Amazon’s Kindle Worlds

Amazon has announced that they will soon be seeking submissions for Kindle Worlds

Get ready for Kindle Worlds, a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games. With Kindle Worlds, you can write new stories based on featured Worlds, engage an audience of readers, and earn royalties. Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries, with licenses for more Worlds on the way.

This isn’t as earth-shattering new as some are portraying it. Pocket Books has been selling Star Trek fan-fiction for decades. Yes, authors have to submit their fan-fiction to Pocket Books/Paramount. Pocket Books/Paramount decides what gets published. Authors will have to submit their fan-fiction to Amazon. Amazon, with input I am certain from the rights holders, will decide what gets published. The website already lists several content restrictions:

  • Pornography: We don’t accept pornography or offensive depictions of graphic sexual acts.
  • Offensive Content: We don’t accept offensive content, including but not limited to racial slurs, excessively graphic or violent material, or excessive use of foul language.
  • Illegal and Infringing Content: We take violations of laws and proprietary rights very seriously. It is the authors’ responsibility to ensure that their content doesn’t violate laws or copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity, or other rights.
  • Poor Customer Experience: We don’t accept books that provide a poor customer experience. Examples include poorly formatted books and books with misleading titles, cover art, or product descriptions. We reserve the right to determine whether content provides a poor customer experience.
  • Excessive Use of Brands: We don’t accept the excessive use of brand names or the inclusion of brand names for paid advertising or promotion.
  • Crossover: No crossovers from other Worlds are permitted, meaning your work may not include elements of any copyright-protected book, movie, or other property outside of the elements of this World.

This will make selling fan-fiction in the specified universes easier. Selling fan-fiction in other universes will still be as illegal as it was previously. Publishing, but not selling, fan-fiction in other universes will remain as illegal as it was previously.

The only legal questions I have are related to the fact that the current acquired universes seem to be television shows based on written works. Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith. Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard. Amazon says they acquired the rights to the universes from Warner Brothers. Meaning, I think, that in addition to Amazon’s cut, and the fan-fiction author’s cut, Warner Brothers will get a cut. Will the author of the original series get a cut? Did Amazon ask the original authors for permission? Did they need to? If they only have Warner Brother’s permission, do the fan-fiction authors have to be careful about using characters and plot references that only appear in the novels, and not in the television show?

Update: Their press release indicates the rights were obtained from Alloy Entertainment – the book publishing arm of Warner Brothers. This suggests that Warner Brothers/Alloy own the rights to both the novels and television series, in which case there should be no legal issue.