More fannish disruptions and closures

The OTW has been told that fanfiction.net is removing fanfic written for the HBO show True Blood; we have given Archive of Our Own codes to the writers who contacted us and want to remind fandom at large that right now, most people who sign up for an account get one within 48 hours. Please spread the word if you have connections in True Blood fandom – and of course all fandoms are welcome! (We currently have 5,352!)

We also are sorry for those fans who lost their accounts when Blogetery.com, a WordPress hosting site with over 70,000 blogs, shut down. BurstNet, the web hosting company who own the Blogetery.com servers, say that they shut down the site after receiving ‘a notice of a critical nature from law enforcement officials’. The BBC and C-Net report that the shutdown was due to terrorist-related activity on Blogetry involving possible links to al-Qaeda.

While the nature of the material posted on Blogetry makes it understandable that BurstNet shold take immediate action, this has left the great bulk of users not knowing when or if they’ll regain access to their accounts.

If you or someone you know hosted fanfic on Blogetry, please consider hosting or backing up your work at the Archive of Our Own; again, most people who join the queue get accounts within 48 hours.

Links Roundup for June 24, 2010

Here’s a roundup of stories that might be of interest to fans: news, blog posts, book reviews, lectures, and even video art!

First up, here’s a group of stories for vidders, about the direction YouTube is taking.

* In the New York Times, we have, At YouTube, Adolescence Begins at 5, an article about YouTube’s 5 year anniversary. Unfortunately, in this article “growing up” seems to mean “selling out”, or at the very least, making YouTube a lot more like television and less like a home for user-generated content. “Once known primarily for skateboard-riding cats, dancing geeks and a variety of cute-baby high jinks, YouTube now features a smorgasbord of more professional video that is drawing ever larger and more engaged audiences.”

* Similarly, this article–YouTube’s Top 100 By Type–defines YouTube’s success by how many of its videos are professional and/or have ads on them, and also by the decline of user-generated content like vids. “Overall, YouTube is doing fairly well: although only 41.93% of the most popular videos have ads, that number is growing by 0.83% per month and both unofficial TV/movie clips and user-generated content are down.” (emphasis mine)

Next up, a couple of links that talk about the development of tools for what some people are calling “affirmative” fandom (which is creator-centered; vs. “transformational” fandom, which is community and fanworks-oriented):

* The NYT did an article about Cambio, a new website/web video portal that bills itself as “your destination for original shows, specials and short videos featuring your favorite actors, musicians and athletes.” It is also being billed as “a ‘safe environment’ [for artists and celebrities] to talk to fans”; what it purports to offer is direct access to artists and special content for fans. (The Jonas Brothers are partners in this enterprise and will be using Cambio to do direct outreach and marketing to their fans.)

* Similarly, publisher Richard Nash, gave a talk on what he thinks the future of publishing will look like–and it looks a lot like parts of fandom. For example, Nash himself is starting a publishing business/social network called Cursor, which is described as as “a social approach to publishing that focuses on the establishment of powerful, self-reinforcing online membership communities made up of professional authors, reader members, and emerging writers.”

Other links include:

* On BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow cited a LiveJournal post by bookshop in Pulitzer-winning fanfic: a non-exhaustive list, which sparked some intense debates as to the definition of fanfic.

* The EFF’s Fred von Lohmann reviews Adrian Johns’ new book Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates. Quote: “Opposing the ‘intellectual property defense industry’ is not the same thing as opposing ‘intellectual property.; Rather, it is about insisting on values like civil liberties, privacy, and autonomy, and not allowing antipiracy enforcement to trample them.”

* Lastly, we have a different kind of transformative work than those that we normally talk about here. In Transformation through YouTube, video artist Patrick Liddell uploads a video to YouTube, rips it, uploads it and rips it, until the sounds and image degrades. From his description: “An homage to the great Alvin Lucier, this piece explores the ‘photocopy effect’, where upon repeated copies the object begin to accumulate the idiosyncrasies of the medium doing the copying.”

We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, event, or link you think we should know about you can submit it in three easy ways: comment on the most recent Link Roundup on LJ, IJ or DW, tag a link with “for:otw_news” on Delicious 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.

Professional Authors and Fanworks

In recent weeks, partly prompted by Diana Gabaldon’s publication of her fan fiction policy, some other professional authors have been moved to declare their positions (pro, con, or in between) on fanworks. The OTW has also been contacted by some professional authors who like fan fiction, but worry if it poses a danger to them in some way.

For the record, the OTW believes that noncommercial fan works are an important form of cultural conversation and don’t require the approval of the original work’s author or owner. While fair use is a key component of our intellectual property system, it’s also important to talk about other aspects of the law that may assuage some fears.

Q: I’m a professional creator. Do I need to avoid reading or acknowledging fanworks based on my own works?”

Answer Under The Cut!

A: This is essentially a personal decision. If it will upset you to read, view, or watch fanworks based on your works, then don’t.

Authors are sometimes advised to avoid reading or acknowledging fanfiction transforming their own work, as it is in theory possible that an author could read a story, go on to write something similar, and face a claim by the fan that she copied the fan’s work. There are many reasons to discount this risk, the least of which is that case law is all in the first author’s favor: no court is going to be receptive to a claim that a later work by the first author in the same universe infringes the fanwork. Among other things, when people begin with similar premises, it isn’t at all surprising that they will end up with similar ideas–but copyright law protects the specific expression of an idea, not ideas. Even if a fan work is similar to a later work in the same universe, similarity of ideas (say, how wand magic works in Harry Potter) isn’t sufficient for a copyright claim.

However, not being able to win doesn’t erase the possibility that someone could threaten to sue. The real issue is that it doesn’t take a fanwork to generate a threat! If an author reads her fan mail or online reviews, she might encounter a fan’s ideas about what should happen with the characters; if she reads other books, she might encounter a storyline or character similar to a storyline or character she might later use. In fact, the typical author-versus-author infringement case involves claims that one work copied another, apparently unrelated work.

The OTW’s mission includes explaining the difference between ideas and expression. A lot of people may have the same idea about what should happen on the next season of House; but if they each write different stories expressing the idea differently, then those stories don’t infringe each other.

In short: a professional creator is no more at risk (and arguably, a lot less at risk) of being sued by a fanfiction writer than of being sued by any other author who’s ever written anything. J.K. Rowling, for example, has been sued by English children’s writer Adrian Jacobs (author of The Adventures of Willy the Wizard); American author Nancy Stouffer (who claimed that Harry Potter was a ripoff of her character “Larry Potter”), and the band the Wyrd Sisters–none of whom are fans.