Activism

  • Naomi Novik at House Judiciary Hearing

    By Claudia Rebaza on Poniedziałek, 27 January 2014 - 5:46pm
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    Banner by Diane with the outlines of a man and woman speaking with word bubbles, one of which has the OTW logo and the other which says 'OTW Announcement'

    At 2 PM EST on January 28, former OTW board member Naomi Novik will be one of the witnesses in a hearing on The Scope of Fair Use. This hearing is being convened by the U.S. Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet (a Subcommittee of the House Committee on the Judiciary).

    The purpose of her appearance is to inform members of Congress about what fan creators do, and the importance and significance of fandom -- including culturally, educationally, and creatively. As the comments compiled by our Legal Committee for the NTIA/PTO demonstrated, remixes and fanworks are made by everyday people with things they have to say. The OTW wants to ensure that legislators understand this and also have an idea of the size of the fannish community and the value of its activities.

    This appearance follows the OTW's participation earlier this month in raising awareness about copyright issues and is part of the OTW's Legal Advocacy project to represent fans' interests in legal and government discussions about copyright's effects.

    Edited 28 January to add: Prepared statement by Naomi Novik

  • Copyright Week: Getting Copyright Right

    By Claudia Rebaza on Sobota, 18 January 2014 - 5:07pm
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    Copyright logo set on a yellow pixelated background

    The week of January 13-18 is being used by a number of legal advocacy organizations in the United States as a week of action to speak out about potential changes to copyright law. The dates were chosen so that the conclusion today coincides with the anniversary of the SOPA/PIPA blackout in which many organizations and companies, large and small, worked together to protest this misguided legislative proposal.

    A free and open Internet is essential to infrastructure, fostering speech, activism, new creativity and new business models for artists, authors, musicians and other creators. It must never be collateral damage in the copyright wars. All ideas and creations build upon each other and allow for both new creations and new ways of thinking. An open internet which fosters such communication allows for the expansion of ideas and culture.

    Copyright has a valid purpose in that fostering of creativity. It encourages artists, writers, etc. to develop new and original ideas which can then be experienced by others. It serves as a way to recognize individuals for their creative achievements. However, copyright should never be so restrictive as to limit creativity and stifle growth. The free sharing of ideas and thoughts in many ways should be used to create new works from new creators who can then obtain copyrights for those works.

    This balance between the rights of the creator and user have become more complex in our modern times as a free and open internet allow users to become creators through the creation of transformative works which derive from an original creation. Copyright should always encourage more creativity, not limit it. An open internet should also encourage creativity. Creativity in many ways drives both individuals and societies towards a better future through new ideas and inventions. We build upon old creations to make new creations and an open and free internet culture is crucial for this to happen.

    The OTW has taken various steps to "get copyright right" on behalf of fans:

    1) Via the Copyright Office, we have secured DMCA exemptions for fan creators so that video makers can use parts of their source in their works without being liable for copyright infringement.

    2) We have joined legal arguments that address encroachment on fair uses of copyrighted works.

    3) We have represented fans on academic and government panels that address existing or proposed legislation.

    4) We have submitted comments to governmental bodies that oversee and propose copyright regulations.

    5) We alert fans to new developments in cases that pertain to fair use, even if we are not participants, and we remain available to individual fans who have questions about fair use of materials.

    This week is one of many opportunities to "get copyright right" through interactions between fans and lawmakers, as well as informing the larger public about concepts such as fair use and the public domain. The OTW and other organizations taking part in Copyright Week want to help facilitate those interactions and spread greater awareness of laws surrounding the use of creative works.

  • Copyright Week: Fair Use

    By Claudia Rebaza on Piątek, 17 January 2014 - 5:18pm
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    Copyright logo set on a yellow pixelated background

    The week of January 13-18 is being used by a number of legal advocacy organizations in the United States as a week of action to speak out about potential changes to copyright law. The dates were chosen so that the week's conclusion on Saturday the 18th coincides with the anniversary of the SOPA/PIPA blackout in which many organizations and companies, large and small, worked together to protest this misguided legislative proposal.

    On each day this week, organizations will focus on a different aspect of copyright. Today we are focusing on Fair Use. The OTW was founded on the idea that fanworks are creative and transformative, and therefore are protected by Fair Use under US law. For that reason our Legal Advocacy project has been proactive in protecting and defending fanworks from commercial exploitation and legal challenge.

