Two fan archives in The Lord of the Rings and Twilight fandoms — LOTRfanfiction.com and The Twilight Archives — have been bought by a web developer named Keith Mander, who plans to develop these archives’ features and to generate profit by increasing traffic and adding advertising.
In a FAQ posted to LOTRfanfiction.com, Mr. Mander states that “The site will never become a cash cow, the intention is only to cover costs and facilitate future investment into the site.” However, in a post on Dreamwidth, fan esteliel quotes from Mr. Mander’s personal blog that his business plan is “to directly contact site owners who are unaware of their site’s value,” and “to concentrate on topics that are not immediately commercial in nature as you’re more likely to discover a site created out of passion, rather than for profit.”
First, to reassure those authors with works on these sites: we believe that people who create fanworks without making money from them are engaging in noncommercial fair uses, no matter where they post those fanworks. Just because your noncommercial fanwork is on an ad-supported site (including for instance a LiveJournal Plus account or on YouTube) does not mean your work is any less of a fair use. If you have any legal concerns about your work now or in the future, please contact the OTW and we will do our best to help you regardless if your work is on an ad-supported site or not.
However, there are clearly grounds for concern for the users of these sites, and we at OTW want to offer whatever support we can.
What we’re doing right now:
* Our coders are already working on a custom importer to make it easier and quicker for writers to import their stories from these sites and back them up or transfer them to the Archive of Our Own. Our next deploy is coming soon and will hopefully include this update.
Please boost the signal on this to users of these archives if you can!
We also want to add that we do ourselves feel that this sale is a risky thing for these archives and for their users. Many of us at the OTW are ourselves fandom archivists, and we know how hard it is for a single individual to keep a site running even with the best of intentions. When an archive is intended to be a profit-making venture for the person running it, it then becomes dependent not just on a single person, but also on the archive being profitable (and not more trouble than it’s worth). As Mr. Mander says, he needs an “income stream” to justify investing in the site. So this raises the question of what happens to the site if it’s not profitable or if the site as a whole gets a legal threat, or what will happen if some content on the site troubles advertisers.
In a posted response to Mander, esteliel says that she “did not agree that my stories will earn money for the owner of this website when I signed up for the archive,” and reiterates she sees her stories as a gift to fandom. This is a feeling that many of us share, and which the OTW is committed to supporting. Fans have provided decades of labor and creativity without outside investors. Many users object in principle to having profit generated by monetizing their fanworks, and many users who put their work on these archives in the expectation that the archives themselves were labors of love by other fans are not interested in having their work taken over by a for-profit business.
The OTW will keep working to preserve a robust and lasting home for fanworks and fan cultures, regardless of whether or not a particular fandom provides a revenue stream. For individual archivists who are overwhelmed by the work of supporting an archive, please consider contacting us for assistance.