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"I do not own this trope. It and any characters that may appear in it are the intellectual property of Unknown Troper @ 208.110.194.128. Please don't sue me."
User:Micah, who launched but didn't suggest this trope

Fanfic writers frequently see the need to begin their fiction with statements that look sort of like the page quote. These disclaimers are not only completely useless or even counterproductive from a legal point of view [1] but also generally redundant, especially if posted on a website like Fanfiction.net which already includes its own well-written legal disclaimers. It should also be noted some sites require the disclaimers on individual stories in addition to the site-wide disclaimers for some reason.

The origin of this kind of disclaimer comes from a misunderstanding of the reason for copyright law as being concerned with someone taking credit for someone else's work, and that so long as a fanfic author is explicitly making clear that she did not create the characters or setting, then she is not taking credit so not doing any harm. Actual copyright law is concerned with potential loss of revenue to the copyright holder due to the fact that some use of their material is not generating revenue for them. Even if you don't charge for your fanfic, the rights holder can argue that they could have written your story and then charged people for it if your free version wasn't there, so you've still damaged them monetarily.

The point is, this kind of disclaimer does not really improve your legal situation -- A copyright-infringing fanfic with a disclaimer is still copyright-infringing. However, a vast number of rights-holders are generally tolerant of Fanfic authors simply because (1) having fanfic written helps consolidate the fan community for the original work, or at least (2) most fanfics are not popular enough to dent revenues anywhere near as badly as the bad press of going after a fanfic author would. Being "not worth suing" saves more fanfic authors from legal troubles than the disclaimer does.

In fact, stating you know you are violating copyright can make the situation worse. Copyright law has one level of damages for standard infringement, but triple damages for 'willful infringement', which apply after you have been told you are violating copyright, and you keep distributing copies anyway. It is possible that stating you know you're violating copyright could make you start at willing infringement, if anyone wanted to sue. (On the other hand, the disclaimer also implies you think this is legal, so, paradoxically, it might not be 'willful infringement' at all.)

Apparently this practice dates back to Star Trek fan magazines from the '70s, when studios were worried that the magazines would cut into their profits. Then they remembered Sturgeon's Law.

At this point, these disclaimers are more of a tradition than an attempt at actual legality. They often are used now to show gratitude for the work of the original creators; some compare them to Homer's invocation of the muse. Some authors also use them to clearly demarcate which elements of their story are canonical and which are invented (e.g., by having a disclaimer that says "I don't own any of these characters, except Author Avatar"). Still others use them to (fallaciously) point out the futility of suing them for infringement damages by indicating that they have little, no, or negative assets. (A note to whoever may actually think this would dissuade anyone from suing: companies sue in order to protect their own assets, not to acquire someone else's.)

As such, people frequently use vague, cutesy, or parodic versions, along the lines of:

  • "Stuff in this story is owned by some company, I didn't look it up."
  • "I don't own [so and so], but I wish I did!"
  • "If I owned Star Wars, Jar Jar Binks wouldn't exist."
  • "I own not, you sue not."
  • "Disclaimer: Everything is owned by Joss Whedon." [2]
    • "Joss Is Boss" is pretty popular among fanfics for his work, especially Firefly.
  • "I don't own anyone in this story, except for attractive character X]. He's mine! *Glomp* ^_^"
  • "Disclaimer: I claim dis."
  • "I still don't own Discworld. I haven't even asked about it."
  • "Of course I own Transformers. I own tons of Transformers. I spend so much money on Transformers, they've decided to cut out the middleman and send Hasbro my next paycheck. I own so many Transformers that I barely have room for... That's not what you meant, is it?"
  • "All I own is a piece of chewed bubblegum and a bottle of vodka -- so, if you want to get drunk and eat pre-chewed gum, sue away!"
  • "Disclaimer: If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away."
  • "I own nothing."
  • The disclaimer on a website devoted to the TV reality competition The Amazing Race:

 "The Amazing Race is the property of CBS Television and World Race Productions -- we don't own it, we just like to play with it."

  • "Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue / I don't own, so please don't sue."
  • "I do not own Fandom X. If I did, {{[[[One True Pairing]] Characters Y and Z}}] would totally have hooked up by now."
  • "If I owned [Fandom X], don't you think I would have better things to do with my time than write fanfiction?"

