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Authors and fanfiction writers protest the illegal selling of copyrighted work

One rule that fanfiction writers obey without fault is to not profit from their writing, but some vendors on popular websites like Etsy are under fire for illegally selling printed and bound books. Fanfiction can be legally written and shared by writers who adore specific books, TV shows, films, video games, and other pieces of copyrighted material if the writer makes no financial gain. Popular fanfiction websites like AO3 have strict rules against writers accepting payment for their stories, but it seems a few bad actors have caused strife in the community.

User @bogboogie brought this issue to light in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that read “The illegal binding of fanfiction to be sold on storefronts without even the fanfic writer’s permission is causing such a deep loss of free content created by communities. Writers are actively deleting works that have lasted 15+ years as staples in communities. It’s so sad.” While authors usually have no qualms with fanfiction, this caught the attention of author Diane Duane, who has written science fiction, fantasy, TV, and film for over four decades. She only replied with “… WTF,” and a disappointed emoji.

Dr. Betsy Rosenblatt, professor of law at Case Western Reserve University, told Syfy that “non-commercial, transformative fanfiction does not infringe intellectual property laws.” It is important to note that no U.S. court has ever declared that a noncommercial, transformative fanwork infringed copyright. However, the commercial selling of fanfiction is a gray area in the legislature and is widely considered to be illegal.

Without the knowledge of original authors or fanfiction writers, many accounts on Etsy are illegally printing out whole works of fanfiction, binding them in book covers, and selling them on their online storefronts. This is a clear violation of copyright and only hurts published authors and writers who are simply sharing their fanfiction. There is an entire category on Etsy titled Fanfiction Book Binding that has over 1,000 listings. While custom bookbinding is artisanal and provides artists the ability to express their creativity, selling fanfiction is completely illegal.

This has led to many fanfiction writers taking down their stories in fear of legal repercussions. These writers were not maliciously selling their fanfiction and had no clue that Etsy sellers were printing their fanfiction and selling it. Fanfiction is strictly for fun, a creative outlet for writers to engage with their favorite forms of media, and now it is in danger.


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