So I'm replying to a question from someone in FictionAlley Park
, and the Google Ad at the bottom of the page - which I can't screencap because for some reason my MS Paint program is MIA - says the following:
Learn to write like a pro from HarperTeen editors and authors.
It links me over to this page
where Harper is using FanLib to encourage teens to write a story in pieces, using the FanLilb system where multiple people can submit sections or chapters, and then people vote and choose the one they like best and that becomes where the story goes next. Meg Cabot posted about it
on her blog a few weeks ago, too. It's not the contest per se that I find intriguing.
It's the fact that Harper's is advertising it using the tag word fanfiction
, even though it really isn't - it's original fic.
Is it another example of Fanfic Becoming Mainstreamed, or TPTB Knowing About And Being More Or Less Ok With At Least Some Fanfic? Is it another way to make Lee Goldberg's head explode as he surfs teh intrawebz?
I'm not sure. I don't know what Harper's google-ad people were envisioning when they wrote "fanfiction writing" and "learn to write like a pro" in their ad.
But it's really damned interesting and I'm wondering (a) what people who feel/want to feel that fanfic is a subversive/subculture/hidden thing think about yet another moment where a Really Big Company is Sort Of Jumping On The Bandwagon, and (b) whether people think this is a Bad Thing or a Good Thing.
Me, I'm all about the good. I think TPTB knowing about fanfic is terrific and fine and excellent as long as they don't try to bar it or shut it down, and when one uses fanfiction as a positive in an ad like this, it's (and her I get legalisticish again) a smidge of evidence that fanfic is a permitted act, or deemed a form of fair use, or allowed under an implied license unless an author explicitly states otherwise. Not a smoking gun, but a smidge of Good And Positive Support. And that's all about the good.
: Yes, I said as long as they don't try to bar it or shut it down
above. As long as they don't try to bar it. As long as they don't try to shut it down.
This was a bit of a linguistic shorthand-abbreviation for my it-would-take-many-paragraphs-to-explain feeling about fanfiction as a matter of law, but so nobody gets the wrong idea, here's my take, based on copyright and trademark law today, October 25, 2006: I think that noncommercial fanfic (meaning fanfic that isn't sold like books are sold or where people have to pay to read; I believe that the lines surrounding whether one makes money from fanfic are blurrier where Google ads appear on the page, or a link to an Amazon or WB store is there, or there's some other potential financial support for the entity hosting the fanfic, but in circumstances like that experienced by the Harry Potter fandom, WB has consented to such links/ads/t-shirt sales/conference registration fees), as a general rule, falls under the Fair Use provisions of the Copyright Act because it's commentary on the source text, and qualifies as noncommercial usage under the Lanham Act and common law trademark laws for purposes of trademark infringement, but I haven't yet given enough examination to the recent dilution laws signed by Bush this past month to determine the full potential impact on fanfiction, although I'd be completely entertained by the Can Voldemort Be Tarnished? hypothetical. For more on law and fanfiction, I recommend Meredith McCardle's 2003 law journal piece (it's a PDF)
as well as Rebecca Tushnet's 2004 Yale Law Journal piece, Copy This Essay: How Fair Use Doctrine Harms Free Speech and How Copying Serves It (also a PDF).