Links roundup for 24 July 2012

Here’s a roundup of stories about how fandom has arrived that might be of interest to fans:

  • YPulse, a Millenial marketing site, focused on fan fiction as part of their check-in on youth trends. “What once was a nerdy pastime is now the norm, and fan fiction goes well beyond creative writing. Teens are still writing fan fiction stories, but now they’re also creating videos of themselves acting out scenes from books and movies, crafting animations of their favorite stars in stories they devise, and recording covers of songs with their own twists to the music and lyrics. And Millennial stars and brands are embracing this form of co-creation.”
  • Indeed, discussions of brands and marketing revolves around fandom talk. “Stephenie Rodriguez, of social-media consultancy Mighty Media Group, says there’s no question the internet is enabling people to become more verbal about their views. Without the passionate few, Rodriguez says, the online world would be contrived and disengaged. ‘I believe the presence of a hater or fanboy is an indication of a healthy community,’ she says. ‘A forum or community without conflict reeks of artifice. For brands, nothing sounds as dead as no discussion, no query, no conflict, no advocates.'”
  • Fandom is also the focus of many an academic, one of whom recently discussed “Minions, Memes, and Meta: The Varieties of Online Media Fandom Experience” at The University of South Carolina, Sumter. The presentation focused on “the origins of media fandom, its activities and…fannishness as a philosophy of engaging texts.”
  • Of course the OTW itself hosts many an academic work about fans as well as various other fannish projects, at least one of which led us to believe we’ve arrived when someone created a “me/ao3 otp” fanmix.

If you’re in “brandom”, create fanworks or are an acafan, 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 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 21 July 2012

Here’s a roundup of troubling issues that might be of interest to fans:

  • Last week, the OTW posted a news alert to fanfic writers and podfic makers about a contest for fanfic recordings being held at ComicCon. Our post pointed out troubling aspects of the contract fans would be required to sign, which led to additional discussion of the terms and contest by other fans. One was semaphore-drivethru on Tumblr who concluded “This, guys, is why you should always, always read a contract/release before signing. There is no length of contract on this, so I’m assuming it’s in perpetuity. There’s no language at all to protect you, either. Just an agreement for you to give them everything for a chance at a twenty minute recording. If you feel it’s a worthwhile trade, an opportunity with[sic] taking, then go for it. But be aware that in no reputable publishing circles would a contract like this be considered reasonable.” Since then, it’s been announced that Random House will be extending the contest to the upcoming Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando next month. We urge those fans to also do a careful read through if they’re considering entering their material.
  • Fanwork contests in general have proliferated wildly through many fandoms and media properties. In many cases the contests are just a form of spotlight on fan work and there is an absence of contracts or, for that matter, prizes. However the fact that legal rights and financial rewards are now on offer in many places sheds a particularly troubling light on the longstanding problem of fanworks plagiarism. Many fans have at some time found their fanworks reposted with credit to them removed or left unclear, or have had their fanworks slightly altered and presented as someone else’s work. The rise of frequent contests has now also led to fans having their work entered in those contests without their knowledge. Given that professional publications of all kinds have had plagiarism scandals of their own makes it seem unlikely that the plagiarists will come to light due to careful research by the contest hosts.
  • Also on a front closer to home, a recent complaint was circulating on Tumblr involving an ad being shown to an AO3 user who was reading at the archive. The reader assumed that the ads were coming from the Archive of Our Own. We want to clarify that this is not the case, as the AO3 does not host ads. Rather the problem likely stemmed from the user’s own browser, which may have been infected with malware to produce the ad content. If users encounter a problem like this, please report it to the AO3’s Support team. We would appreciate it if fans could signal boost this information.

If you’ve experienced plagiarism or have perspectives to share about fans and 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. 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.

Alert to Podfic Makers and Fanfic Writers!

There are a number of discussions in fan circles right now regarding the Random House Audio Fan Fiction Contest being held at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International. The publisher is offering fan fiction authors the opportunity to record their own original work of fan fiction during Comic-Con for a chance to have their work published as a downloadable audio book on their website or featured in a Random House podcast.

The Organization for Transformative Works was initially contacted by Random House in May asking if the OTW could help promote the contest through its various news outlets. At that time, we asked for additional details – including the terms of the contest and a copy of the participant agreement. Random House responded indicating that the details were not yet complete, but that it would forward the requested information once it was available. That was the last direct communication we received from the publisher two months ago.

Over the past few days, the OTW has received inquiries from fans regarding the terms of the contest, particularly the Submission Form/Release participants are being asked to sign. We suggest that participants should carefully read and consider the terms before signing the agreement. The form asks participants to acknowledge that they have no right to create their fan fiction–even fan fiction they’re not submitting to the contest–without permission from the author of the original work (for example, “I acknowledge and agree that I may not use the Underlying Copyrighted Work, in any other manner or for any other purpose.”). We think that’s not accurate, and we think it’s unfortunate that Random House isn’t fully supporting the freedom of fans to create noncommercial transformative works. Language like this, though it doesn’t bind people who don’t participate, also has the potential to increase confusion over fair use. In the future, it would be much more fan-friendly to use principles like those of Creative Commons licenses, which specifically provide that they don’t attempt to restrict fair use.

The form also says that submissions are “works made for hire,” which is a specific category in U.S. law: the creator of a “work for hire” is never considered an author; the person or entity for whom the work was created is deemed to be the author. While we aren’t convinced that it’s possible to call a submission like this a work for hire, that’s not really the issue; the form provides that even if the submission isn’t really a work for hire the fan author still gives up all her rights. The overall terms reflect the view of some authors and publishers that all transformative works inherently ‘belong’ to the publisher who bought rights to the original work. Of course even standard publishing contracts involve trading away many rights of authorship, but signing over all rights to one’s creative work is not a decision that should be entered into lightly.

The Organization for Transformative Works is always excited to see recognition of talented fans involved in the creation of transformative works. At the same time, however, it is important that fans be well-informed, especially as publishers experiment with new models and sometimes try to assert greater control over fan activities. We would suggest that interested fans read the agreement carefully and consider their level of comfort in complying with its terms.