Whose Characters Are They Anyway?

I know the title of this entry might seem awfully silly and obvious, but the characters in the Twilight Saga belong to Stephenie Meyer and to some extent, in regards to the movies, to Summit Entertainment.

So why are we bringing this up? Every now and then we get a teenager emails us wanting to know if we’d feature their Stephenie Meyer product that they are producing and they want to be paid for. They figure if Hot Topic has stuff why can’t they sell theirs. Once in a blue moon we get a teen who wants to publish their Twilight story. The short answer here is that you can’t do those things for profit because the characters belong to Stephenie Meyer and unless you have some type of specific licensing agreement or contract with her and Little Brown ( like Hot Topic, Summit, Borders, NCEA, Cafepress, etc. ) you can’t do this. She holds the intellectual property rights over her characters (copyright, trademark depending on what we are talking about) until such time as they go into the public domain. We then let the teen in a nice way know that despite their gusto, what they want to do is illegal.

So when do things hit public domain? According to US law (and other nations have highly similar laws) works created after January 1, 1978, are automatically protected from the moment of their creation and are given a term lasting for the author’s life, plus an additional 70 years after the author’s death. So folks, the earliest that anyone can profit from Stephenie Meyer’s work without her say so (assuming she met a sudden untimely end today) would be 2079. Suffice it to say, many of us will be long dead.

Let’s put this into simple terms: The loose ideas of vampires feasting on animal blood instead of human, vampires needing to stay out of the sun, the Quileute Tribe in La Push, shape shifting werewolves, etc. are not copyrightable until you lump enough together and make them uniquely yours. In other words a werewolf of the Quileute tribe whose name is Jacob Black and whose mortal enemy is a vampire named Edward Cullen who drinks animal blood, sparkles in the sun, and resides in Forks…(deep breath)…IS COPYRIGHT STEPHENIE MEYER. Think of it like TV series that try to imitate each other where they have similar types, but in the end, each series’ characters uniquely belong to that series and their creators.

The only thing you can legally do with these characters is something highly transformational like parody, such as what Saturday Night Live does in its spoofs, or a critique piece, and even then, you have to be careful on how much source material you quote. Writing a summary of facts (see the story of the Harry Potter Lexicon debacle) or writing a continuation is derivative and therefore illegal without permission.

As far as fanfiction goes. It absolutely infringes on copyright, but most authors are willing to look the other way on it as long as you are not trying to directly profit from it yourself. In other words you can’t self-publish your fanfic and sell it on Amazon or Ebay, at least not legally.  Other authors, do not just look the other way, two such examples of vampire writers are Anne Rice and J.R. Ward.

Is fanfic helpful? Maybe, there are current authors who used to write fanfic, Meg Cabot and Cassandra Clare are two examples. However, merits of their work aside, these authors never tried to publish things that weren’t theirs for profit. They knew better. If publishing fanfic were legal you can bet that Cassandra Clare would have published both her Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fanfiction for huge profit, given the number of her followers, years ago.

Why are we bringing all this up now? Well this past month a 36-year-old fan fic writer who has her own publishing company (AV Paranormal) and given that fact, should know better, tried to publish her post-Breaking Dawn fanfic entitled “Russet Noon” on Ebay. She sent multiple press releases out on the matter; each one was more delusional than the next all containing gross misrepresentations of copyright law.  Frankly we keep baffling at these conservations that she supposedly had with her publisher that she keeps mentioning in her press releases since she is her publisher. Does she do it via an out of body experience?

At one point she linked her site to the Lexicon as if to suggest that we approved of this fiasco. (You can see how we dealt with her in the comments section here.). You can see how other industry professionals categorized her folly:

Lee Goldberg, Hollywood screen writer and blogger

How Publishing Really Works, industry blog and resource site

Well, we thought, that the author of this had finally seen the light when she self-deleted her website, and removed her novel from Ebay. Honestly we weren’t going to give her any press other than to point out her lunacy to Jaden for his commentary until today when she issued yet another press release.

It seems that she still hasn’t figured out what she did was illegal and has a great woe is me interview going on over here. Before someone else gets suckered by this adult, college-educated woman’s, “The big bad powers that be are ganging up on poor little me” and “now I’ll just have to publish it online for free” routine (AKA: what every other fanfic writer gets to do minus the whine and delusion), we decided to speak up.

So, in the interest of having the other fanfic writers out there (currently 74,107 on fanfiction.net alone), if you have a recommendation for a fanfic that isn’t bombarding the Twilight sites with press releases, put it in the comments.

