In most cases, the answer is no. Under US copyright law, fan fiction is considered a derivative work, and thus cannot be lawfully published without the consent of the copyright owners. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
For example, when someone publishes fan fiction for the purpose of criticism or comment, then they are being treated as an artist and are able to use some creative rights. Also, if someone wants to make money by selling their fan fiction, they can do so with our written permission.
Please remember that we allow fan fiction because we love it and want to see more stories come out from people who are inspired by our characters. But that doesn't mean you can do anything you want with them. Please don't take advantage of this community.
Also, please note that we have had many questions from people wanting to know if they can write a story set in the Harry Potter universe. The answer to this question is also no. We encourage you to read our policy on this topic if you have any further questions.
In a nutshell, no. While fan fiction has long been a legal murky area (though with growing clarity), publishing for profit with the same characters and original narrative is a no-no. And, before you ask, yes, it has been tried: Noon-Fanlore Russet's novel Bravely Default features a story that begins exactly like Final Fantasy VII but with a new main character. It was a success, winning an award from the International Digital Content Awards.
So why is it illegal? Because companies want to protect their trademarks and prevent others from profiting without permission. Publishing a book on Game X could be considered trademark infringement or copyright violation if the characters or elements within the game aren't presented accurately or if the writing isn't its own work (i.e., not officially released by the company that owns the rights).
In conclusion, it isn't illegal to write a book about a video game. But you might not get rich doing it...
Except for one exception, you cannot make money from fan fiction. If the owner of the copyright, the production company, or the owner's agent discovers that you are profiting from fanfiction, you will be sued. Moreover, they can claim that what you do is infringement and won't hesitate to take you to court.
The only way you could make some money with fan fiction is if you get paid for writing reviews or articles about movies or books. Then your activities would be considered freelance work and would not violate any copyrights.
However, even in this case, you should still check with the publisher or movie studio first before writing about their products. They may not like people writing about their films or books without being paid!
One often asked question at the OTW is if they, as a fanfiction author, hold copyright to their work. The short answer is yes. "The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) empowers copyright holders, including fan-authors, to request that anything be removed if it infringes on their copyright." However, just because you can copyright something doesn't mean you should.
In the United States, copyright protection is provided by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Federal law grants authors the exclusive right to reproduce their work as specified in the Copyright Act. Authors also have the exclusive right to create derivative works based on their own works or those of others. This includes writing new stories set in previously published works. Fan fiction writers may claim copyright over their creations, even if they are not named on the story, if they created the story independently from another work.
Copyright protects an author's original ideas, methods, processes, and systems. It does not protect any particular expression of those ideas, methods, processes, or systems, such as how they are written or illustrated. For example, an author cannot claim copyright over the concept of a superhero movie; instead, she or he would need to claim copyright over their own specific treatment of this idea. Similarly, an author cannot claim copyright over an idea used in a story; instead, the author would need to claim copyright over the story itself.
As a general rule, fanfiction should not be created with the intention of being commercially published. Copyright prevents unlicensed persons from exploiting intellectual property. Publishers, on the other hand, are starting to warm around to the concept of publishing works of fan fiction. If you write a story and offer it up for publication online, then there's no reason why it couldn't be accepted.
The only real difference between publishing licensed material and publishing unlicensed material is that the former must adhere to certain standards to remain legal. For example, a publisher cannot alter the original work in any way without first obtaining permission from the author or artist. The same rules apply to characters, settings, etc. That being said, many publishers will allow for some creative editing when necessary. As long as you don't change the meaning or purpose of the work, most editors should have no problem with it at all.
The only thing you need to remember is that copyright law protects original works of authorship. So while you can certainly publish fan fiction, you cannot do so without first securing the rights to do so. This may mean contacting the original author or artist and asking their permission. It may also mean self-publishing your work and having it distributed through online markets like Amazon Kindle.
Either way, publishing unlicensed material is perfectly acceptable.