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  • OTW Legal Files Amicus Brief in Garcia v. Google

    By Claudia Rebaza on Sunday, 20 April 2014 - 5:41pm
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    In our continuing effort to protect against online censorship that would harm fans, last week, the OTW filed an amicus brief in the case of Garcia v. Google. The case involves the scope and application of the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA and section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which together prevent content hosts -- like YouTube, the AO3, and many others -- from being liable for what their users post.

    This case is partly a classic example of "bad facts make bad law," since the plaintiff -- an actress tricked into taking part in the film Innocence of Muslims -- has good reason to want the film taken down. But in response to her request, the court not only applied a tortured interpretation of copyright law (an issue addressed in many other briefs filed with the court at the same time), but also ignored important anti-censorship "safe harbor" laws.

    The court forced Google to not only to take the film down, but also to ensure that it is never re-posted. In so ruling, the court ignored the provisions that protect content hosts from having to "police" what their users post. These safe harbors exist to prevent online censorship, and they are important to fans. Just about every site that hosts fan content depends on them. Just imagine if every allegedly infringing or defamatory fanwork led to a lawsuit, or if fan sites were required to monitor their archives to make sure no one ever posted objectionable material: many of the sites fans rely on wouldn't be able to afford to operate. That's the sort of thing these laws are designed to prevent.

    For that reason, the OTW, along with Floor64 (the operator of TechDirt), filed a brief asking the court to reconsider its decision with an eye to the fact that although the decision may create a good factual result in this particular case, it makes terrible law that will harm freedom of expression on the Internet. As Techdirt explained in its post about the brief, "There is a reason why Congress was so intent on providing safe harbors, recognizing the incentives for broad censorship when you blame service providers for the actions of their users. Judge Kozinski appears to have ignored nearly all of Congress' intent in his ruling, and we're hopeful that (among the many other reasons why his ruling should be reviewed), the rest of the 9th Circuit will recognize that the original ruling has serious First Amendment implications, beyond just the basic copyright questions."

    For those interested in reading more, you can find this latest brief on our Legal Advocacy page along with past filings.

  • OTW Fannews: Takedowns from all sides

    By Claudia Rebaza on Tuesday, 21 January 2014 - 7:39pm
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    • Forbes was one of many sites discussing YouTube's crackdown on fans who use video game footage to review or discuss games. "So at the same time as two major console makers are integrating video sharing into their systems, YouTube is cracking down on the video game community. Of course, YouTube’s response to this is vague and unhelpful...Now a number of video game publishers such as Ubisoft, Paradox Interactive and Capcom have stated publicly that people should fight the copyright claims, understanding full well the win-win situation for all involved."
    • On another front, booksellers are censoring erotica writers. "Some U.K.-based ebook retailers responded with public apologies, and WHSmith went so far as to shut down its website altogether, releasing a statement saying that it would reopen 'once all self-published eBooks have been removed and we are totally sure that there are no offending titles available.' The response in the U.S. was somewhat more muted, but most of the retailers mentioned in the piece, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble, began quietly pulling hundreds of titles from their online shelves." The reasons why were never stated. "'I'd get an email from them saying, 'We found the following books in violation of our content guidelines,' she recalls. 'But they wouldn't tell me why. There were no specifics.'"
    • If copyright or censorship fears weren't enough, apparently the study of erotic fiction is being targeted by some government cost-cutters. "The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded $914,000 to help fund The Popular Romance Project since 2010, an ongoing study that explores 'the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction.'...The grants are highlighted in the 2013 'Wastebook,' an annual report ...that highlights taxpayer-subsidized programs that...are questionable or unnecessary, especially during a time when lawmakers are viciously debating spending levels and how to trim the nation’s $17 trillion debt."
    • Meanwhile Slate's Future Tense blog looked at How Artificial Intelligence Might Monetize Fan Fiction. "A fan fiction writer e-publishes a story he wrote using the main characters, a vegan vampire who runs a butcher shop and a werewolf who turns into a plumber at full moon. His book sells millions of downloads, too. Did the fan fiction writer do anything prohibited by law? Not necessarily. As U.S. copyright law anticipates only human authors, it is reasonable to read it as providing no copyright protection to authors that are not human. The fan fiction writer can use the Super Potter Brothers characters as much as he wants; they’re in the public domain. Anyone can use them and make money from them, including the movie studios."

    What fandom takedown cases have you seen? Write about them on Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Troubling tech issues

    By Claudia Rebaza on Saturday, 7 December 2013 - 9:12pm
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    Banner by Diane of the post title and OTW logo in striated colors as if they were going through interference.

