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Like if I want to write a book series about Harry Potter character Rita Skeeter's life, may I do it? I always hear that this isn't allowed. But as far as I know some people have written a book about what happened after Potter won the war. And the series "män som hatar kvinnor" has a fourth book called "Det som inte dödar oss".

So is it allowed to write a book (and make money with it), if you base the plot and/or the characters on something written in another book?

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    Can you provide any reference or examples of published "fan fiction" like those you claim exist for Harry Potter? – feetwet Oct 12 '15 at 18:45
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Presumably you are referring to works commonly called "fan fiction." Under copyright law these might be considered "derivative works" and therefore subject to the rights of the copyright owner. However, they might also qualify for exemption from copyright enforcement under "fair use."

It appears that the legality of fan fiction is not settled law, and the outcome of legal challenges have turned on facts specific to each case. Decent background on the question is summarized on wikipedia.

  • Fanfic being valid fair use would only apply to non-commercial fanfic, right? – curiousdannii Oct 13 '15 at 3:59
  • @curiousdannii - no, there are other allowances for fair use like "parody" and "criticism" that can be fully commercial/for-profit. – feetwet Oct 13 '15 at 13:01
  • But those aren't fanfic. I was asking whether commercial fanfic was possible, not other kinds of commercial fair use which I know can be legal. – curiousdannii Oct 13 '15 at 13:05
  • @curiousdannii - Right, I guess if you assume that fanfic is "serious" and "adoring" those wouldn't apply. (But, for example, I was thinking of Twilight and having trouble imagining anything based on it that couldn't be characterized as "parody" even if not intended by the fanfic author. E.g., what if the original work is self-parody?) – feetwet Oct 13 '15 at 13:32
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    @TomAu, the situation with Wicked is a bit different, because the original 1900 The Wonderful Wizard of OZ by L. Frank Baum entered the public domain in the '50s. – dwoz Oct 13 '15 at 14:33
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A recent case explored a new book written by Fredrik Colting a Swedish writer, which used the name and characterization of Holden Caulfield, the main character of Catcher In The Rye. The book was ruled to be derivative and the court issued an injunction preventing it from being marketed or sold in the USA. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/02/books/02salinger.html?_r=0

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