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Looking up the MZB fanfic lawsuit - The Lyorn's Den

Thu Apr. 27th, 2006

05:46 pm - Looking up the MZB fanfic lawsuit

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The topic came up on Making Light, and pnh asked if anyone had ever googled that thing. So I did. And checked some other links.

Google gives 15 hits on "marion zimmer bradley" "fan fiction" "law suit" here Leaving out the blanks would have done better, with 224 hits, but that's for another day.

On-topic seem to be

http://www.speculations.com/?t=69036&s=100 (6)
http://lists.herald.co.uk/old-archives/mercedes-lackey/000815-2382 (7)
http://www.b5tv.com/printthread.php/Cat/0/Board/b5cast/main/36686/type/thread (9)
http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2005/04/another_day_in_.html (other)

(1) from memory:

Leslie Fish said on a.t.h that MZB was shy of conflict and canned the novel without need.
(Actually, she said this. I was quoting from memory.)

That was all the detail I had on the story, until this:

(2) http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007464.html

(2a) Jane claims there was one, no details:
"I know of at least two instances where fanfic in modern universes were devastating to the authors, one being Marion Zimmer Bradley."
(2b) dlnevins accepts the claim:
"That it does pose a legal danger is clear (as Marion Zimmer Bradley's situation shows all too clearly)."
(2c) Wren tries to remember:
"I'm sure there's someone around who can cite this better, but as I recall the MZB lawsuit related to a Darkover novel that allegedly contained plot or character elements similar to a fanfic that was submitted to her magazine, i.e., one that MZB could be assumed to have access to prior to writing her novel."
(2d) PNH says
"Do I have any idea what actually happened? I do not. [...] I think a moratorium on using the MZB tale to prove anything would be very much in order."
(2e) PNH links to two postings on r.a.sf.w. (-> (3); (4))
(2f) OG replies to Patrick:
"The Laura Burchard post you linked to (3) is pretty close to the version I heard via Mercedes Lackey's announcement to her fandom when it happened."
(2g) Mercedes Lackey's account seems closest to (1):
"Marion had begun to write a Darkover book about Regis Hastur. She liked the "take" a particular fan author had on the situations and asked to use that spin on things for her book in return for the usual acknowlegement in the front of the book. She had done this before with other fan authors (even though she didn't have to, after all, you can't "own" an idea).
However in this case, the next party heard from was the author's agent, who demanded cover credit and co-authorship, or there would be a lawsuit.
She elected not to finish or publish the book. So that book will never see the light of day."
(2h) TNH got links: (10), (11)
and a quotable: "I argue that fanfic is a legal not a literary category".
"MZB solicited other authors' professional participation in the Darkover franchise. The disputed story had been published in its author's own fanzine, but that hardly matters; the first Darkover anthology was drawn from material that first appeared in fanzines. It was not unreasonable for other authors to feel their own stories had a certain amount of legal standing. Nothing could have been more predictable than the dispute which subsequently developed."
MakingLight's discussion is quite civil and still going strong as I write this.

(3) http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.written/msg/b91ef5c1e50f3439

Laura Burchard corrects Terry Austin's claim that
"the relevant points are that the fanfic was allowed to be published, and because of that (made worse by the fact that it was quite provable that MZB had seen the fanfic), the original author cannot publish something very similar."
"even MZB's version of the story doesn't claim it was a fanfic. It was a submission to the Darkover anthology series."
She adds that as far as she remembers it was about MZB asking to take something from an anthology submission without credit or compensation and that MZB brought out the lawyers first.

in reply to (3):
(4) http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.written/msg/80c1db3e5e35c1f9

TLambs1138 says that the fanwriter in question was her. She published a Darkover fanfic novel in an accepted magazine, was offered a sum for the rights, tried to get a better deal, tempers flared, threads were exchanged, the fanficcer was the one threatened and nothing came out of it.

in the posting that triggered (3)
(5) http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.sf.written/msg/f521fdf81d646f5f

Terry Austin also refers to some kerfuffle about JMS, B5 and an idea "tossed out in a Usenet post that JMS happened to read."
see (9), (10)

Under the header of "Caveat Scrivener: Internet piracy":
(6) http://www.speculations.com/?t=69036&s=100

Mystery Guest on 2001-03-12 06:40:00
Notes the case, yet doesn't get into it and doesn't make sense.

