OTW Signal

OTW Signal, July 2021

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

After nearly 14 years, the OTW and its projects have come to be known in different quarters of fandom as well as outside of it. But it’s always encouraging to see people recognize the work our volunteers have been doing.

The UK Podcast “Copyright Waffle”, which focuses on copyright literacy for the public, hosted a conversation with academic librarian Caroline Ball. She discussed how her experience with fanfiction led her to focus on the issue of copyright for her master’s thesis (05:00):

“Fifteen, twenty years ago…there were takedown notices, there were cease and desist letters going out, so the community as a whole was quite aware of this kind of ambiguous…am I venturing into thorny legal issues? So there was a lot of discussion in the fanfiction community…are there any legal defenses, so it was all kind of talk that was in the air that I was aware of. So then when I was looking for a topic to write my master’s dissertation on, it seemed like it would be a fun topic to write about…I thought I can write about Star Trek and King Arthur and Harry Potter and things like that which seemed much more interesting really!”

Ball clarified that the the thesis focused on “exploring the differences between U.S. and U.K. copyright, looking at all the various legal defenses that might be brought in on the side of copyright…and I kind of concluded that fanfic had a pretty good legal defense at its back.” (07:52). She also later gave a shoutout to the OTW’s Legal Advocacy project as her copyright heroes (42:45):

“It’s all entirely nonprofit, run by volunteers…it originally started out as a legal support entity…for fans, and then went into creating the Archive of Our Own. It’s done a lot of kind of advocacy, particularly in America, in terms of fair use and transformative works and arguing for the legality of it.”


Another example is in a post at Comics Beat which focused on the issue of ageism in fandom. The post both linked to Fanlore and highlighted work in Transformative Works and Cultures:

But still, millennials are the founders of contemporary fandom; and before that, Gen X’ers and even baby boomers, and even greatest generationers were founding members for fandoms of Star Trek and Star Wars. In the journal Transformative Works and Cultures, there’s an article about Sherlock fans in their 50s. There’s another article, too, about an older woman who has been a part of a long-term fandom of Patti Smith.

Older fans of many fandoms exist, have existed, and will exist well into the future.

We certainly hope so, as fans of many generations have had a hand in making OTW succeed over the years! Both Fanlore and TWC are open to contributions from fans. One just needs to sign up for an account at Fanlore, while TWC’s Symposium section in each issue is open to submissions of fandom meta.


And if you want to take part in a fan study, researcher Emily Faulkner, a MSc student at Robert Gordon University is studying information-seeking behaviours of fanfiction communities and their applicability to libraries. A survey is available until August 2nd, 2021 noon EST. Adults who read and/or write fanfiction content (fan comics and podfics included) are being asked to take part.

The study has received IRB approval from Robert Gordon University and the opening survey page offers contact information for Emily, lists the study’s faculty advisor, and includes a statement about user privacy and potential uses for the survey results.

OTW Tips

The Open Doors project has a process for checking whether or not the creator of every work on an archive to be imported has already uploaded that work to AO3, so that we don’t import any duplicate copies. However, if you want to ensure that Open Doors is aware of your already-imported works for an archive they’re working on, or to let us know that you have not uploaded your own works from the archive but intend to do so yourself, you can tell us via Open Doors’ contact form.


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.