OTW Fannews: Giving people what they want

  • Slate wrote about how badly the DMCA affects accessibility of technology from ebooks to online videos. “[P]ublishers, video programmers, and other copyright owners lock down digital content with digital rights management technology designed to limit users’ ability to access, copy, and adapt copyrighted works to specific circumstances. And copyright owners frequently fail to account for the need to adapt DRM-encumbered works to make them accessible to people with disabilities.

    For example, e-books often include DRM technology that prevents people who are blind or visually impaired from running e-books that they have lawfully purchased through a text-to-speech converter that reads the books aloud. Similarly, Internet-distributed video and DVD and Blu-ray discs include DRM features that prevent researchers from developing advanced closed captioning and video description technologies that make movies and television shows accessible.”

    What’s more the process is the same one the OTW has to follow to maintain its DMCA exemption for fan video makers. “Requiring nonprofit disability groups to ask permission from the government every three years and navigate a complex legal minefield to implement urgently needed accessibility technology is not compatible with progressive, conservative, or libertarian values; the goal of equal access for people with disabilities; or common sense.”

  • Two of the OTW’s Legal Committee members, Heidi Tandy and Rebecca Tushnet, recently were on a fanfiction panel with Vice President and Senior Intellectual Property Counsel for Warner Bros, Dale Nelson at the 6th Annual PIPG Symposium. Tushnet wrote about the panel and Nelson’s discussion of fan activities: “Fan activity is fans having fun. Are they legitimate, are they acting from love? Or do they see fan activity as a loophole—make a fan film to showcase talent without having read Harry Potter? It’s not fans commercializing the property. We have exclusive rights; commercialization/merchandising in particular will draw our attention. But we tolerate a lot, including fan films, websites (the Leaky Cauldron, popular HP site); Dallas fan site; Lord of the Rings fan site; Quiddich players.” She also responded later that it was how they interpreted fan intentions that mattered the most. For example, running ads on a website was usually not an issue because “some fan activities/sites do involve costs, and if it couldn’t run ads/raise a little money it wouldn’t exist.”
  • Techdirt posted about a White House petition aimed at changing copyright for the digital age. “The petition notes that the public has lost respect for copyright law, and the government should take steps to fix that, including securing first sale rights, more transparency and a right to remix.” Fan rights are expressed in the following: “[A]s responsible creators we need to be able to freely remix existing music and other forms of creative expression to create new works without undue fear of prosecution. This upholds the original Constitutional purpose of copyright, which is to promote progress.”
  • Popular bookmarking site Pinboard has made it easier for fans to use it. “For months now it’s been possible to declare yourself a part of fandom on the Pinboard settings page, but apart from making people feel good, the checkbox had no practical effect. I’ve finally changed that by offering a version of the sitewide search engine scoped only to users who self-declare as fans. This should make it easier to find fic using common keywords that would get drowned out on the main search page.”

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