Spotlight on Legal Issues

(Updated) German Copyright Law: Action Needed!

Of special interest to German fans, as well as other fans in the EU.

Germany is working on implementing Article 17, which makes significant changes in European copyright law. This has created an exciting opportunity to clarify that fan fiction is legal under German copyright law.

The German government has sent a draft bill to the two houses of Parliament. The final vote is planned for the beginning of May. The government proposal makes clear that nonprofit websites like the Archive of Our Own should not be required to get licenses from copyright owners, as commercial websites like Facebook and YouTube will have to do. The draft bill also proposes to explicitly legalize fan fiction, fan art, and many other transformative works, as part of the EU exception for “caricature, parody and pastiche”. Read More

Spotlight on Legal Issues

U.S. Copyright News, OTW Legal, and You

Since we began in 2007, the Organization for Transformative Works’ core mission has included working to promote fan-friendly copyright law. For years, we’ve submitted testimony and comments to governments, filed briefs in court, and helped mobilize fans to have their voices heard by lawmakers around the world. Recently, one of our big legal advocacy projects has been testifying and submitting comments to the U.S. Senate about the way U.S. Copyright works online under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Today, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis has released proposed legislation that would be bad for the AO3 and bad for fans. OTW Legal will fight for fans against this proposal, and you can help.

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Copyright and Fandom: An Update on EU Article 17

This post is guest-authored for OTW Legal by Julia Reda, a German researcher and politician who represented her country as a Member of the European Parliament between July 2014 and July 2019. She was a member of the Pirate Party Germany, part of the Greens-European Free Alliance, until 27 March 2019. You can find her on Twitter as @Senficon.


Article 17 is a new EU copyright rule that will make some for-profit online platforms directly liable for copyright infringements by their users from June 2021. In order to protect themselves from liability, those platforms will need to filter new uploads for potential copyright infringements in works that have been registered with them by rightsholders. These automated filters are notoriously bad at recognizing the difference between blatant copyright infringement and fan art, which is often legal under the copyright exceptions that apply in Europe instead of US fair use – such as caricature, parody, or pastiche (the use of existing materials and creatively combining them into something new). The likely result will be more frequent blocking of fan art and other forms of everyday Internet culture such as memes, reaction gifs or lipsyncs. Experts such as the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression have warned about the danger of Article 17 for our fundamental rights.

Thankfully, fully non-profit platforms such as Archive of Our Own will be excluded from the upload filter provision. Still, Article 17 poses a huge threat to the broader online culture ecosystem. It’s unclear whether small forums that generate some advertising revenue but are commercially insignificant when compared to YouTube or Facebook will still be considered for-profit platforms that have to apply the onerous new rules. Additionally, EU countries have a lot of freedom to adopt national rules that would help prevent the automated blocking of legal content such as fan art. Read More