Over the past decades of sharing their transformative works, fan fiction readers and writers have generally felt wary of commodifying a form of cultural production that is essentially derivative and perhaps subject to copyright infringement lawsuits.
Digital appropriation artists have developed a number of monetization models: royalties, distribution agreements, reasonably priced licenses that permit remix practitioners to sell their appropriations legally, and small-scale compensation intended only to reimburse remixers for their outlay. Although fan filmmakers and game modders have experimented with these models, fan fiction writers have not conducted similar experiments in marketing their works.
Fanfic authors who think that selling appropriative art is always and absolutely against the law are mistaken. No such case law exists, and many appropriating artists make money from their work today without constantly encountering legal trouble.
Why, then, do fic writers resist earning income from their output? Many scholars of fan studies claim that fan fiction is, and must remain, free—that is, “free of charge,” but also “free of the social controls that monetization would likely impose on it” —because it is inherently a gift culture, as Hellekson describes in this issue. In fact, even the fan organization, the Organization of Transformative Works, one of whose goals is to redefine fan works as transformative and therefore legal, states: “The mission of the OTW is first and foremost to protect the fan creators who work purely for love and share their works for free within the fannish gift economy.”
(…) writing fan fiction for personal gain —financial, psychological, or emotional— aligns with the fact that self-enrichment is already inherently an important motivation for women to produce and consume fanfic. For some women, belonging to an affinity group or discussing stories with fellow writers and readers is not the primary reason for engaging with this type of fiction. The rewards of participating in a commercial market for this genre might be just as attractive as the rewards of participating in a community’s gift culture; and the existence of commercial markets for goods does not typically eliminate parallel gift economies.
If fans successfully professionalize and monetize fan fiction, the amateur culture of fic writing will not disappear. Although fans have legitimate anxieties about fan fiction being corrupted or deformed by its entry into the commercial sphere, I argue that there is far greater danger of this happening if fan fiction is not commodified by its own producers, but by parties foreign to fandom who do not understand why or for whom the genre works, and who will promote it for purposes it is unsuited for, ignoring the aspects that make it attractive and dear to its readers.
Abigail De Kosnik, Should Fan Fiction Be Free?, p120-123