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Fic from deleted journals, fair game?

 Hello, I'm new and I have an issue/question. Recently an author deleted their fic from LJ and FF.net by deleting their accounts. The author cannot be reached. I've saved said fic as a PDF and don't know if I can distribute it.

In *my* opinion, this should be fine. After all the author posted the fic to the public. I'm not saying by doing so that they gave up the rights. I'm saying by doing so, they acknowledge the risk of doing so. In addition since posting it to the public, doesn't that mean they wanted it to be seen? That they didn't care if it was to be seen? With that in mind, why wouldn't it be ok to distribute said fic? It has the old author credited. Like I said, just my opinion.

Can I or can't I? I've looked up LJ TOS and FF.NET TOS and they pretty much, to me, say, if you post on our site, we are not responsible for whatever happens.


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 24th, 2011 02:01 pm (UTC)
From a legal perspective, if you subscribe to the idea that a person has any rights in fanfic, the right to distribute (or not distribute) is one of them. Essentially, you'd be 1) making a copy of their fic, and 2) distributing it without the author's consent. Attribution doesn't save you. If I Xerox the entire Harry Potter series and keep the "by J.K. Rowling" title page, I'm still infringing her copyright, even if I'm not claiming the work is mine. The same idea applies if I scan the books and post them on my website with the title page intact. What you're proposing to do is no different than that.

If you subscribe to the idea that none of us have any copyright in fan works, then legally, there's nothing the author could do. (Not that fans tend to sue other fans over fan works anyway.)

The TOS are all about saving LJ and FF.net's butts, not yours. What they're saying is, the original author can't go after LJ/FF.net if someone steals what the author posted, or if the author of the original source material thinks the fanwork is infringing. LJ and FF.net have absolutely no interest in protecting users.

All that said, from a fandom etiquette/culture perspective, I think this is a really, really lousy--and, frankly, offensive--idea. Yes, in the age of the Internet, nothing is ever truly gone, even if you delete it. But as a culture, we respect authors' choices when it comes to when, where, and how they post their fanworks.

You posit that, by posting, doesn't that prove the author wanted it to be seen? The key word there is "wanted," past-tense. If the author deleted a fic, it's equally clear that s/he does not want it to be seen anymore. Even profic authors do this sometimes, usually trying to eliminate the widespread existence of earlier works the best they can. Though they can't take away personal copies that have already been purchased, they are completely entitled to stop distribution of new copies, destroy their own originals, and sue anyone who makes illicit copies or public displays/performances of those works (see, for example, how hard it is to find a copy of the Star Wars Christmas Special).

I'm not trying to be mean (and I've edited myself very heavily in an attempt to tone things down), but man, if someone in my fandom did what you're proposing? That someone would no longer be welcome there, at all. My advice is, just be happy you saved the fic to your hard drive before the author deleted it, so at least you can enjoy it.
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(no subject) - astridv - Apr. 20th, 2011 08:07 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - astridv - Apr. 20th, 2011 08:46 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - astridv - Apr. 20th, 2011 10:35 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - kappamaki33 - Apr. 20th, 2011 12:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - astridv - Apr. 20th, 2011 08:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kappamaki33 - Apr. 20th, 2011 12:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 24th, 2011 02:33 pm (UTC)
I second kappamaki33's comments. The author took it off the Net which mean he/she doesn't want it seen/read/distributed any more. It's basic courtesy to respect the author's wishes.

Edited at 2011-03-24 02:33 pm (UTC)
Mar. 24th, 2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
I agree with what's been said above. I'm not a lawyer, but from a fandom culture perspective, this is heavily frowned upon in every fandom I've been a part of. We tend to be respectful of an author's right to control where their story is archived and how it is distributed. The argument that by putting it on the internet they've lost all control of it may be strictly true legally, but it isn't a very good moral argument.
Mar. 24th, 2011 03:03 pm (UTC)
It just isn't fannish practice to post it back to the web without permission of the author. It's just not done and I would expect there to be a backlash against it.

That said, I slightly disagree with the previous posters that it is never, ever acceptable because it isn't totally unknown for people to ask about a story that has been taken down and for someone to say that they have a copy... and then for a private discussion to occur in which a copy of the story may or may not change hands in the spirit of fannish friendship. However that is very different from publicly posting it - or even publicly announcing that you have a copy to share.

Sometimes authors actually explicitly state whether they are okay or not okay with that 'private' sharing rather than publicly sharing but in the even of not having that information, which you probably don't, then work on the basis the more private any transfers are the less likely you are to have a crowd of upset and metaphorically-touch wielding fans at your door wanting to see how your internal organs would suit them as lingerie :-)
Mar. 24th, 2011 03:28 pm (UTC)
Right. There is more than one fandom out there with a "lost-and-found" type of forum which at least partly participates in this type of private distribution. The XF Lost & Found message board is obviously the one that comes immediately to my mind (being both public and extremely well organized), but I've located and used such resources in fandoms outside XF as well.

