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Who Has the Right to Post Captain N Fan Fiction?


This commentary was written on Wednesday, January 8, 2003, from 9:30 PM to 10:11 PM.


A topic of heated debate, back when I was writing my fanfic continuation of the Captain N cartoon series, was who has the right to post Captain N fan fiction on his or her website. See, some of the fans that had written episodes for my continuation became upset at the sexual situations that I had written into some of the Season 7 episodes. These former writers demanded that I remove their fanfics from my website, since they didn't want to be "associated" with my "smut". Doing so would have left gaps in my continuation, since I had made references in my later episodes to events in previous episodes by other writers.

Webster Sterling Swenson even went so far to say that it wasn't my continuation anymore, since I had opened it to other writers. He said that my website "became canon" in a way. He went on about how the fanfic continuation was considered "pseudo-canon" by some fans and other crap like that. Fanfics are not canon! There is a term called "fanon", which means that some fan-made information is mistakenly considered canon by fans that don't know any better, but this doesn't apply here. These are fans that consider my fanfics to be canon. I say that they're not. I doubt that this will convince Webster, though, since I had sent him an early draft of my Season 4 episode, "John 20:25", which I later revised, and he said of the early draft, "I consider it canon, even if you do not." I did already mention that Webster has some serious problems, didn't I?

I argued that I have the right to post Captain N fanfics on my site indefinitely, regardless of what the writers later tell me, because they had already given me permission to post it. Webster argued that the permission didn't stand for all time. However, I argued that the fanfics wouldn't have been written if it wasn't for me. Someone accused me of claiming that I created the fandom. I argued that I had changed the setting (from the Palace of Power to a house in Megaland), added a new method of transportation (the warp zone openers), got rid of the main villain (Mother Brain), and added some new heroes. The debate continued.

I'm writing this essay tonight to tell you that we were all wrong.

A few days ago, I found a link to "10 Big Myths about copyright explained". Here is an excerpt:

"6) 'If I make up my own stories, but base them on another work, my new work belongs to me.'
False. U.S. Copyright law is quite explicit that the making of what are called 'derivative works' -- works based or derived from another copyrighted work -- is the exclusive province of the owner of the original work. This is true even though the making of these new works is a highly creative process. If you write a story using settings or characters from somebody else's work, you need that author's permission.

Yes, that means almost all 'fan fiction' is arguably a copyright violation. If you want to write a story about Jim Kirk and Mr. Spock, you need Paramount's permission, plain and simple. Now, as it turns out, many, but not all holders of popular copyrights turn a blind eye to 'fan fiction' or even subtly encourage it because it helps them. Make no mistake, however, that it is entirely up to them whether to do that.

However, it's also worth noting that a court has never ruled on this issue, because fan fiction cases always get settled quickly when the defendant is a fan of limited means sued by a powerful publishing company. Some argue that completely non-commercial fan fiction might be declared a fair use if courts get to decide."

So, there you have it. We're all violating copyright, and none of us own that fan fiction that we write. DiC does - or Nintendo, maybe. Even if DiC or Nintendo "turn a blind eye" to Captain N fanfics (assuming that they even know that Captain N fanfics exist, which is a big assumption), then I could still claim ownership of the fanfics using warp zone openers and the setting of the N Team's house in Megaland.

But let's just say that we don't own the Captain N fanfics that we write, and none of us can make each other remove the fanfics from his or her website.