Comments

  1. soozabooza54 says:

    I posted this under Jaden’s first video, but thought I’d repost here (with some short edits), as it’s come up again…

    I thought I would put in my two cents on this “Russet Noon” shenanigans…
    Although I am not an expert on copyright issues (by far!), I’m a law student, and I can say this – LadySybilla won’t win this case should it go to court. First because no judge would go for it. Second because no jury would go for it. And third, this is about as clear cut a case of copyright infringement as I’ve seen.
    The copyright act that the US has (and this is a total over-simplication of it, but the gist is here, and I think this is how it works…) allows the original author of material to keep the privileges of copyright over their work for their lifetimes, plus 70 years after that. One of the privileges of these “bundle of rights” that having a copyright in something gives you is the right to deny someone else permission to make derivative works (etc. sequels, prequels, anything else based on your characters and plots).
    So pretty much, Steph owns the rights to the Twilight stories and characters until 70 years after her death. This is why “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” isn’t copyright infringement; it was published way more than 70 years after Shakespeare’s death (contrast with 2001’s “The Wind Done Gone,” a “retelling” of Margaraet Mitchell’s 1937 novel “Gone With The Wind.” Mitchell died in 1949, which means copyright extends to Mitchell’s estate until 2019. Mitchell’s estate brought suit, but the suit ended up settling out of court).
    Clearly, whoever Lady S’s lawyers were are just taking this case to get paid – it’s a stinker from the beginning.
    So… I hope this helps.

  2. arandomchic says:

    Two words: Cease & Desist.

    I’d expect she’ll receive one shortly from Stephenie Meyer’s and her Publishers’ lawyers.

  3. heatherh says:

    personally, i would NEVER want to read ANY Twilight related material that wasn’t written by Stephenie Meyer herself. that’s just me… not to knock anyone who likes fan-fiction.

    but wow, this lady is delusional.

  4. RockPaperScissors says:

    Um…cave dwelling aliens?

    Copy Stephenie much?

  5. Wow. Such a pathetic, delusional lady.

  6. Twifanatic Amanda says:

    Who is Twilight_News? An admin? :D

    btw this lady is crazy and I want to punch her. fanfiction is just as it say. FAN fiction. It’s self explanitory. Fans writing their own interpretation of a story in an author’s universe. I must admit I wrote some Dragonball Z fanfiction in the day lol.

  7. OMG….I think this pisses me off more than anything else I could have heard to day. I’m in college majoring in Creative Writing so that one day I could maybe become an author. It makes me so mad that even now this still happens. I just can’t understand how stupid someone could be by trying to get a FANFICTION published. I feel that she should know better than this, especially since she’s already in the publishing industy. I feel she needs to go back to school and maybe actually pay attention in her classes. We talk about copy write infringement all the time in my 400 level fiction class. We even talked about fanfictions. To which professor said that they were okay to post online or have your friends read, but that you should never try and get them published (even if it’s about a work that doesn’t fall under the copyright law). I personally feel that fafictions alright, though sometimes the grammar/punctuation is absolutely atrocious at times. I also think that it’s a good way to clear up writer’s block, which is something I suffer greatly from. But I don’t think anyone should ever try to get their’s published, I don’t care how good and well written you think it is.

  8. little_one says:

    I hope that after this debacle, Stephenie is still going to allow Twilight fanfiction. I really enjoy reading it and writing it (for my own personal pleasure, of course) and I would hate that one person would have spoilt it for everyone else.

  9. I read the FoForks interview, and she stated that she will NOT be publishing the book, but rather posting it online for free some time in September. Well that’s good news.

  10. Ok, this might be a silly question, but didn’t the Lexicon put up a fanfic competition by Novelnovice recently? I did submit a piece for the competition using Edward as one of the characters, but to my knowledge understood this competition was not for any profit, otherwise I would not have submitted anything. I’m an actor/singer and know fairly well about copyright infringement when it comes to the entertainment industry. So, are fans not allowed to do these kind of fanfic competitions?

    • Not running the contest ourselves I can’t really render a specific opinion. But if you are given money (or the equivalent) say a Visa gift card that would be a problem.

