The legal and social controversy of fan fiction on the internet


It is no secret that fandoms have a powerful hold on many literary works and their fans. Whether it’s based on “Harry Potter,” “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games,” or any other series, fan fiction can become a staple of those stories. In the last decade, the volume of fan fiction has grown immensely, leading to questions regarding whether fan fiction affects the marketing of the original work, and what, if any, restrictions are placed.

Websites such as “Wattpad” are big sources of accessible fan fiction, and their popularity has created concerns regarding copyright and Internet Protocol. As fan fiction becomes more mainstream, it may not maintain its protection under the ‘fair use.’ 

The use of an author’s work must be classed as ‘fair,’ which, according to the United States Copyright Acts test, includes the purpose and character of use, the nature of the copyrighted work, whether a substantial portion of the copyrighted work was used, and the effect upon the potential market or value of the copyrighted work. The broad and rather open-ended range of these included elements, however, allows for a larger debate and more controversy.

In large part, fan fiction is understood to be a non-commercialized resource with free access. However, some platforms such as “” have introduced advertisements on their website, allowing them to profit off of the enthusiastic fan base of the original work without compensating the creators of the material. The site, however, continues to remain popular. Some fan fictions gain so much popularity on these platforms that their authors publish them as original works. 

One example of this includes “50 Shades of Grey,” initially written as a fanfic by E.L James for the series “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer. That fanfic was then turned into a full-length standalone novel by the name of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” “The Mortal Instruments” is yet another example of a fan fiction turned into a separate literary work, originally based on “Harry Potter,” and then converted into an official series. 

While different authors are sure to respond differently, in Meyer’s case, she fully supported the work of James, according to MTV. Meyers finds that, while her work potentially helped shape James’s story, it did not create it. Although some series may originate as fan fiction based on other works, the authors’ final products tend to steer towards more original, personalized works, legalizing the publication.

The impact of these emerging fan fictions on the marketing of the original works varies.  In many cases, the fan fiction of the work does not diminish the profit of the original, instead adding to it due to the increase in attention. As the popularity and use of fan fiction expands, however, this may change and reshape the market of the work.

The world of fan fiction is still shifting, seeing as its popularity has exploded so greatly over the last decade. ​​While existing fair use protections offer some safeguards, the ever-increasing volume of fan-created content may potentially warrant reconsideration of these protections.