    In the United States, Fair Use is a part of the Copyright Act, which lists four factors the courts can look to in determining whether a work is Fair Use; they include (1) the purpose and character of the use (commercial nature, educational purposes, etc.); (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work. Courts have addressed these issues many times over the years, and many recent cases involving Fair Use have expanded the types of works that can take advantage of Fair Use protections. Only last year, the Southern District of New York found that Google Books' database of complete scans of fiction and nonfiction books was a transformative work, and Fair Use, because it “advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders.”

    This holding is in line with the OTW's longstanding view of transformative works and Fair Use, as our reading of U.S. law is that fan fiction and often other types of fanworks advance the progress of the arts (and sometimes sciences too), while respecting the rightsholders' ownership and ability to make commercial use of their intellectual property. Fair Use principles permit fans to create a wide range of transformative works without first seeking permission from rightsholders--including fanfic, fanart, vids, games, cosplay, fan films, ballets and stage plays. Noncommercial transformative works are generally permitted by Fair Use, but a lot of works within the Fair Use sphere are not also defined as transformative works.

    The OTW's various projects all feature the amazing works that can be created and shared under the umbrella of Fair Use, whether remembered in Fanlore, preserved by Open Doors, archived on the AO3, explored in Transformative Works and Cultures, or featured in our Test Suite of Fair Use Vids.

    Copyright Week is an important event for discussing how these laws and regulations impact citizens, but it's also an important opportunity for you to make your voice heard. You can help by:

    1) Visiting the Copyright Week site and signing on to endorse the principles being expressed by the OTW and other organizations.

    2) On that page you will find links to posts made by other groups that support a larger public domain, broader fair use, and open access. You can support the OTW or other groups working on your behalf.

    3) Retweeting, reblogging, or linking to posts about the issues being discussed during Copyright Week.

  • Copyright Week: Building a Robust Public Domain

    By Claudia Rebaza on Wtorek, 14 January 2014 - 5:56pm
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    Copyright logo set on a yellow pixelated background

    The week of January 13-18 is being used by a number of legal advocacy organizations in the United States as a week of action to speak out about potential changes to copyright law. The dates were chosen so that the week’s conclusion on Saturday the 18th coincides with the anniversary of the SOPA/PIPA blackout in which many organizations and companies, large and small, worked together to protest this misguided legislative proposal.

    On each day this week, organizations will focus on a different aspect of copyright. Today we are focusing on the importance of building and maintaining a robust public domain. A robust public domain is important for allowing public access to information and material, and also for promoting creativity.

    The term public domain means different things to different people, but it generally refers to works that are free to use and copy because they aren't protected by copyright exclusivity. This includes works that don't fall within the scope of copyright protection--for example, copyright doesn't protect ideas, only expressions--and it it includes works that were once protected by copyright, but whose copyright protection has expired. There are many famous examples of works that are in the public domain. Shakespeare’s works, Beethoven’s symphonies, and many silent films are all in the public domain. The expansion of the public domain is important because it allows for free access to a greater amount of works and information which can then be used to create new works. The OTW is a strong supporter of people's right to create new works based on old ones--and the public domain is an important piece of that.

    The public domain is itself threatened as countries extend copyright duration and the scope of copyright protection. In the United States, copyright expiration is very complicated, and depends on considerations like when a work was created, where the work was first published, and when (and if) the creator died. U.S. Copyright on new works lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator. If the work was a work for hire (e.g., those created by a corporation) then copyright persists for 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever is shorter. This long term is the result of decades of legislative lengthening of copyright: The very first U.S. copyrights lasted only 14 years with the ability to renew the copyright for another 14 years.

    According to Bernt Hugenholtz and Lucie Guibault*, the public domain is under pressure from the "commodification of information" as items of information that previously had little or no economic value have acquired independent economic value in the information age, such as factual data, personal data, genetic information, and pure ideas. The commodification of information is taking place through intellectual property law, contract law, as well as broadcasting and telecommunications law. While there has been good news in regards to public domain with the recent Sherlock Holmes decision, the public domain is still threatened and should be protected.

    There are numerous important works which are in the public domain and have current remakes or remixes. One example is the TV show Sleepy Hollow, which is based on Washington Irving’s 1820 short story, as was the 1999 Tim Burton film of the same name. Washington Irving's own story may have been based on or inspired by Germanic folktales like The Wild Huntsman. Many of Disney's famous works were also based on folktales, and these have not only been used by numerous creators, but Disney itself has remixed a number of them in their TV series Once Upon a Time. The works of Shakespeare have been utilized many times, in many ways, including the play by Tom Stoppard, which in turn has its own fanworks.