      • Hmmm…well to my recollection the competition is based on Midnight Sun, and we are supposed to have created a “missing” scene from the story that was not included in the original series, but is still true to the canon of the story. I did not see any information posted by the Lexicon or Novelnovice stating we were not allowed to use existing characters which is why I have Edward interacting with a character I created in the scene I wrote giving credit to Stephenie Meyers as the author of the series and all other parts of the Twilight Saga. I hope nothing negative comes of it because it is not my intent to make that kind of trouble. I am already working on my first fantasy/fiction novel and submitted my New Moon piece to the competition to see how my writing style would be received. At any rate thanks for the info.

    • Adding that generally “winners” of fanfic contests get nifty banners, or something along those lines as their “prize”.

      In as much as the “prize” doesn’t have an serious monetary value authors who look the other way on fanfic tend to look the other way on that stuff too. Now if suddenly you were winning $500 I think people would be a lot more upset.

      From personal experience I once won a plaster of Paris werewolf statuette at a I Love Jacob Black party for third place in a Jacob fic contest. I’m sure it cost a whopping $5.00 to make if that. I’m fairly certain that Stephenie Meyer isn’t going to sue me or the creator of the statuette. Had they handed me an all expense weekend in Vegas, I’m thinking it would have been an issue.

  11. wonkeygirl says:

    Wow, what a strange lady. She’s certiinly full of herself. I’m glad to see she’s backing down and just releasign it now as a piece of fanfiction, though I don’t htink I’ll be reading it.

    THe post asked for fanfiction recs….

    Here’s one

    http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4804211/1/North_Star

  12. ChelseaLee says:

    (*Insert foot stamp, pouty lip, and flounce here*)

    Love you ladies….dearly…..

    PS. Thank you for being a beacon of wisdom and logic!

  13. ketzchexmex says:

    wow….that’s terrible. Use your ideas, and your ideas only. is it really that hard to get?

    ummm this is my fanfiction that’s still a work in process- i have one chapetr, i’m about to post the next one:
    http://www.fanfiction.net/secure/story/story_preview.php?storyid=4928534&chapter=1

    my friend’s fanfic that i love too:
    http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4969734/1/

  14. Sterling Snow says:

    What bugs me the most is that she thinks she can just go in and change things because she doesn’t like them. Even if you are the hugest fan in the world, you’re not going to know the characters as well as SM does.

    By the way, I do enjoy fanfic, but I’m pretty picky about what I will and won’t read.

  15. little_one says:

    Speaking of fanfiction, is Pel’s ramblings and thoughts site accepting submissions anytime soon? :)

  16. Kat Pedroso says:

    This just makes me sad, to think this woman is a grown adult and doesn’t have the sense to know she can’t profit from an idea someone else came up with and worked to create.

    I personally like fan fiction, reading and writing it. But all of my stories have a great big disclaimer across the top saying all characters belong to Stephenie Meyer on every page. Crazy lady…

  17. Oh wow. This person’s nuts! I love to write fanfic, but I’d never try to publish it! God!

  18. Legal questions aside, the purpose of a press release is to communicate with the media. It’s a vehicle to announce something reporters do not already know about — for example, a new or updated product, an event, earnings or financial information, etc… As someone who has spent the last decade working in PR, I can assert with absolute certainty that a press release is not an appropriate vehicle for a Q&A. Using a free wire service like PRLog in an effort to legitimize your “news” not only demonstrates that Lady Sybilla knows absolutely nothing at all about PR, is also shows a surprising level of cunning and deception. There are guidelines one must follow when writing and issuing a press release. Since the Russet Noon parody of a press release follows none of these, only a very inexperienced journalist or blogger would lend it any credibility whatsoever. Thankfully, the Twilight Lexicon folks have seen through this ruse and exposed Lady Sybilla for exactly what she is: a parasite who is shamelessly self-promoting, casting away every acceptable standard and norm, in an effort to benefit monetarily or otherwise from the creations of Stephenie Meyer. Lady Sybilla is the publishing industry’s Octo-Mom.

  19. How could she do this? Didn’t she feel guilty for stealing someone else’s idea? Not to mention it was STEPHENIE MEYER’S fictional characters she stole.And she tried to make profit with it.That’s just incredible.

  20. Twifanatic Amanda says:

    Omg. sci-fi adventure with cave dwelling aliens and she claims she hasn’t read The Host? What is WRONG with her?

  21. unintended. says:

    I know know abosolutly NOTHING about copyright(I thought the copyright was only good for 50 years after the book had been published), and I know that breaks about,say, every copyright law in the book?
    People like this drive me insane.
    Talk about giving the fanbase a bad name…

    I swear, we’re not all that crazy.

