As Douglas Adams observed: “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
There are some really wonderful places in space but to get them you have to cross voids of unimaginably huge nothing.
Amazon.com — intrepid as ever in its pursuit of any possible way to get a cut off of any new and innovative way to slice the intellectual property pie — has launched into the frontier of fan fiction in an effort to stake out its claim with Kindle Worlds.
Now, you’ve probably read my previous articles on fan fiction. If not, like Inigo Montoya, I sum up: I think fan fiction as homage is wonderful just so long as you don’t start making money off of it without a license. At that point you are no longer writing fan fiction but have crossed into intellectual property theft.
However, Kindle Worlds attempts to happily bridge that problem by obtaining, from the copyright holder, a license to produce sanctioned fan fiction for profit. In other words, Amazon purchases the rights for fan fiction from the copyright holder, turns those rights (with restrictions) to anyone interested in writing fan fiction in that licensed world and then sells their fan fiction under a properly structured license. Everyone, it seems, wins: the fan fiction writer wins because their labor of love is now properly licensed and they can sell it, the owner of the original license wins because they get a licensing cut from every piece of fan fiction sold in their world and Amazon (like the proverbial ‘house’ of the casino) gets a large piece of the action off of every piece of fan fiction sold.
It’s actually an elegant solution for everyone … if you happen to be a fan of one of their thirteen listed properties and if you don’t mind the draconian bad news down in the fine print.
Kindle Worlds press release starts with ‘Welcome to Kindle Worlds, a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games.” The Kind Worlds main page, however, lists the current licensed ‘worlds’ and, it seems to me, there is an awful lot of void between them. Of the thirteen licenses currently posted, six are comics. Of the remaining seven, two are based on YA female television series. One is a supernatural television series. If your looking to write your fan fiction in, say, Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Firefly or Battlestar Galactica … well, you can’t or at least not yet.
One that IS listed is ‘the World of Kurt Vonnegut.’ Now, I’ve read his ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ and thought that while the language was rough (it IS Kurt Vonnegut), the story, satire and insight was genius. That said, I have a hard time conceiving of wanting to read Kurt Vonnegut that was not written by Kurt Vonnegut. What really intrigued me as ripe for satire, however, were the content guidelines for writing in ‘The World of Kurt Vonnegut‘:
Pornography: We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.
Offensive Content: We don’t accept offensive content, including but not limited to racial slurs, excessively graphic or violent material, or excessive use of foul language.
Um, have these people READ Kurt Vonnegut? I doubt Kurt Vonnegut be able to write for his own worlds under the Kurt Vonnegut guidelines.
In Kindle Worlds, No One is Legally Obligated to Hear you Scream
Kindle Worlds for Authors is where you find the fine print which is not, actually, so fine.
Under the heading ‘Start Writing Now’, look at the fifth bullet item:
Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright
This means, dear author, that you are giving up the copyright to your words pretty much for ever as far as copyright goes. Now, of course, this is absolutely ESSENTIAL since you are writing in an intellectual property that you don’t own. (Remember those previous articles?) When I was writing in Dragonlance, those novels were done as ‘Work for Hire’ agreements which means that I do not own the copyright to those books. If you write something for an intellectual property that you don’t own, you just have to accept that your copyright to those words goes with it.
I was kind of hoping to write my own ‘fan fiction’ in a ‘Dragonlance’ setting but that, too, is not on the list. It’s a good approach to solving the problem of the publishing of fan fiction…
…But I can only hope a few more stars appear to bring light to a great void.