    • Attack of the Fanboy wrote about various troubling issues affecting gaming fandom. One of the most recent involves the data Sony is gathering from users. "Sony’s updated Terms of Service reserved their right to prohibit the sale of used software, but tucked away in the updated version, the company also reserves the right to monitor users voice and text communication on the PlayStation Network."
    • Attack of the Fanboy also ran an article on forced labor used to build PS4 consoles. "Students in the programme have fainted from fatigue. The Yantai factory has already come under fire for a 300+ worker brawl at the factory in September, and denied previous speculation that people were left dead after the event, and rumours of rape around the factory are also being heard across news outlets...Despite such a bad reputation, Sony are using this facility to build PS4′s, and it certainly casts a small shadow over the companies brand identity as the PS4 launch draws closer."
    • Google's decision to force people commenting at YouTube to create or use their Google+ accounts is meeting resistance due to Google+'s insistence on real name usage. X-box players are off the hook for now. "Microsoft has made some talk about the ability for someone to use their real name for their gamertag. This, according to Microsoft, may prevent actions that some deal as unsavory or trollish...and to help identify yourself to your friends." However "[u]nlike Blizzard’s short foray with Blizzard Real ID that forced users to use their real names and subsequently backfired, Microsft will only offer it as a choice."
    • TeleRead posted about problems in reading content away from Fanfiction.net. "It’s worth mentioning that Fanfiction.net has also removed the ability to select text from its stories for copying and pasting. It is no longer possible to highlight or mark text with the mouse on its stories. And some users have complained that Fanfiction.net has upped the amount of advertising on its pages as well." Demand for downloads is high. "The author of the Fanfiction Downloader app noted that he had to disable the email-based interface of his app, except for emailing directly to Kindles, because after FLAG was blocked its load went from about 100 requests per day to more than 5,000 per hour. It seems there are a lot of people out there who would rather read fanfiction on their e-readers or mobile e-reader apps than from a web browser."

    What tech-related fandom issues have you come across? Write about it on Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: What's in a name?

    By Claudia Rebaza on Monday, 14 October 2013 - 4:39pm
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    Banner by Natasha of spring green with dozens of female figures & one male figure in a different color

    • While 'Fangirl' is a much less used term in the media than 'Fanboy', both often come in for a shellacking when they do appear. WhatCulture.com used it when citing 10 Moments That Gave Fanboys A Bad Name. Perhaps, for once, women benefited from being erased since at least half the examples they cited occurred in predominantly female fandom circles.
    • VentureBeat meanwhile argued that 'Fanboy' is an overused term. " I realize that no one can simply grab the Internet by the shoulders and ask it to stop crying “fanboy!” every time someone shows their enthusiasm for something. But that’s not what this article is about. The point I’m trying to make by writing this is that a person’s point of view may not be clear over the Internet and that during a discussion, the gaming community should make an attempt to understand where the other side is coming from."
    • Meanwhile Apex Magazine argued that 'Fangirl' isn't a dirty word. "We’re battling decades of institutionalized sexism, racism, and imperialism. We’re working on it. We may still be struggling with all of the —isms but we’re clawing our way toward second wave fandom, particularly when it comes to female fans sharing the dais. We recognize that women really do game, read comics and geek out over all the things guys geek out over. But even in this enlightened age, the gendered term 'fangirl' has become a casual slur, used with impunity to mock and ridicule a certain type of fan."
    • It's certainly not difficult to spot troubling issues that fans face -- whether it's receiving offers to turn pro in all the wrong ways, finding a hostile environment for female professionals and fans alike at conventions, being exposed to demeaning reactions to one's appearance when posting YouTube content, having one's fannish endeavors misrepresented to a general audience or having only certain kinds of fanworks appear in the spotlight. But labels can be an enduring problem, especially when they're misused.

    How do you see fanboys or fangirls talked about? Write about it on Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Copyright is the question

