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Fan Fiction Other forums talk about Trek. We make it.

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Old September 11 2013, 05:48 PM   #1
DFScott
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Fan fiction legal phrasing question

I have a question for folks who distribute their stories/scripts/video productions, and want to make sure they're legally protected while also protecting the brands they're writing about (in this case, Star Trek):

What is the best, most succinct, small-print legal message you use on the bottom of your pages or the credits of your productions to protect yourself legally? You know the message I mean - the one that includes, "STAR TREK ™ and its related trademarks are ©2013 CBS STUDIOS..." I'm looking for language that makes it clear that no profit is intended from the distribution of the work, no offense is intended to the trademark, and no one else is permitted to do the same with this work.

My thanks in advance.
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Old September 11 2013, 06:06 PM   #2
CeJay
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Re: Fan fiction legal phrasing question

Here's what I use on my web site and in slightly amended version in my ebooks as well:


'STAR TREK®' and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc.
The Star Eagle Adventures is not affiliated in any way with CBS, Inc.

This web site and all stories and images herein are intended for entertainment purposes only. The author has no commercial intentions.

All stories contained on this web site are the property of the author and may not be duplicated without the author's expressed permission. By downloading the story files you agree that you will not alter the stories in any way, distribute them for monetary gain, or publish them without the author's expressed permission.
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Old September 12 2013, 01:07 PM   #3
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Re: Fan fiction legal phrasing question

Thank you, CeJay. I can absolutely see where that phrasing would be perfect in front of a "Download" button. It serves as a little barrier, and the language says effectively, "By crossing this barrier, you take this responsibility..."

Having covered the software industry in my job, I've come across a treasure trove of EULAs with language that assumes the existence of a barrier where there isn't one. "By your having read this sentence, you acknowledge ZapphCo as the creator of everything about this software, and you forfeit the right to take legal action against ZapphCo..." etc. That's a thinner barrier than even a "Spoiler Alert."

Anyway, I'm thinking that on a PDF, there needs to be something (perhaps on the footer of every page) that says, "For free distribution only" but in a way that can't be legally implied to mean, "I give up any claims I have to copyright." Remember, even fan fiction that's about characters and situations that other people created and hold exclusive rights to, for purposes of commercial distribution, can be copyrighted so that their authors can claim ownership of their stories.

So I'm thinking something like this:

The story contained herein is copyright 2013 [author's name]. Story is based on characters copyright 2013 CBS Studios, and on "Star Trek," created by Gene Roddenberry...

Too much?

SF©3
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Old September 12 2013, 02:07 PM   #4
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Re: Fan fiction legal phrasing question

Hm, I don't think you can base a story on characters.
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Old September 12 2013, 02:48 PM   #5
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Re: Fan fiction legal phrasing question

JarodRussell wrote: View Post
Hm, I don't think you can base a story on characters.
Ah! You're quite right. The Screen Actors' Guild does draw a clear distinction, as defined on this page. The way SAG's credit system works, story is one thing and characters are another. This way, the creative processes are separated.

That's really good to know, thank you. This will definitely improve my legal-ese.

SF "Based on an Original Human Created by SF2" 3
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Old September 12 2013, 10:06 PM   #6
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Re: Fan fiction legal phrasing question

DFScott wrote: View Post
JarodRussell wrote: View Post
Hm, I don't think you can base a story on characters.
Ah! You're quite right. The Screen Actors' Guild does draw a clear distinction, as defined on this page. The way SAG's credit system works, story is one thing and characters are another. This way, the creative processes are separated.

That's really good to know, thank you. This will definitely improve my legal-ese.

SF "Based on an Original Human Created by SF2" 3
This reminds me of the quagmire created when the soap opera One Life to Live was canceled. ABC didn't want to lose 3 of the actors, so they were hired to portray their OLTL characters on General Hospital (soap crossovers were quite common on ABC shows), and a couple of other OLTL actors made guest appearances on GH (as their OLTL characters) as well.

After a year or so, One Life to Live was reborn as an online soap, and the legalese started flying. The actors still had contracts to appear on General Hospital, but ABC no longer owned their characters. This resulted in their OLTL characters being suddenly yanked from the storylines and those characters have never been referred to by name, ever again. It's as though that whole year (and certain storylines) never happened.

But now those actors are still on GH, playing other characters.
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Old September 12 2013, 10:12 PM   #7
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Re: Fan fiction legal phrasing question

Oh Timewalker, that is absolutely wild! I can only imagine one of the GH characters waking up and finding, say, Bobby Ewing in her shower. "All a bad dream, honey."

And I thought the JJ-Trek fans had trouble reconciling universes.

SF "Click Here for the Universe Where Nero Prevents Nash from Ever Meeting Jessica" 3
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Old September 12 2013, 10:34 PM   #8
Timewalker
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Re: Fan fiction legal phrasing question

DFScott wrote: View Post
Oh Timewalker, that is absolutely wild! I can only imagine one of the GH characters waking up and finding, say, Bobby Ewing in her shower. "All a bad dream, honey."

And I thought the JJ-Trek fans had trouble reconciling universes.

SF "Click Here for the Universe Where Nero Prevents Nash from Ever Meeting Jessica" 3
Identical twin, triplet, or cousin (the last is how they explained Anthony Geary, who played Luke Spencer, coming back after several years to play a different character - he didn't want to play Luke anymore, so TPTB had both him and the actor playing his on-TV son playing their identical cousins instead).

Finding Bobby in the shower wouldn't faze any of these people.

(mind you, that's not what happened with OLTL/GH; they had to make completely new characters for 2 of the actors, and the third one ended up as a recast of an older GH character)
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Last edited by Timewalker; September 13 2013 at 01:22 AM.
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Old September 13 2013, 03:05 AM   #9
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Re: Fan fiction legal phrasing question

Sort of a legalistic cousin to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, then?
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Old September 13 2013, 04:49 AM   #10
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Re: Fan fiction legal phrasing question

Not quite. It's not that the writers just accidentally forgot about them. They did write the OLTL characters out, but it was done in a hell of a hurry. They had to give the entire batch of GH characters collective amnesia that the OLTL characters had ever existed. The closest they got to acknowledging them was that one of them was the girlfriend of one of the long-time GH characters. They wrote her out by having her get a phone call from a friend in California, and she made an off-camera phone call to her boyfriend saying she had to leave and wasn't coming back. He received this call on-camera, and the girlfriend's name was never used. For a few weeks afterward, people just said, "Michael's girlfriend left town suddenly and isn't coming back, so that's why he's been in a rotten mood."

But now the actress is back and playing a different character and nobody mentions how much she resembles Michael's old girlfriend, since that character Never Existed.
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