Fanwork Ban

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"Reactions of character creators to fanfiction have been varied, from polite acknowledgment to legal threats to having their character discuss out loud how disturbing and weird some types of fanfiction are. Fanfictions reacted to all of these things by writing 9,000,000 new fanfics."
"I've got the intellectual property cops crawling up my butt."
—Dan Rydell, Sports Night


When a creator (usually writers, it seems) bans or restricts their fans from writing fanfic, drawing fanart, or generally using the author's work "creatively". You can buy the books, buy The Merch and read "officially sanctioned" material, but the hounds of hell will be unleashed should you write their characters into your story.

Reasons for such a ban/restrictions vary. Robin Hobb wrote an article sounding a bit like a PSA ("Fanfic -- JUST SAY NO!") that had the basic premise of "Those characters are like family to me. You don't like seeing your family put into weird or perverted situations, do you?" Others take the legal ground; that's how they make their living, and that's their intellectual property you are messing with. Others simply don't think anyone else can write their world as well as they can (detractors, however, might comment that they're worried that someone can write them better |than the author can).

A milder form exists in the form of restriction; the creator might ban Slash Fic or PWP material, for example. Other creators are more picky, setting "rules" to which all fic/fanart creators have to adhere to. How they keep tabs on such things is a mystery.

This does not count all those authors who decide for legal reasons not to read fanfic of their work, whether or not they support it. If someone writes a fanfic and the author reads it, and later installments of the published work have elements similar to the fanfic, then there could be some messy legal issues. At least such a case has happened. Some authors limit themseves to see fanart, as it brings less legal complications.

A fanwork ban can be particularly annoying if you get into a show/book/whatnot after it's ended. In the Internet age, the first thing many such fans will do after the series ends is look for fansites or fanwork. If a Fanwork Ban is in place, these sites will be extremely hard to come by, if they exist at all, and it's usually the case that most fans foolhardy or reckless enough to skirt a Fanwork Ban usually aren't intelligent or dedicated enough to put together good fanwork. In extreme cases, this may result in a dead fandom, unless the fans are pretty social and don't mind restricting themselves to facts and discussion. It might also result in a Broken Base between fans who support the author's decision and fans who rail against the ban. Of course, it could work out exactly as the author hopes; instead of reading fic based on one of their works, you'll probably find yourself looking into the author's other works in the hope of finding something similar.

This is predominantly a Western trope; bans on fanwork are almost unheard of in Japan due to the widespread popularity and acceptability of Doujinshi as well as the tendency of Japanese companies to view fanwork as free advertising. However, recently there has been an attempt to change all of that.

See also Rule 34 Creator Reactions.

Examples of authors who have imposed fanwork bans/restrictions


Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Fullmetal Alchemist has an extremely odd example, since the "fans" in question are in fact the actors themselves. The US dub cast, headed by Vic Mignogna, produced a fan-film called Fullmetal Fantasy some years ago. Vic took it to a couple of conventions (and was working through all the proper channels to get permission for a DVD) before the legal people asked him to stop. After a couple of years, he was told that there was no way there'd be an official release, but he could start running it at conventions again if and only if it never ended up online. So he does still show it at cons, but relates this story beforehand and makes the fans present promise not to videotape and upload it. So far, so good.
  • Yamakan's adaptation of Fractale seem to have detered many fans from drawing Rule 34. To the horror of some fans
  • Neither Kishimoto nor Viz Media has ever taken action to shut down Naruto fan works, and Shonen Jump publishes Fan Art of all its regulars, Naruto included. However, even though they have a section on the official website for Fanfics and Fan Art, it is against the rules of the forum to publish a fan work using trademarked characters. They must be serious about avoiding cross-pollination between fan ideas and official material.
  • One of the sites have recently been cracking down on doujin and other deriative works in Japan as part of a new law that can end fan creations for good in the country.
  • Akimoto is supposedly very protective of his AKB48 label and the fanwork ban may be restrictive towards AKB0048.

Comics[edit | hide]

