Intellectual Property

  • OTW Fannews: Global Fandom

    By Janita Burgess on Monday, 28 July 2014 - 5:03pm
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    OTW Fannews Banner: Global Fandom

    • The story of female volleyball fans in Iran was covered by many sites, including France24. "[T]hese sporting events are only for male eyes, since the 'morality police' — a special police force that seeks to fight 'moral corruption' and to combat those who violate Islamic law — have been systematically preventing women from attending volleyball tournaments since 2005. However, this prohibition does not apply to foreign women." While some women were able to get into games with the aid of foreign fans and by wearing the other team's jerseys, 50 women were arrested for attempting entry. As one woman said, "I don’t want to have to resort to ruses in order to support my team. I want to be able to walk into a sports stadium proud of my identity as an Iranian woman and a fan of my national team."
    • The Korea Times reported on how Korean fans making subtitles were being sued by U.S. drama producers. "Police are now questioning the 15 who were booked without physical detention. Investigators said they made Korean subtitles of American television dramas and movies without getting prior consent from the original producers and circulated their translations among Internet users through large online cafes. A police officer said on condition of anonymity that U.S. television drama producers tend not to exercise their copyrights if individual citizens violate the law. But, he said, the U.S. producers took legal action against illegal subtitle makers as they believed that the violators circulated their subtitles rapidly through the Internet and as a result the original producers experienced negative fallout on their earnings."
    • The Telegraph India talked with fans about their World Cup passions and which countries they supported. "Germany’s clinical 7-1 demolition of Brazil not just reignited the clash of continents at the Fifa World Cup but also confirmed that Calcutta has diversified its allegiance. Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, England, France and Italy now evoke equal passion among the city’s football faithful as the traditional Selecao and La Albicileste." Part of this difference is generational and star driven but "[w]hile age is a rough line of division that splits loyalties, it is not a watertight one. Families too apparently help shape who supports whom."

    What stories do you have to tell about your local fandoms? Write about them 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 Fannews post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Legal Confusion

    By Kiri Van Santen on Friday, 18 July 2014 - 5:17pm
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    • The Washington Post was one of many media outlets covering the U.S. Trademark Office's decision to cancel the Redskins trademark registration. "The 99-page decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board said the team’s name and logo are disparaging. It dilutes the Redskins’ legal protection against infringement and hinders the team’s ability to block counterfeit merchandise from entering the country. But its effect is largely symbolic. The ruling cannot stop the team from selling T-shirts, beer glasses and license-plate holders with the moniker or keep the team from trying to defend itself against others who try to profit from the logo."
    • The Wisconsin State Law Library pointed to a book about trademarks and fan-created content in the wake of the Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate decision. The book in question is about trademarks and fan-created content from the perspective of trademark owners which doesn’t really acknowledge fans’ rights to make fair uses— but instead is about “tolerating” use. It’s an older work, and an example of the way that trademark owners used to assume that they were always the ones who got to decide how their works would be received.
    • io9 put a spotlight on a study about filk. "Women in the filk community are more likely than men to create original melodies to accompany their lyrics, while women are only somewhat more likely to borrow from others' lyrics than are men. Because filk is often viewed as an imitative culture, the tendency of women to depart from that ethos in creating their own melodies seems significant...female respondents were much more likely to define fair use as not profiting from others' work, and somewhat more likely to define it as giving credit to the original author and making private as opposed to public use of a protected work."
    • The YALSA blog posted about Fandom and Fair Use but made some problematic claims. For example, it does not actually discuss what fair use is and provides questionable examples. Crunchyroll claims to be fully licensed and even Disney has now embraced user-generated content. Instead what the YALSA post demonstrates is an example of copyright confusion: people think that some things aren’t “allowed” when in fact either fair use law or licensing is on their side.

    What confusing legal fandom issues have you come across? 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 Fannews post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Remembering the past

    By Claudia Rebaza on Sunday, 13 July 2014 - 5:54pm
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    Banner by Bremo of a timeline showing different fannish platforms starting with Geocities and ending with AO3

