Fanfic, MUDs, MUSHes, and Your Ideas

It is extremely flattering when readers create fanfic and games based on characters from a book for their personal entertainment. However, most readers are not aware of some important details governing this kind of activity.

Intellectual Property--books, stories, scripts, etc.--are copyrighted in the name of the various Creators, or authors. Thus these materials are protected by copyright laws. Copyright infringement--the unlicensed use of copyrighted characters, worlds, languages, etc.--is punishable by a prison term and a $50,000.00 fine.

Readers constantly write me for permission to use characters, worlds, languages, and other details from my stories and books in their personal entertainments, such as fan fiction, role-playing games, and online MUDs and MUSHes. In each case I must refuse permission for this activity.

Why? What is the harm in someone writing fanfic, or playing games involving my characters and worlds for personal pleasure?

If I grant permission, I risk endangering my copyright. If I lose copyright protection, anyone could come along and appropriate my creations for his or her own commercial use and profit. For example, someone could make a movie out of one of my books AND I WOULD RECEIVE NO PAYMENT OR CREDIT.

I would then lose control of my own creations. I would then lose my means of making a living. I truly enjoy my "job"--but it is a job, the way I put food on my table and pay my mortgage. This is what I do for a living. If I surrender control of my Intellectual Property, I may lose my job.

Therefore to protect their creations and their livelihoods, authors must be "selfish" with regard to denying permission to use characters, worlds, languages, etc., in activities such as fanfic, RPGs, MUDs, MUSHes, and other personal entertainments, even though the fans mean no harm whatsoever.

I am truly flattered that you like my worlds. I am pleased you thought to write me to ask permission; that is the proper thing to do, and I applaud you for it. But under no circumstances, for the reasons cited above, am I able to grant permission for you to play in my worlds or with my characters and concepts.

Should you wish to license my creations for use (IOW, purchase the right to use them on a limited basis), you will need to contact my literary agent. E-mail me and I will supply contact information.

To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, "it's not easy being mean." But in order to protect my copyright, which in turn protects my work and keeps the rare unscrupulous person from trying to profit off decades of my hard work, I must deny everyone permission to use my creations unless they wish to license that use.

My sincere apologies--hey, I wrote fanfic in high school and college!--and I hope you understand.



Readers should be aware that published authors should not, and in many cases may not, read unpublished manuscripts, outlines, proposals, or even read rough ideas for any potential world, characters, series, or stand-alone book. In the past there have been ugly incidents involving accusations of "stolen" ideas, materials, etc., with lawsuits filed, plus authors and screenwriters who have had to cancel books and scripts to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. To avoid any potential legal entanglements, it's simply easier--and urged by many literary agents, including mine--if published authors refuse to read or listen to ideas or other suggestions. Thus, I must ask you not to send e-mail or snail mail containing ideas for your own potential books, ideas you want me to write for you, or suggestions for plots for my own books. I am flattered by your interest, but I cannot involve myself in any situation that might lead to legal problems.

Thanks for your understanding. --Jennifer Roberson