Ruth is a second year ESRC SeNSS (South-East Network for Social Sciences) funded student at UEA and member of the Centre for Competition Policy (CCP). Her doctoral thesis, ‘The Rise of Self-Publication Platforms and the Implications for the Publication of Fanfiction in Relation to UK, EU and US Copyright Law’ focuses on the interaction between self-published online fan fiction and other works in the fiction market.  She is interested in assessing whether the current law of copyright leads to market failure, and if so, whether a new fair dealing exception under S30A Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 should be drafted to cover fan fiction.


After completing her undergraduate LLB Law with European Legal Systems degree at UEA in 2008, Ruth worked in administration for eight years, splitting her time between Norwich, Essex and London.  During this time, she successfully completed a part-time LLM in Information Technology and Intellectual Property.


At UEA, Ruth has taught on the undergraduate modules ‘Law in Practice’ and ‘Contract Law’.  She has also taught workshops on the postgraduate Law Masters Dissertation Module. While studying, she also has a variety of external responsibilities:

  • Assessments and Qualifications Office (2017-current): Venue Manager, Invigilator, Reader and Scribe
  • UEA Student Union:  Chair of Postgraduate Committee (2018), Postgraduate Representative on Trustee Board (2018), Student Officer Committee member (2018), Chair of Postgraduate Assembly (2017), Postgraduate Committee member (2017)

All Publications

Flaherty, R.


How Underhanded Was John Lewis' Use of a Big Blue Monster that Lives Under The Bed?,

Full Text

(Other contribution)


Flaherty, R.


Book Review: Redskins: Insult and Brand,

in Cultural Sociology



pp. 387-388

Full Text

(Book/Film/Article review)


Flaherty, R.


International Competition Law: Antitrust Damages Directive Feb 2016,

in Legal Issues



article no. 2

pp. 25-40

UEA Repository



Flaherty, R.


The benefits of a recognised parody exception in UK law following the Hargreaves Review of IP,

Full Text



Key Research Interests

Ruth's research aims to evaluate whether the fair dealing exceptions for copyright infringement can be used to cover fan fiction works. These exceptions (s29-30 Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988) ensure that copyright works deemed to be infringing but that have a ‘fair’ reason behind them can be published, and allow for social consideration regarding whether the copying was ‘fair’ to be argued before the court.

Fan fiction is created by fans of the underlying work, who rewrite stories using characters and locations from other media works such as TV shows, books or films. It is not a new type of work, but due to the operation of the Internet it has increased in popularity and can be published on websites such as Fanfiction.Net and read all over the world. Previously it has been published for free online meaning most copyright owners have decided not to pursue infringement cases, however there is an increasing number of fan fiction works such as Fifty Shades of Grey that start as fan fiction before being pulled offline, slightly altered to remove direct copyright infringement and published for profit. 

This work will focus on the economic effect of fan fiction on the current and back catalogue of works of the original author, in order to prove whether there is a need for a protective IP right such as copyright to apply, and also whether there is a measurable effect on the demand for future works by the same author.  If the effect on future demand is more noticeable, it could be argued that the protection should be provided instead by the more commercial trade mark law.

There must be a congruent analysis into both the effects of other forms of self-published fiction and e-books, in order to prove that the results found are not due to the self-published nature of the works or their electronic nature.

This will be mixed methods research incorporating doctrinal, empirical and quantitative methods to thoroughly test my hypothesis that fan fiction should be held to come within a fair dealing exception. This research will undertake empirical research in order to investigate the awareness of users of both fan fiction and the copyright law exceptions that may apply.  This will enable me to argue whether, if fan fiction is covered by fair dealing at present, it may also need a specific exception to cover it in order to clarify any misconceptions and information failures that may act as barriers to entry onto the market.


Summary of Research Aims:

To examine the effectiveness of the fair dealing copyright exception in the digital single market;

To consider, in particular, the effect of fan fiction on the market for fiction;

To analyse the amount of fan fiction online in comparison to standard and self-published fiction;

To explore the reasons people create and consume fan fiction online and whether licensing would be an effective method of regulating this;

To understand the responses of readers, authors and publishers to fan fiction;

To develop recommendations for effective copyright protection of transformative works of fiction.


Conference Presentations

  • ‘Making Wholes from These Old Parts: A Doctrinal Review of Fairness and Fan Works’, CCP PhD Workshop 2018, UEA, Norwich, 11-12 January 2018
  • ‘Interpretations of the Effect of Fan Fiction on the fiction Market’, 2017 Joint Workshop of the ECREA ‘Communication Law and Policy’ and ‘Media Industries and Cultural Production’ Sections, UEA, Norwich, 15-16 September 2017
  • Diverse Interpretations of the Effect of Fan Fiction on the Fiction Market – A Quantitative Study’, Society for Legal Scholars 108th Annual Conference, University of Dublin, 4-8 September 2017
  • ‘Does Self-Published Fan Fiction have a Fan-tastic Effect on the Fiction Market?’, Fan Studies Network Annual Conference 2017, University of Huddersfield, 24-25 June 2017
  • ‘PhD Research Review’, UEA Law 9th Annual Research Colloquium 2017, UEA, Norwich, 25 May 2017
  • ‘The Benefits of a Recognised Parody Exception in UK Law Following The Hargreaves Review of IP – Will It Enable Greater Creative Freedom Under the Fair Dealing Exceptions To Copyright Infringement?’, European Policy for Intellectual Property Conference, University of Oxford, 3-5 September 2016



  • Flaherty, R, 'How Underhanded was John Lewis' Use of A Big Blue Monster That Lives Under The Bed', Information Society Policy @UEA Blog, January 2018
  • Flaherty, R, 'Book Review: ‘Redskins: Insult and Brand’, Journal of Cultural Sociology 11(3) August 2017
  • Flaherty, R, ‘The Damages Directive’, Legal Issues Journal 5(1) January 2017