I realize fan fiction and rights is a stupid question because you are picking up from where a creator has already traveled.

But what about a fictional character I create while writing fan fiction?

In my case, I have extended the history of a favorite series much backwards and tried imagining how things began. In the process, I propped up a new character which is not a part of the original series.

Do I have a right over this new character I have created (partly) over someone else's storyline?

  • You may own the character, but you still don't own the setting. If you lifted out the character and put them in a different setting would they be the same character?
    – CLockeWork
    Jan 20, 2014 at 12:45

2 Answers 2


I am not a lawyer, so the conclusions (in parenthesis) are merely assumptions.

  1. Character copyright is separate from the copyright of the work this character appears in. (If you turn this around, it means that a character who did not appear in any of the works you are writing fanfiction of, cannot yet be copyrighted. In fact, the copyright of any of the characters you create in that copyrighted universe are your own, if it is sufficiently delineated, see below.)

  2. A charcter can be copyrighted only if it is sufficiently delineated. Stock characters cannot be copyrighted. (So if James Bond sits besides some person in a bar, who otherwise plays no role in any of the movies, you can turn that person into the protagonist of your own story and will hold the copyright to it. But if a character you made up – in a fan fiction or elsewhere – is only a stock character, you do not hold any copyright to it.)

Source: http://io9.com/5933976/are-fan-fiction-and-fan-art-legal

  • Thanks for the link: very helpful! I'll read the article for a better understanding. Jan 19, 2014 at 8:49

YES. You have ownership rights over anything and everything you write. Just because you happened to wrote a work so derivitive it's unpublishable without express permission of someone else doesn't mean you lose your copyright; it just means that you can't do anything with what you wrote.

Literature is likely filled with characters who began within unpublishable fan-fiction that was never shared, who were latter extracted, distilled, and appeared in works with no relation to their original origin. You won't find any documentation on this, of course, since that might bring the whole matter into an ugly lawsuit, and no one wants that.

  • That's not true if I understand @what's link correctly: "The court held that Anderson's treatment was a derivative work, and therefore Stallone held the copyright on that work." Jan 18, 2014 at 18:58
  • You don't understand it correctly. Anderson lost on the grounds that his work was illegal, not that it was derivative. And he was claiming copyright against the original author on "components of the story." (and it was a movie script vs a movie, which is a whole different bundle of crazy.) Go read the next paragraph about Fifty Shades of Grey.
    – DougM
    Jan 18, 2014 at 21:49
  • DougM, your answer does not answer the question, which was not about copyright of the text, but copyright of the characters in the text. If you write about Mickey Mouse, you might hold a copyright to that text, but you will still not hold a copyright over Mickey Mouse. Your emphatic "yes" at the beginning is wrong and misleading.
    – user5645
    Jan 19, 2014 at 7:44
  • Which is it? did I not answer the question, or was my answer misleading? OP didn't ask about Mickey mouse or "Mickey mouse and Charlie Cow", the question was just about "Charlie Cow". and the answer is "yes."
    – DougM
    Jan 19, 2014 at 17:02

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