Amazon Publishing Introduces “Kindle Worlds,” a New Publishing Model for Authors Inspired to Write Fan Fiction
will pay royalties to both the rights holders of the Worlds and the author. The standard author’s royalty rate (for works of at least 10,000 words) will be 35% of net revenue. As with all titles from Amazon Publishing, Kindle Worlds will base net revenue off of sales price—rather than the lower, industry standard of wholesale price—and royalties will be paid monthly.
Whoa. Let’s think about this for a bit— Amazon has found a way to turn both the fanfiction market as well as artists’ needs for self-promotion to its own profit.
I daresay that’s brilliant. I’m excited about what this will hold, and what it means for storytelling. We can start building epics the way they were originally built— out of a shared world by several authors, all adding pieces together to make a masterpiece. At first this sounds like the modern, online version of the minstrel tradition.
Still: what does this mean for copyright? I like the fact that this gives artists the option to share their creations— when before fanfiction was seen as playing hard and fast with copyright. But what about derivative works of derivative works? Who decides what is canon and non-canon. What actually happens to non-canon works?
If Kindle World brings more freedom to content creators, so that they can share their works with their fans as they see fit and profit, I’m all for it. But I worry that this may put fanfiction writers (who by and large contribute to the buzz and publicity that determine a book’s success) under great scrutiny and risk.
I can see how a portion of the fanfiction authoring community would accept this. I can even see how this makes a ton of sense for Amazon, and maybe even the rights holders. But I’m not certain that giving in to this type of copyright claim is good for fanfiction as a whole. If we accept that to distribute fanfiction requires a license and is not covered under fair use or purely as a transformative work, sets a terrible and lasting precedent.
On another note, here’s a different take on the matter:
Source URL for this other post
Todd Bishop on the new “Kindle Worlds”:
The company says it will license rights to popular books, games, movies and other content to let independent authors write their own stories based on those worlds, and receive royalties from sales of their fan fiction through the company’s Kindle Store.
Seems like a smart idea. Though I have to imagine the most popular worlds, like Star Wars, would never agree to this.
MG Siegler rightfully brings up the fact that most of the larger fandoms will not be covered by this initially anyway. Harry Potter, Dr. Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Naruto, Supernatural, etc all would not be covered under deals like this, so what happens to those fandoms? Can they now be sued more easily now that there’s a model for “approved” fanfiction and these rights holders have clearly not agreed to participate?
Lastly, while this is framed as a way to sell your work, we don’t know what sort of creative control rights holders will have. Will they allow slash? What about character death, or crossovers, or what about genderbending? Uhg, or even the dreaded High School AU (if I had that type of control over a series, I would prohibit nearly all of them by default). It just opens up a huge set of issues that aren’t even close to being nailed down through an agreement like this.
There’s more though, from John Scalzi.
So, on one hand it offers people who write fan fiction a chance to get paid for their writing in a way that doesn’t make the rightsholders angry, which is nice for the fan ficcers. On the other hand, as a writer, there are a number of things about the deal Amazon/Alloy are offering that raise red flags for me. Number one among these is this bit:
“We will also give the World Licensor a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.”
i.e., that really cool creative idea you put in your story, or that awesome new character you made? If Alloy Entertainment likes it, they can take it and use it for their own purposes without paying you — which is to say they make money off your idea, lots of money, even, and all you get is the knowledge they liked your idea.
Essentially, this means that all the work in the Kindle Worlds arena is a work for hire that Alloy (and whomever else signs on) can mine with impunity. This is a very good deal for Alloy, et al — they’re getting story ideas! Free! — and less of a good deal for the actual writers themselves. I mean, the official media tie-in writers and script writers are doing work for hire, too, but they get advances and\or at least WGA minimum scale for their work.
Another red flag:
“Amazon Publishing will acquire all rights to your new stories, including global publication rights, for the term of copyright.”
Which is to say, once Amazon has it, they have the right to do anything they want with it, including possibly using it in anthologies or selling it other languages, etc, without paying the author anything else for it, ever. Again, an excellent deal for Amazon; a less than excellent deal for the actual writer.
Note that on its page Amazon makes a show of saying that the writer owns the copyright on the original things that are copyrightable, but inasmuch as Amazon also acquires all rights for the length of the copyright and Alloy is given the right to exploit the new elements without further compensation, this show about you keeping your copyright appears to be just that: show.
The argument here could be, well, you know, people who were writing fan fiction weren’t getting paid or had rights to these characters and worlds anyway, so only getting paid for their work once is still better than what they would have gotten before. And that’s not an entirely bad argument on one level. But on another level, there’s a difference between writing fan fiction because you love the world and the characters on a personal level, and Amazon and Alloy actively exploiting that love for their corporate gain and throwing you a few coins for your trouble. So this should be an interesting argument for people to have in the real world.
Basically, there’s so many issues brought up here. Are people basically going to be exploited just to get the veneer of “real” authorship?