    • The 50 years thing is Trademark, something often confused with copyright. For example: Coca-cola is trademarked, and that trademark must be renewed every 50 years (and yes, the application for renewal can be rejected, which would cause a corporation to lose the exclusive rights to that name); the corporation that owns Coca-cola recently (within the last 10 years I think) renewed their trademark to that brand-name.

      Copyright exists to encourage creative people to continue to create by offering exclusive rights to what they create; meaning they are are the only one’s legally allowed to make money off of his/her creation, and the only one that can give permission for someone else to make money off of that creation. Without copyright, there would be no sequels, trilogies, and certainly no multi-volume series such as Harry Potter or Honor Harrington; in other words, something like Twilight would have been just a single novel, as would most other series.

    • Copyright’s usually a hundred years…
      Usually, but it depends.

  22. Visitor says:

    I think it goes without saying that this Sybilla lady is quite out of her realm when it comes to the law of copyright. But I’m not sure if she’s actually delusional or just a person suffering from an overwhelming sense of entitlement when it comes to SM’s story. Which, in my opinion, is no different than any other overzealous fan’s state of mind when it comes to these characters that a majority feel as though they “know” better than anyone else . . . author included.

    As mentioned, SM is one of many authors who actually allow a certain amount of fan expression and expounding when it comes to HER original work. Such expression usually shows up in the form of fan fiction. And while artistic freedom is fabulous for the burgeoning writers out there, I think it may ultimately prove problematic for the original author. If a fan is allowed to spend an inordinate amount of time in the “minds” of SM’s characters, then those characters begin to feel like they belong to the fan and not just SM. Which then leads to fans like Sybilla who get the misguided impression that Edward, Bella and all the rest are shared characters. So much so that a fan’s idea of what is best for Edward and Bella begins to mingle and sometimes override SM’s own vision for her story.

    Who knows, maybe that accounts for some of the negative reaction to Breaking Dawn. Fans who believed they knew SM’s characters better than she did couldn’t quite believe that a vampire could make a baby or that said baby could then wind up being Jacob’s true mate. Since there were so many different Twilight realities floating around in the fan fiction universe, it’s somewhat understandable if the final reality (SM’s Breaking Dawn) seemed less than accurate to some. You guys here at the Lex have given a good account of what it means for something to fall within the ‘public domain’, but judging from Sybilla comments, these characters have ‘felt’ a part of the public domain for some time now.

    I’m not suggesting that fan fiction is bad. I’m just saying that if nothing else, I think this Russet Noon fiasco has just proven that it can also be a double edged sword.

    • Larissa says:

      Wow, I really like what you said. And I do believe that is why people had so many problems with Breaking Dawn. In reading responses from people who didn’t like it they say ‘this character wouldn’t’ or ‘Stephenie Meyer changed all the characters’.

      I write fanfiction, but I know they’re not mine. I try my best to keep them in character from what I have read or seen and that’s about it.

  23. SparklesorSpaceheater says:

    Wow…she’s an idiot…no offense to her, but seriously? Anyone who’s in to writing books, even fanfics, should know that you can’t do that…I write loads of Twilight fanfics on fanfiction.net (my username is Dot823) but a rule is to have a disclaimer in each one! at least once per story! I’m a 14 year old who has loads of ideas and wishes she could get published, but I know better than to publish fanfics!!

    Oh, and to the visitor above, it’s nothing like that, fanfic authors don’t go out and say ‘oh! I own half of Edward!’ we put disclaimers(aka, I don’t own ____) in each of our stories at least once. It’s a rule on fanfiction. But people not liking BD isn’t for that, or not all the way. Maybe it’s because they had heard the rumors that that was going to happen and were hoping it wasn’t? There are plenty reasons why people could hate BD.

    I’d say this girl is just a know-it-all.

    • Oh I agree, but if you read this lady’s past comments she seems to speak as if she has a right to SM’s character’s. Like she’s entitled to write about them and “fix” what she believes SM ruined. I know not all fan fic writers are that way. I don’t read much of it but the ones I have read were very well drafted and very quick to give credit where credit was due. I’m just suggesting that Sybilla’s attitude may be a result of what happens when a fan fic writer feels their version of events is better or more true than the original. Looking at it that way, it made me wonder if that kind of thinking had an effect on how some people viewed BD.

      Sorry if I insulted you or any other fan fic writer who actually plays by the rules :) But I do think this debacle may have an effect on SM and Little Brown’s take on fan fic writing in the future.

      • OMG I totally agree! She talks about the characters like they are just there for the taking and anyone can do whatever they please with them. Stephenie created these people!

