When a creator (usually writers, it seems) bans or restricts their own fans from writing fanfiction online, drawing any fan-art, or generally using the author's official work "creatively". You can buy their books, buy The Merch and read their "officially sanctioned" material, but the hounds of hell will be unleashed should you write their characters into your online story!
Reasons for such a ban/restrictions vary. Robin Hobb wrote an article sounding a bit like a PSA ("Fanfic — JUST SAY NO!") that had the basic premise of "Those characters are like family to me. You don't like seeing your family put into weird or perverted situations, do you?" Others take the legal ground; that's how they make their living, and that's their intellectual property you are messing with. Others simply don't think anyone else can write their world as well as they can (detractors, however, might comment that they're actually worried that someone can write these characters better than the author could).
A milder form exists in the form of restriction; the official creator might ban some Slash Fic, NSFW or PWP material, for example. Other creators are more picky, setting "rules" to which all fic/fanart creators have to adhere to. How they all keep tabs on such things is a mystery. Or they could ban any fanworks on just a particular work for certain reasons. For example, if they see the work in question as a stain on their accomplishments, they very well might actively want people not to even experience the work in the first place, let alone promote the fact that it even exists.
This does not count all those authors who decide for legal reasons not to read fanfic of their work, whether or not they support it. If someone writes a fanfic and the author reads it, and later installments of the published work have elements similar to the fanfic, then there could be some messy legal issues.
A fanwork ban can be particularly annoying if you get into a show or a book series after it officially ended. In the Internet, the first thing that many fans will do after the series ended, was look for fan websites or some fanfiction works. If a Fanwork Ban was in place, these sites will be extremely hard to come by, if they exist at all... It's usually the case that most fans foolhardy or reckless enough to skirt a Fanwork Ban usually aren't intelligent or dedicated enough to put together a good online fanfic story.
In extreme cases, this may result in a dead fandom (not many fans)- unless the fans are pretty social and don't mind restricting themselves to Real Life facts and discussion. It might also result in an online argument between fans who support the author's decision and fans who rail against the ban. Of course, it could work out exactly as the author hopes; instead of reading online fiction based on one of their works, you'll probably find yourself looking into the author's other works in the hope of finding something similar.
This is predominantly a Western trope; as bans on fanwork are almost unheard of in Japan due to the widespread popularity and acceptability of Doujinshi as well as the tendency of Japanese companies to view fanwork as free advertising. However, recently there has been an attempt to change all of that, which foundered following a backlash.
See also Rule34 — Creator Reactions. Contrast with Approval Of God.
Examples of authors who have imposed fanwork bans/restrictions
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Anime and Manga
Fullmetal Alchemist has an extremely odd example, since the "fans" in question are in fact the actors themselves. The US dub cast, headed by Vic Mignogna, produced a fan-film called Fullmetal Fantasy some years ago. Vic took it to a couple of conventions (and was working through all the proper channels to get permission for a DVD) before the legal people asked him to stop. After a couple of years, he was told that there was no way there'd be an official release, but he could start running it at conventions again if and only if it never ended up online. So he does still show it at cons, but relates this story beforehand and makes the fans present promise not to videotape and upload it. So far, so good.
Yamakan's adaptation of Fractale seem to have detered many fans from drawing Rule 34. To the horror of some fans
Specifically, the supposedly proposed law would give manga publishers equal ownership rights alongside the author, allowing them to go after fanworks even if the author gives approval.
It should also be noted that the aforementioned "crackdown" should be taken with a strong grain of salt as not only is there an apparent lack of other news on it before or after this came to light note This is likely based around the now-mute concerns involving Japan participating in the TPP talks in 2011 as well as suggestions from large publishers that as yet never really took off. But that the source itself was found at best to be little more than a forum post and roughly-translated, off-hand tumblr/twitter comments from Ken Akamatsu's accountsnote Given the mangaka's squabbles with publishers, it sounds like something that he would have said at any rate. In other words, when added to the already massive doujinshi market, the odds of such a law being passed is highly unlikely.
However, for all doujinshis, it is required by law to censor one character in the doujinshi description if it is an explicit one
Akimoto is supposedly very protective of his AKB 48 label and the fanwork ban may be restrictive towards AKB 0048.