    By Claudia Rebaza on Sunday, 17 February 2013 - 12:27am
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    • While a lot of fans are aware that older fiction is often part of the public domain, many might assume the same to be true about speech by deceased celebrities and historical figures. But as a Freakonomics podcast discussed, a century old speech might still be restricted. "What I assumed was that as we’ve all written quoting throughout our writing career you abstract a certain amount of words, and you don’t necessarily quote an entire book, but you can quote selected passages" under fair use. "Well there is no fair use law in the United Kingdom." So for a biography on Churchill his estate would require "Five hundred pounds per 1,000 words quoted." The problem extends to institutions and valuable historical material. "[W]e’ve had lots of cultural institutions, museums and galleries coming to us saying we’ve got tapes, old videotapes, spools of tapes rotting in our basements because we can’t digitize them, because in digitizing you are changing the format, which require permission from the copyright holder. And with a lot of these old 1920s, 1930s films and recordings the copyright holder can’t be found. And so these tapes are left rotting for fear of litigation. So, you know, we really see these absurdities abound." (Transcript available).
    • Even when entertainment industries want to encourage fan interaction, they are often extremely limiting in how that may occur. For example, the official Girls site on Tumblr does not allow material to be combined, any original text, a longer animation than 5 seconds, and even insists on images coming from an official source. "The Girls Tumblr blog has not caused any sort of outrage (yet) but has made GIF artist collective Mr. GIF question HBO's intentions. 'It is pretty funny that they put so many constraints on what you can submit,' Mr. GIF told the Daily Dot. 'It looks like its a legal thing. I mean it seems like a odd barrier for entry though. You would imagine that the goal is to get as many people as possible to submit.'"
    • Yet as The Learned Fangirl points out, unauthorized content can keep a fandom's heart beating. "YouTube seems like an unlikely location for an multimedia fandom encyclopedia, but it’s probably the only location where such a function is even possible online. Think about it: YouTube is currently the Internet’s second largest search engine – bigger than even Yahoo and Bing – and the Internet’s second most trafficked website. Not to mention, its interface makes for easy social sharing and embeds. The playlist functionality makes it easy for content uploaders to group and categorize videos...And clever labeling of metadata makes it relatively easy to locate obscure content – if you know what you’re looking for. It’s YouTube’s unique combination of platform functionality and social community that makes this, a tech startup probably couldn’t recreate this even if they tried."
    • Or as one cartoon made the case, if Copyright vs. Shakespeare had taken place, Shakespeare, and the larger culture, would have lost.

    What absurdities of copyright have you come across? Write about it in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • The Rebellious Pixels Chain of Takedowns

    By Claudia Rebaza on Monday, 14 January 2013 - 12:42am
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    Last week remix artist Jonathan McIntosh had a troubling story to tell which put a spotlight on the current problems facing transformative works creators. In our current environment of automated copyright claims and the layers of entities users may have to go through to assert fair use rights, it takes real dedication sometimes to be heard.

    McIntosh's work, Buffy vs. Edward, is a well known video which has, as he cites in his post, been used on numerous occasions in academic settings. It is also among the Test Suite of Fair Use Vids that the OTW assembled as part of their successful case for a renewal of the DMCA exemption for vidders.

    McIntosh details months of effort to get his video reinstated which would, ironically, have been much simpler had he been making an effort to profit from the video. It was because ad placements have been disabled on his account that he was targeted by a subcontractor for Lionsgate, MovieClips, to either permit them or have the video deleted. Yet as a matter of U.S. copyright law, the non-commercial nature of Jonathan's video bolsters its status as copyright fair use.

    Though his video was eventually reinstated, it’s striking how much effort McIntosh had to put into dealing with the problem. Jonathan's video has been cited by the U.S. Copyright Office as an example of transformative fair use, yet he has had to defend it from numerous attacks and accusations. For every artist like him who is very familiar with the law and is willing to fight for his rights again and again, how many people are simply seeing their work disappear?

    This is one of the reasons we can see chilling effects, especially since this situation is a reminder that even clear cases of fair use aren’t safe from this kind of action. In fact, it appears that the video that was the subject of Lenz v. Universal, the case that established that copyright holders have to consider whether something is fair use before sending a DMCA take down notice, has once again been removed due to a copyright claim –- and this was a video which has already been litigated and determined to be fair use.

    The OTW wants to remind fans that its legal advocacy project is a possible resource for someone who finds themselves in a situation where their work has received takedown notices, and offers recommendations for vidders in particular on our Fan Video and Multimedia section of our website.

