Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it will be launching a new publishing platform called Kindle Worlds that would allow authors to publish fan fiction. Fan fiction refers broadly to stories written by fans of an original work (e.g., think of Star Trek or Harry Potter) that take place within the "universe" of that original work.
Fan fiction is generally not commissioned by the creator of the original work and, as such, has raised copyright issues in the past. What Amazon's Kindle Worlds platform would do is in essence legalize the process of not only creating fan fiction but profiting from it (with the consent of the creator of the original work).
Amazon obtains a license from the creator of the original work and allows authors who write fan fiction to be published under that license. Amazon pays the creator of the original work a license fee out of sales revenue and promises authors (for works of at least 10,000 words in length) a royalty of 35% of net revenue.
|Someone writing fan fiction in the universe of Els Oot and|
the Mapmaker might, for example, write a story about Tonk
the mapmaker, when he was still young.
An example might be if I, as the creator of Els Oot and the Mapmaker, provided a license to Amazon under the Kindle Worlds platform. Another writer participating in Kindle Worlds would then be authorized to write a new story using Els Oot or one of the other characters in my book or that otherwise takes place within Els's world. Amazon would pay me a royalty for the use of Els's "world" and the author of the new Els Oot story would be paid a royalty as well based on the sale of his or her new story. Presumably, after paying both me as the owner of the "world" and the author, Amazon still nets a profit from the sale of the newly created story.
This platform, thus, is intriguing for writers on several fronts - as original content creators, as writers who potentially could create derivative works based on another author's books and as readers.
From the original content creator's perspective, the platform may allow the creator to monetize the "universes" that have already been created while at the same time encouraging fans to continue to interact with those worlds. Moreover, by participating in the platform, the content creator can also set guidelines that authors would need to follow (thus retaining some control over the overall "brand").
Writers, of course, have a new avenue for earning a living writing within a space that already has an established fan base, and readers may potentially have a wider selection of fan fiction from which to choose from.
There may be drawbacks to this platform as well, although we may need to better understand the terms of the Kindle Worlds platform before concluding on which concerns are truly problematic. One of the concerns raised by some is that authors of the new fan fiction might not retain any rights to the new content that they have created. They obtain a royalty on sale but, for example, if they created a new character, they might not have rights to license the new creation (and potentially Amazon or the "world" owner might be able to exploit the new creation in another story or work without compensating the author of the fan fiction).
Carol Pinchefsky has an interesting article on Kindle Worlds in Forbes addressing some of the concerns raised by the new publishing platform.
Also, as of now, Amazon appears to have only secured licenses from Warner Bros. Television Group's Alloy Entertainment: Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries (meaning only these "worlds" are authorized under the platform). But more licenses are expected.