OTW Fannews: Reconsidering Fans & Fanworks

Robot fans at a Korean baseball game

  • It’s not unusual to find media articles or online posts with dubious declarations about fanworks’ legal status, but it’s less common to find posts that reconsider the topic. One writer for Business2Community took advice from OTW Legal staffer Heidi Tandy to better explore relevant legal cases and events. “One of the hallmarks of fan fiction is that it must be non-commercial. Yet many of the sites have ads on them – so aren’t they commercial? Not necessarily, says Tandy. ‘Since 2002, there’s been a pretty clear distinction about what constitutes commercial vs. non-commercial publishing. I did a panel with Warner Brothers, and posed the question, ‘What if we put Google Ads or become an Amazon affiliate on our fan fiction site as a way to pay our server and hosting bills?’ And they said, ‘We have no problem with self-funding. What we have is a problem is with people selling things as if they are authorized or created by us or the original author.’’”
  • The Los Angeles Times posted about another recent legal case on Sherlock Holmes’ public domain status which made clear the judge’s views. “‘The Doyle estate’s business strategy is plain: charge a modest license fee for which there is no legal basis, in the hope that the ‘rational’ writer or publisher asked for the fee will pay it rather than incur a greater cost, in legal expenses, in challenging the legality of the demand. The strategy had worked … only Klinger (so far as we know) resisted,’ Posner wrote in his opinion. ‘In effect he was a private attorney general, combating a disreputable business practice — a form of extortion — and he is seeking by the present motion not to obtain a reward but merely to avoid a loss.'”
  • TIME posted about robots replacing fans at Korean baseball games. “Hanwha’s robot fans will work as stand-ins for human fans who can’t attend a game. Remote fans will be able to control some of the robots’ movements — presumably certain hand gestures in the direction of umpires — and can even upload an image of their face to be shown on the machine’s screen. The robots will also let fans watch the game from afar, giving more fans the opportunity to join in the action and cheer on their team.” Whether the robot fans will have the same legal rights as human fans remains to be seen but legal developments are sure to keep evolving!

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