    • At The Atlantic, Courtney Klauser discussed her education in social networks thanks to fandom. "Looking back, I most miss the personal anonymity; an online existence without photography or video, a time when it was normal not to use your real name, when people could interact without demographic data being harvested for advertisers or shuffling people into neat demographic categories in the name of improved user experience...Yet the online world where I first encountered the pleasures of fan culture no longer exists at all."
    • Corinne Duyvis wrote at YA Highway about lessons learned while roleplaying. "My absolute biggest hobby as a teenager was online X-Men roleplaying...Roleplaying wasn’t fanfiction like most people know it, but it’s probably the most apt comparison—and that’s why it baffles me when people dismiss fandom as a waste of time for writers, or even call it actively damaging. It’s often the exact opposite. Without fandom, I wouldn’t be writing today. I wouldn’t have a shiny hardcover on shelves as of this month."
    • Author Peter David re-posted a poem about fandom he'd published in 2001 about the spread of fandom online. "And the Grynch straight away fashioned 'Fandom Dot Com/ By fans and for fans,' said the Grynch with aplomb/ The fans, they just loved it, they flocked by the ton/ And they told all their friends, and they came on the run/ Created new websites and posted the things/ On Star Wars, Godzilla, and Lord of the Rings/ The theory, you see, was by acting as one/ The fans would not ever be put on the run/ By studio lawyers with frozen-fish faces/ Subpoenas and letters and leather briefcases."
    • Elizabeth Minkel wrote in New Statesman about changing times. "It might be easy to forget that a little more than a decade ago, Warner Brothers was yanking down Harry Potter fan sites without warning, particularly those that 'sent the wrong message', like speculating that a character could be gay. Now media corporations are actively trying to create the kind of spaces for fan engagement that mimic the volume and enthusiasm of what’s historically been built from the bottom-up – organic celebrations of (and critical space to examine) a book or movie or television show or band. Now we’ve got 'official fan fiction partners' of a book or a movie, and even corporate-sponsored incentive – rewards, like access to special content, that sort of thing – to create more content in their spaces."

    What parts of fandom history do you remember? 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 Fannews post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Fandom Legal Topics

    By Claudia Rebaza on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 - 4:23pm
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    Banner by Sidhrat of a pair of glasses laid on an open book

    • The Age reported on a lawsuit involving the founders of The Writers Coffee Shop. "The lawsuit asks the court to recognise that TWCS is an ongoing partnership and, as a partner, Pedroza is entitled to 25 per cent of the profits. Pedroza and Beebe are seeking...'to trap funds not yet paid by Random House'" as a result of their rights purchase for Fifty Shades of Grey. The plaintiffs claim that Amanda "Hayward, 'fraudulently' restructured TWCS under the guise of tax minimisation, without the knowledge of the partners, so payments from the Random House deal, signed in March 2012, flowed exclusively to herself."
    • A post at Screen Invasion suggested that companies using Amazon's Kindle Worlds were setting a precedent for the “potential market” factor of fair use. However, it is the pornier side of fanfiction that is likely to be unaffected. "TV’s GG can show a blush-worthy encounter between Chuck and Blair in his limo’s spacious backseat...but Kindle Worlds can reject a GG fanfic that describes a similar tryst based on the author’s word-choice. Ergo, sites featuring only blue fan-fiction do not impact the same market(s) as their un-obscene peers." This argument tracks to the case involving The Wind Done Gone, since part of that legal argument was that there was no lost revenue because Margaret Mitchell's estate would never have licensed such a work.
    • Evergreen State College's student newspaper posted an open letter from faculty about threats to academic freedom involving a parody theater piece about Disney content. "On Monday of week eight, without consulting the faculty sponsors, Dean Reece issued a written request to fundamentally alter the script, with indication that the college would prevent the students from using campus facilities to perform the script as written." The letter cited the fair use aspects of the work and their belief that a fear of legal action was behind the effort to alter the performance.
    • TIME looked at aspects of One Direction fanfiction following a high-profile fanfic book deal. "Jamison also notes that the idea of making money from fanfiction — something long seen as dubious among fans, even as recently as 50 Shades of Grey — doesn’t seem to be so strange to younger and newer fanfic writers...After all, it’s much less legally thorny to file off those serial numbers when the inspiration is reality: changing the names of a boy band doesn’t risk overstepping the fair use of someone else’s creation. And besides, it’s a time-honored tradition. As Jamison says: 'Every fiction author bases their characters on real people.'”

    What fandom-related legal issues have you heard about? Create some entries for 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 Fannews post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Fannews: Changing how things are done

