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Fanfic Authors Unhappy With Entertainment Weekly’s Fanfic Contest

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Fan fiction authors on Tumblr have not taken kindly to Entertainment Weekly’s Fanfic Contest, which seeks submissions from writers who want to see their work published in the pages of EW. The problem lies in the terms and conditions, which originally stated that the submitted works become property of “the Sponsor,” who in this case is Entertainment Weekly.

As The Daily Dot’s Aja Romano points out, fanfic is already regarded in a strange grey area with regards to its legality. While most (if not all) fan fiction is considered “transformative”—and thus considered fair use—it still enjoys a bit of a reputation as existing in a liminal space. It’s in this liminality that other outlets often attempt to take advantage of fanfic authors by leading them to believe their work isn’t necessarily theirs. It’s a common mistake, and one that has more than often stung many an author, so it’s understandable why this reaction was what it was.

Check out the full Tumblr thread below:

http://madat-55.tumblr.com/post/136617692024/laratjuhh-eternalsterekbitches-deanplease

Entertainment Weekly, however, has since changed the terms and conditions of the contest, allowing authors to retain the rights to their works. They said that they simply wanted to provide a platform for creative voices and share new stories. They said:

Our Terms & Conditions no longer read “Entries become sole property of Sponsor and none will be acknowledged or returned”. They now read “Entries will not be acknowledged or returned.”

We don’t want to own the pieces you have worked hard on and submitted. We do want to give the winner a platform to showcase their innovative and amazing work!

It seems like the damage has already been done, though. It’s likely EW won’t see the volume of responses they were hoping for, although they will get something. EW’s statement and T&C change are a great gesture and are hopefully a lesson learned. It behooves authors to be incredibly familiar with the legal issues around their work, fanfic authors even more so.

One hopes that with the growing mainstream recognition of “shipping” (thanks in part to Poe, Finn, Rey, and The Force Awakens), these common mistakes in understanding about fan fiction’s legality will become less common. It is, after all, a very central part of the geek/fandom experience, one that everyone has had some contact with in some capacity.

Contests like EW’s could do well for bringing fan fiction even more into the mainstream—after all, one of the biggest examples we have in the mainstream is 50 Shades of Grey, and, well … yeah. We can do better than that. But as I’ve already said, it’s important to get these contests right and to make sure that authors are protected. That should be of the utmost priority, shouldn’t it?

(image via Shutterstock/Paduk)

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