Your Personal Fandom Stories Are Urgently Needed!

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The OTW's Legal Advocacy project has stood up for fans' rights to create and share, helping individual fans with legal questions and making fans' collective voices heard in court cases.

Recently, our Legal Committee asked for fans to help by providing either media stories or personal stories of takedown requests and actions that have made fans hesitant to create or share fanworks.

Your help is needed again! The U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) are seeking public comments on copyright policy issues, including the legal framework for the creation of remixes. The window for these submissions is short -- they must be in by October 14, so we need to act now.

The Legal Committee is thus looking for stories of how fandom has helped fans in day-to-day life. We need you to share your individual stories with concrete examples. For example, perhaps being in fandom has helped you to learn a language, helped you in school, or helped you improve skills that you use elsewhere — skills such as writing, video editing, coding websites, audio editing, or anything else. We don't need personal information from you, but the more specific the story, the better.

Our attorneys will use your stories to explain to these agencies, which are likely to propose new legislation about copyright, why any change in copyright law should favor freedom to make transformative works. We succeeded before with the DMCA remix exemptions, but only because we were able to share specific stories from vidders. Now we need stories of all kinds.

We also need them soon! Please provide us with your stories by October 10, as our team needs time to work with them before the submission deadline of the 14th.

To submit your story, please use the Legal Committee's contact form.

And if the OTW's legal advocacy work is important to you, please consider making a donation to support our ongoing efforts. Thank you!

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Fanfiction has given me innumerable gifts, but the most important one is that it's helped me navigate my own struggles with mental illness. When clinical depression hit me hard several years ago, I happened to be in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom. The show is unique in that it has an entire season dedicated to the main character's mental health struggles--Season 6 is a prolonged exploration of life with depression and PTSD. It's wrenching and often painful to watch, but at the same time it was absolutely inspirational to me to see a heroic character who I admired going through hard times that were similar to the ones I was going through.

Just viewing that story was so helpful to me, but what allowed me to take some actual steps forward was interacting with fandom and writing fanfiction about Buffy and her mental health problems. In Buffy fandom, I found multiple other people who also dealt with various mental health problems, and we formed one of the most important communities of my life. In this community, it was safe to talk about your own struggles and no one would judge because all of us had been there and all of us had been drawn together by the story we saw on our television screen. That community was absolutely vital to giving me reasons to actually look forward to something during a time when it was really difficult to not just want to stay in bed all day. And then there was writing fanfiction about Buffy: through her--a character already established as heroic, strong, kind, and admirable--I was able to work through some of my own pain, exploring it in the context of a character whose worth was unquestionable. I was able to really look at my own experiences, and when other people read the stories and expressed compassion for my-turned-Buffy's experiences and admiration for her strength, it provided me with some healing.

Fandom and fanfiction did not cure my depression, of course. Time and medication did that. But they absolutely did help me journey through that time of depression, gave me some insight into myself, gifted me with a community that understood and supported me, and even gave me a little bit of hope I wouldn't have had otherwise.

I have been in fandom for all of my teenage years, and sharing work, creativity and passion about the stories I love is something I found and still find endlessly wonderful. But I came to realize that it brought me much more than just a hobby. As a writer, fanfiction has led me to steadily improve my skills. Even as I dare, little by little, to create my own characters and plots, it still holds the same powerful appeal to me. My style, my way of spinning descriptions and staging situations, of handling different points of view and slipping into a character's mind, were all shaped by my fanfiction experience. I would never be the author I am today without it, and I hope to strive and improve a lot more in the future…
Fandom has also been a priceless resource in my study of languages. As a native French speaker, reading and writing fanfiction in English has led me to acquire a grasp of the language that went beyond anything I could have learned at school, becoming fluent and moving past mere grammar to entirely focus on style and finding something beautiful in foreign words. I also used fanfiction to make my first experience as a translator, a field I know work in.
Fandom is passion. Fandom is a quest for beauty. Fandom is sharing and creating powerful bonds with fellow fans, and I couldn't be more grateful I got to be a part of such a thing.

I grew up in a very... conservative household and stumbled across fanfiction online by complete chance, at the age of 12 or 13, before I had ever heard of LGBT rights. My very first introduction to homosexuality (something I didn't know existed) was through fanfction. Many authors don't shy away from really serious moral issues like homophobia and its effects on people - fanfiction educated me and influenced me very heavily in that sense.

I remember very clearly the first time I discussed homosexuality with my parents and found out, to my absolute shock and disgust, that the laws of the religion I was brought up to be proud of dictated that homosexuality (in the case of men...) was punishable by the death penalty. These problems that the characters in the stories I had read were, up until that point, completely abstract. I suddenly realised that not only were a lot of people homophobic, my own parents were too and not because they were malicious but because they actually, genuinely thought that it was morally right for homosexual men to die.