    Cultures across the globe have been enriched by the use of their heritage as displayed through the medium of stories, religion and lore. New versions of characters and tales appear regularly and are able to garner new readers, watchers and creators.

    The OTW also supports the creation of transformative derivative works as fair use--a topic we'll be discussing in a future Copyright Week post. But broad Fair Use privileges are not a substitute for a robust public domain. Over time, works and characters become part of the public consciousness and should be uinambiguously free, not only for noncommercial transformative use, but also for copying and commercial use. A robust public domain permits people to have access to consume and create based on works they might not otherwise be able to afford, and allows people to create without having to wonder whether their creations are fair use.

    *Guibault, Lucy; & Bernt Hugenholtz (2006). The future of the public domain: identifying the commons in information law. Kluwer Law International.


    For more about this week of action, visit the Copyright Week site where links are being collected to various posts, whitepapers etc., and users and organizations are encouraged to endorse the principles. Participating organizations include Public Knowledge, Creative Commons, library associations, Ownership Rights Initiative, iFixit, Wikimedia, Your Anon News, and SPARC among others.

  • Tell the EU that you want copyright reform!

    By Claudia Rebaza on Wtorek, 7 January 2014 - 7:40pm
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    Banner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Legal Issues'

    As many fans know from personal experience, copyright laws and their enforcement can be problematic when it comes to either serving creators or the public well. Currently, some groups in the European Union are looking for public input when it comes to their own experiences with copyright.

    These organizations, such as The Open Knowledge Foundation, are encouraging members of the public to fill out a questionnaire. With these responses they are hoping to begin action on copyright reform.

    "If the Commission gets lots of replies from citizens and NGOs, it must acknowledge that there is high interest in this topic. Only the Commission can start legislative initiatives on the European level, so we need to convince them that copyright reform is necessary."

    A variety of public input is needed to make clear how many ways that copyright can affect individuals on a personal level:

    "Many of us are involved in creative projects that are restricted by the current copyright regime. By sharing your personal issues with copyright in the consultation, you are giving the Commission insight into the wide variety of creative and innovative projects that are affected by copyright, not just those of big business."

    The questionnaire has a total of 80 questions but there is a guide available that will allow people to focus on issues close to their own experiences. Additional organizations are also encouraged to submit replies, but since the organizers are looking for a wide variety of input, interested fans in the EU are encouraged to participate.

  • OTW Fannews: Fandoms being seen

    By Claudia Rebaza on Wtorek, 5 November 2013 - 10:03pm
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    Banner by Erin of the post title with a gun, ax, wand and notebooks plus the OTW logo

    • In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, producer Jeff Eastin discussed fanfiction ships and their influence on his work. "White Collar still wins in terms of fan fiction, but I've seen quite a bit of fan fiction directed at Graceland. The Mike-Charlie 'ship seems to be very popular and after that it shifted pretty quickly to Mike and Paige, which was nice to see...I had heard of fan fiction but I never saw the extent that people went to. (Laughs.) Somebody on Twitter sent me a link to some of the better White Collar fan fiction, and once in a while, I'll check it out and see what people are saying. It's really fascinating to me and it's an interesting subculture that arises on a lot of these shows. In my opinion, if you have people who are [taking part], you've made it."
    • Britt Julious of WBEZ wrote about engaging in Scandal fandom through Twitter. "According to a 2009 study from the Pew Research Center’s Pew Internet and American Life Project, Twitter users are more likely to be African-American women. As well, according to a report from the New York Times of Nielsen ratings, 'Scandal is the highest rated scripted drama among African-Americans, with 10.1 percent of black households, or an average of 1.8 million viewers, tuning in during the first half of the season.'" Thus while the fandom can be seen among different generations in a household "My timeline explodes with chatter about the show, its characters, the clothing, and the music as it airs."
    • Julious also mentions Sleepy Hollow, whose fandom is growing quickly. "For a show that has only been on the air for four weeks—the fifth episode airs tonight—Sleepy Hollow's fan base is loud. That's, at least, what you would assume from the decibel level during the show's New York Comic Con panel." Actor Orlando Jones has been particularly engaged with the fandom, saying during the panel "'Fan art rocks! Who ships Ichabbie?' to rich crowd approval...The importance of shipping to the fan base was confirmed further when the next question came from someone who began, 'So if you’ve been paying attention at all to the Tumblr phenomenon of Sleepy Hollow, Icabbie is a huge deal.'"
    • Meanwhile the Harry Potter fandom continues to make news with its lobbying of Warner Brothers. Bustle wrote about the chocolate campaign. "There's always been an oft-spoken of symbiotic relationship between fans and the studios responsible for creating the work those fans love. There's also been an underlying tension. They create the work (or at least bring it to us), yes; but they're also the ones responsible for messing them up. And there are many scenarios that can carry the weight of this tension: The blundering of a book's canon, the mistreatment of a character, the failure of a studio to fully grasp the thematic elements that first made the source material so special, the list goes on and on. Each error can isolate the fan communities huddled around these works, particularly when that bungling of philosophy extends past the films themselves and into the marketing products sold and used in the real world."

