From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.
Ioana Pelehatăi is a culture vulture for an online magazine in Romania. She writes, bakes, and drinks coffee. Sometimes, she also sleeps. Alex Lungu is a freelance video editor. He works mainly in advertising, but he likes to fool around with memes and remixes. Today as part of Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week, Ioana and Alex talk with us about their Copy Me project.
How did you first learn about fandom and fanworks?
Ioana: It was so long ago that I’m not even sure. I think I must’ve been a pre-teen, crushing on all things Addams Family related. At the same time, in school we were being encouraged to have penpals in Western European countries. You could pick a penpal based on their interests and many professed their fandom for one artist or another. Fanworks were a later discovery, linked to the era during which I discovered the Internet — so around the time I was 14-15. I found fanfic forums and realized that the universe of a book or movie is not strictly confined to the initial author’s creation.
Alex: When I was 19, me and a couple of my friends started doing small movies in our dorm room, drawing themes from Kung-Fu and Star Wars movies. One was picked up by the Star Wars community in Romania. They were all geared up, with good looking costumes and lightsabers, unlike our brooms we used to mock-fight with! That’s the first time I learned about fandom and I was quite impressed with their devotion.
What made each of you decide to take on the issue of copyright?
Alex: Growing up here in Romania, nobody I knew questioned the morality of piracy. So later on, when Hollywood’s marketing machine started blaming piracy for everything here too, I was quite wary about its actual impact. So I started reading about remix culture and became really interested in this whole weird concept of “owning” ideas.
Ioana: I hopped on board with Alex’s project because it echoed some of the post-structuralist critical theory I’d studied at uni — particularly the notion that the author is dead. Delving deeper into the history and current legislation of copyright, alongside Alex, I found out there were instruments truly designed to keep culture open and free–antidotes to copyright, if you will. It’s those (Creative Commons licenses, the notion of public domain) that made me stay on board.
How did the Copy Me project get started?
Alex: Some time after I finished my short-doc about copyright, a friend convinced me that short videos about copyright could be quite a nice way to educate people. So Copy-Me grew slowly out of that initial idea. Maybe a year and half later, we started a fundraising campaign and worked on a bunch of videos since then.
Ioana: Then Alex started working on the script, I offered to do the voice overs because I’ve been told I speak good English. Some four years later, here we are.
What are your hopes for its future?
Alex: I hope we get better at explaining complex issues in video form. It’s been quite a journey and we learned a lot through these years. Honestly, all I hope is we gain momentum and reach people. Copyright has become the mess it is today because it was seen as a fringe issue that didn’t impact anybody’s life. But in the last 10 or 15 years there’s been a shift, and more and more people have started questioning ideas, creation and how culture interacts. That’s all I hope for too. To make people question some of their preconceptions.
Ioana: It’s been a great ride watching this project grow more and more complex and refined, I feel my own understanding of culture has deepened and expanded along with it. I would very much like to keep at it, with the unfettered belief that the struggle is important, because keeping knowledge accessible to as many as people as possible is essential.
How did you hear about the OTW and what do you see its role as?
Alex: I can’t remember exactly, but the concept of fair use that the OTW deals with is a complicated one that is different from what we’re used to here in the EU. But in both places they’re not as valuable to the law, even if they bring joy to millions of people. Culture is all based on remixing, yet somehow copyright deems this as second class creativity. OTW’s archive of fanwork is pretty remarkable and I think it’s really great you guys defend people who just want to spread the love they have for works to others.
Ioana: Via Alex. And I completely concur with his observation on defending fanwork. I think current pop culture would be so much more boring without it.
What fandom things have inspired you the most?
Alex: I recently went to a gaming convention and I’ve got to say, some of those costumes look quite stunning. And most of them are hand-made from scratch. That’s remarkable.
Ioana: To this day, I am moved by good quality fanfic. I think it takes a lot of dedication — and bravery — to expose your work to a community of like-minded fans, whom you know will scour your work for any inconsistencies. But when fanfic works, it really hits home 🙂
Catch up on earlier guest posts