Oops: Film Company Asserts 50 Shades Is In The Public Domain

As you may know, the erotic blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey was developed from fan fiction the author wrote.

Once the book took off, all the fan fiction material was removed from online. Now, there’s an interesting lawsuit developing between Universal Studios (which paid $5 million for the movie rights) and Smash Pictures, which has created a porn movie called Fifty Shades of Grey: A XXX Adaptation.

50 Shades of Grey

Smash Pictures now asserts that 50 Shades is in the public domain, ‘Fifty Shades’ Porn Parody Countersuit Claims Books Are In Public Domain (Exclusive):

“‘On information and belief, as much as 89% of the content of the allegedly copyrighted materials grew out of a multi-part series of fan fiction called Masters of the Universe based on Stephenie Myer’s (sic) Twilight novels. On information and belief, this content was published online between 2009 and 2011 in various venues, including fanfiction.net and the person website of Ericka (sic) Leonard. On information and belief, much or all of this material was placed in the public domain.'”

I glanced over the terms of service on fanfiction.net, and couldn’t find anything on who owns the copyright to material which is placed on the site. Common law copyright (you own the rights to anything you create as soon as you create it) would suggest that EL James owns the copyright…

BUT… fanfiction.net is a fan fiction site. Therefore, material created on the site is (if the copyright holder chooses to enforce it) in danger of being in violation of copyright, by the very definition of “fan fiction”.

Which brings us to Stephenie Meyer, and Twilight, on which EL James fanfic was ostensibly based.

Thinking about it makes my head hurt.

My view: nothing online is in the public domain unless the website states material is in the public domain. Everything is copyright, so Universal Studios wins.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

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Angela Booth is a copywriter, author published by major publishers, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills at her online store. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her novels and business books have been widely published.

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About Angela Booth

Angela Booth is a copywriter, author published by major publishers, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills at her online store. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her novels and business books have been widely published.