Edited at 2011-03-24 03:29 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - fides - Mar. 24th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cschick - Mar. 24th, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fides - Mar. 24th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
storyfinder communities for the win! - morgandawn - Mar. 24th, 2011 06:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
etiquette thoughts - morgandawn - Mar. 24th, 2011 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Ettiquette and the law - rubymiene - Mar. 26th, 2011 08:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 24th, 2011 04:05 pm (UTC)
And, vickyblueeyez, I just glanced at your journal and recent public posts. You might personally be interested in looking into the Creative Commons licenses for your own fannish work. One of the aspects of the Creative Commons licenses is that they are perpetual (to the extent of copyright). Once you've released a work under a CC license, people are free to take advantage of the releases from copyright you've granted until copyright expires.

Edited at 2011-03-24 04:06 pm (UTC)
Mar. 24th, 2011 06:50 pm (UTC)
now on to legal issues
as someone posted above, if you believe that fan fic has copyrightable elements, then you'd follow the basic fair use analysis.

*you could, for example, write your own transformative fiction based on the story
*you could use some of the phrases in a collage or a vid
*you could post portions (possibly even large portions) in support of an article or an essay or even to support a point you are making in your blog
*you could use portions to create a wiki entry about the fan or the story

There are few exceptions that would allow you to offer the story as a whole.

*if you were a teacher, you might be able to print out the story and hand it out to students (this is a tricky and hard to navigate exception and there has been a lot of legal wrangling over it - I am only summarizing the exception in its broadest form)
*If you were a library or an archive that offers public access, you could print out a hard copy and then treat the PDF as a preservation copy and allow people to access the PDF on site.

One interesting question: in the print world, once I have a copy in hand, I am able to loan it or give it away. Even if I pick up the book or newspaper for free off a park bench. I'd be curious to see how this might apply to a hard copy of the story. For example, at most fan run cons, there is a swap table filled with printed netfic that is being offered for free. Some of the fic has long since vanished from the net and the author's wishes are unknown.
Mar. 24th, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC)
This is mostly just a recap of what everyone else has said, but....

There's no legal precedent on whether fanfiction is copyrightable material or not, but assuming for the purposes of argument, it is, then what you're proposing would certainly be copyright infringement. (The same way that taking a copy of a published book and reproducing it on the internet, even with the author properly attributed, would be copyright infringement.)

Ethically, if you cannot contact the author, it would be extremely rude and potentially hurtful to distribute the fic over the internet.

(Imagine, if you will, a fiction writer whose LJ psuedonym had become known by her RL friends/family. She does not want her RL friends/family to find her fic. She might be in danger of physical abuse from a violent domestic partner who doesn't like her writing slash. She might be at risk of losing her job if her employer finds out she writes erotica. She might be shunned by her friends or family if they find about her fic. To prevent her fic from being googleable through the pen name which her RL people have become aware of, she takes down her fic. So what happens to her if you put it back up?)

This writer deleted her accounts because she did not want her fic to be accessible on the internet any more--for whatever reason. It would be deeply unethical to disrespect her wishes.

In summary, CAN you? Yes, it is highly unlikely to the point of being nearly impossible that someone would bring a successful lawsuit for this. SHOULD you? Absolutely not.
Mar. 25th, 2011 02:45 pm (UTC)
There's no legal precedent on whether fanfiction is copyrightable material or not..

Huh what?

Of COURSE it is. Whether or not that copyright is subject to the superior rights of some other copyright holder is an entirely separate issue. The two have nothing to do with each other. If the fic has any original elements at all, those elements are copyrightable.

Don't take this the wrong way, but "fanfic" is not some new and exotic creature, a mysterious chimera of which the Congress, the courts and the counsel wot not. We got this.

And the answer to the original poster's question is: "Don't do that. Just don't do it. It's wrong on all possible levels."
Apr. 12th, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC)
I've never understood how fandom authors and readers can get so worked up about their stories getting passed around, when fans are more than ready, willing and able to go to extraordinary lengths to do the exact same thing with source materials. Keep Circulating the Tapes Fics.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 19th, 2011 02:58 am (UTC)
I'd say it is perfectly fair game. It is on your hard drive, was intended fannish consumption, go for it.

I have seen this done a lot in previous fandoms esp. RPS ones when the fourth wall starts to dissolve or when people move onto new fandoms and want to reinvent, reinvest. Just because someone doesn't want that piece of writing or that journal to be like, "hey, this is who I am," doesn't mean it is suddenly not shareable.
Jul. 6th, 2011 04:45 pm (UTC)
very informative
(no subject) - tsanjewaj - Jul. 9th, 2011 08:25 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 1st, 2011 04:58 am (UTC)
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Mar. 24th, 2012 07:26 pm (UTC)
Why don't we take this from the writers point of view?
For me, I wouldn't want someone randomly posting my fic on the net, even if I've deleted my accounts.
It's still my fic. I've still put a lot of work into it, and if I decide to take it down. I expect people to respect that decision.
That said, if someone was looking for it, you could email the to them. That's not posting to the general public, it's just passing on text thatypu a d the other person know has been written by someone else. I'd accept that. But not going around and re-publishing because the original author has deleted it and can't be found.
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