OTW Signal, February 2022

Every month in OTW Signal we’ll take a look at stories that connect to the OTW’s mission and projects, including legal, technology, academic, fannish history, and preservation issues that are important for fandom, fan culture or transformative works.

In the News

OTW’s Legal Committee chair Betsy Rosenblatt was interviewed by Tech Crunch about Tumblr’s Post+ feature.

“People don’t get sued over fanfiction,” Rosenblatt says. “What happens instead is their fanworks get taken down under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”…Anyone whose work gets removed after a platform receives a DMCA takedown notification does have the option to fight back. They can send a counter-notification to the platform, making a case that the content does not constitute infringement. But,” Rosenblatt adds, “when you counter notify, you know that you’re sort of opening yourself up to a possible lawsuit.”

As Betsy notes in the conclusion, the issue of monetization isn’t just about whether commercializing fanfiction is legal. It’s also about preserving the nature of fandom communities. “I also think that there should be room in the world for doing things you love because you love them with other people. Making money from something even if it’s just on top of all that love changes it somehow.”

This aspect of fandom communities has been talked about in fan studies research (including at Transformative Works and Cultures) and has been written about by fans for many years. Some of these essays can be found through Fanlore.

In the meantime, some wikis which resided on Fandom (formerly Wikia) have suffered censorship since the company’s sale to new owners a year ago. While generally the loss of fanworks has been on the creative side (fanfiction, fanart, etc.) rather than the documentation side, the new purges remind fans that all fanwork can be at risk.

Indeed, wikis serve as the backbones of many fandoms, an ideal place to delve deeper into details or refresh oneself on the lore of a favorite series. MGE Wiki moderator and contributor Timjer expressed concerns about potential chilling effects on fan communities.

“Wikis are supposed to be repositories of information first and foremost,” he told Kotaku. “If Fandom staff starts cherry-picking which information is acceptable and which isn’t, then quite frankly we’re going down a dangerous path.”

Comments to the article on Kotaku mentioned how these problems accompany the shift of fan groups centralizing on major platforms as opposed to the days when they maintained their own sites. However independent sites have also been lost online for different reasons (which is why the OTW’s Open Doors project exists!) The OTW’s own wiki project, Fanlore, keeps a record of censorship and purges which have led to fandom migration, and quite a few fans took note of earlier losses as this latest news came out.

OTW Tips

Do you know of a fanfiction community or archive which is in danger of becoming inaccessible? Our Open Doors project welcomes all archives that are in need of a new home, but we need to be put in touch with the site owners. If you’d like to contact Open Doors directly about a specific archive you’re concerned about, please use their contact form. If the archive seems to fall into our remit, they’ll try to contact the mods with an offer to help.

We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or news story you think we should know about, send us a link. We are looking for content in all languages! Submitting a link doesn’t guarantee that it will be included in an OTW post, and inclusion of a link doesn’t mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

Fanlore, OTW Signal

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