Archie Comics has banned all Fan Fiction due to the proliferation of Rule34.
Yet Sonic comic characters originally from Archie can still pass through
CrossGen did a ban after finding Rule 34. This is considered by fans to have contributed to the situations that led to their bankruptcy and acquisition by Disney.
Jack Chick legally attacks any parody of his tracts, claiming "It's only fair use if you draw everything yourself."
Back when The Sims modding community was big, Marvel Comics came down on anyone hosting skins of their characters, leading to a near-disappearance of these kinds of skins on the Internet.
Marvel also tried to sue City of Heroes when people were creating Marvel characters with the character creator. Problem was that in the court case the judge found out that most of the 'examples' that Marvel's lawyers had shown to the court had been created by Marvel. The case was quickly tossed out after that.
In the dark ages of Fan Fic, before the Internet, George Lucas allegedly hit the roof when he found sexually explicit material for Star Wars. And promptly went into orbit when he found the Slash Fic. He tried a repeat performance of this in the late '90s-early 2Ks when he found the Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan stuff, but found it was like playing whack-a-mole. It took until 2003 and BioWarebeing really sneaky to finally slip a lesbian into the GFFA.
Games Workshop, of Warhammer and W40k fame, did this to the German-made fan-film Damnatus. Annoyingly, the film's cease and desist order came after it was ready to release. In GW's defense, they were required by German copyright law to issue it or forfeit all their copyrights. The people who worked on it agreed never to release it, saying that it would have to remain on their computers for good. This statement prompted the forces of the internet and fandom to somehow extract the film's final cut, and post it on the Internet. Since those who made the film did everything they were required to do to keep it from getting out they are legally safe from retribution. It is quite stunning in its quality, even though watching it in German with English subtitles makes it hard to admire the high quality physical effects.
In 1997 a group of folks were working on a Quakemod based on the Alien franchise simply titled Alien Quake until 20th Century Fox issued a Cease and Desist on them. The shutdown was notorious enough in the modding community to the point it even coined the term "foxed" to refer for projects similarly shut down at the request of corporations.
Oddly enough, Fox hasn't gone against Aliens TC for Doom, likely because modding wasn't that widespread back then.
With the exception of a few RPGs, Anne McCaffrey banned fanfiction being posted publicly for years. Fans could still write and share it with each other, but it had to be via private e-mails or mailing lists. The reason for this was because a fan attempted to sue her following the release of one of her Pern novels, claiming that McCaffery had stolen the idea from her fanfic. She later relaxed the ban but imposed rules on would-be writers such as no writing about existing Pern characters, no boys can Impress gold dragons, no girls can Impress bronzes, no dragons of any other colour except for the five standard colours. Ruth is the exclusive exception. Not that anyone actually pays attention to these rules. Oh, the good old days of MSN Groups RPGs with all kinds of sparklypoo dragon colors. The ban was finally lifted in 2004, although it's still a rather small fandom.
One effect of this: The AngbandRoguelike variant Pernband (which, despite its comparatively obscure focus, had become one of the most heavily-developed roguelikes of its day) was forced to excise all Pern material and change its name. It eventually became Tales of Middle-Earth and, even later, Tales of Maj'Eyal.
His major objection is, apparently, that fan fiction is bad practice for an aspiring writer, the equivalent of doing paint-by-numbers for an aspiring artist. Fanart, being the translation of words into images, likely doesn't cause him quite the same consternation on that count.
Curiously, despite any kind of outright ban, proliferation of A Song of Ice and Fire fanfics is downright tiny compared to, say, The Dresden Files and other popular fantasy series. The reason for this may be because canon in the Fire-verse is wrapped in such a tight knot that there is very little room to flexibility with existing characters. Thus, any prospective fanfic writer is either going to have to go for something Original Flavor, feature minor characters that are mostly outside the novels, or simply forge ahead and risk charges of They Changed It, Now It Sucks.
Larry Niven approves of fan fiction, as long as such stories are strictly set within the Man-Kzin War period of his Known Space universe. He publicly stated, in print, that his work was a "playground", and that he was opening up the Man-Kzin war parts of it to anyone who wants to play with his playground equipment. No entendre intended.