    What examples have you seen of fandoms making themselves heard? 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: Crossing boundaries

    By Claudia Rebaza on Poniedziałek, 4 November 2013 - 12:30am
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    Banner by Diane of the post title in a hazy mist

    • The Daily Dot cited a drawback of the increased communication between fans and creators -- the likelihood of direct conflict. The writer of the latest Star Trek film took fans to task for their criticism of the finished work, reducing them to spoiled children in his responses. "Orci’s repeated assertions that he 'listens' to fans seem meaningless when the end result is a movie that inspired widespread disappointment among its intended audience. Particularly when 'listening' also seems to be accompanied by cursing, insults, and taunts."
    • The conflicts are not only the result of fans commenting to creators online, but also in how the work of amateurs, fans gone pro, and professional creators overlaps and clashes. Blogger Literary Lottie pointed out the absurd escalation by some science-fiction authors to the suggestion that they should not engage in fan discussions unless explicitly invited. "I don’t think there’s anything wrong with authors engaging fans and reviewers on blogs, Twitter, and the like, so long as they recognize that while they have the power to clarify, they don’t have the power to correct, they don’t have the privilege of directing how fans should interpret their work, and, AND, that they should not become angry or argumentative upon being told they do not have that privilege."
    • Many media outlets connected fans' objections to the casting of the Fifty Shades of Grey film to the withdrawal of lead Charlie Hunnam from the movie. "If Charlie Hunnam really has backed out of Fifty Shades of Grey because the fans didn't want him, could it mark a tipping point in the relationship between studio and audience?" asked Karl Quinn at the Sydney Morning Herald. Noting the risk-averse behavior of many film studios, Quinn says "Hollywood has been dabbling at the edges of fan involvement for years but as the response to the casting for Fifty Shades and Batman vs Superman shows all too clearly, it is not a strategy without its risks."
    • There's a difference however between casual criticism and activism. Heather Ash wrote at The Learned Fangirl about her successful correspondence with LEGO. "In my previous post, I wrote a letter to Lego taking them to task for requiring that my son identify himself as a girl in their database in order to receive the Lego Friends insert, which was sent only to girls." Ash used her actions as a teaching moment for her children and concluded, "If Lego follows through, my son will get his Friends insert. Someone else’s son won’t even have to ask...And no one’s daughter will be automatically enrolled based on outdated gender stereotyping. And children with a gender identity that isn’t girl or boy, won’t need to identify as something they aren’t just to get the toys they crave."

    What examples have you seen of fan and creator interaction? 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: Commercializing fan gatherings

    By Claudia Rebaza on Wtorek, 29 October 2013 - 6:46pm
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    Banner by Robyn of money symbols behind the post's title

