Urban Dictionary explains, “Fanfiction is when someone takes either the story or characters (or both) of a certain piece of work, whether it be a novel, tv show, movie, etc, and create their own story based on it. Sometimes people will take characters from one movie and put them in another, which is called a cross-over.” There’s also fan art, of course, which UD explains is “art of any form, usually electronic or drawn free hand, that uses characters or settings from a popular television show, novel, cartoon, anime, or movie as the subject.”
It’s only natural that questions of copyright and fair use come into play when members of the public are playing around with characters who weren’t their own creations — and are worth bazillions of dollars to the entertainment industry. An amazing article, titled “Are fan fiction and fan art legal?” answers the following questions: What can be copyrighted? What is fair use? What rights do you have to your fan works? and What should you do if you receive a Cease and Desist notice?
This about sums it up: “The strongest cases for fair use involve fan works that are noncommercial and transformative while borrowing a little as they require from the original works and that do not compete with the original works in the marketplace.” But the article goes into a great explanation if you are at all interested in the subject of fanfiction and fanart.
Read the full article on io9: Are fan fiction and fan art legal?