Own-it | Intellectual Property Know-How for Creative Businesses

Kindle Worlds – a Platform for Fan Fiction Writers to Earn Royalties

Kindle Worlds – a Platform for Fan Fiction Writers to Earn Royalties

Published: 14.06.13 at 13:19

Fan fiction, stories inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games, is not a new phenomenon. I can recall my elder sister, way back in the days of dial-up internet, spending hours at a time squinting at a computer screen reading the latest adaptation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

There are certain legal issues surrounding 'fanfic', as it is otherwise known, as derivative works will often infringe the copyright in the original story. A derivative work will infringe copyright where it produces the whole or a substantial part of an earlier work unless prior permission was sought and obtained from the copyright holder (e.g. the original author). What constitutes a 'substantial part' is as much a test of quality as it is of quantity. In other words copyright may be infringed even where only a small amount of the original work has been copied if this part can be readily identified as the intellectual creation of the author. For example, if I were to write a piece of fan fiction with Hermione Granger as one of the main characters, readers would immediately recognise that I have copied a character from the Harry Potter series - an intellectual creation of J.K. Rowling. My story could well infringe copyright even if this is the only element taken from the Harry Potter novels.

Now Amazon is releasing Kindle Worlds: a platform that, in the words of Forbes, will let "would-be writers publish, and profit from, fan-fictional e-books with the blessing of the original characters' creators, who will receive royalties from every sale".

The revenue split isn't particularly generous, with fanfic authors receiving 35% of the net revenues after royalties are paid to the licensors - ordinarily authors who self-publish e-books receive 70% of the revenues. However, at least authors will be safe in the knowledge that they aren't infringing anybody's rights, while making a bit of cash in the process.

Amazon has currently signed licence deals with Alloy Entertainment, a TV division of Warner Bros, which permit fanfic based on three TV series: Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries. Licence deals for further franchises are said to be in the pipeline.

Article by Joe Walsh

Photograph (some rights reserved) by LadyGuinevere


Please note that this article discusses the legal position in the UK at the time of publication. It provides general information only but is not to be regarded as legal advice. You must take advice from a specialist lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances. Further, you should seek additional legal advice when dealing with parties based in other parts of the world or works originating from other parts of the world as the legal position may vary.


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