Sometimes there is an inversion, or subversion, such as:

  • "I totally own these characters and this universe! I'm a millionaire! See? Nobody cares."
  • "You do realise how pointless these disclaimers are, right?"

Some (such as Bobmin) may go even further and turn their disclaimers into short comedy sketches. This means that reading the disclaimer can help sort the good from the crud.

Note that in the strange realm known as Real Person Fanfiction, disclaimers are used to clarify that the work of fiction is indeed a work of fiction, and not a report of true events or an attempt to libel the people represented. (Be aware that this may not necessarily work, at least in England.)

Usually a part of the Fan Fic Header. Can get extremely Meta when someone somehow copies or associates their idea with Recursive Fanfiction. How dare you use the idea they're borrowing without permission without their permission?!

For a more professional equivalent, see This Is a Work of Fiction.

Examples of I Do Not Own include:


  • From a Star Wars fic: "Thanks, Uncle George, for letting us play with your toys! We promise to put them back in the box when we're done." This could be inspired by the Acknowledgments pages of actual Star Wars novels, nearly all of which end by thanking Lucas for creating the GFFA and letting the authors "play in his sandbox."
  • "(Yo, Rumiko-chan! Borrowing the kids for a while, don't worry. I'll have them dry-cleaned before I return them. Kenko)" (From Rob "Kenko" Haynie's Ranma fic "Fair Warning".)
  • M. McGregor likes to have fun with these:
    • "I don't own these characters. I don't even own the humorous disclaimer I was going to put here."
    • "If these characters belonged to me, I would be living somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. I'd have a nice luxurious cabin near a mountain somewhere. It would have solar panels, central air-conditioning, and hot and cold running supermodels. The cold supermodels run to warm themselves up. The hot ones run cause they accidentally lit themselves on fire while trying to cook me dinner. Silly supermodels, you don't know how to cook!