    By Claudia Rebaza on Saturday, 31 May 2014 - 4:38pm
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    • PBS's Idea Channel did a piece on "The Future of Fandom" and featured discussion about fans' effects on copyright, including the stance of the OTW and the work of OTW legal staffer, Rebecca Tushnet. "In 'I'm a Lawyer, Not an Ethnographer, Jim': Textual Poachers and Fair Use, Rebecca Tushnet explains Henry Jenkins' sense that 'fans usually enjoy [an original work], but also see its flaws and gaps, which their work attempts to address and, sometimes, redress.' Fan works like Fanfic, fanvids and remixes celebrate, critique and extend beloved media, but they also exist in uncertain legal territory. They're necessarily built on copyrighted material, the owners of which are occasionally super hostile to any co-option, even loving co-option." (Transcript available)
    • While not directly connected to fandom, a recent court ruling raised concerns about what can be published about people online. NPR's All Things Considered discussed the potential changes. "Usually, the content that we talk about with the right to be forgotten is much more salacious. This guy wanted an old debt to be removed from his Google search results. He took his complaint to the Spanish Data Protection Agency, who determined that he did have a case for the right to be forgotten. And the agency ordered Google to remove links to that content. It moved through the courts as Google appealed it and the case that came down was shocking, I think, for most people."
    • Another court ruling included discussion about fan sites and works more specifically. The Supreme Court ruled on the case of Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a case in which the owner of a screenplay alleged copyright infringement. In her opinion, Justice Ginsburg stated the following: "[T]here is nothing untoward about waiting to see whether an infringer’s exploitation undercuts the value of the copyrighted work, has no effect on the original work, or even complements it. Fan sites prompted by a book or film, for example, may benefit the copyright owner. See Wu, Tolerated Use, 31 Colum. J. L. & Arts 617, 619–620 (2008). Even if an infringement is harmful, the harm may be too small to justify the cost of litigation."
    • While some think that fanfiction should be licensed in the future, the Deseret News wrote about Lucasfilm's decision to wipe out earlier canon, turning it into licensed fanfic. "Lucasfilm announced the Star Wars Story Group in January, which was created specifically to sift through the plethora of Expanded Universe content and decide what was and wasn’t canon, according to BleedingCool.com. The answer? Apparently none of it was. But it’s not all bad news for Expanded Universe fans...Instead, it will be rebranded as 'Star Wars Legends' and continue to be published and made available to fans."

    What examples of fans' changing things 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 Fannews post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • USPTO/NTIA multi-stakeholder forum on the DMCA

    By Claudia Rebaza on Friday, 23 May 2014 - 3:34pm
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    Banner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Legal Issues'

    OTW's Legal Committee made another appearance at a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office event, this one at a multistakeholder forum in Berkeley, California on May 8. Legal Chair Betsy Rosenblatt spoke about protecting transformative creators, whose voices might easily be lost or ignored in a discussion focusing on anti-piracy. Stating that small entities have unique concerns regarding standard processes, especially when they are volunteer-run such as the OTW, Betsy also mentioned the importance of pseudonymity. Her segment begins at 5:12 in the Part 2 video. (No transcript available). Other participants included copyright stalwarts like the RIAA, MPAA, and Copyright Alliance; internet freedom and free expression advocates like the EFF and New Media Rights; and content hosts ranging in size from Google on the large side to DeviantART on the small side.

    The meeting was designed to get participants’ views about benefits, drawbacks, and strategies for standardizing the DMCA notice-and-takedown procedure. The USPTO/NTIA representatives emphasized that this is not a lawmaking endeavor (nor could it be, since those bodies have no influence on copyright legislation), but rather an attempt to make current laws operate better than they currently do.

    The meeting resulted in the formation of a working group. The OTW has a seat on that working group, and will continue to voice the interests of transformative creators and small service providers throughout the process. It's not yet clear what the result of the process will be. Possibilities may include a set of “best practices”; a set of plug & play tools for rights-claimants and ISPs to use and adopt as they wish; or educational tools.

    Because the OTW will be an official part of the working group process, this is an opportunity for OTW members' voices to be heard. What would you like to see become a more standard part of the notice-and-takedown procedure? What would you want the procedure avoid? Let us know!

  • OTW Fannews: Tech and legal developments

    By Claudia Rebaza on Thursday, 22 May 2014 - 4:52pm
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    Banner by Bremo of webpages that are mentioned in this article

    • The New York Times Bits blog was one of several places highlighting the work of OTW legal staffer Casey Fiesler, who examined Terms of Service at popular websites. Among them was DeviantArt, Fanfiction.net and "Asianfanfics, a small fan fiction site, whose terms of service provisions, the researchers wrote, allowed 'for the site to essentially do whatever they like with whatever is posted there without any notice or attribution to the creator.'" The report included a handy infographic. A future part of Casey's study will involve the AO3.
    • The Mary Sue posted about using Storium. "As I quickly figured out, Storium is essentially an elegant framework for simming, with the added kick of card game-ish mechanics. For the uninitiated, a play-by-post game (also called a sim) traditionally takes place on a message board or through an email list. There’s a basic premise, and a host who wrangles the players. Depending on the game, players either create whatever characters they fancy, or are given clearly defined roles...The players then take turns writing chapters or scenes, typically tagging other characters to pick up where they left off."
    • Perhaps relatedly, Brie Hiramine asked at Flavorwire if the fansite is dead? "I can’t remember the last time I visited a fan site to read news or discuss anything. And that’s simply because our ever-flowing stream of content means that fan culture is more integrated into our everyday lives (and therefore, our Internet lives) than ever before. People consume fan-specific news on more mainstream platforms, without needing to go to a dedicated site to do so. Thank you, Facebook feed! Thank you, Twitter debates! Thank you, Reddit! And inevitably, the distance between consumer and producer grows ever-smaller."

