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Kindle Worlds update

Posted May 24, 2013 into Writing by John Birmingham

So, this fan fic thing may not be quite as awesome as it first seemed. My initial reaction was an insider's take. There's a lot of control at stake in Amazon's plan, and I didn't see the old school publishers conceding it.

A couple of hours later, issues of control have come to the fore of the reaction to Kindle Worlds, but not in the way I imagined. There are significant issues over who owns and gets to exploit the IP generated by the published fan fiction.

Bottom line, not the authors. And by that I mean the fan fic writers. It seems that the licensing agreement Amazon has developed gives them and the originating license holder (the publisher, not the writer) all rights to everything. I think it's known in legal circles as the All Teh THINGZ clause.

Other people with bigger brains have already started to pore over the deets. From Wired:

Wired spoke with attorney Jeff Trexler, who expressed similar concerns, pointing to a clause in Amazon’s contact that grants Amazon and the licensor rights to the text of the stories and any original elements they might contain.

“In short, if your fan fiction includes new elements that catch on with the general public, it’s likely that you’ll not be able to profit from them outside of the stories that you write,” he said. “For example, Time Warner could launch a movie series based on a character you created and not owe you a dime. While the terms state that you retain the copyright, you also give Amazon an exclusive license to your original work and Amazon in turn licenses your work to Time Warner in a license that provides nothing for you.”

Furthermore, says Trexler, if you decided to keep using that character outside of Kindle Worlds, you’d be violating the terms of your contract.

John Scalzi, writing as 'is 'umble self, rather than in his superhero tights and underpants as the chief poobah of SFWA was massively underwhelmed.

...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.

Both links are worth hitting up if you are in any way interested in trying to break into publishing or even just turn a modest dollar from this Amazon deal.

I don't know that the problems are a complete deal breaker for me. I can still imagine ways of publishing AoT and Disappearance fan fic into Kindle Worlds that would protect the fan writers. But it would also constrain them very severely, which is arse. If they wanted to avoid getting ripped off, they'd have to avoid using new characters or settings, I imagine. Mick's Queen of the Seven Seas might well run afoul of this.

Arse, as I said.

And, at any rate, I have my own very special issues to work through. Which publisher, for instance, gets to sign as the licensor. US? Australian? British? Polish?

Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?

13 Responses to ‘Kindle Worlds update’

tqft asserts...

Posted May 24, 2013

I tried to comment over at Attendly but it hated me.

I don't actually read much in the way of fanfic (so close to zero im my lifetime it isn't funny). But one side I haven't seen discussed yet (and heavnt looked for):will Amazon go after any and all (undergroud or not) fanfic sites now? For worlds where they hold the copyright I can see them lawyering up fast, but will they stop at individual or just go for the jugular and take down the whole sites, site owners, etc?

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w from brisbane asserts...

Posted May 24, 2013

JB,
If a fanfic author wrote an AoT story with a hermaphrodite space warrior character, and later you included a hermaphrodite space warrior character into an AoT ebook; could you potentially owe Amazon money?

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 24, 2013

NFI, Dubya.

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Blarkon would have you know...

Posted May 24, 2013

Isn't this pretty par for the course when you're writing in another person's universe. For example, comics writers writing in the Marvel universe have Marvel own all their work, Star Wars and Star Trek authors have Disney and Paramount own their work?

I can understand writing work for hire for some licensed properties. Heck a CBG regular writes Warhammer 40K books - I'm guessing that the ideas and properties in his work are owned by Games Workshop.

It's also like if you come up with a cool idea while working somewhere like Google. You'll have to check your contract, because it's pretty likely that unless you've taken time to exempt certain things, anything that you come up while being an employee of the company may belong to the company.

If you want to own your ideas - don't write fanfic. (and I'm saying that as someone who at 17 had some kick arse Worf fan fic published in an Australian Star Trek magazine)

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 24, 2013

You're almost certainly right, and yet it sticks in my craw, and Scalzi's and I imagine pretty much anyone in the biz. Funny thing is, we'd still get in for our chop of any IP exploited by Amazon or the licensee, because our contracts would make sure of that. But if somebody writes an AWSM Kolhammer story, or Caitlin story or whatever, and that gets adapted it seems only fair they should get some recompense.

I recognise that fair's got nuthin to do with it, however.

Blarkon mutters...

Posted May 24, 2013

A good example at the moment is Warren Ellis. He wrote Red as an original comic book story. It was adapted into a movie with Bruce Willis. Mucho $$$ (there's even a sequel in the works).

He wrote Iron Man Extremis - parts of which were adapter into Iron Man III. It was a work for hire job. Lots of *mention* of him in the press as being related to Iron Man III - but as it's *work for hire*, nyeto extra dollaro.

In the long run, talent will out. Someone who can write a great Kolhammer story can write a great story with their own characters and universe.