      "Anyway, I don't own this stuff."
  • "Sora, Riku, and Kairi are copyright Lucasfilm, Inc. Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are copyright Nickelodean." This fanfic.
  • "All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you." (Meltha's disclaimer)
  • "Joss is Boss" (used on uncountably many Firefly fics)
  • "This fic bears no intentional resemblance to any persons living or dead. If I'm doing my job right, it should bear a very great resemblance to persons made up and not owned by me." (From here.)
  • "Don't own, wish I did, no way wish can come true, end of story.....errrr, this story" --from a FFVII fanfic on aff.n
  • Clell65619 generally does this for his Harry Potter fics on fanfiction.net.
    • His standard disclaimer is "I don't own Harry Potter and wouldn't particularly care to. I would like a rental agreement with option to buy for Hermione Granger. A short term contract with Nymphadora Tonks wouldn't be turned down. A Long-term agreement with Luna Lovegood would probably be a whole lot of fun. Any time Padma Patil wants to open negotiations, call me and oh for a weekend with Fleur. Oddly Lavender and Padma's sister (despite being her twin) Parvati do nothing for me."
    • On Harry Potter and the Distaff Side: "I own none of this. I do not own Harry Potter or any rights to his image or personality. I do not own the moon or the stars. I do not own human genders, other than my own personal original factory equipment. Honest. Nope, not me. I most certainly do not own the rights to a billion dollar literary work. Damn it."
  • From another Harry Potter fic: "Jo owns the characters, the plot, and my soul. I own only the spaces inbetween."
  • "Written by a Fan of Lemony Snicket -- a phrase which here means 'Someone who is most certainly not Lemony Snicket and would greatly appreciate it if he did not sue her.'" (This (femslash) fic.)
  • One Death Note fic starts with something like "I do not own Light, but he probably owns me".
    • Some Death Note disclaimers have something on the lines of "If I owned Death Note, X would still be alive."
      • The first and only disclaimer of Kira is Justice ends with, "And remember, this will be the last time you'll be seeing this."
  • Subversion: "Disclaimer: Little boy..." from the Super-Ultra-Mega Ranma 1/2 crossover on Ranchan's Crossing Bridges.
  • Fittingly, given the nature of his act, some fics involving Stephen Colbert have two disclaimers: one for the copyrighted fictional characters, one for any Real Life people who become involved during the course of the story (frequently reporters or political figures).
  • Paraphrase from various fics: "I do not own The Beatles. They belong to Apple Corps., EMI, and their management..." (Or MPL if it's a post-Beatles McCartney fic.)
  • One Beatles fanfic has: "Please don't sue. I spent all my money on a copy of Let It Be."
  • "I don't own emotion, I RENT" -- probably half of all Rent fanfics out there. Clever and funny the first time, mildly annoying the fiftieth.
  • The end of the first Canto of Lord Byron's Don Juan reads: "The first four rhymes are Southey's every line:/ For God's sake, reader! take them not for mine." Of course, this was essentially pre-Internet Don Juan Fanfic, since Byron didn't own Don Juan either.
  • "Metal Gear Solid and its characters are ©1999 Konami. Metal Gear Solid is a registered trademark of Konami Co., Ltd. This webcomic is intended as a parody. I'd be flattered to get sued over it, but please don't.": Reads the disclaimer for The Last Days of Foxhound.
  • "The only thing to which I can lay legitimate claim is the personality of Elizabeth (who says that she is perfectly capable of owning that herself, thank you very much)."
  • In one Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok fic, the author exclaims that her attempt to claim legal ownership of the Norse Gods resulted in her brother's car being blown up and her getting sued in multiple dead languages. Oh yeah, and the original mangaka's characterizations don't belong to her either.
  • The disclaimer on this Kim Possible fic takes it to a ridiculous but logical conclusion: "I own nothing, which is why I'm currently sitting naked in an internet cafe. I'm getting some pretty funny looks, I can tell you."
  • Not so much a disclaimer as an hopeful lawsuit deterrent, one Supernatural fic featured the header, "Our porn makes more people watch your show."
  • A now-defunct site had the following disclaimer: "I do not own the Gunslinger. Right now I'm blackmailing Stephen King to try and change that."
  • Paraphrase: "I do not own the characters in House. I do own the complete sets of DVDs. One cancels out the other." Found on "Casualty" by Angelfirenze, an "M"-rated House "Fix Fic" running in an Alternate Universe.
  • "Disclaimer: Do I LOOK like Terry Pratchett?" From here.
  • Subverted in a Love Hina fanfic: "Myuuuuu!"
  • Apparently, there have been some cases of people thinking disclaimers have legal weight -- see this thread on rpg.net, started by someone who apparently thought you could make a RPG based on someone else's intellectual property as long as you credit them.
  • Summed up pretty well at the start of Dogma. "Disclaimer: 1) a renunciation of any claim to or connection with; 2) disavowal; 3) a statement made to save one's own ass; 4) a foresaid word for not being blamed later."
  • One fic holds that the characters (who are all human) bear no intentional resemblance to any persons living, dead, or X with X becoming something increasingly ridiculous with each chapter until coming to "author finally finishing with a running gag".
  • A rather elaborate version:

 Sing, O Muse, or speak, or dance,

and so your audience entrance:

For voice, or step, or gilded phrase -

each art shall mortal minds amaze.

But Muse, ensure whatever work

is safe from harmful law and clerk,

the legal hounds who howl at we

who honor creativity.

 Who honors more an artist's skill?

The fan who will the soul distill

from artistry, and so conceive

new tales from what that art achieved?

Or one who simply reads a book

and even if their heart is hooked,

tells none, nor lets their minds be swept

to lands where untouched tales are kept?

 But yet let needful words be said,

which still I treat with grief and dread:

I own the narration within,

but not the world it happens in.

It isn't hard to separate

my words from those I emulate.

What's mine is mine, what's not is not,

I lay no claim to other plots.

 So guard, Calliope, and Sing!

The humble words which I might bring

would in your speech flourish and thrive,

in ways I could scarcely contrive.

And reader, if you would allow

just one more moment, here and now

to introduce my nascent glory --

Sit back, relax, enjoy the story!