(7) http://lists.herald.co.uk/old-archives/mercedes-lackey/000815-2382

Victoria H., on Mon, 14 Aug 2000 17:29:42 PDT paraphrases Mercedes Lackey (links to www.firebirdarts.com (-> (8))
"She brings up the case of one of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novels that had to be completely scrapped because a fan wrote some fanfiction and then threatened to sued MZB if she didn't pay the fan equal credit and money."

following up on (7) leads to http://www.mercedeslackey.com/text/1indexpage.shtml (M. Lackeys Homepage)
(8a) http://www.mercedeslackey.com/text/1mlask.shtml

"Please don't send in any story ideas, or ideas for book that you would like to see Misty write. There are legal problems.
Misty also does not read fan fiction, or unpublished novels. There are major legal problems."

(8b) http://www.mercedeslackey.com/text/1mlask01.shtml

1. "The first fly in the ointment directly in our field happened to Marion Zimmer Bradley, after the wild success of MISTS OF AVALON, when a (former) fan threatened to sue her for her adaptation of an idea the fan had come up with for a Lew Alton Darkover novel. The situation rapidly involved lawyers and got expensive, and in the end, no one won (except the lawyers) since MZB elected to scuttle the novel altogether, and the fan got nothing but a bad metaphorical black eye."
2. "I really hate having to do things this way, but given the grief that Marion went through, and the fact that I've already had hysterical letters accusing me of "stealing" someone's fanfiction, I'm just not willing to take the chance anymore."
3. "Here's why. Some time ago, Marion Zimmer Bradley ended up having to cancel the idea of EVER writing a particular book, because a fan (who shall remain nameless) demanded equal collaborative credit and money, if she used a particular "idea" that had come from a fan-fiction story. It got to the point where the fan threatened to sue Marion if she did not get equal collaborative credit and money (and remember what I said in the paragraphs above). As the fan actually had somehow gotten an agent and had the resources to do just that, Marion scrapped the book altogether---one which was greatly anticipated and would have been integral to her Darkover series, may I add. When I was co-writing a Darkover book with Marion, the same fan had the chutzpah to send ME a manuscript---which, needless to say, I returned unopened."

(8c) http://www.mercedeslackey.com/text/1mlask08.shtml

1. "Because of an unfortunate incident several years ago involving Marion Zimmer Bradley, my agent has directed all of his authors not to read unpublished fiction. And I know that you and everyone else will swear that you would never sue me for "stealing your ideas," but that's exactly what the person who threatened to sue Marion once said."

The JMS perspective
(9a) http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/resources/story-ideas.html

"This is a very difficult area, and there are all kinds of ways that it can bite you. Over on CIS, for instance, Paramount came down on a series of messages with speculative plot info on ST 7 with lawyers and in injunction and major-leage threats against the people involved, CIS itself and anyone else they could think of. We're trying to find a more personable way of handling this situation. And for the most part, I think we're doing fine."

Some discussion on
(9b) http://www.b5tv.com/printthread.php/Cat/0/Board/b5cast/main/36686/type/thread

(10) http://www.fanworks.org/writersresource/?tool=fanpolicy&action=define&authorid=53

This source documents the discussion. Quite interesting. Seems more substantial than most other sources, touches also the JMS case.
Dates the kerfuffle to '92, says it was the publisher who refused the novel for fear of a lawsuit.
However, this contains:
1. "According to the Ask Misty, Mercedes Lackey FAQ and Fan Fiction there is no fan fiction TOLERATED in fandoms based on Marion Zimmer Bradley's books."
2. "It was for the exact reason that Cennydd described with MZB that stopped Misty from allowing fan fiction in general."
This is not exactly corroborated by (8) or (2g)

(11) http://www.darkover.com/new/darkover/guide/short-stories/history.en.html

Doesn't add much new.

(other) The case also gets metioned inconclusively on

http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2005/04/another_day_in_.html by commenter Gloria


[User Picture]
Date:April 29th, 2006 04:49 pm (UTC)
A bit more on the JMS/Babylon 5 case, from the auteur's mouth: http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/find/CompuServe/cs95-11/96.html

Basically, Joe stopped developing the story, and mentioned online why he was doing so. The fan on his own initiative relinquished all rights to the idea, and Joe returned to the story in question.

(Which became my favorite standalone episode of the whole series, so I'm quite glad it all worked out in the end.)

Thank you for an interesting set of links.
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