You may have noticed amongyour travels of the fanfiction archives out there that many stories had disclaimers. Sites that fanfiction only tend not to have them as its generally known that the site is a collection of trans-formative works. But its important to know what a disclaimer is and why you should use one, especially if you are posting a site that is not purposely for Fanfic
A disclaimer is a message where the writer reminds whoever is reading of several things. One is that it is done for enjoyment, not profit (fanfiction is primarily a volunteer/non-paid hobby). Two that the writer is giving credit when credit is due. Three, That the writer respects other writers enough to know how to source material.
So in more depth:
Pleasure not Business
Most fanfiction is written as a hobby. To show appreciation of some form of entertainment. Every once and awhile though someone decides they should get paid for it. The problems that arise are this: It makes everyone who writes fanfic look bad because authors/creators start wondering if people are trying to earn money on their work.
Plagiarism is a real thing, and so is copyright infringement. Most disclaimers start from this. They want the author to know they are doing this for fun, not to impede the creator from earning their well-earned compensation for the original material. Also to make sure the casual reader understands that the person writing this isn’t actually the creator of the material.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Here is where we get into plagiarism. Plagiarism is the act of taking someone else’s work and trying to pass it off as your own. And sadly, there is a small issue of this within fandom works. Not only authors using snipits out of other shows/books/etc but also authors stealing other people’s stories and claiming them as their own.
Now, obviously someone took a lot of time and energy to bring forth a story. Some of these stories are novel length and I’ve read quite a few that are actually worth publishing had they not been fan-fictions. It feels a little defeated to find people are being tricked into thinking someone else made what you put so much into.
This goes for professional writers/creators as well. If you have material you brought into your story that comes from another fandom then the one you are writing in, credit them. Otherwise you are leading people to believe that you wrote that, and that would be plagiarism, even if you acknowledge taht you are writing fic.
Respect & an Honor Code
So it comes down to respect. Respect to the creators of the original content you are using, as well to your own work. You put effort into that story too.
On a personal note, when I was in middle school and just getting into the whole fanfic writing thing, I had a favorite author. I would eagerly await the emails letting me know she had updated. I checked the website in case the email was accidently blocked. Her story was amazing and at that point I liked her writing more then most of the books I bought at the bookstore.
But it broke that she had used, in blocks of text, parts of another book unrelated to the fandom she was working in. That she had plagiarized and had never given credit to the person she had basically stole paragraphs from. As a fan, I felt a little betrayed. Even after it all came to light, she wasn’t really apologetic and claimed she was being bullied by the internet who just wanted her to give credit and acknowledge what she had done was wrong.
She’s a professional author now, and I have yet to be able to read anything she has written because every time I see it I remember the sadness I felt when I learned she hadn’t really written the cool stuff I thought she did. And I know of many fans who feel the same way, even though its been close to a decade now since this happened.
There is a unspoken honor code among fanfic writers. You may borrow, but you must credit the person who wrote the original material. And if its a fellow fan, try your best to get permission first. Obviously its hard to get permission from professional authors/creators, but at the very least you should acknowledge their contribution. Particularly if you don’t acknowledge their work as the primary scope in which you are writing.