Stepping Stones: Organization for Transformative Works Membership Drive, April 3-9

April Membership Drive: Spotlight on Legal

If you’ve ever felt the sting of an unfair takedown notice, you know that copyright and trademark owners and other rights-holders don’t always play nicely, or recognize the legitimacy and the value of fan activity. That’s why the OTW’s Legal Advocacy team is on call to defend fandom and the importance of fair use and transformative works.

When they’re not helping fans battle corporate plagiarism and exploitation, Cease & Desists, and those pesky takedowns, the Legal team works on the bigger picture. When governments consider fair use and copyright issues, OTW’s Legal committee is there, advocating for fans’ rights and fan creativity.

Here’s a recent timeline of the Legal Advocacy team’s work in arguing for the protection of transformative works (like fanwork!) in copyright law:

  • In 2013, Legal submitted amicus briefs in Fox v. DISH and Dish v. ABC, arguing that copyright holders do not have absolute control over how their works are used, an issue obviously very close to our hearts as fans and as creators and consumers of fanworks.
  • Also in 2013, Legal submitted an amicus brief in Lenz v. Universal about how unfounded allegations of copyright infringement harm fair use. This issue is especially important in dealing with copyright owners’ abuse of DMCA notices.
  • In December 2013, OTW staffer Rebecca Tushnet testified before the US Patent and Trademark Office and the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration to defend fair use in transformative works.
  • In February 2014, Legal submitted comments to the European Commission concerning possible EU copyright reform, trying to help ensure that the end result will be respectful of transformative works.

Legal Advocacy’s busy lawyers also track current events that affect fandom at large—causes and cases that could impact your rights to create and access fanworks. They’ve written posts covering Canadian law, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, Chinese law as it pertains to transformative works, and others, helping to keep us up to date on developments that may impact fandom.

The OTW’s entirely pro bono Legal volunteer team wants to help fandom understand the laws that affect us, and to help the law respect what we do. And of course, the team also plays the important role of legal consultants to the OTW itself, helping out all our committees and projects with advice and assistance: they’re essential in keeping the OTW up and running.

Please contribute to help us keep Legal’s good work going!