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Writing Books/Fan-fiction and legalities questions


I contribute to a motoring website, well, one that's got Photoshop of cars, motoring history etc. - it's a small obscure site with only a few users.

Recently I've been learning InDesign and Quark Xpress for digital publishing, and made a few of my own publications - with real-life titles, even though the content is fictitious - my own versions of cars, and fictitious towns with dealers (based around What Car?, Motor Trend, Auto Trader and Auto Exchange magazines - all real-life popular car magazines). I have changed the names, e.g. What Auto?, Automotormart Trader etc. to avoid 'passing off' even though the words are generic enough, for copyright reasons.

The content is fictitious (e.g. no such places as Esfolk - a parody of Norfolk/Suffolk, or Marlholme etc.) and even some brands that no-longer exist get vehicles created for them in Photoshop (e.g. a Rover 600 convertible and hatchback). There's even fictitious car dealers, and the effort put into making the adverts look realistic is done for verisimilitude purposes - apart from phone numbers (for obvious reasons, i.e. privacy) which are made longer and have numbers added in between, e.g. 01234 123456 becomes 012345413210 123456.

The magazines' inside design differs from the original, using different fonts, colours etc. - enough to avoid claims that it's 'ripping-off' the original design. The facts themselves (car prices of new vehicles etc.) are just data, and can't be copyrighted, if I'm correct, since this data is in the public domain.

I am wondering is this considered fan fiction? - I think it's a derivative work (bear in mind I am from the UK, so British law applies). As I understand it, Photoshop works of vehicles are derivative works under British law.

Currently my works are not on the site as I'm trying to ensure this fanfiction is legally compliant - it's my first real 'go' as it were, at fanfiction.

Relating to this question here would my content be considered 'sufficiently different' and as satire, as this is affectionate parody, not a "let's poke fun at this work"-type parody.

The point of creating these works is twofold; to show my design skills to fellow enthusiasts, and a tribute work to car magazines that us automobile enthusiasts like - basically, a sort of fan site, if you like.
I have this footer on my file(s) I created: All characters and other entities appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, dead or alive, or other real-life entities, past or present, is purely coincidental. However, the place-names, I assume, are not copyrightable, e.g. Ashton-super-Mare etc. and telephone codes with additional numbers in? All the advertisers are fictitious as well.

Basically, what I'm asking, is how to do things right with fan-fiction, especially since this isn't the usual type of question about fan-fiction works based on TV shows etc. as I'm very new to this area.

Hi, AN other,

Unfortunately, I'm not an expert in UK copyright law, and I'm also not an attorney or solicitor, but according to this site:

Derivative works in the UK are treated very similarly to US law. In other words, only the owner of the copyright can give permission to make a derivative work. But, what you're planning isn't just an issue of copyright. You could also be infringing on trademarks, service marks and other protected rights. A trademark could be the logo, e.g., the design of the lettering on a particular publication. A service mark could be the phrasing of a publication name, etc.

I strongly suggest you go to the Intellectual property Office's website and read up about what is protected and what exceptions exist:

Then, if you plan to take subscriptions or sell advertisements for profit, you seek the advice of a solicitor that is skilled in intellectual property. Better safe than sorry.  If you don't have the funds to hire an attorney, there's a website that offers free solicitor advice on some subjects. It couldn't hurt to try it out!

Good luck!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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