  • Links roundup for 13 September 2012

    By Claudia Rebaza on Thursday, 13 September 2012 - 5:03pm
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    Here's a roundup of legal and technology audio stories that might be of interest to fans:

    • The Baker Street Babes Podcast spoke with OTW Legal Committee member Betsy Rosenblatt about legal issues surrounding fanworks, what the OTW's Legal Advocacy project does, and what makes the AO3 different from other online spaces for fanfic (starting 13 minutes in). The podcast also includes more general musings on the nature of fandoms and the reasons fans want to create fanworks. (No transcript available).
    • Various segments relating to intellectual property have been airing on On the Media. Key among these were their interview with the author of Year Zero, a science fiction novel which revolved around how U.S. copyright laws would result in the annihilation of the planet (transcript available), and their segment on how advertising agencies support a musical fanfic industry to avoid paying copyright on the originals (transcript available). They also pointed out the alarming lengths to which corporate entities are going to control brand visibility: "Olympic copyright cops stood ready to enforce the sponsors’ marketing deals" in sporting venues and "London organizers gave businesses a list of key words to avoid" in any advertising. "[W]hat’s interesting about this law is it goes beyond [any] kind of copyright law. This actually introduces a criminal offense, so you could technically be criminally prosecuted. It’s really been described as some of the most draconian legislation in this area that’s ever been introduced." (Transcript available at the link.)
    • The measure of draconian lengths may have to keep being revised upwards though. In the past month the Scripps News Service instigated a YouTube takedown against NASA for its video of the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars. (The video was later restored with an apology). But the effort to control Olympics discussion was less effective against Olympic fans online. The effort by fans at circumventing both broadcast network restrictions as well as national viewing restrictions was the subject of an NPR segment on proxy servers. As Electronic Frontier Foundation representative Mike Stoltz explained, this is the "technology that people use to bypass censorship of the Internet in countries like China and Iran. And it's used by people both in the U.S. and in other countries to watch TV on the Internet that they can't get where they are." Asked if the practice was ethical, Stoltz replied "I think doing something like this in order to avoid paying for something is unethical. Doing something like this to get content that you as a person in the U.S. cannot get any other way is not necessarily unethical, it's more practical." (Transcript available at the link.)

    Do you have a fannish technology or legal story to tell? Why not contribute it to Fanlore? Contributions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, event, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent Links Roundup. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • Links roundup for 4 August 2012

    By Claudia Rebaza on Saturday, 4 August 2012 - 5:41pm
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    Here's a roundup of legal and technology stories that may be of interest to fans.

    • While bills such as SOPA and PIPA disappeared from the U.S. legislative landscape earlier this year, they were only the first of many volleys targeting Internet users and companies. There is S.2151 sponsored by Senator John McCain, and the Lieberman-Collins Cyber Security Act or S.3414 which will likely be coming up for a vote soon. A recently proposed amendment to S.3414 would strike all of its section 701 "which provides companies with the explicit right to monitor private user communications and engage in countermeasures." Organizations such as the EFF and the Center for Democracy & Technology oppose these bills as they feel the language is overly broad and that current laws already enable online service providers to protect their networks.
    • Speaking of SOPA and PIPA, the coalition of online companies, websites, users and activist organizations who fought those bills realized after that fight that they should enable quick mobilization of their group when future threats arise. As such, they formed the Internet Defense League, which will help spread information around the web through participants hosting a form of bat signal. Anyone with a website can sign up to take part. Online users can take various steps to defend their Internet rights from signing documents to donating to PACs.
    • One thing central to Internet freedoms is keeping the means of production in the hands of as many people as possible. To that end, things like Google's video production workshops are a plus for fans and general online users alike as is the availability of the Creative Commons content on YouTube. Cathy Casserly, CEO of Creative Commons (CC) urged those with content on the site to "select 'Creative Commons Attribution license' from the 'License and rights ownership. menu." You can now also choose to "license your future videos under CC BY as a default."
    • One example of the extent of transmedia, or stories created across multiple formats, is discussed by Jan Bozarth, whose Fairy Godmother Academy began as an eight book series for Random House, but quickly expanded into live events, music, and even its own dance movement. Her projects seek to enable girls to utilize technology for their own storytelling. "We all agree that we are not our iPods, iPads, Dr. Drea’s, or Thom’s. They are US. We live in the real world, but it’s got to be a world of our making and those tools help." Her project goal was "to deliver a multi dimensional story, in multiple forms, to a multi-tasking audience, who really just wants to write their own movie and star in it." She also realizes the story is only hers to start, not finish. "I can’t really own [the stories] once they are assimilated into a culture that consumes ideas only to transform, transmute and re-create. My biggest audience may or may not be born yet but my hope is that they will someday dance, sing and write some version of my story and send it back to me in another form that hasn’t even been invented yet. What lives on is the re-creation."

