Can i copyright a fanfiction


Fan fiction is a creative channel where fanatics exploit to express their reverence and love for various elements of popular culture, from books to movies, television series, and video games. The question that frequently arises with fan fiction is whether one can copyright their fanfiction. This article delves into distinct elements that surround the idea of copyrighting fan fiction.

Basic Understanding of Copyright

Before we steer deep into the subject, we must first understand the basic concept of copyright. Copyright is the legal right bestowed to the original creator of a piece of work, granting them the exclusive prerogative to reproduce, distribute, and display their work. However, copyright laws differ from one jurisdiction to the other, though internationally standardized to some extent.

Can i copyright a fanfiction

Fan Fiction and Copyright Laws

Fan fiction inherently presents grey areas when it comes to copyright laws. While it's argued that fan fiction is a creative and transformative endeavor, it still fundamentally draws from preexisting copyrighted work. Consequently, fanfiction runs into the limelight of copyright infringement.

However, not all fanfiction infringes on copyrighted material. While true that fanfiction derives from existing work, they often weave original narratives, thus muddling the waters of infringement laws. Infringement occurs when fanworks duplicate too much of the original work without adding much originality to qualify it as a new creation.

The Fair Use Doctrine

Situated within the copyright law is the "fair use" doctrine, which allows limited use of copyrighted work without permission from the copyright holder, mostly for purposes like criticism, commentary, news reporting, and research. It's the fair use doctrine that gives fan fiction some leeway. The question is whether fan fiction qualifies as transformative work that significantly adds new expressions, meaning, or messages to the original work. Thus, application of the fair use provisions heavily depends on the context of each individual fanwork.

An example of this in practice can be found in platforms like Wattpad or which house a myriad of fanfics. Herein, the authors use the original work as inspiration but add sufficient transformative elements that could potentially give them a pass under the fair use doctrine.

Potential Legal Consequences

Engaging in copyrighted work without permission exposes one to potential legal consequences. Not all creators have the same level of tolerance with fan fiction. Some view it as a violation of their rights, and hence may seek legal redress. Companies like Nintendo are well known for their strict policies towards fan works.

Others are more lenient and see fan fiction as a form of appreciation of their work that even helps maintain or expand their fan base. Notably, author J.K. Rowling, famous for the Harry Potter series, has offered her support to the fan fiction community, granting an indirect form of permission for such works to exist. The point remains, infringing on copyrighted material carries legal risks.

So, Can You Copyright Fan Fiction?

So to the titular question - can one copyright fan fiction? The answer leans towards a 'No'. This is because fan fiction, by its genesis, incorporates extensive elements of work already protected by copyright laws. Therefore, in most jurisdictions, you cannot copyright fan fiction as it's seen as derived work, unless justified as fair use and does not infringe the original work.

However, if your fan fiction qualifies as a transformative work, then it may potentially be protected under copyright laws. The rules are convoluted, and interpretation differs from court to court, hence the hesitance of many fan writers to seek copyright protection. Nonetheless, it's imperative to be well-informed about the potential legal implications of engaging in fan fiction.

Common Q&A

Q: Can I sell my fanfiction?
A: Selling fanfiction could put you at a higher risk of a lawsuit, as you're directly profiting from someone else's copyrighted work. However, there are some instances where creators have approved the sale of derivative work.

Q: Can incurring profit from my fanfiction get me sued?
A: It depends on the original creator's stance. Some creators or copyright holders may be more aggressive in protecting their rights. Prophetically making money out of a copyrighted work heightens the risk of legal actions.

Q: If I completely rewrite a book in my own words, is it still copyright infringement?
A: Most likely, yes. Merely rewriting a story using your own words still implies the ideas are not originally yours and may still be seen as infringement.


In summation, fan fiction sits in a murky area when it comes to copyright laws. As a writer, it's critical to comprehend the implications and maneuvers around these laws. While the spirit of fan fiction promotes creative exploration of beloved works, one ought to tread the path with caution to age from the risk of copyright infringement


1. "Fanfiction, Plagiarism, and Copyright". Ink, Bits, & Pixels. 2014. Web.

2. "Focusing the Fan: A Fuzzy Copyright Doctrine Approach to Noncommercial Derivative Total-Rewrite Fan Fiction". Law and Literature. 2016. Web.

3. S. Fisher Wendy. "The Law of Fan Fiction and Copyright in the United States �Some Exploratory Notes." Transformative Works and Cultures, no.27, 2018.

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