J. K. Rowling has said that she actually likes her fans writing fanfic and doing other fannish things, but she doesn't like the fanfics where her characters have sex when they're minors. Her voiced displeasure about the 'under-aged' porn 'fics is partially because, the kiddie porn- and partially because she fears for the kids who accidentally discover Rule 34 first-hand. This 'rule' still doesn't stopanyone from writing them though!
J. K. Rowling successful prevented the Harry Potter Lexicon, a popular online Harry Potter encyclopedia, from being published in book format. While she had no qualms with the website in question, the fact that she has previously voiced that she was interested in publishing a Harry Potter Encyclopedia of her own may have been a motivation to completely nix this from happening.
"For many years, Bradley actively encouraged Darkover fan fiction and reprinted some of it in commercial Darkover anthologies, continuing to encourage submissions from unpublished authors, but this ended after a dispute with a fan over an unpublished Darkover novel of Bradley's that had similarities to some of the fan's stories. As a result, the novel remained unpublished, and Bradley demanded the cessation of all Darkover fan fiction."
For a reasonably dispassionate third-party summation of all the sides of this issue, see this article.
Strongly influenced by Bradley's experiences, Mercedes Lackey actively banned fan fiction in her universes (except under certain draconian conditions) for over two decades. However, as of late 2009, she has altered her stance to allow fanfic licensed under Creative Commons:
"As you folks already know, my agent, Russel Galen, has in the past been opposed to fanfiction. However, he is also Cory Doctorow's agent now, and Cory is a persuasive little gnome."
Terry Pratchett mentioned in a 2007 lecture that he's developed a balanced compromise that seems to work: Fans are free to have as much good-natured fun as they wish (non-commercially), provided that they automatically surrender all their creative rights to the derived works back to Pratchett. That way, he says, if a potential licensee asks if anyone else has made a video adaptation of Jingo, he can simply state "Yes, but I own all the rights to it" and it doesn't seem to bother them at all.
When it comes to original Fan Fiction, he doesn't mind its existence as long as it doesn't happen where he can see it. Just in case someone tries to claim he stole their Discworld ideas. (The legal aspects don't bother him - he doesn't steal ideas, and a court of law would find in his favour - but mud sticks.)
There was also a period in the late 90s when some am-dram companies were intepreting "permission is always given" for Discworld amateur theatrics as "permission need not be sought". He dealt with that by publicly announcing that permission would now be granted in exchange for a small donation to the Orang-Utan Foundation. He didn't want to start getting heavy on his own account, but now anyone who didn't comply would be defrauding a charity...
Diana Gabaldon has compared fanfiction to, among other things, people breaking into her house or selling her children into slavery. This despite the fact that one of the characters from her books is heavily based on Jamie McCrimmon from Doctor Who.
Jim Butcher's official position on The Dresden Files fanfiction is that there isn't any. Because, as he explains, if he knew there was some, he'd have to, legally, have it taken down from wherever it was hosted, and he doesn't want to do that.
As of 2010, fanfiction for The Dresden Files is now allowed, so long as a disclaimer is included. The full post can be found here.
Fan fiction is prohibited from being posted on David Weber's official forum, to prevent copyright issues, but is otherwise unrestricted.
Melissa Marr encourages fanfic (and apparantly reads some herself), but forbids fans from writing rape fic of her characters. Unusually for fanfic writers, this wish is respected.
During the run of Babylon 5 there was a fanfiction ban because Straczynski found himself early on faced with someone suggesting he write a storyline like Passing Through Gethsemane, which was a crucial plot point and he now had to prove it had been planned before he could write it.
Lee Goldberg is vehemently against fanfic and denounces any author who writes it.
Any fan remake of a game show owned by Fremantle Media will be quickly C&D'd.
Kevin Siembieda of Palladium Games is extremely hostile to people posting conversions of his games anywhere where he can find them, and is notorious for making legal threats against said individuals. His official reason is that he doesn't want to take any flak from other companies for someone using his material to infringe on their copyrights, but the general consensus of the fandom (backed up by several statements he's made "off the record") is that it's his Small Name, Big Ego at work and he doesn't want anyone playing in his settings without using his rules. As you might expect, the fans ignore him, buy his books for the setting material and swap out the mechanics.
