OTW Signal, July 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

The Catalan publication Diari di Barcelona ran a series on fans and fanfiction. The first installment explains the phenomenon of fandom. Its second installment explains to readers what fanfiction is. In its third, it discusses the Archive of Our Own as what happens when fans are in control of their own spaces.

The establishment and subsequent consolidation of Archive of Our Own reduced legal pressures on fanfiction, allowing it to cease to have an aura of clandestineness. It emerged as a platform where there is no room for the commercialization of fanwork; and this is still the case…The philosophy of Archive of Our Own is very clear, “BY fanfic readers FOR fanfic readers.” This idea makes literal sense. AO3 works thanks to a team of almost 1,000 volunteers. It does not have paid workers: they are also users [of the site] who, if they want, end up participating and make up this team. “They usually want to do this volunteer work to return in some way what they feel they have received thanks to the OTW or fandoms in general.”

The article also mentions the importance of donations to the OTW given the absence of ads or other financial support for the organization. Thanks to fans around the world we have continued to be able to fund the OTW’s work. And thanks to volunteers, we have been able to actually do the work for other fans. If you want to learn more about what it’s like to be a volunteer, check out the OTW’s series Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said.

OTW Legal has been working with its partner, EFF, to let the U.S. Supreme Court know about the importance of transformative work. The EFF discussed this in a recent post regarding a case involving fair use.

As EFF and the Organization for Transformative Works explain in a brief filed today, all three conclusions not only undermine fair use protections but also run contrary to practical reality…This framing of fair use would be devastating for the digital space. For example, memes with the same image but different text could be seen as serving fundamentally the same purpose as the original, even though many memes depend on the juxtaposition of the original intent of the work and its new context. One scene from Star Wars, for example, has given us two memes. In the original film, Darth Vader’s big “NOOOO” was surely meant to be a serious expression of despair. In meme form, it’s a parodic, over-the-top reaction. Another meme comes from a poorly-subtitled version of the film, replacing “NOOOO” with “DO NOT WANT.” Fan videos, or vids, remix the source material in order to provide a new narrative, highlighting an aspect of the source that may have been peripheral to the source’s initial message, and often commenting on or critiquing that source.

You can read the amicus brief filed on Legal’s Project page. Oral arguments in the case will be held before the court on October 12.

OTW Tips

A new feature is available at AO3 which allows users to block comments from logged-in users. Its use was explained in a June post which also gave users tips on how to employ a muting function while AO3 volunteers continue working on a sitewide muting feature. Various other options already available to reduce harassment were listed, so if you haven’t read through the post yet, check it out and let other fans know what steps they can take!

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.

OTW Signal

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