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 Legal Chair, Betsy Rosenblatt, took part in a town hall hosted by our partners at the Electronic Frontier Foundation back in April. Video of the event is available via our About Fandom Playlist.
During the talk, Katharine Trendacosta talked about how the U.S. Copyright Office was moving to “industry specific” meetings from a plenary which the public could participate in by sending comments. Betsy pointed out that of the 600 submissions, most were from online users saying that online filters were a bad idea for technical and self-expression reasons. But they haven’t been included in the conversation. The EFF’s position was that “if you are going to claim to be doing something that affects the online creative industry, it is not just Hollywood and Google who have to be in those meetings.”
Later during a discussion of the SHOP SAFE Act of 2021, Betsy pointed out that it might not just be mistakes about the language used to describe products that get them taken down:
It’s also self-expressive things like fan products, where if somebody wants to make a thing that says ‘I love Star Wars’ or ‘I love Harry Potter’, those things could be taken down although they have no trademark impact and they’re certainly not counterfeits.(26:42)
Betsy also pointed out that The Archive of Our Own is an online service provider under the definitions of the law, but we’re very different, in almost every way, from, large companies such as Verizon. While other large companies such as YouTube have some things in common with the AO3 there are also things quite different from AO3, such as depth of resources.
Also in April, Betsy contributed some replies to questions from the Hybrid Pod Scout podcast, who asked “How can fans protect themselves and fanworks in general from legal or policy actions that threaten the ability to create them?”
There are two things fans can do. One is to keep making and sharing transformative works. One of the biggest changes in the many years the OTW has existed is that fandom has changed from something that many saw as secretive and sketchy to something that is widespread, appreciated, and celebrated. That’s huge. It used to be that a Congressperson may never have known they knew someone fannish. Now most members of Congress probably know people who make and share fanworks—maybe their friends, maybe their kids, maybe themselves. The more lawmakers understand and appreciate fans, the less they can deny the personal and social value of fanworks.
For more of Betsy’s answer as well as other discussion about the OTW, check out the rest of the episode.
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