|Everything I Needed to Know: Empirical Investigations of Copyright Norms in Fandom
|Fiesler, C. (2018) Everything I Needed to Know: Empirical Investigations of Copyright Norms in Fandom. IDEA - The Law Review of the Franklin Pierce Centre for Intellectual Property. 59(1), pp 65 - 87
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|About the Data
|The study consists of a literature review and reflections of the author’s research into fan fiction. The studies mostly consist of qualitative research into questions of social and community norms.
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“With the growing popularity of YouTube and other platforms for user-generated content, such as blogs and wikis, copyright holders are increasingly concerned about potential infringing uses of their content. However, when enforcing their copyrights, owners often do not distinguish between direct piracy, such as uploading an entire episode of a television show, and transformative works, such as a fan-made video that incorporates clips from a television show. The line can be a difficult one to draw. However, there is at least one source of user-generated content that has existed for decades and that clearly differentiates itself from piracy: fandom and " fan fiction " writers. This note traces the history of fan communities and the copyright issues associated with fiction that borrows characters and settings that the fan-author did not create. The author discusses established social norms within these communities that developed to deal with copyright issues, such as requirements for non-commercial use and attribution, and how these norms track to Creative Commons licenses. The author argues that widespread use of these licenses, granting copyrighted works " some rights reserved " instead of " all rights reserved, " would allow copyright holders to give their consumers some creative freedom in creating transformative works, while maintaining the control needed to combat piracy. However, the author also suggests a more immediate solution: copyright holders, in making decisions concerning copyright enforcement, should consider using the norms associated with established user-generated content communities as a framework for drawing a line between transformative work and piracy.”
Main Results of the Study
• Fandom communities show a lack of understanding, and misconception of fair use which centre around ethical considerations as opposed to legal fact. Due to this, chilling effects are evident, as fans self-censor by not uploading adapted content.
• Communities perpetuate misinformation about copyright law e.g. about the consequences of infringement (see for example YouTube’s Copyright School video). This is perpetuated by misunderstandings of website Terms of Service, with many fans unaware of “uncomfortable” terms such as e.g. the right to transfer, irrevocable licences.
• Fandom is a close-knit community that values privacy and community norms. In the copyright context this includes self-policing behaviours: attribution is viewed as essential; permission is important community etiquette; commerciality (e.g. Fifty Shades of Grey/Twilight) is frowned upon, and; sanctions are placed upon those acting outwith the community norms (e.g. “art theft” tag).
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
The author offers several suggestions as to how to improve copyright compliance in fan communities, including: the use of plain language Terms of Service which are explicit about platform values; dedicated spaces for user concerns and questions; incorporation of copyright information into the upload process, and; a better understanding of community norms, which judges often refer to in fair use considerations.
Coverage of Study