This letter, posted on a website that monitors the “legal climate” on the internet, contains a cease-and-desist order to a Texas fan fiction website manager responsible for displaying adult fan fiction based on the Harry Potter series on her website. The law firm that issued the order, Theodore Goddard, represents Christopher Little Literary Agency and J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter novels books. The attorney who writes the letter explains that the sexually explicit fan fiction, which posted on the site in question has concerned (i.e., distressed) clients Rowling and Warner Brothers (the studio behind the Harry Potter films), who wish to preserve the integrity of the Harry Potter franchise. While the firm acknowledges that “innocent” fan fiction does not upset Rowling and Warner Brothers, the sexual material on the website in question threatens the integrity of the Harry Potter brand and could quite easily be accessed by children, especially given the Harry Potter's popularity among youth. The attorney requests that the material in question be removed from the internet and not be disseminated in any other way.
This letter significantly complicates the argument that fan based creative activities do not harm underlying work. Here, works of fan fiction with erotic themes are seen as a threat to the integrity of the work that they are based on. Illicit fan fiction's potential to tarnish the reputation of original work could harm the market of underlying work and could thus disqualify fan fiction from fair use protection. This consideration must therefore be reflected in arguments that attempt to defend fan fiction, particularly by those who wish to legally commercialize it. If anything, the existence of illicit, market-harming fan fiction—with no aims of legitimate parody—proves that a generalized, sweeping concession allowing fan fiction is inappropriate. Rather, fan fiction writers must individually decide whether to consider their work fair use; in the meantime, cease and desist letters such as these will continue to make up many writers' minds for them.