  • Archie Comics has banned all Fan Fiction due to the proliferation of Rule 34.
  • Apparently to avoid diluting the original story, Pat Mills has forbidden fanwork based on Nemesis the Warlock. However, his other comics, including ABC Warriors and Slaine, are fair game.
  • Cross Gen did a ban after finding Rule 34. This is considered by fans to have contributed to the situations that led to their bankruptcy and acquisition by Disney.
  • Jack Chick legally attacks any parody of his tracts, claiming "It's only fair use if you draw everything yourself."
  • Back when The Sims modding community was big, Marvel Comics came down on anyone hosting skins of their characters, leading to a near-disappearance of these kinds of skins on the Internet.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Warner Brothers briefly tried to get rid of Harry Potter Slash Fic. This went nowhere.
  • Full Moon Entertainment recently threatened to press charges against one fan creating and selling his own replicas of puppets from the Puppet Master film series (it doesn't help that said fan's replicas are largely thought to be a significant improvement over the officially-released ones)
  • In the dark ages of Fanfic, before the Internet (yes, kiddies, it did exist back then. Imagine your Trekker grandma passing around a bottle of good wine and the K/S fanfic...), George Lucas allegedly hit the roof when he found sexually explicit material for Star Wars. And promptly went into orbit when he found the Slash Fic. He tried a repeat performance of this in the late '90s-early 2Ks when he found the Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan stuff, but found it was like playing whack-a-mole. It took until 2003 and BioWare being really sneaky to finally slip a lesbian into the GFFA.
  • Games Workshop, of Warhammer and W40k fame, did this to the German-made fan-film Damnatus. Annoyingly, the film's cease and desist order came after it was ready to release. In GW's defense, they were required by German copyright law to issue it or forfeit all their copyrights. The people who worked on it agreed never to release it, saying that it would have to remain on their computers for good. This statement prompted the forces of the internet and fandom to somehow extract the film's final cut, and post it on the internet. Since those who made the film did everything they were required to do to keep it from getting out they are legally safe from retribution. It is quite stunning in its quality, even though watching it in german with english subtitles makes it hard to admire the high quality physical effects.
  • In 1997 a group of folks were working on a Quake mod based on the Alien franchise simply titled Alien Quake until Twentieth Century Fox issued a Cease and Desist on them. The shutdown was notorious enough in the modding community to the point it even coined the term "foxed" to refer for projects similarly shut down at the request of corporations.
    • Oddly enough, Fox hasn't gone against Aliens TC for Doom, likely because modding wasn't that widespread back then.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • Anne McCaffrey originally did a blanket ban save for a few RPGs. She has since relaxed the ban but imposes rules on would-be writers such as no writing about existing Pern characters, no boys can Impress gold dragons, no girls can Impress bronzes, no dragons of any other colour except for the five standard colours. Ruth is the exclusive exception. Not that anyone actually pays attention to these rules. Oh, the good old days of MSN Groups RPGs with all kinds of sparklypoo dragon colors. The ban was finally lifted in 2004, although it's still a rather small fandom.
    • One effect of this: The Angband Roguelike variant Pernband (which, despite its comparatively obscure focus, had become one of the most heavily-developed roguelikes of its day) was forced to excise all Pern material and change its name. It eventually became TOME and, even later, Tales of Maj'Eyal.
  • Anne Rice. This article in Fanlore Wiki explores it further.
  • Robin Hobb - the aforementioned article has been archived here.
  • Charlaine Harris does not approve of fanfic.
  • Terry Goodkind, though as yet it's unknown if there's a Fanwork Ban on Legend of the Seeker.
  • John Norman is known to be hostile to Gor fanfics.
  • George R. R. Martin disapproves of fan-fiction. Curiously, he's okay with fanarts.
    • His major objection is, apparently, that fan fiction is bad practice for an aspiring writer, the equivalent of doing paint-by-numbers for an aspiring artist. Fanart, being the translation of words into images, likely doesn't cause him quite the same consternation on that count.
  • Larry Niven approves of fan fiction, as long as such stories are strictly set within the Man-Kzin War period of his Known Space universe. He publicly stated, in print, that his work was a "playground", and that he was opening up the Man-Kzin war parts of it to anyone who wants to play with his playground equipment. No entendre intended.
  • J. K. Rowling has said that she actually likes her fans writing fanfic and doing other fannish things, but she doesn't like the fanfics where her characters have sex when they're minors. Her voiced displeasure about the 'under-aged' porn 'fics is partially because, the kiddie porn- and partially because she fears for the kids who accidentally discover Rule 34 first-hand. This 'rule' still doesn't stop anyone from writing them though!
  • The Other Wiki says this about Marion Zimmer Bradley:

"For many years, Bradley actively encouraged Darkover fan fiction and reprinted some of it in commercial Darkover anthologies, continuing to encourage submissions from unpublished authors, but this ended after a dispute with a fan over an unpublished Darkover novel of Bradley's that had similarities to some of the fan's stories. As a result, the novel remained unpublished, and Bradley demanded the cessation of all Darkover fan fiction."

  • Strongly influenced by Bradley's experiences, Mercedes Lackey actively banned fan fiction in her universes (except under certain draconian conditions) for over two decades. However, as of late 2009, she has altered her stance to allow fanfic licensed under Creative Commons:

"As you folks already know, my agent, Russel Galen, has in the past been opposed to fanfiction. However, he is also Cory Doctorow's agent now, and Cory is a persuasive little gnome."