        Every part of the book she talked about in the interview sounded really bad and I am not just saying that because of her bad morals.

        She said something about people hating her but they will still love the book….no one is going to read Russet Noon!

        And I feel bad for all of the fan fiction writers who follow the rules and are smart enough to know they can’t publish their writing because this lady is giving a bad impression!

  24. thats SOOOOOO stupid, how could you NOT know about copyright laws? they’re everywhere!
    im not really a huge fanfic fan myself, the only one i ever read was the one written by…alphie, i think it was? i cant really remember…it was like 3/4s of twilight from edward’s perspective…it was AMAZING!!!!!!!!! seriously, my friend sent me the link for it and and it totally made my day when i read it

  25. Stephanie says:

    OK, what was she thinking!!?? Fanfiction is great, amazing, awesome, but trying to publish it kind of goes against the entire idea. I mean, isn’t it just sort of for fun, and trying to satisfy our twilight addiction? I’ve written and read plenty of fanfiction, but never wanted to make money off of it! It’s still SM’s ideas and characters, even if fanfic authors sometimes twist them to fit their own plot, that doesn’t make the characters suddenly belong to them.

  26. Classic attention whore.

    From http://foforks.com.br/2009/04/foforks-entrevista-autora-de-russet-noon/:

    F: You are not so naive and of course knew that releasing Russet would be hard, right?
    A: I intended it to be a controversy all along, that’s why I wrote press releases for it.

  27. Amber Pederson says:

    You know, I actually did NOT know that fanfiction was an abuse of copyright laws. Wow… I feel REALLY dirty now… But the thing is, I do it because I ADMIRE the work the authors of put into their stories. I do it as an exercise for my OWN writing. If I’m feeling particularly drained with my own story, I’ll go RP or I’ll write fanfiction (is roleplay against copyright laws, too?). I would NEVER try to make money off of it. That’s just disgusting and shows a severe lack of respect. I wouldn’t want anyone making money off of MY stuff. Write fanfics? Sure! Go RIGHT ahead. I think it’s a GREAT creative writing exercise. Publish and make money from it? Um, no. Those are MY babies.

    This persona is delusional. Seriously… Yes, it IS illegal. Ugh. Gets me just as mad as the whole Harry Potter Lexicon thing.

  28. Kat Pedroso says:

    This is an email she sent to a webmaster that was calling her out on what she did. It includes her admitting she shouldn’t have created a story off of someone else’s character, but that now she ‘can’t sell her story for a penny’, lost all of her ‘affiliates’, and ended up losing money from the ebay disaster.

    Ridiculous…

    http://i41.tinypic.com/33wwppk.png

  29. *looool* You really don’t know how I am laughing right now. “Stephenie has already made up her mind”?xD
    Really, this woman really isn’t aware of anything…
    But to write that Alice gets sick! So she doesn’t even know that vampires can’t get sick. And she talks like the characters are entirely hers…
    To think that she could make money with this book, what is she thinking?

    I have nothing against fanfictions, they are great if you want to see another side of a character or just enjoy a new story, but never try to sell a fanfiction. You won’t be a fan anymore if you do that.

  30. I was so insulted by the suggestion “I have more training and education than the average fanfic writer”…you’re a 36 year old in college.

    You think we don’t know how to study english in college too? It’s not like most fanfiction writers these days are 13-year-old girls. A LOT of us are in undergrad, graduate, or even in post graduate occupations. And a lot of us did it a while ago…there’s nothing wrong with going to college at 36…but don’t pretend you’re superior to the rest of us.

    I would LOVE to see what college this WOMAN attends where she doesn’t learn about copyright law…

  31. Deathlok says:

    This whole thing is hilarious. This site and this (http://whyisthispopular.com/2009/04/16/russet-noon-continued/) are GREAT!

  32. Like someone else said, I hope this whole fiasco doesn’t cause Stephenie Meyer to rethink her stance on fanfiction. I really only feel comfortable reading and writing fanfiction because Stephenie is okay with it. (Although I’m not sure she’d personally approve of mine with Victoria’s swearing and sex, hehe.)

    Well, I’ll be looking forward to seeing Russet Noon on fanfiction.net so I can either love or giggle at it. I’m really curious now.

  33. Just dropping by to say hello and ask if you guys can confirm whether or not this is true about Russet Noon:

    http://www.sodahead.com/entertainment/is-breaking-dawn-really-the-end-of-the-twilight-saga/question-914309/

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