    What legal and tech developments have you seen that are fandom-related? 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: Fan activism

    By Claudia Rebaza on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 - 4:57pm
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    Banner by dogtagsandsmut of a black and white photo of protesters holdings signs along with images of peace sign, a heart, and an open book.

    • Indiewire hosted a post about a petition to the MTV Awards. The "Heroes" category overlooked an obvious candidate. "[I]t's still noteworthy that among MTV's 16 categories, the only other group without any female nominees is Best Male Performance. Katniss' exclusion, then, doesn't make sense from either a commercial point of view -- The Hunger Games was the highest-grossing film of 2013 -- or from a J. Law one, since the Oscar winner is nominated in four other categories...The character of Katniss is enough of a cultural touchstone that she appeared in one of the 'Heroes' montages at this year's Oscars, so MTV definitely done goofed."
    • A planned webseries on artists' rights seeks to educate viewers about copyright, the internet and creativity. "CopyMe is "an infographic-style animated webseries that deals with our modern attitude to copying. It assembles the most relevant information and makes it accessible to everyone" so that it "will appeal both to copyright literates, as well as to those with no previous knowledge on these topics. Our biggest goal is to raise awareness and highlight our concerns regarding the copyright realities of today."
    • A Wall Street Journal article about L.J. Smith quoted current and former OTW staffers, Heidi Tandy and Francesca Coppa. "'It feels like a land grab,' said Francesca Coppa...'Big companies are trying to insert themselves explicitly to get people who don't know any better to sign away rights to things that might be profitable.'" Indeed, the article notes that "Ms. Smith says that when she began publishing her Vampire Diaries fan fiction on Amazon this past January, she wasn't aware that she was giving up the copyright to those stories, too. Nor did she realize she'd be giving Alloy a cut of earnings from the new stories."
    • One of our favorite pieces of activism this week is a little biased. White Collar Vids created a vidlet for the OTW's October membership drive in 2012 -- take a look!

    What examples of fan activism 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 Fannews post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

  • OTW Legal Files Amicus Brief in Garcia v. Google

    By Claudia Rebaza on Sunday, 20 April 2014 - 5:41pm
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    Banner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Legal Issues'

    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: Copyright threats and benefits

    By Claudia Rebaza on Saturday, 19 April 2014 - 6:58pm
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    Banner by Erin of a shield bearing the logos of several digital rights organizations.

    • The Asahi Shimbum detailed fan concerns about the TPP. "Usami and other creators of fan fiction, however, could face the possibility of legal prosecution as copyright violators in the future, depending on the outcome of TPP negotiations. Some countries are apparently demanding that Japan clamp down on knock-off and pirated works in the intellectual property arena, even if the copyright holder does not object to it. Under current Japanese copyright law, authorities take action only after the copyright holder, such as the artist of the original work or publisher, lodges a formal complaint."
    • India's Business Standard wrote about book piracy and its turn to crossover fiction. "By the 2000s, piracy had changed across all kinds of language publishing in India. In 2003, Harry Potter's publishers successfully sued Uttam Ghosh, preventing him from introducing a character called Jhontu in a sub-series where Harry Potter goes to Calcutta, a work of fan fiction if there ever was one...Book pirates in China had stayed ahead of the curve, by passing off a weird little book called Harry Potter and Bao Zoulong as a new Potter sequel. In this version, Harry Potter became a leading character in a translation of The Hobbit, with an explanatory paragraph to tell the reader how Harry Potter was turned into a hobbit one day while taking a bath."
    • The Wire explored the origin of The Office Time Machine. Creator Joe Sabia "wasn't really a fan of the show" but created it to "advocate for copyright reform and highlight the importance of fair use in protecting creators and their art."
    • Yet fair uses of content can be beneficial to creators. The Toronto Star discussed how music companies made more money from fan videos than official videos. “A lot of that is due to consumers putting more and more repertoire and new versions up there, but also it’s YouTube getting better at advertising" as now more than 50 countries are part of video ad monetization. "'It’s a massive growth area. We’re very excited about the creativity of consumers using our repertoire and creating their own versions of our videos,' said Francis Keeling, the global head of digital business for Universal Music Group."

    What copyright developments have you seen relating to fandom? 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.

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