression, but the fanfiction community has it’s own pretty hard and fast internal rules and the foremost of that is don’t profit from what you do. So, IMO, James is 1) flouting that and 2) making the whole community look bad by both her flouting of it and the fact that her writing is terrible.

  7. Yeah, and I even think that those are a little different. Something like Wide Sargasso Sea isn’t hiding its origins. Or something like Wind Done Gone–which we might call anti-fanfic–is a necessary balance to a narrative and I was glad it was found to be a parody.

    So, I think that, once a thing is in the public domain, for better or worse, you can do what you want with it. Or if your work is a parody, it doesn’t matter if it’s in the public domain (though be aware, you still may get sued. You’ll just win.).

    But I think that–no matter what–if your book is a retelling of a story or a reimagining of those characters in a different setting, or a new story about some character in it, it needs to be somewhat clear in the book that that’s what’s going on. Someone familiar with your source material should be able to see that.

    Part of what bothers me about this trend is that there was an open acknowledgement of the source material and then, when the timing was “right,” that acknowledgement was way, way, way downplayed in order to pass the derivative work off as original.

    It especially bothers me if there’s not some way for Meyer to be paid for her intellectual work. There should be some kind of licensing arrangement.

    Artists steal, you know. That’s fine. And Twilight, like a lot of our romantic vampire stories, owes a lot to Beauty and the Beast. Striving for originality is, in some ways, a waste of time.

    But to me, there’s a line separating “I wanted two characters like Edward and Bella, except that he would be a brooding lumberjack and she would be an insecure fry cook, and she also had a PhD in astrophysics, which kind of intimidated him, so they started out like that, but I ended up in a very different place” (fine) and “My characters literally are Edward and Bella, but I was writing this parody in order to make it clear just how abusive that dynamic is” (fine) and “I wanted you to recognize my characters as Edward and Bella, because I have this different take on what was really going on” (fine) from “My characters literally were Edward and Bella until I got a publishing contract and then I did a find and replace on the names and now it’s totally my own work!!!” (not fine)

  8. Oh man. I’ve been not here because I was actually involved in a major convo about this on one of the Harry Potter places and another in an authors’ forum Spooky.

    Mark, there is Harry Potter fanfic out the yang. Rowling loves it, approves of most of it and her encouragement of it is one of the things that fueled the series’ popularity.

    Unfortunately, that’s also one of the drawbacks, because now authors–following her model–are having to be a lot more hands-off from Fanfic than they used to be. Meyer allows it. Lois M. Bujold allows it. George RR Martin is adamantly against it. (For the record I tend to side with Martin.)

    Even the authors who do allow it…can’t read it, under advice of counsel. Because there’ s always the issue, especially for authors of a continuing series, that you will be accused of stealing subsequent stories for the _original_ series from the fanfic. Cute, huh?

    I don’t write fanfic, but in my present writers’ group I am the only one who doesn’t. So I’m intimately familiar with it as both a concept and a horribly executed reality. At this point there’s fanfic for everything (one woman I know is a fan of churning out Law & Order: SVU stories.)

    A lot of popular novels and novel series started as reworked fanfic:
    _Outlander_ by Diana Gabaldon was originally a Dr. Who ff. The series I’m reading now (The Vorkosigan Saga) started with a book that was originally Star Trek ff.

    I’d like to say I think Meyer should sue, but then again I think her work started as a fanfic of someone else’s stuff, if I recall correctly. And I don’t know what grounds she’d actually have to claim injury. Other than the fact that the works based on her books are terrible. But then there’s that whole apple-tree-falling thing.

  9. “Even the authors who do allow it…can’t read it…” – Ah, that makes some sense. I’ve seen a couple of author forums that have “no discussion of fanfic” in the rules, and always just assumed it was a stick in the mud thing.

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