Fan fiction legality

Apologies if this has been discussed elsewhere, but what are the legalities (if any) of writing ‘Fan Fiction’; i.e., fictional stories with either living persons holding some celebrity status or of copyrighted characters? I have a story in me that involves the Master Chief, John 117, ultimate badass of the universe…oops, got carried away. If I write it, will Microshaft come for me? Or worse, the site?

Fan Fiction is all over the internet. Everywhere. Including smutty in the most extreme kind.

We can never tell what the future will hold, but as of now, Fan Fiction is allowed (and quite common) on our sites.

1 Like

(The following is grossly simplified, laws different from country to country)

The legality is creatives — unless they waive those rights — hold the rights to their own intellectual property by default.

“In a perfect world,” you would want written permission to use fictional characters, places or lores (that you did not create yourself) in your own creative work, or, evidence that the characters, places or lore is free to use by you/anyone (i.e., it’s creator declared it free to use, useable by you, or, is it legally considered public domain)

In the world we live in. Fan Fiction is everywhere and no one cares about what a bunch of nobodies on the internet is doing with the intellectual property they don’t own UNTIL there is enough money in what that nobody is doing to be worth suing for, i.e., suing, winning, and earning back more money then the time, effort and cost sunk into doing it.

In other words, Fan fiction is usually illegal and usually no one cares or does anything about it unless it’s a big case or the right’s abuser suddenly becomes a millionaire from his work.

As a rule of thumb, you’re never going to be prosecuted in a million years for bootlegging fiction, unless you’re worth suing; earning life-changing amounts of money from it; or, destroying the value of the material for it’s creator on a national or global level.
Fan fiction is usually illegal, but the odds of facing consequences for doing it is akin to being struck by lightning.


I’ve written plenty of fanfic – my NEW SUPERMEN series as an obvious example – and I completely agree with @thedirtyspiders – nobody cares as long as you’re not making money from it. Remember, suing involves money. There has to be damages before someone will waste the time (and money) to sue.

Write your story – enjoy yourself. Don’t worry.

1 Like

Thanks all, I sort of thought that the ‘deep pockets’ and gain/loss aspects of it were at play. Now for some fun.

Corporations don’t have the time or energy to chase away all the fan fics, and frankly they know they benefit from them. As long as you don’t claim to be associated with them or speaking for them no one will come for you. And even if they did it’d just be a letter saying ‘take this down.’

Same reason why there’s a guy in Time Square in a fake Mickey Mouse costume all the time. Could Disney sue that guy? Yeah. Is he damaging their business enough to make it worth the lawsuit? No.

Yeah, some good points made here already.

It kind of depends on the individual creator as well. Stephenie Meyer famously supported fanfiction of Twilight in the 2000s and has allowed people (most famously E.L. James) to convert erotic Twilight fic into published work and make crazy money on it. Anne Rice and George Lucas, on the other hand, have been famously litigious in the past.

Video game companies in general have tended not to care about fanwork. Nintendo used to make some moves against Let’s Players but have given that up. In fact, the longest work in the English language until recently was a Smash Bros. fanfiction. Large IP holders today generally understand that fanwork promotes their IP and drives people to spend more money with them, not less.

In terms of ACTUAL LEGALITY, there is a grey area. Most western countries have a fair use clause in copyright (Japan is a notable exception). This means that some kinds of derivative work, including satire and academic research, are legal regardless of the copyright holder’s will. Fanfiction (the written word) tends to use too much of the source material to be considered fair use, although that has never been fully tested in court. Every case has been settled. Fanart is generally thought to be covered under fair use, although that has again never been tested. This is why you will see fanartists selling prints of fanart at conventions, but very rarely will anyone sell fanfic for profit.

Creators who interact with fandom will, for legal reasons, refuse to look at fanwork. This is because there have been controversies when creators have seemed to use fanfic as inspiration for their own work (ironically, the most famous instance of this involved Anne Rice, of anti-fanwork fame). This is…probably not a problem for a Halo fic on this platform.

In terms of this site, there are a few writers who write Marvel, Disney, and Pokemon fanfic (not to mention the many erotica writers over on Archive of Our Own). It won’t be a problem. You just, uh, gave me an excuse to write about my thesis topic :rofl: