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AUs with Names Changed

I've been wondering- what would be the legal situation if one were to write an AU fanfiction taking place either in the real world or a world of the fan's creation (or maybe an in-verse fic for a series that takes place in the real world), and then change the names?

Could they then claim it was original? Could they sell it as their own work? Would it change the situation if the original fanfic, with the names unchanged, was still available online?

I ask because I've read a lot of Twilight AUs with all werewolf or vampire characters as humans, and the characters are often so changed it seems they might as well be original.

EDIT: Also, what about real-person fiction (RPF) AUs, or fics that don't mention whatever real thing the people are a part of (their band, or the show/movie they acted in, etc)? If the names were changed, what would that mean? Could it be called original, and would having the fic with names unchanged online affect that?


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 18th, 2011 11:04 pm (UTC)
I have often wondered this myself.
Mar. 19th, 2011 05:55 pm (UTC)
From the other comments, it seems like a resounding yes! Apparently it doesn't even need to be a real AU, just change a few details so it's not as recognizable.
Mar. 19th, 2011 04:06 am (UTC)
I think it depends on a case-by-case basis. I do know of an author (Rosdeidre) who used to write Roswell fanfiction until she got a book deal based on one of her fics. She changed the names for the fic and altered the storyline slightly so that the lore wasn't 100% the same and now has a whole line of books: http://www.deidreknight.com/
Mar. 19th, 2011 04:12 am (UTC)
Wow- I'm amazed that something like that could happen! Not just that it could be done small-scale like self publishing, but an actual book deal!

Are the original fics still online? Is it generally well-known that the books used to be fanfics?
Mar. 19th, 2011 04:51 am (UTC)
She's said previously: "My very first fanfic, HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY served as the core basis for what later became my first published novel, PARALLEL ATTRACTION. Now, the two are in (many ways) worlds apart because I changed a lot in the new book (otherwise I'd have felt like I was rehashing something I'd already written!) "

I found How To Disappear Completely here: http://www.roswellfanatics.net/archive/AMB_AP224334875/1080.html

I think it's pretty well-known in the Roswell fan community that her fic served as a basis for the books. She has many forums devoted to her.
Mar. 19th, 2011 05:41 am (UTC)
That's very interesting. Do you know if it was completely rewritten, or if she simply atlered certain parts?
Mar. 19th, 2011 06:14 am (UTC)
I read it a pretty long time ago. If I remember right, she changed the character names, added in different lore (she didn't have to alter any existing lore since the fanfic assumed you already knew the lore), and then expanded on the story to make it longer. I think the rest of it stayed almost exactly the same
Mar. 19th, 2011 06:33 am (UTC)
So all she did was add things to make it understandable outside the context of a fanfic, to those who didn't know the original storyline?

Wow- I'm really surprised that it could be published like that, especially since she's so honest about it having originally been a fanfic. I guess since the plot of the fic itself was original, as long as she changed the names so she wasn't infringing on the character trademark, it could legally be published?

It's a very interesting example. Thank you for sharing.
Mar. 19th, 2011 06:22 am (UTC)
I know madlori wrote a Brokeback AU, then later changed the names and published it as an original gay romance. She did take down the fanfic, but that's just practical sense. If you yourself have posted an almost identical story online for free, your publisher might have a harder time marketing and selling the book. I imagine any publisher would tell you to take it down as a condition of publishing.
Also, many fanfic writers write under psuedonyms but might publish under a real name and don't want the two linked.
This would apply equally to RPFs.
Mar. 19th, 2011 06:52 am (UTC)
Oh, I haven't done this- yet. I was just curious, really.

If I did try something like this, I'd probably self-publish, though. It seems to me that gay romance (which is what I would be publishing) would do about as well self-published as with a company, since it's not exactly mainstream. Sites like Lulu and Amazon Createspace/Kindle Direct Publishing let the author keep rights to the work, so it could probably remain online while being published with one or both of them. (Although, yes, it'd be stupid to leave a free version of something you're trying to sell available online.)

Really, I just wanted to know about the legality of getting money for something that was based off of something else, as long as names are changed. It seems from your comment and e_transitions' that it would be okay.
Mar. 19th, 2011 09:20 am (UTC)
yep - it is colloquially known as filing the serial numbers off. You have to do a little more than just changing the names but once you have removed the traces of the inspirational source material you are good to go.

I have heard of published books/stories that were inspired (to a greater of lesser extent) by The Professionals, Starsky and Hutch, Man from Uncle, X-Files, Xena (well known thing to do in the Xena fandom, apparently), Lord of the Rings MPreg or Highlander just off the top of my head. Most authors who plan of filing the serial numbers off will take the fanfic down before they start trying to sell/publish the story - but that is just good sense.

As for the RPF thing - have you seen Velvet Goldmine? I jest. Although if anyone has read Tanya Huff's Smoke and series and doesn't have a very strong mental image of the main love interest Lee Nicholas (canadian, actor, dark hair, green eyes) then they didn't watch X-Files back in the day ;-)
I'm pretty sure I read that one of the early band fandoms used well known and shared 'alternate names' for the main band members for exactly that reason. Can't remember which fandom it was - I would like to say Metallica. But that is even easier to do as you have less mythos to tweak into originality - just the 'characters'.

And of course if the person is dead then you can just go for it as per many, many books, movies, etc shows etc. The Tolkien estate are having a hissyfit at the moment about someone who has written Tolkien into a book but they are rather pissing into the wind.
Mar. 19th, 2011 01:37 pm (UTC)
And filing the serial numbers off is not uncommon in the sf/fantasy genre for debut novels.
Mar. 21st, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC)
It may be a little more common in SF/Fantasy, but as has been observed there are only X* original stories, and all the rest are just variations. Filing off the serial numbers and slapping on a coat of paint is the only way any even slightly well-read person can "create" a new story. You'd have to be a feral child raised by wolves not to know the basic storylines of your culture - and for all I know wolves use the same ones we do. (They're smart, but they're not THAT smart.) The devil, obviously, is in the details.

Probably my favorite example of this is "West Side Story." It's obviously - and of course this is not my original deduction - a retelling of "Romeo and Juliet." But while lots of people like both, either could appeal to a huge audience which wouldn't care for the other despite their being basically the same story.

*"X" is usually quoted as anywhere from five to a hundred, but it's a very small number related even to the number of fictional books which are published in any given year.
Mar. 20th, 2011 02:07 am (UTC)
See http://www.journalstandard.com/mysource/entertainment/x1777817206/The-Readers-Writers-The-sizzle-of-author-Margie-Church. Margie Church talks about filing the numbers off "Days of our Lives" fanfic.
Mar. 24th, 2012 07:29 pm (UTC)
As long as you take out all the fan fic elements, it's fine. Because the rest of it is original.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
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