In the past few years, a curious literary genre known as "fan fiction" has been flourishing. The term refers to all manner of vignettes, short stories and novels based on the universes described in popular books, TV shows and movies. The explosion of these part-original, part-borrowed works has set authors of fan fiction against some media companies in a battle to redefine the line between consumers' right to "fair use" and copyright holders' rights to control their intellectual property.
Fan-fiction creators say their work represents the emergence of an art form that takes advantage of all that the Internet was built for. They invoke the First Amendment and say that under fair-use laws they have a right to create what they want as long as they are not trying to profit at the expense of the original material. But some book, music and movie houses argue that fan fiction is more plagiarism than high art and have demanded that operators of Web sites remove the offending material.
Rowling has unofficially sanctioned some fan-fiction sites by leaving them alone. To many of those that feature adult material, however, her agents have sent sharply worded cease-and-desist letters.
The author is "flattered by genuine fan fiction," said Neil Blair, an attorney for the Christopher Little Literary Agency, which represents Rowling. But she has been alarmed by "pornographic or sexually explicit material clearly not meant for kids."
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