Monday, June 7, 2010

The structure of fan texts

Twilight fan art (noeling)

The rise of the internet has allowed textual poaching to become more widespread and fan produced texts are easily accessible online. Generally the authors of fan texts write anonymously under a pseudonym. This is greatly enabled by the anonymous nature of the internet. The internet also allows anyone to publish anything. Smith (2000) writes that anyone can be a text producer. Texts will either be submitted to a host site, which may filter, organise or edit texts as they see fit, or people can start their own pages, often in a blog form, to publish their own work without any alterations. Host sites generally receive more hits as they can provide a greater variety of texts in one place, so texts published there are more likely to receive an audience than ones published on personal blogs. These sites are generally not for profit, meaning that no one is making an income from the creation and distribution of fan texts. Thus, they are published online for the passion, rather than the money or recognition.

Generally speaking, fan fiction cannot be published commercially due to copyright restrictions (Chilling effects, 2010). There is much debate about ownership of fan produced texts, particularly fan fiction, as characters and plots are the intellectual property of the authors of the original texts which have been poached by fans. There is not a clear definition of what is right and wrong when it comes to fan fiction. For most original texts fan fiction is beneficial as it shows an interaction between audience and text and confirms fans’ devotion to the original publications. Therefore it is unlikely that a writer will take legal action against a fan fiction author or distributor for breach of copyright. So although fan fiction is the property of the author, certain characters, plots and sayings may be copyrighted by the original creator, although it is unlikely that they will act upon this as fan fiction and textual poaching is beneficial to the survival of the text. Those companies that do not like fan fiction, notably Viacon and Fox Television according to Chilling Effects (2010), have been known to issue cease-and-desist letters against unauthorised fan creations. However for a company to win a cease-and-desist claim they must prove that the fan text has caused them to suffer financial loss, which is difficult as fan texts often boost sales.

A Lord of the Rings page on a host site
A private fanfiction site with one author

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