  • Terry Pratchett mentioned in a 2007 lecture that he's developed a balanced compromise that seems to work: Fans are free to have as much good-natured fun as they wish (non-commercially, of course), provided that they automatically surrender all their creative rights to the derived works back to Pratchett. That way, he says, if a potential licensee asks if anyone else has made a video adaptation of Jingo, he can simply state "Yes, but I own all the rights to it" and it doesn't seem to bother them at all.
    • When it comes to original Fan Fiction, he doesn't mind its existence as long as it doesn't happen where he can see it. Just in case someone tries to claim he stole their Discworld ideas. (The legal aspects don't bother him - he doesn't steal ideas, and a court of law would find in his favour - but mud sticks.)
    • There was also a period in the late 90s when some am-dram companies were intepreting "permission is always given" for Discworld amateur theatrics as "permission need not be sought". He dealt with that by publicly announcing that permission would now be granted in exchange for a small donation to the Orang-Utan Foundation. He didn't want to start getting heavy on his own account, but now anyone who didn't comply would be defrauding a charity...
  • This list also includes Raymond Feist, PN Elrod, Nora Roberts and a few others.
  • Diana Gabaldon has compared fanfiction to, among other things, people breaking into her house or selling her children into slavery. This despite the fact that one of the characters from her books is heavily based on Jamie McCrimmon from Doctor Who.
  • Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Jasper Fforde's stance, although mellower than it used to be, is still against fanfiction, to the extent that one book actually talks about how much damage fanfiction writers are doing to Lord of the Rings.
  • Kim Newman is uncomfortable seeing other writers use his characters, although he acknowledges that this is somewhat hypocritical.
  • Jim Butcher's official position on The Dresden Files fanfiction is that there isn't any. Because, as he explains, if he knew there was some, he'd have to, legally, have it taken down from wherever it was hosted, and he doesn't want to do that.
    • As of 2010, fanfiction for The Dresden Files is now allowed, so long as a disclaimer is included. The full post can be found here.
  • Fan fiction is prohibited from being posted on David Weber's official forum, to prevent copyright issues, but is otherwise unrestricted.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • During the run of Babylon 5 there was a fanfiction ban because Straczynski found himself early on faced with someone suggesting he write a storyline like Passing Through Gethsemane, which was a crucial plot point and he now had to prove it had been planned before he could write it.
  • Lee Goldberg is vehemently against fanfic and denounces any author who writes it. Would make more of a difference if people actually wanted to play in his sandbox. Some have called this hypocrisy. Why is it hypocrisy? Because the characters he mentioned were from a show he didn't create or even work for until the second season. He also writes tie-in novels for various series. Which are essentially officially sanctioned fanfics.
  • Any fan remake of a game show owned by Fremantle Media will be quickly C&D'd.