  • The disclaimer of one Star Wars fanfic includes: "Some items, such as lightsabers, Jedi robes, etc., are owned by various characters, and Anakin Skywalker was owned by Watto once, but now he's not, so if you see an undisclaimed fic about him by Watto, report it immediately."
  • Linkara generally plays this straight in his reviews; in Amazons Attack reviews, he used several variations, such as:

 "Wonder Woman is nobody's property...Although the copyright and trademark belong to DC Comics."

"Wonder Woman is still no one's property, but this pile of crap Amazons Attack belongs to DC Comics, and they can have it.

"This miserable excuse for an event comic, Amazons Attack, is property of DC Comics. At least it will be until they throw it into the trash and try to pretend it never happened."

  • The installments of Radio Free Cyberton's parody of the Transformers film usually contain this: "Any resemblance to characters owned by Hasbro or Takara is hoped to go unnoticed by their attorneys. All celebrity voices impersonated... obviously." Averted in that they actually used music from the Transformers soundtrack with permission.
  • Chapter 33 of Spoiled Brats by DarkFyre99 actually quotes the first paragraph of this article (as it stood as of November 2009) as its disclaimer.
  • Phantom's Secret Diary by Anthiena has:

 Butch Hartman says it was all his idea, so blame him. On the other hand, I think he'd say at least three words you can't say on TV if he saw this fic.

  • One chapter of Harry Potter and The Methods of Rationality begins "#include "stddisclaimer.h"; in fact, the first 33 chapters include a variety of humorous disclaimers, often with shoutouts to various fandoms.
    • The author of said fanfic also posts this on chapter 7:

 "Whoa. A spokesman for Rowling's literary agent said that Rowling is okay with the existence of fanfiction as long as no one charges for it and everyone's clear that the original copyrights belong to her? That's really cool of her. I had no idea. So thank you, JKR, and thine is the kingdom!"

  • "Do I look like I own Niall and Edward? Really? Wow, that would account for the millions of dollars I DON'T have." Chapter two of a crossover fic of Wicked Lovely and the indie band Larrikin Love, featuring Niall and said band's lead singer as a pairing, found here.
  • The Kim Possible Crack Fic Morning, Pumpkin features many amusing examples of this:
    • I do not own Kim Possible, or any related characters. I also do not own a 1997 Chevy Impala, but that is completely irrelevant. [3]
    • I do not own Kim Possible, or any related characters. If I did, Dr Drakken would have a German accent (cliché I know, but really, doesn't the name "Drakken" sound German?)
    • I don't own Kim Possible, or any related characters. Of course, even if I did none of you would believe me.
    • I do not own Kim Possible or any related characters. Please don't tell on me.
    • I do not own Kim Possible or any related characters. I also don't own Family Guy (that's important, remember that)
  • The disclaimer at the beginning of almost all Abridged Series goes something like: "The following is a non-profit fan-based parody. [insert name of anime here] is/are owned by [insert name of anime's creator(s) and/or studio(s) here]. Please support the official release." Admittedly, most of these are added in the desperate hope that YouTube won't pull down their presumably Free Use-protected parodies with accusations of copyright infringement.
    • Naruto the Abridged Comedy Spoof Series Show narrates its disclaimer with a different character each time (as well as referring to itself as a "fan-based parody of a fan-based parody"), and Kaikisimoto's Digimon Adventure abridged series encourages viewers to "support the non-existent official release."
      • Recently, because Sailor Moon Abridged has been removed from youtube, That EXACT quote is the first thing added to the episodes, accompanied by a picture of Raye and the word "Fa**"
  • Justified for Dresden Files fanfiction, as the author allows fanfics if they include a proper disclaimer.
  • From MLIA-Anime's Haruhi Suzumiya fanfic A Memorable Moment:

 "I own the characters of Haruhi Suzumiya… as plushies. I don't own the show."

 Post-script to Afterword of Deity's Tool: By the way, by no means am I trying to get in a fight with Nintendo.

