When writer Lori Jareo self-published her novel Another Hope and listed it on Amazon.com (Amazon), she expected only her family and friends to see the page and consider purchasing a copy. However, the novel also attracted a great deal of unwanted attention: from mocking bloggers, outraged fans, and Lucasfilms’ lawyers. Another Hope was not a wholly original work, but rather an unauthorized Star Wars “fan fiction” novel: a story using characters and settings from Star Wars without the consent of Lucasfilms, which owns the copyright to the Star Wars universe.
Lucasfilms’ lawyers sent a cease-and-desist notice to Jareo, who then removed the book’s listing from Amazon. While that was the only legal consequence of Jareo’s obvious copyright infringement, the punishment that she received from the public was much more severe. When several well-known science fiction writers and bloggers latched onto the story, they all had strong negative opinions of Jareo’s actions. In April 2006, the story hit dozens of popular blogs, inspiring such mockingly clever titles as “The Stupid is Strong with this One,” and “I Bet She Finds Our Lack of Faith Disturbing.”
Were it not for the Internet publicity concerning the Amazon listing, Lucasfilms may not have ever noticed it. In fact, the book was published nearly a year before the scandal erupted. It was not intellectual property lawyers or the copyright holder that condemned Jareo; rather, it was her fellow fan fiction writers. Jareo broke a major rule when she tried to profit from her fan fiction, and other fans were there to point out her mistake—not only for the faux pas in the fan community but also for the potential attention she brought to the world of fan fiction, a world in which copyright law is largely untested.