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Kevin Siembieda of Palladium Games is extremely hostile to people posting conversions of his games anywhere where he can find them, and is notorious for making legal threats against said individuals. His official reason is that he doesn't want to take any flak from other companies for someone using his material to infringe on their copyrights, but the general consensus of the fandom (backed up by several statements he's made "off the record") is that it's his Small Name, Big Ego at work and he doesn't want anyone playing in his settings without using his rules. As you might expect, the fans ignore him, buy his books for the setting material and swap out the mechanics.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Kingdom Hearts fans in Japan often keep their fanwork sites a sort of secret, hiding them under passwords and the like to avoid C&Ds from Disney even if there's no porn. This seems to have changed or at least been relaxed somewhat since the introduction of Pixiv. Though it appears that only original Kingdom Hearts characters such as Sora and the Orginazation XIII are okay - should a picture include say Donald or Goofy, they'll often be drawn with a Censor Box over their eyes as if that conceals their identity.
    • And Rule 34 of Kingdom Hearts in Japan, even with original characters is strongly discouraged. Not that it matters with the Yaoi fangirls. The western side however has much more Rule 34 of the girls in stock however.
    • Disney also occasionally cracks down on Kingdom Hearts fanworks-for-sale in the US. Making fanart is fine, profiting off it is not.
  • Square Enix hates Fan Remakes. Or rather, fan remakes that are due to release the same month as their own Updated Rerelease.
  • Nintendo deserve the mention after they issued a C&D letter against the makers of a Zelda-based Fan Film The Hero Of Time.
    • Nintendo was also pretty tough on any porn made of their characters in the late 90's and early 00's. During Pokémon's popularity peak in America, they sent constant cease and desist letters out to various hentai sites based on the franchise, and porn based on other characters were even harder to come across. After a misunderstanding with the site Suicide Girls, they've been a bit more lenient on how they approach the issue nowadays.
    • For the most part, Nintendo seems to not mind fan output, so long as it doesn't "diminish the dignity" of their IPs. In short: No making money off of porn of their intellectual properties and you're good.
  • Chris Hülsbeck has kindly asked not to have his video game tunes remixed, which is why there is a standing ban on derivative works at the Videogame Music Archive and only one remix on OverClocked Remix.
  • Tomonobu Itagaki sued a modding community years ago over their making nude mods of the female characters from the Dead or Alive series. He specifically cited the fact that the characters were like "his daughters" and that the mods were akin to violating them in real life. Most people on the Internet speculate that the lawsuit may have stemmed more from a personal problem with westerners (the modding community was American) than with maintaining copyright and the brand purity, since neither he nor Tecmo have batted an eye at the metric tonsloads of Hentai Doujinshi featuring those characters engaging in acts that would get them arrested in at least 30 countries.
    • And saying that the DoA characters are like his daughters gets a little awkward given the sheer amount of Fan Service in the series.
  • Epic Megagames put out a Cease & Desist against a fan who posted a picture of a custom Super Sculpey-made GearsOfWar action figure he made for his cousin on his Deviant ART gallery page because he put it in a (also custom made) blister box, which the lawyers said looked too realistic.
  • The MUSH Multiverse Crisis MUSH acknowledges this phenomenon in its banned characters list, not allowing characters from works subject to Fanwork Ban to be played. However, Captain Ersatz versions of banned characters are fine- in fact, there is an entire theme in the game that is a Captain Ersatz version of Kingdom Hearts.
  • If you dare to use the name Tetris® or even so much as create a game that involves falling tetriminos, prepare for a C&D letter from The Tetris Company. Unless of course you pay The Tetris Company licensing fees and royalties. Even if you're not violating any copyrights and only copy elements which the US Supreme Court has ruled cannot even be covered by copyright (Lotus v. Borland), you'll still get SLAPP'ed with legal threats for the sake of intimidation.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Something of the sort occurred with Boy Meets Boy and by association, Friendly Hostility. There was really only one fan site with fairly specific submission guidelines, and all the fic and art seemed to be done by the same handful of people. The site has since gone offline. Averted with the launch of Other Peoples Business—one of the first sections set up on the creator's forum was an OPB fanwork section, with a Friendly Hostility fanwork section following close behind—helping die-hard 'shippers soothe the pain that followed the launch of the new comic.
  • Fred Gallagher once stated that if anyone ever made Rule34 fanworks of Megatokyo, he would immediately quit making it. Of course, it turned out to be kind of an empty threat. Handing people who don't like you an easy way to make you quit probably isn't such a brilliant idea.
    • Gallagher actually acknowledged the threat was empty from the start. Directly after making this claim, he added "But then someone would probably draw it just to make me quit Megatokyo." This revealed the real reason for the statement: He got to make the "principled stand" of decrying pornographic fanworks, but absolved himself of ever having to actually stick to it since he could just claim that any art was made as an attack on him.
  • Tim Buckley, author Ctrl+Alt+Del issued a pretty derisive and considerably assholish C&D letter to an unsuspecting fan that dared to make a fan video about his comic. Later was discovered that Buckley was planning on making an animated series himself and sell it online at a considerably high price.
  • Bill Holbrook discourages fanart and fanfiction of Kevin and Kell, feeling that it weakens his copyright protection.
  • Mike Russell seems to heavily discourage any kind of fanfiction (but not fanart) of The World of Vicki Fox unless it strictly takes place in a similar setting as the original.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Ghost has implied such a ban on his radio show, owing to his displeasure of people compromising the integrity of his "serious" online political talk show by splicing his voice together to make remixes and make him say things he never said. Those who have made remixes that get discovered by Ghost (like most infamously, "Melting Pot of Alcohol", also now get put on his "Shit List"
    • However, despite this, he has in no way tried to force takedowns on YouTube.
  • Of a sort on Neopets. In the Nickelodeon Kids & Family Virtual Worlds Group games terms of service (which includes Neopets, Petpet Park, Nicktropolis, and Monkey Quest), all rights to making derivative works under Fair Use are given up. However, Neopets at the least still has original art, poetry, and storytelling contests, as well as the Neopian Times (which accepts fan comics and stories), all of which have rules that all submissions must follow in order to be accepted (such as No Hugging, No Kissing).

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Disney and porn. In fact, quite a few authors have problem with Rule 34 in general even if they don't mind the rest of the madness.
    • Harlan Ellison famously got in trouble over this.
    • At Anime North, you're expressly prevented from selling fan works based on Disney and only Disney in the Artist's Alley.
    • Likewise, videos critical of Disney can be pulled from Youtube for "Terms of Use Violation".
      • Videos featuring Doctor Rabbit typically resulted in legal trouble with Colgate. One user in particular, Walrus Guy, ended up butting heads with the company repeatedly due to refusing not to use the character in YouTube Poop.
  • Butch Hartman is okay with Fanfic so long as it's not Slash Fic and isn't too violent.