Fanfiction played a very big role for me in definining my sense of morality and giving me the confidence to question every value I was taught as part of my religion - because it was free, easily available online (so it was difficult for my parents to... regulate) and it provided a very different image of the world than anything I had been exposed to before. I am now a very staunch supporter of LGBT rights and... I suppose the right way of saying it would be 'I became an apostate'. While fanfiction might not be completely responsible for either of those things, I don't think they would have happened without it.

also sent directly to legal via the other form.

I spent the last 18 months of my undergraduate career studying abroad. Truthfully, I did not intend to stay away so long; however during my first semester in France, the economy crashed back home in the United States. Being aware that it would be even harder if not impossible to find a job once returning home, I decided to stay away as long as possible. I returned in 2010: the country had changed. When I left, it was the crest of the Bush era, and I came home to Obama, and a rising tide of cultural liberalism. The technology every where had changed. I had heard of "reverse cultural shock," but my re-assimilation to US American culture was intensely difficult on many levels: not only did I feel alienated from my "home culture," but also my extended stay in foreign countries had a deleterious effect on my mother tongue. I cannot describe accurately how deeply this effected me: my English was stilted and contrived, coming slowly in spurts. When meeting with friends who I had known for years, it was difficult to keep up my end of the conversation since the words hovered then trudged through a mire of French, German, and Chinese until they came out in some sort of English, although sometimes not in the right word order.

The solution was to simply get my words back. How does one do this in any language? Read, read, and read some more. I had an extended visit with my parents after coming back to the US, and I needed to read large quantities of English language texts. The solution to needed to read a large quantity of interesting stories, not necessarily in print since I was still moving around was solved with my discovery of fanfiction. Here are vast collections of stories in English, many written by college educated women like myself, addressing various subjects. Fanfiction aided me through a difficult part of my life on several levels. Since fanfic is based on a singular story or set of characters, one can read a great quantity of it without being bogged down by the details. You know what character x looks like and how character y likes character z more than a friend, and these reoccurring details illuminated in through different wordings and clarifications aided me in my rebuilding my vocabulary and improving my English level.

Fanfiction aided me on socio-cultural level as well. As to be expected, reading fandom and participating in fannish activities has an element of inclusivity. As I felt alienated from US American culture on a larger scale, within fandom I found smaller communities in which I found a sense of belonging.

Not only did I find linguistic and cultural fulfillment through fanfiction, but it also satisfied my hunger for scholastic knowledge after moving on from my extended university study. What can one learn about from reading fanfiction? To name a very few: gender studies, transgender studies, feminist studies, marketing, hockey, psychology, art history, history of England during the Regency era, history of California, sociology, cooking, and several new perspectives of the status quo through social commentary. All this may be added to the increased empathy and critical thinking skills people acquire when they read.

I truly support the creation of fanfiction and believe wholeheartedly that its transforming and empowering qualities have made our culture better and it will continue to do so. In the early aughts, many social scientists deliberated on the "democratizing effect of the internet" and of technological knowledge in general. In fanfiction, we see that democratization. It is the response to many who feel alienated by the dominant paradigm (indeed, who at times does not feel alienated, for there is not such thing as a "normal" person.) Fanfiction is the supportive, creative space for blacks who after seeing a movie in which all the main characters are white, thinks, "I would do it differently, and here's how." Fanfiction is for the girls who read a comic book in which the heroes are all men, and imagines herself as Captain America. Fanfiction is for all those who watch/listen/read to a story and cannot empathize with the characters as they are, but see potential in tweaking, recreating, and re-imagining the story to fit and resonate with their own lives. Finally, fanfiction is for all groups of people misrepresented in our mass media, and it gives them a space to create alternatives which are as empowering for the producer as the consumer.

I implore you, the reader of this message to respect fanfiction and fannish efforts in the light of how they are produced: with love of the original cannon, and a deep desire to personalize and internalize the struggles of the characters and the message of the story out of a profound respect for the original creator.

Thank you for reading.
N Jean Beausoleil
formerly of Paris, Stuttgart and Chengdu
currently living in Philadelphia, PA

Since becoming an active fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I have learned to write, edit for others, code in html and edit video. Fandom showed me that I was not alone; I had always felt that my interest in slash was an aberration, and never met anyone before who understood, or shared my feelings, so it was a revelation when I found all these fanfiction stories online.

When my fandom extended to include "Arthur of the Britons" - a 1972 TV show - I extended my skills to include research; little was publicly known about this show until I started contacting the people involved and recording their memories. I also helped organise an event involving one of the stars, and a memorial for the other, who had died. This has helped me and many others get closure, with regard to his suicide.

I have met many wonderful people through fandom; I can't imagine life without it.

... and now I look like an idiot for not proof-reading the title of my previous comment! Someone please add an "l" before submitting it!

Those laws and rules of patent and copyright issues are greatly being emphasized, this would be to stop and avoid these issues again. I hope they could find the right company such as the Integrity Legal Corp or individual to make this matter fix as soon as possible.

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