The internet is buzzing this morning about Amazon’s attempt to monetize fan fiction with their new Kindle Worlds venture.
Malinda Lo has read the terms, and because she is smart, she has figured out that “fan fiction” does not mean what Amazon thinks it means. She writes:
This isn’t Amazon figuring out how to make money off fan fiction; this is Amazon entering into a partnership with media properties to crowdsource officially licensed novelizations.
She also points out that while the writer holds the copyright to the original elements, the original owner of the world in which you’re writing is granted “a license to use your new elements and incorporate them into other works without further compensation to you.” Which is kind of stunning.
Furthermore, there are a ton of content restrictions: no explicit sex, no crossovers with other worlds, and nothing Amazon deems “offensive.” There goes 90% of the reasons people read and write fanfic. The editorial guidelines are vague, and the press release does not say how they’ll be applied. Presumably, there is an editor in charge of all this…?
Basically, Kindle Worlds creates a way to write tie-in stories for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries without jumping through the usual hoops of being invited to do so by the license owner, and with really unpalatable contract terms: they acquire ALL rights, and the license owner doesn’t pay you for using your work.
Which is very different from “monetizing fan fiction.”
ETA: Scalzi weighs in:
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.