This Week in Fandom, Volume 60

Welcome to This Week in Fandom, the OTW’s roundup of things which are happening! Before we start, are you excited about whatever Taylor Swift is up to? How about a stand-alone Star Wars film focused on Obi-Wan Kenobi? Starring Ewan McGregor or not?

Orphan Black recently ended after a 5-season run, and many fans are sad to see it go. However, as with many contemporary TV series, dedicated fans may be responsible for the fact that the show ran as long as it did, due to new ways of measuring its success. The New York Time published an article exploring the “Clone Club” fandom of Orphan Black. The article quotes star Tatiana Maslany as saying “Their [the fans’] adamant vocal nature was the reason our show was anything — a success — and seen the way it was.”

The president of BBC America, Sarah Barnett, agrees about the importance of television fans: “Every TV network, particularly at a time of surfeit of content — peak TV — is absolutely driven in wanting to create fandoms. Everybody is talking about it.” Orphan Black courted its fans through direct engagement, including holding a fan art contest and allowing fans to choose props used in the show. Those engaged fans then promoted the series on their own, doing things like dominating Twitter when Tatiana Maslany won an Emmy for her performance.

Barnett plans to continue this approach with other series in the future. “That’s what we think is increasingly important for our business. Not just having a shallow breadth of viewers but actually having a really deep, passionate fanbase.”

There’s a new legal issue on the horizon that may affect fans. Bloomberg BNA recently published an article on the legal implications of celebrity avatars in virtual and augmented reality technology. Using celebrity avatars could run afoul of right-of-publicity laws in the US, which “generally prohibit the use of a person’s name, image, or likeness for commercial gain without consent.” While fanworks shouldn’t be impacted–transformative works are exempt–commercial works that rely on the fame and draw of the person being depicted will have to be careful, and that can mean changing the experience for users through the virtual environment.

The ability of VR to create 360-degree experiences may help companies pass another balancing test called transformative works, under which courts look at whether the content of the entire work transforms a person’s likeness into something new. With a 360-degree experience, it may be “easier for a virtual reality creator to say a celebrity is minimal in the overall field of vision,” he [David Hoppe, a virtual reality attorney] said.

What do you think? Would celebrity avatars entice you to try virtual reality? Would they creep you out? Let us know in the comments!

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This Week in Fandom

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