OTW Signal, July 2024

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 internet might not be forever, but decay is. A recent report from Pew Research Center investigates the trends of link rot and digital decay throughout the decades.

A quarter of all webpages that existed at one point between 2013 and 2023 are no longer accessible, as of October 2023. For older content, this trend is even starker. Some 38% of webpages that existed in 2013 are not available today, compared with 8% of pages that existed in 2023.

Link rot, where hyperlinks no longer lead to their intended content due to a breakdown of either the source material or a relocation to a new address, is particularly prevalent in sites such as Wikipedia or social networking sites.

54% of Wikipedia pages contain at least one link in their “References” section that points to a page that no longer exists. Nearly one-in-five tweets are no longer publicly visible on the site just months after being posted.

Faced with such decay, fandoms continually race to preserve their fannish works and histories, and the OTW’s Open Doors team is poised to assist with these efforts. Open Doors helps fans find shelter for at-risk fanworks and artifacts of fan culture. Many fannish archives that might otherwise have been lost to decay have found a new home on the Archive of Our Own (AO3). Some of Open Doors’ recent imports include Unit B; Twisted Sisterhood; and Oz Magi, a group of HBO’s Oz fanfiction archives; as well as The House of Tucker, a Star Trek: Enterprise fansite.

In May, Warner Bros. announced a new Lord of the Rings film; shortly afterwards, the fan-made film, The Hunt for Gollum, was blocked on YouTube on copyright grounds. News of the takedown spread, and the response is another great example of fans’ collective effort – and routine struggle – to preserve fanworks.

[Some fans] moved to help fans download the film before it was potentially removed everywhere online, offering to share their own downloads if necessary and pointing out that the film could still be found on at least one unofficial YouTube channel…

In a win for fandom, The Hunt for Gollum was back up on YouTube less than a day later. However, this story underscores an enduring risk: whether it’s digital decay or a copyright claim, fanworks can disappear without a moment’s notice. For help defending transformative works against legal challenge, OTW Legal is a great resource.

OTW Tips

Curious about all the archives and fanworks that have been preserved by Open Doors since 2012? Check out the Open Doors page on Fanlore for a list of archives with information about the type and number of works imported – and, importantly, a link to the AO3 collection for each! Then scroll down to see the list of Memorial Archives set up to honour the creators who have left us too soon. If you would like to nominate an archive for preservation, or help save the fanworks of a departed friend, please contact Open Doors!

We want your suggestions for the next OTW Signal post! 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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