OTW Signal, March 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

Kristina Busse, co-editor of the OTW’s academic journal Transformative Works and Cultures, was interviewed about the history of fanfiction, and discussed how the “fan” community part is as important as the “fiction.”

Busse feels something is lost when you take a fanfic based story like Fifty Shades of Grey and publish it as a standalone book. You lose that sense of community. “It gets taken out of the context of hundreds of thousands of other stories which took Bella and Edward and put them in these settings,” she said. “So to take it out of the community of readers who would have read and shared other stories–stories that [the author] responds to, other stories that respond to her–kind of takes something away.” All writing is a form of collaboration, but fanfic is especially so.

Kristina also brought up how that community aspect is revealed in something fans are fond of writing — crossovers and tropes.

Star Trek also became “trans-fannish” very quickly, Busse explained, intermingling with followers of other series. “In the 1970s conventions started to include Doctor Who, and by the 1980s you have entire zines that are nothing but crossovers. It moved beyond the specific show; people would become fannish butterflies where they would go from one fandom to another.” In doing so, they brought with them characters, plots, settings and tropes.

The history of fandom communities and fanworks has been talked about in fan studies research, including at Transformative Works and Cultures, so if you’re interested in it too, check out some articles in one of TWC’s many issues.

OTW’s legal staff was also in the news last month. An article at TechDirt singled out an amicus brief co-written by OTW legal staffer Rebecca Tushnet. The brief was part of an appeal in a case involving the constitutionality of DMCA Section 1201.

Copyright scholars Pam Samuelson and Rebecca Tushnet filed a fantastic brief:

In 1998, Congress made a momentous departure from traditional copyright law by enacting Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). Section 1201 created a new class of right—a right to control access to legitimately acquired copies of copyrighted works that had been transferred to lawful owners, as well as a new antitrafficking right specific to access controls…these new rights disregard and override traditional mechanisms within the Copyright Act that struck the balance between copyright protection and First Amendment interests.

The article concludes:

This is about fundamental fair use rights of the public — which Congress tossed away decades ago, and tried to pave over by insisting the Librarian of Congress could swoop in every 3 years and stop the most egregious attacks on free speech. But that’s not how the 1st Amendment works. Hopefully the court agrees.

OTW Tips

Our AO3 Documentation team has recently updated the FAQ on Series, part of documentation for AO3 users. Check it out and any of the other FAQs and tutorials available for different features.

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.

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