Inverted by a Fanwork Encouragement with the Open Gaming License featured by Wizards of the Coast's release of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. After buying the franchise from TSR, WotC did an in-depth study of what went wrong before. The consensus that that there was an oversaturation of RPG systems on the market competing for a limited fanbase. D&D was the leader, but games like World of Darkness and Shadowrun had sizable followings with very non-compatible rulesets. This meant that there was little "cross-pollination" between customers of different games. The solution was the Open Gaming License. For the simple price of including a WotC-mandated I Do Not Own notice in the final product, other companies could make free use of WotC's d20 roleplaying system without paying any licensing fees or restrictions. The only catch was that other companies could not publish the actual rules themselves; instead, players would be directed to WotC's core rulebooks. It was a win-win: Other companies could tap into the existing Dungeons & Dragons fanbase for their products, while WotC itself could deal with the more important work of concentrating on rules updates and leave the traditionally lower-margin items like campaign settings and adventure modules to others. The end result was similar to the Dot Com craze; dozens of independent game companies came out of the woodwork to cash in on the wide-open license.
A similar license, called the Game System License, was released for 4th Edition. On the whole, it was a good deal more restrictive in its terms than the OGL, required registration with WotC's licensing department, and other legal loopholes. As such, some companies continued to support 3rd Edition, most notably Pathfinder.
A semi-subversion of this trope: Ultima Online has 'free shards', which are reverse-engineered copies of the MMO, turned into highly moddable single or multiplayer versions of itself. The terms of service say that playing on a free shard will get your official account permanently banned. However, both Game Moderators and Event Managers play and own free shards of their own, and Origin's development team uses popular game mechanics, art, and new skill sets from such free shards as the basis for new expansions and patches. Free shard players aren't actually persecuted.
Kingdom Hearts fans in Japan often keep their fanwork sites a sort of secret, hiding them under passwords and the like to avoid C&Ds from Disney even if there's no porn. This seems to have changed or at least been relaxed somewhat since the introduction of Pixiv. Though it appears that only original Kingdom Hearts characters such as Sora and the Organization XIII are okay - should a picture include say Donald or Goofy, they'll often be drawn with a Censor Box over their eyes as if that conceals their identity.
And Rule 34 of Kingdom Hearts in Japan, even with original characters is strongly discouraged. Not that it matters with the Yaoi Fangirls. The western side however has much more Rule 34 of the girls in stock however.
Disney also occasionally cracks down on Kingdom Hearts fanworks-for-sale in the US. Making fanart is fine, profiting off it is not.
A similar case happened with Sega and a group of fans that were making a fan game/remake of the Streets of Rage franchise. What made the case frustrating was Sega had given the green light to the fan project, only to issue a C&D on it when it was finished. Unlike the Chrono Trigger case above, Sega never remade or ported any of their Streets of Rage games when the fan game was released and the game itself can still be found on various sites on the internet.
Nintendo was also pretty tough on any porn made of their characters in the late 90's and early 00's. During Pokémon's popularity peak in America, they sent constant cease and desist letters out to various hentai sites based on the franchise, and porn based on other characters were even harder to come across. After a misunderstanding with the site Suicide Girls, they've been a bit more lenient on how they approach the issue nowadays.
For the most part, Nintendo seems to not mind fan output, so long as it doesn't "diminish the dignity" of their IPs. In short: No making money off of porn of their intellectual properties and you're good.
Chris Hülsbeck has kindly asked not to have his video game tunes remixed, which is why there is a standing ban on derivative works at the Videogame Music Archive and only one remix on Overclocked Remix.
Tomonobu Itagaki sued a modding community years ago over their making nude mods of the female characters from the Dead or Alive series. He specifically cited the fact that the characters were like "his daughters" and that the mods were akin to violating them in real life. Most people on the Internet speculate that the lawsuit may have stemmed more from a personal problem with westerners (the modding community was American) than with maintaining copyright and the brand purity, since neither he nor Tecmo have batted an eye at the metric tonsloads of HentaiDoujinshi featuring those characters engaging in acts that would get them arrested in at least 30 countries.
And saying that the DoA characters are like his daughters gets a little awkward given the sheer amount of Fanservice in the series.
The MUSHMultiverse Crisis MUSH acknowledges this phenomenon in its banned characters list, not allowing characters from works subject to Fanwork Ban to be played. However, Captain Ersatz versions of banned characters are fine- in fact, there is a theme in the game that is a Captain Ersatz version of Kingdom Hearts.
