Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. As part of our participation in Copyright Week, today’s post is with Betsy Rosenblatt, who volunteers as Chair of our Legal Committee.
How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?
As chair of the Legal Committee, I have a dual role. Part of my work focuses on legal advocacy, education, and other interactions with the outside world. I help guide the advocacy and education missions of the organization by setting advocacy priorities, writing governmental submissions and informational posts, answering fan questions about law & fanworks, coordinating with allies, responding when the OTW’s projects face legal challenge, and being a representative of the organization in advocacy settings, academic settings, and fandom settings.
The other part focuses on internal work within the OTW -— helping other committees with legal questions and advising the organization on internal legal matters, much the way a legal department of a company would advise the company.
I don’t do any of these things alone, of course -— the legal team is full of wonderful, smart, hard-working experts and we work closely together on each of these tasks.
What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?
I’m not sure there is such a thing as a typical week! Most weeks involve answering fan queries, responding to questions from other OTW committees, and monitoring legal developments. I also participate in frequent phone conferences with allied organizations to talk about current legal issues and projects.
Beyond that, there’s a lot of variation! Sometimes we’re researching and drafting submissions to governmental organizations or preparing for hearings; sometimes we’re helping review contracts and terms of service; sometimes we’re writing about developments in the law; sometimes we’re doing legal research to help the OTW make legal decisions. We’re always dealing with new things along with our steady maintenance work.
What would the world look like if there was no longer any need for the OTW’s Legal Advocacy project?
Utopia? Actually, I’m not sure that such a world could exist. Although there are lots of specific challenges that we face now around the world, the OTW’s legal advocacy project isn’t only about fixing particular problems—it’s about building and maintaining a delicate balance in a dynamic world. As technologies for creation and distribution of media and fanworks continue to grow and change, there will always be new challenges for fans.
I would love to see a world in which noncommercial fanwork creation and distribution were protected from legal challenge and exploitation, and fanworks were readily available to all -— that’s the sort of world we’re working toward —- but law and society are constantly changing each other, so legal advocacy for important causes will always be necessary.
What’s the most rewarding thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?
Feeling like I -— and more importantly, fans -— have a voice in law and policy.
What fannish things do you like to do?
I’m an old-school Sherlockian, which means I am involved with (pre-Internet, oh my!) organizations like the Baker Street Irregulars and the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes. I attend Sherlockian events and write about the Sherlock Holmes canon in the style of the “Great Game.”
I also blog about TV. And I go to cons -— I love speaking on panels, working at booths, and walking the floor at San Diego Comic Con. And really, I’ve so integrated fandom into my life as a professor and scholar that it seems like most of what I do is just a little bit fannish!
Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you’d like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.