  • On the poster of How I Became Yours Rise of the Agni Army, Jackie Diaz wrote: "...and to all you bitch ass half cocked so called artists on DA, I DON'T OWN AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER(c) or the original characters from it. never said I did. The art and fiction from both HIBY stories I do own. read the fine print next time you fucking morons. write about that in your forom because I know you will. And by the way I'm doing better than ever! thanks for the fame!" Class act.
  • The description for this Bleach video has the following: ""DISCLAIMER: blah blah blah i don't own bleach, Tite Kubo does blahhhh if i did, i would've made someone toss a bucket of pink hair dye at ichigo :P"
  • My Immortal does this many times when quoting song lyrics.
  • Sonic webcomic series Sonic Wrecks has long and detailed copyright disclaimers at the bottom of each comic, filled with shout outs and more jokes tying into the comic itself.
  • A student-made film, parodying Angels and Demons, mentions the plan to immediately file for bankruptcy should any company sue, thus wiping off student loans. It's posted on Youtube (it's in part four). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgCjNVCsFg0&
  • This Adventurers strip: "Squall belongs to Square. They can keep him."
  • It was actually averted on The Gungan Council until recently, when the podcast added such a notification at the end of each episode.
  • From this fanfic: Disclaimer: We do not own Static Shock or it's characters…and unfortunately, during the move, I broke my coffee pot…so…I DON'T OWN A COFFEE POT EITHER!*cries*
  • In the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic fanfic It Takes a Village, they get insaner each chapter. Most take the "wish I did" tone, until...

 "My ponies! Muaahahahah! Mine, all mine! M-my p-ponies! Mine? Please? Maybe one? Just a little one then? How about a background one? Aw dammit. Selfish Hasbro."

  • From a Portal fanfic "SEXY TIEMUU" describing the horrors of Portal fandom: "Disclaimer: Valve owns Portal, thank God, because look what everyone here would be doing with them if they owned it."
  • From a The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fanfiction, Beyond Family: "I did not invent most of these characters and can't claim ownership. A large majority of them were created over one hundred years ago and belong to a number of dead Victorian writers (if they do not like what I do to their characters, they are free to haunt me)".
  • For a number of Tin Man fanfictions by animegus farmus, there are some rather entertaining disclaimers:
    • Disclaimer: I don't own Tin Man. If you have a problem with that, well I'm the person who just passed you giggling incessantly. Don't worry I'm not insane...much.
    • Disclaimer: You own what you own, I own what I own, and we agree that we each don't own what the other does own.
    • Disclaimer: I owneth this not.
    • Disclaimer: Ownership, by any other name, would still not be mine.
    • Disclaimer: I...do...not...loadingloadingloading...own...connection lost. Dialing-up. Ringringringbeeeeeep...loadingloadingloading...Tin...Man
    • Disclaimer: Don't own it, I admit it, you can't sue. If you do I'll just plead insanity, my stories will back me up (so will my friends for that matter).
    • Disclaimer: d n t wn T n M n. Can I buy a vowel?
    • Disclaimer: Hyperactive-disclaimer-of-not-owning-this-because-I-don't,don't,don't.
    • Disclaimer: Yoooou shall watch the spinning object, give to me the ownership of Tin Man, yes you shall...
    • Disclaimer: As I explained to mommy when she wistfully commented that it would be nice if I could make money with my stories, I don't own Tin Man thus no can do.
    • Disclaimer: Share and share alike I say, you share with me Tin Man, and I'll share with you…um, my house plants? Yes, I will share my house plants, in fact, you may have them all. Aren't I generous?
    • Disclaimer: When I successfully conquer the galaxy I shall own this, too (and make more Tin Man they shall). Until that time, I'm afraid I own nothing. Sigh.
  • From This Digimon fanfic
    • I don't own Digimon. I don't own any Digimon Characters. I don't even own my own Plot Bunnies!( they revolted last summer…long story.)
    • Disclaimer: I don't own digimon....or, for that matter, a working pen.
    • I own digimon. I am also a four hundred foot tall purple platypus bear with pink horns and silver wings.
    • ( Nearing the end of the story, upon making it apparent something very bad as happened, she starts the disclaimer, only to be interrupted by "reviewers" demanding she forgo the 'claimer and tell them who died.)

Notes

  1. If what you are doing counts as copyright infringement, then all an "I do not own" disclaimer does is indicate that you know you are infringing
  2. The only one of Whedon's works that he does own is Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
  3. (There was no such car, anyway.)
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