Fan Fiction
Updater on Duty: Alanna
In Alanna's Head: oh, yeah, the update...
In Alanna's PSX: Cobwebs

I don't really have any excuse for the late update, except for (once again) the fact that I work a full-time job, serve as system administrator for a free webhost, and try to run and produce content for a huge sprawling anime and RPG fan site. Not to mention the Great Evil that Roger and I have up our sleeves that is patiently waiting for me to get off my ass and fix the last technical glitches for before we can settle down to start programming. Anyone ready to make snide comments about my lack of updating is cordially invited to come and live my life for a few weeks, and we'll see how often you get things done.

Now, pardon me while I climb up onto my soapbox. I'm a wee bit cranky this week. I've spent the last week dealing with a situation that everyone hears about and no one ever prepares to have happen to them: plagiarism.

Someone brought to my attention, last week, that an individual on had taken one of my stories -- my Xenogears poem "Love-Song for an Angel", to be precise, which can be found in the archives to your right -- gutted the symbolism and a great deal of the poetic language from it, changed a few words here and there, and was publishing it as "Love-Song for a Fallen Angel", where it purported to be a piece of Gundam Wing fanfiction.

I'm going to take advantage of my captive audience here and say a few things about this incident. And I'm speaking to the people out there who are tempted to do such a thing, for whatever reason you might happen to think justifies such utter stupidity. Don't bother. You will get caught. There are thousands of people out there who read more than one fandom, and you never know when someone might happen to come across "your" story -- and have read the original. And once that happens, your life will become very, very unpleasant.

Is fanfiction a copyright violation? Yes and no. Yes, it is a violation to use others' characters in such a manner. Yes, arguments have been made both for and against fanfiction being a permissible derivative work. We as RPG and anime fans are lucky in that a number of these games are published by Japanese companies, and Japanese copyright law is greatly more relaxed about such things. Yes, most of these companies have stated, either on the record or off the record, that fan fiction is permissible.

However, under US copyright law -- and the vast majority of our writers are writing in the US, which means that their work falls into US jurisdiction -- the author of a particular story holds copyright to that work even if it does use copyrighted characters. (In most circumstances. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV; I have just done my research.) Particularly in this specific case, where the material being infringed upon can stand just as easily as a work of original poetry. And, given the nature of copyright, that work is copyrighted the moment the author finishes it; it doesn't need to be registered with the US Copyright Office.

In 1998, the United States Congress passed a piece of legislation known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which completely changed the face of how copyright violation on the Internet works. Among other things, it specifies fairly serious civil and criminal penalties for a number of copyright violations.

Let me say that again to make sure it sinks in: civil AND criminal penalties. Yes. You can go to jail for ripping off someone's story and claiming it as your own. You are also subject to fines anywhere between $200 and $500,000, depending upon the severity of the violation and whether or not it can be proven that you are willfully violating this act.

Your Internet provider won't help you, either. They're subject to the same penalties, and the burden of proof is on you to prove that you're innocent of the copyright violation, rather than upon your accuser to prove that you're guilty. As a matter of fact, if your ISP is served a DMCA violation notification, they must, legally, remove the disputed information -- and if they don't, they can be named as co-defendants in the suit.

Now, I disagree with a number of the provisions in the DMCA, and I happen to think that it's one of the worst pieces of legislation to have been passed in the last 100 years. I'm not going to get into my reasoning here (though anyone who is curious can look up the case of MPAA vs. 2600 Magazine, and hopefully see a little bit about why I dislike it so strongly). However, no one will deny that it puts serious power into the hands of copyright holders -- as long as copyright holders know their rights.

I'd like to encourage authors to read up a bit about copyright, fan fiction, and plagiarism. Knowing your rights is the first step in defending them. And to anyone out there who's thinking of taking someone else's story and claiming it as their own: Dumbass. Cut it out. You will get caught, and when you do, I'll be more happy to serve as the proxy for whomever you ripped off in delivering the DMCA violation notification to your ISP.

For any author out there who finds him or herself in such a situation, please don't hesitate to contact me for advice or assistance. (However, if you just want to offer sympathy: thank you, I appreciate it very, very much, and I'm probably not going to have time to return your email, for which I apologize.) Watch this space for an eventual guide to copyright violation for fanfic authors.

No writing tips this week. I'm tired and I still have to drive to Massachussets this morning. My thanks to everyone who emailed me over the past few weeks wondering if I was okay due to the long silence from the department. I'll be at Shoujocon in New Jersey in two weeks, so if anyone else is gonna be there and wants to hang out, or at least wants to know where the best local restaurants are (as I live 20 minutes from the hotel site), either email me at my personal account or look for the chick with the purple hair, the smartass t-shirt, and the surly, sleep-deprived expression on her face.

Alanna "And you can check our group blog for more detail, if you don't mind the unrelated babbling interspersed"

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Roger Ostrander
Nerdy Guy in the Corner

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New Fan Fiction - July 25, 2001
And now, with that aside, on to the fics.
The First Fantasy
By: Brian Petro-Roy
(Final Fantasy 1) My apologies to Brian for holding onto this one for so long, but I hope you'll all find it's well worth the wait. This is an epic, sprawling fantasy about a game that, sadly, doesn't get much attention.
By: Nicya
(Final Fantasy 8) A sweet, touching story about two characters you'd never expect to see together -- set in a time and place that all too many fic authors happen to ignore.
The Bane
By: Brooke Bolander
(Final Fantasy 7) This is probably one of the most original FF7 fics we've ever gotten -- and it points out something that most gamers -- myself included -- never think of. To say any more would be to spoil it.
By: Mess
(Valkyrie Profile) A story that manages to be both dark and creepy and amusing at the same time; that's hard to pull off properly. An excellent character study of Lezard.
Blood Omen: Legacy of the Harvest Moon
By: Benjamin Davis and Sean Swanwick
(crossover) Yes, it is what the title suggests. And I haven't laughed this hard at a fic in a very, very, very long time. Look, Benjamin and Sean: stop making me rethink my utter hatred of funny crossovers! ^_^