Out of the Shadows and Into the Courts

Fair Use and Fan Fiction

This is the information from the panel that I ran at CON.TXT 2008. You can download the PowerPoint presentation here. This is the same information, but on one page. For the record, I am not a lawyer and I am in no way an expert on copyright law. I just find it incredibly interesting. Send any corrections or questions to me at strangecobwebs at yahoo dot com.

For further reading, check out these sources.


  • exclusive rights to publish and sell literary, musical, or artistic work
  • so that a creator "may reap the fruits of his or her intellectual creativity for a limited period of time" (U.S. Copyright Office)

  • Infringement

  • unauthorized use of protected material
  • illegally copying, distributing, performing in public, or displaying works without permission

  • Plagiarism

  • claiming authorship of someone else's work
  • using someone else's words or thoughts without giving proper credit
  • excessive use of dialogue from a movie or tv show

  • Paraphrase

  • using the ideas or words of another person, but stating them in your own way
  • explaining an idea or concept in another way, usually to simplify or clarify
  • proper credit is still necessary when paraphrasing

    Fair Use

  • allows limited use of copyrights material without requiring permission from owners
  • scholarship, review, parody, critique


  • based on copyrighted work
  • translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, movie version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation   (17 U.S.C.)


  • "altering the original with new expression, meaning, or message"   (Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569)

    Fair Use Guidelines

  • Purpose or character of the use
  • Nature of the original work
  • Amount and substantiality copied
  • Effect on potential market for original work

    Court Cases

    Anderson v. Stallone

  • 11 USPQ2d 1161
  • Anderson wrote a proposed script for Rocky IV and talked to studios about it
  • When Stallone eventually talked about Rocky IV, Anderson sued for infringement because the plot had similarities to his
  • Stallone succeeded in infringement countersuit; Anderson infringed on Stallone's rights to derivative works
  • Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music

  • 510 U.S. 569
  • 2 Live Crew sampled "Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison in order to parody it
  • use was judged fair because a parody must use original source for effectiveness

    SunTrust v. Houghton Mifflin Co.

  • 252 F.3d 1165
  • author wrote The Wind Done Gone as a comment on and a mockery of Gone With the Wind
  • was judged as a parody, and the use was fair


  • separate audio component from video
  • video would likely be fair use; audio would not
  • vid transforms video source and cannot be considered substitution for the original
  • vid very rarely transforms audio enough to be considered fair and can be considered as a substitution for the original song