    If you have things to discuss about fandom and the internet or transformational fandom, why not write about it in Fanlore? Additions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, event, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent Links Roundup at transformativeworks.org. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • Links roundup for 24 February 2012

    By Claudia Rebaza on Friday, 24 February 2012 - 7:25pm
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    Here's a roundup of stories on commodification of fandom that might be of interest to fans:

    • The TV series Chuck's demise was covered by various media outlets but NPR focused on the fandom. "Chuck's life and death speaks in surprisingly potent ways to how television is changing" writes Linda Holmes. "More than anything, Chuck is a story about the rise of the fan. Not only because the show has organized devotees — that's not new." Rather it was that "Chuck fans, in their businesslike enthusiasm, sold themselves as a product."
    • A review of the recent novel Convent says that while it "skewers just about every aspect of organized fandom and the publishing industry (sometimes literally) there’s rarely any meanness in it, more like family poking fun at a favorite — if slightly strange — uncle. ConVent is just great fun, a laugh riot from beginning to end and largely drawn from real-life experiences at cons." There is also a sequel planned.
    • An article about a controversial YouTube user focused on how the DMCA is being utilized, not just by entertainment entities attempting to control use of their products, but also the "growing use of copyright claims as a cudgel against enemies and rivals." The misuse of the law can also hurt artists. "Last September, one person falsely claimed copyright over music videos by Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga. It took hours for the videos to be restored. And that was an unusually fast response. It can normally take days or weeks for YouTube to restore a video —- and that’s if the person who posted it responds with a counterclaim against the original DMCA request. Nearly 8,000 YouTubers have signed a petition calling on Google to reform how it handles DMCA notices.""
    • By contrast, Portals is a music blog collective of sixteen bloggers raising money through Kickstarter to help artists. They describe the site as ""a daily destination for MP3s, videos, mixes, interviews, artist's writings, and cultural commentary -- curated for quality, and with an emphasis on emerging artists and musical movements that best exemplify the new grassroots, Internet-fueled DIY."" But one of the writers "balked at the idea of wielding "influence" over a readership" explaining "I'm not trying to become more influential. I guess the goal of expanding who we're reaching is something, but I don't want anyone to listen to something because I said so. I just want to let as many people know it exists as I can. I want these bands I think are amazing to at least have the chance to be heard. I just don't think influence is the right word.""

    If you are a fan of Chuck, are a music fan, use YouTube, or attend cons why not contribute to Fanlore? Additions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, event, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent Links Roundup — on transformativeworks.org, LJ, or DW — or give @OTW_News a shoutout on Twitter. Links are welcome in all languages!

    Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • Links roundup for 8 February 2012

    By Claudia Rebaza on Wednesday, 8 February 2012 - 5:46pm
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    Here's a roundup of stories on fannish technologies in the news that might be of interest to fans:

    • The new site WorldCosplay is making an effort to connect cosplayers across the globe. "Though still in beta, the network already comes in an impressive 12 languages." WorldCosplay has some differences from existing sites. "There are already three big social network players in the cosplay community: the American based Cosplay.com, the Japanese Cure, and the general art site Deviant Art. Since the first two focus on their home countries and the third was never designed to be a cosplay community, Botea said WorldCosplay might have a chance to become the cosplayer’s social network of choice."
    • Apple's recent effort to promote textbook publishing for the iPad prompted this discussion of the need to simplify epublishing. "Ebooks have blown open that world of exclusivity — but the ease of use still isn’t there. There’s a long list of tools that try to make ebook creation easier, from big names (Apple’s Pages, Adobe’s InDesign) to smaller ones (Scrivener) to open source alternatives like calibre. But it’s still a complicated enough business that there’s a healthy ecosystem of companies offering ebook conversion services." Indeed the growing simplicity of online posting and content hosting sites helped fan fiction's distribution grow enormously, but few sites replicate the print book experience. "But if publishing is dirt simple...how would publishers (book, news, and otherwise) respond to an even greater flood of competing content than the ebook world has already produced?"
    • YouTube was also a milestone, not just in the distribution of video content, but in its revealing look at the diversity of fan-created visual works. However the site is moving away from the amateur creator. As YouTube increasingly promotes partnerships with professional producers "what will happen to the “little guy,” those who make content to share with people—not for profit?" Various critical reactions have sprung up. "“I don't want my TV to invade YouTube,” commented Porcelanesa on the promo video. “I came here because it was YOUtube, people talking to people and sharing their lives, videos of their kids, their pets, something exciting that happened during the day they wanted to share with someone else. Normal people, like you and me.”"

    If you cosplay, write fan fiction, or create videos, why not contribute to Fanlore? Additions are welcome from all fans.

    We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, event, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent Links Roundup — on transformativeworks.org, LJ, or DW — or give @OTW_News a shoutout on Twitter. Links are welcome in all languages!

    Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

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