    • Buzzfeed looked at the umbrella of Disney fandom at its company fancon. "D23 serves as a giant hype machine for the company’s upcoming productions and consumer products, a big shopping center for the stuff they already have out, and a central meeting spot for fans and fan-vendors from around the world. It has two main constituencies: the hardcore Disney fans — D23 is also the name of the company’s official fan club, with 23 signifying the year Walt Disney moved to Hollywood and founded the studio — and members of the press who brave the traffic to Anaheim to write about the the studio’s movie presentations. The event is like Comic-Con, but with fewer snarky fanboys and more family-centric fare."
    • A post at the Vancouver Sun looks at the evolution of gaming cons. "Over time there has been a definitive split between the two types of conventions, with consumer based ones feeding more into the actual fandom of games. PAX itself is built on the shoulders of this fandom, sponsored and created by Penny Arcade, an online comic that has long dealt with video game and various other nerd and geek culture. While most developers will hardly ever achieve a sort of fame (or notoriety) similar to film or television stars, these conventions give the public, and players a chance to directly interact with those who on the average day are hard to reach. Feedback from these conventions, where betas and alphas of games are available to play, not only help build hype and anticipation for upcoming games, but also allows the developers to gather much needed and necessary feedback from those who will eventually be buying their product."
    • Meanwhile Tumblr plays host to a virtual book club that is part user reaction and part viral marketing. “I still think it can be tricky to create the feel of a book club with people in different time zones who never get to meet. I’m humbly suggesting that Tumblr might be the best way to do it. You can use text as short or longform as you want, art, gifs, videos, songs; you can include hundreds or thousands of contributors without getting confusing; and you can create original posts or share interesting things you find elsewhere on the Web.”
    • These commercial efforts stand in contrast to a recent post on NextGov about an unexpected encounter with fandom, and its relevance to other social activists. "One key insight, though, came from...panelist Lauren Bird of the Harry Potter Alliance...[about]...how super-fandom can go hand in hand with intense criticism...Bird begins her defense acknowledging it may seem silly to protest labor practices in the chocolate industry by focusing on an entertainment company rather than, say, Nestle or Hershey’s. But it makes sense for the HPA...partly because a shift by Warner Brothers could put pressure on larger players in the chocolate industry." Reporter Joseph Marcks concluded "The idea that [a government] agency’s greatest fans could also be among its biggest online gadflies is rare in government. It’s tough to blame agencies for this. Many of them face so much online vitriol it’s tough to sift out any constructive criticism. But agencies are also sometimes so cynical about their own capacity for popularity that they might not recognize a fan movement even if it existed."

    What merging of corporate interests and fan gatherings have you seen? 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.

  • Your Personal Fandom Stories Are Urgently Needed!

    By Claudia Rebaza on Czwartek, 3 October 2013 - 4:44pm
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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!

  • OTW Fannews: Why is fandom important?

    By .Ina on Sobota, 21 September 2013 - 5:15pm
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    OTW Fannews: Why is fandom important?

    • Writing about fandom in the Phillipines, Business World Weekender focused on its monetary value. "Foreign pop idols’ 'fan meets' are a fairly recent trend in the country. While 'fans’ days' are regularly held by local artists, only lately did foreign stars hit our shores to conduct their own 'fan service'." The article concluded "In the Philippines, fanaticism may still be a luxury. But whatever the reason -- awesome talent, psychological gratification, fulfillment of an inexplicable fantasy -- there are avid buyers. Like an expensive watch or a designer bag, the urge to spend is often irresistible -- irresistibility that will cause the fandom phenomenon to flourish."
    • Roddenberry heir, Rod, has finalized a new documentary on Star Trek fandom. Discussing Paramount's approach, he said "I feel that the powers-that-be have really lost that opportunity. I think they’ve gotten better in recent years, but I’d say for decades...they were sending cease-and-desist orders to fan websites that had photos of actors and Star Trek logos on them. That’s someone who is looking at the here-and-now and not thinking about the future. And those sorts of things went on for years and really upset me...I found boxes and boxes of personal correspondence from my father...[w]here he responded personally to fans who were sending in questions about the show. And that’s what strengthened the Roddenberry connection with them. In that we genuinely care. And the studio at that time, and not so long ago, really didn’t seem to."
    • The University of Wisconsin, Madison wrote about student Ashley Hinck's PhD research on fan activism in Harry Potter fandom. "In doing this research, I'm working against the idea that super fans are weird, crazy loners. For these fans, it is very serious and it has really important implications for who they are as political subjects, as citizens...People have always been fans of things, but organized fandom ... it's easier to hook up with other fans, too, because of the Internet. Fandom is just really motivating because it gives you a reason to connect to something, and then you can use that connection as a vehicle to get to other places...That deep connection is powerful."
    • Author J.M. Frey spoke about fandom from the inside and why it is important. "You build communities like those Archive of Our Own and Fanfiction.net, Tumblr and Deviant Art. You do good deeds in the name of the writers, actors, and shows that you love...You parlay your love into degrees, courses, conferences, academic readers, and text books. You call out work that is problematic and encourage creators to grow, to learn, to take an interest, to get better. You find things in my work that I might not have realized I put there and you play with them. It’s incredible."

    What stories do you have about why fandom is important? 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 roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

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