You made something, a piece of art, movie, song, book, story, sculpture, etc. Legally you own what you made. It’s called copyright. What that means is that no one else is allowed to make money from your thing unless they pay you for that right (Unless you gave up your rights to a distributor or publisher). There are exceptions and loopholes but our laws say you own it.
Your thing becomes viral and super popular. People start writing fanfiction, drawing fanart, making filk, and dissecting every detail about your thing. That’s great. It gets others into it. Your fan community is now self fueling.
You licence out your thing to game makers, movie, television, music, etc. You’ve made it, yay!
You notice that a piece of fanfiction that you read about your thing has had the names changed and is selling ridiculously well. But still using your ideas…
You notice someone has made a Kickstarter to make a fanfilm and it’s in the millions. Using your thing as a basis…
You notice that someone has taken a small sample of your thing and turned it into an earworm that everyone has heard.
You notice that some dumbass has used part of your thing for Geeky Coffee names or logos and is doing ok business. But it’s still your thing…
There are two ways to react to people using your thing to make money, and the most natural one is anger. You get angry and hire a team of lawyers to make sure you get the money from licensing that you deserve or to get them to stop doing what they’re doing. I mean, in theory everything with your thing affects how your thing is seen. You don’t want to hurt or dilute the brand of your thing. How dare they!!!
Or there’s the super-chill way of dealing with it; that is to ignore what they’ve done and make the next thing. You’ve made lots of money, so who cares, right?
Both approaches are extremes and the answer is somewhere in between, I think. You see, I’m not sure where the line should be drawn between fair use and plagiarism.
As a creator, I’m uncomfortable with the idea that someone else could play or change my stories for their own benefit. I’d hate to find out that my book’s characters have been stolen, twisted into a poor semblance of porn and resold to billions. BUT, I’ll be overjoyed when I look on Fanfiction.net or DeviantArt and find fan creations based off my work.
As a consumer, I want more stories, more books, more fanart! I want buttons, coffee, shirts, posters, and all the things!!! I want to tell everyone about the super awesome cup I got based off my favourite thing.
The ethics are obvious; Don’t steal! But does my use of a drawn picture of a Dalek and the name Davroast really count as stealing? I’m not saying it’s mine, I’m just showing my love.
I know that when I’m ready for mass production, I’ll have to change the names of most of my coffee.
I do not have the answers. What do you think?