FAN FICTION AND THE FAIR USE DOCTRINE UNDER COPYRIGHT LAW

Fan fiction is not an entirely new concept but it has certainly been reinvented and pushed to the forefront in this digital age. The world as we know it has changed tremendously in leaps and bounds with the evolution of internet; but changes in law haven’t always followed in as rapid a succession. Internet is a platform that brings together people with similar interests and ideas. This means that traditional means of fandom communication such as ‘fanzines’ are now out-dated and replaced by ‘fan sites’. It is not unusual for one to watch a movie or a TV show or read a book and feel that certain aspects of it could have gone differently; when these feelings are reproduced in the form of writing it becomes fan fiction. Fan fiction incorporates the characters, the setting, and the environment of the original work. The author of fan fiction uses the original storyline as a backdrop for his/her work. This use can be considered an infringement of the intellectual property rights of the original author, in particular the copyrights of the original author. Copyright law has been formulated in order to protect the creative and economic interest of the original author. While fan fiction for long remained obscure and in background and was allowed to develop without much hindrance from copyright laws. The thrust that internet has given to it has resulted in it being pushed to the mainstream and its wide spread prevalence means that it can no longer be written off and pushed to the side. While fan fiction has traditionally been written and published for no charge, there has been a recent increase in the number of fan fiction works that are commercial and written for profit. The question before law is now to decide how much of the original work should be protected under the ambit of copyright laws in order to ensure that the original author’s creative and economic interests are protected. The law also needs to ensure that its presence in the form of copyrights do not hinder the development of creativity in the society. It is also important to note that most works which garner such interest and fan activities are those which belong to the sci-fi or fantasy genres. The article is divided into seven sections (or headings), first of which introduces the topic. Second explains the meaning as well as the history of fan fiction, the third section explains how authors of fan fiction have changed their mode of publication form fanzines to websites and blogs on the internet and the role that mass media plays in fan fiction. The fourth considers the new species of fan fiction i.e. commercial fan fiction and its impact on copyright law. Next section explains fan fiction with respect to one of the more widely phrased copyright law, that of the US. Section 107 of the Copyright Act of the US, deals with the Fair Use Doctrine, which is an exception to copyright infringement. Similarly, the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 has Section 52 which details acts which do not fall within the purview of infringement of copyright. Section 52 has been discussed in the sixth section of the article with a brief historical run down of the copyright law in India. The last section sums up various aspects that have been discussed in the article and presses on the need of a suitable law on fan-fiction balancing various conflicting interest.

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 ISSN(O): 2347-3827

© Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law Punjab, 2020