Sel reckons...

Posted May 24, 2013

Yes, but if, while writing Amazon Worlds fanfic, I introduce a new concept or character that is my own creation, and then later I want to develop that concept in a world entirely of my own then by the terms of the agreement with Amazon Worlds, I cannot. It belongs to someone else.

I have had at least one friend who wrote one scene of a fanfic between two characters, and then turned around, "filed off the serial numbers", and created a seven-book series that pretty much started with an interaction between those two characters. It launched her published career. She's presently at thirteen books and still writing.

If, say, she'd been writing for Amazon Worlds, she wouldn't have been allowed to take that seed idea, turn it into a professional novel/series.

That is the danger of Amazon Worlds. One cannot publish the fanfic written for money, but if if they catch you filing the serial numbers off, or they think your professional story infringes on the fanfic you've written for them? Slapdown, baby!

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Dirk would have you know...

Posted May 24, 2013

Hmm first things first. There are a few things you should split from the bowl of spaghetti which are rights. Consulting a specialist in these matters is advisable though. Does Brisbane sport an university with some professors in civic law?
The rights:
1. The copyright i.e. the intellectual property of the world, characters and the strings of 200+ K words you call “Books”. This breaks up (under Dutch law at least) in the books them self and into the “artistic right” of an author to guard the world and characters against uses the author himself thinks himself inappropriate. Example: an architect in the Netherlands has to be consulted for adding sunshades for the building he has designed. This also includes the right to use the characters in for example commercials and alike. I took my copy of Designated Targets and it read © 2005 John Birmingham, so you are the sole owner of the copyright on that one.
2. Publication rights, so the right to print those 200+ K words either digitally or on “dead wood” after which those things are sold and you get a fee per sold copy. These can be split up per language/country or origin. The country of first publication is leading in this, so in your case Oz.
3. Movie rights so the right to make movies/tv series based on either the 200+ K words or the characters and or world into flickering pictures and or theatrical plays.
4. Gaming rights so the right to make xbox/ps3/pc/ios/android games based on either the 200+ K words, characters and or the world in to flickering pictures.
So how to kill of the beast in this.
1. Divided you fall: team up with your brothers and sisters in the arts. There should be a couple of thousand a list authors who could be affected by this, so you can fight this in a class action law suit. Amazon trying to get your copyright (and or that of your collegeas) can be viewed as an attempted of theft, which in itself is punishable by law! The “casus belli” just has to be reported at an police station near you ;) .
2. Open up your own channel, but adding in an opt in clause: You may write fanfiction, but I, Birmo can do with it what I please. Though DO I use it you will be compensated with for example an mention, a character is named after you and/or you will get a free digital copy of my work in which yours is used.

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April puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013

JB,

Idea: "Caitlin is teh awsm inc". Your newest publisher! Thus if Amazon is recognising publishers as getting a cut, and you publish as a publisher in and of yourself, in basic principal don't you therefore get equal status?

Either way, IP is such a grey area and we all know its shonky, but at least they need to be honest about degrees of shonkiness. Good luck to anyone who doeth try to write Caitlin or AoT; except DeMille. He could screw you over- similar style.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 24, 2013

I've never read DeMille. Always meant to.

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MickH has opinions thus...

Posted May 25, 2013

Sorry I'm late to this.

So from what I can see, If I published Queen of the Seven Seas, anything original in it, like my whole alternate history setting, can be used by them without any financial gain to myself or even control.

I can't see why anyone would use this if the story was good. In my own experience, writing the story took a huge amount of effort and time and used it as a start to more serious ventures. But if the "chick who wrote the fifty shades of grey crap can get rich why can't I" mentality kicks in for everyone then they'd all stay away from that deal.

But on the other side of the coin, a lot of fan fic would be crap, and this would be a good place to put it and allow the author to at least get some recognition and coppers if the story deserved it.

For me, its tempting to stick it out there now. It was the first story I wrote so the grammar and style is pretty crap but at least I could have closure with it and let some of you read it (I do get asked about it). I'd be taking the chance that the story went viral and leave me in the gutter with nothing. But what are the chances of that happening? The other alternative is to totally de-fan fic the whole story. It will make it better, because i will have to we-write it completely, but would all the effort be worth it in the long run?

Hmm lots of questions to ponder and any advice from you guys would be appreciated.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 25, 2013

I'd go read the Scalzi link if you haven't already, Mick.

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MickH asserts...

Posted May 25, 2013

yeah thanks John, just did. And its like i thought.

It can be a good deal if you just want the recognition and not the finacial rewards. They are are going to get some money arn't they? If they sell a story?

Personally i think I'll shy away from it until it becomes a LOT clearer. I think our idea to de-copyright the story is the best way ahead, even though it will be freak'n hard to re-visit it again.

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