If you dare to use the name Tetris® or even so much as create a game that involves falling tetriminos, prepare for a C&D letter from The Tetris Company. Unless you pay The Tetris Company licensing fees and royalties. Even if you're not violating any copyrights and only copy elements which the US Supreme Court has ruled cannot even be covered by copyright (Lotus v. Borland), you'll still get SLAPP'ed with legal threats for the sake of intimidation.
Something of the sort occurred with Boy Meets Boy and by association, Friendly Hostility. There was really only one fan site with fairly specific submission guidelines, and all the fic and art seemed to be done by the same handful of people. The site has since gone offline. Averted with the launch of Other People's Business — one of the first sections set up on the creator's forum was an OPB fanwork section, with a Friendly Hostility fanwork section following close behind — helping die-hard 'shippers soothe the pain that followed the launch of the new comic.
Fred Gallagher once stated that if anyone ever made Rule34 fanworks of Megatokyo, he would immediately quit making it. It turned out to be kind of an empty threat. Handing people who don't like you an easy way to make you quit probably isn't such a brilliant idea.
Tim Buckley, author of Ctrl+Alt+Del, issued a pretty derisive and considerably assholish C&D letter to an unsuspecting fan that dared to make a fan video about his comic. Later, it was discovered that Buckley was planning on making an animated series himself and sell it online at a considerably high price.
Bill Holbrook has discouraged fanart and fanfiction of Kevin And Kell, feeling that it weakens his copyright protection. He now has a deviantART community for fanart, but fanfic is still out.
Mike Russell seems to heavily discourage any kind of fanfiction (but not fanart) of The World Of Vicki Fox unless it strictly takes place in a similar setting as the original.
Andrew Hussie bans all for profit fanwork of Homestuck, with the exception of one-time commissions of graphic art.
Christian Weston Chandler gets upset if anybody steals/parodies/makes fun ofSonichu. He doesn't ban the works, per se, especially after he gave up on Sonichu, but one case in particular caused him to instead incorporate the authors of a parody into his work, where he brutally executes them after a nice game of Kangaroo Court.
However, despite this, he has in no way tried to force takedowns on YouTube.
Of a sort on Neopets. In the Nickelodeon Kids & Family Virtual Worlds Group games terms of service (which includes Neopets, Petpet Park, Nicktropolis, and Monkey Quest), all rights to making derivative works under Fair Use are given up. However, Neopets at the least still has original art, poetry, and storytelling contests, as well as the Neopian Times (which accepts fan comics and stories), all of which have rules that all submissions must follow in order to be accepted (such as No Hugging, No Kissing).
Generally, the fan community for That Guy with the Glasses is allowed to write any pairing with any characters (with Doug Walker actively shipping him and his brother, sometimes in livestreams with his wife right behind him. However, there are exceptions, as since all of the team know about the fanfiction. The fans respect these rules, as since the team know about it and read the Kink Meme, they'd know. As well, the official Kink Meme has a list of what's not allowed in the fanfiction. Nash Bozard in particular, has asked that there be no fanfiction rated above "General," with him in it, Iron Liz has requested no fan-art with her and her ex-boyfriend Linkara, and there is a general rule that, following Spoony's departure from the site in 2012, there be no dub-con fic between him and Lupa.
Disney and porn. In fact, quite a few authors have problem with Rule 34 in general even if they don't mind the rest of the madness.
As did The Air Pirates, a group of underground comix creators in the early 1970s.
At Anime North, you're expressly prevented from selling fan works based on Disney and only Disney in the Artist's Alley.
Videos featuring Doctor Rabbit typically resulted in legal trouble with Colgate. One user in particular, Walrus Guy, ended up butting heads with the company repeatedly from continuing to use the character in YouTube Poop.
Warner Bros. smacked down several writers of Tiny Toons slash, back in the mid-1990s, when the world was young, and the lawyers still thought that might work.
There was a time when Fox would crack down hard on The Simpsons porn, but they've since given up.
In the early 2000s many Simpsons Fan sites were shut down successfully by Fox. This is lampshaded in the episode "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes" when Lisa tells Homer his website is just full of copyrighted material from other websites.