Legal advocacy by fans, for fans

Advocating for the legitimate status of fanworks is an ongoing battle, and OTW’s Legal Advocacy project is at the forefront.

Our legal committee is currently working to renew an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for makers of noncommercial remix videos such as fan vids, AMVs, and political remix videos. In 2010, when OTW joined with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other like-minded organizations to win this exemption, we knew we’d have to return and defend it again only a few years later. Unlike the copyright expansions of recent years, the DMCA exemptions expire unless they’re reinstated every three years.

Legal’s chair, Rebecca Tushnet, says that although it’s hard to say at this point how different this year’s DMCA process is from the previous one, she’s certain of one thing: “the MPAA and other organizations took us much more seriously this time, since we were basically ignored until we had a success under our belt.”

We’re also gaining a valuable network of allies in the larger free-expression, pro-fair-use activist world. As well as working closely with EFF, we’ve had positive interactions with groups such as the Documentary Filmmakers’ Association and USC-Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center. Tushnet, who will be testifying at the DMCA rule-making in May and June, points out that “the DMCA affects all sorts of creators, and as we work with them there’s a great opportunity for mutual learning.”

Although the DMCA exemption has been central in our thoughts and efforts this year, volunteers from Legal have also worked on contributing to the Wikipedia page on legal issues in fanfiction to provide a more law-based discussion of fans’ rights; advising fans who have been sent DMCA takedown notifications; and providing assistance on an amicus brief in an ongoing case regarding the right of publicity. Legal is also always at the service of fans who have questions regarding non-commercial fanworks. You can contact the legal committee here.

The OTW is a dedicated champion of fans’ rights, with an established track record of success — but there are many battles, large and small, still to be fought. Help us fight those battles — please donate today.