AngiePen (angiepen) wrote,

FanLib -- Why We're Not Just Walking Away

And they're still not getting it.

Ms. Sampson of FanLib was talking to some folks in telesilla's journal and one of the issues was the fact that FanLib is emphasizing their corporate partnerships and telling writers that they're not likely or are less likely to get sued because of those partnerships. Some of it is done rhetorical question style, as in, Do you really think these companies would pay money to run events where fans write fiction based on their properties, and then turn around and sue? which implies an answer but doesn't really state one.

We have two things going on here. First is the assumption that, say, a TV network wouldn't pay money to run a fan-writing event based on Program A and then turn around and stomp on fans writing fiction based on Program B. Both programs may come under the larger network umbrella but there are different people involved with them and who knows what the team involved with Program B would do if they saw something they particularly disliked (especially posted on a site which was making profits off of their creative property and yes that's always going to be a major factor whether or not Ms. Sampson can see it,) or whether they'd care what sort of marketing events Program A had been doing on that same site? It seems to me that there'd be just as much chance of the network influencing Team A against ever doing marketing events on that site again because of the Program B incident, as there is of the network preventing Team B from taking legal action because of Program A's marketing event.

Second is the fact that no matter how many corporate partnerships FanLib has, and how fanfic-friendly those particular companies might be, they do not have partnerships with anywhere near all the copyright holders for the various fandoms represented already on their site. A partnership with HarperCollins doesn't mean anything at all if Jo Rowling or Christopher Tolkien decide to throw lawyers at FanLib and the writers who post Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings fiction there.

Ms. Sampson's answer to this, more than once, is that if a writer feels uncomfortable posting fiction in a particular fandom, then they shouldn't post it. If they feel uncomfortable posting on FanLib at all, then they shouldn't post there. To her, this seems to solve all the problems and she's visibly frustrated at the fact that we're still complaining.

Now mind you, I'm one of the first people to subscribe to the "Don't like? Don't read" philosophy. But "Don't like? Don't post" is quite another matter in this case. We're not talking about a few whiny fans tripping over a kink or a pairing they don't like and feeling the need to snark about how horrible it is and how it shouldn't exist. This whole issue is about legalities and lawsuits and has the potential to impact all of us. And even if it were only a matter of the individual fans who choose to post their stories on FanLib rolling the C&D dice, I'd still be concerned because while I and you and most of the people here on LJ can look at this place and read their TOS and realize what a bucket of rabid weasels it is and that it'd be less than intelligent to stick a hand into it, a lot of fans are naive enough not to realize that they're taking any kind of chance at all by posting there.

Someone much nicer and less cynical than I am might read their, "Hey, look, we've got all these copyright holders behind us and everything's great!" advertising to mean that it's safe to post anything at FanLib. And the fact that (last time I looked, a couple of days ago) they had stories in their archives which very clearly contradicted the expressed wishes of rightsholders, including fanfiction based on the work of Anne McCaffrey, who's said she disapproves, and adult fiction based on Harry Potter, which Rowling has said she disapproves, might make it seem like they must have some agreement in place to protect these stories and their writers. Because surely no multi-million dollar, eminently suable company would stand up under a spotlight and deliberately flaunt these things unless they had some assurance that they were safe, right?

Well, maybe they are in a way. A discussion in fandom_lawyers, particularly this bit, seems to indicate that after some outraged rightsholder cleans out FanLib, their TOS might allow them to turn around and sue their members for their "share" of what it had to pay. I recommend reading all the comments but that second bit linked there is especially troubling.

However that turns out, though, the fact remains that FanLib is doing its best to come across as as really neato-cool place to post fanfic, as a safe place to post fanfic, because "the times they are a changin'." And a writer who doesn't know to dig deeper or think critically or consider whether or not FanLib has his or her best interests in mind might be convinced, on the basis of generalities, rhetorical questions and marketing hype, that this really is a safe place to post their kinky-chan-Weasleycest epic. In my view, the way this is all being presented borders on the deceptive and that is why, even though I personally have no intention of ever posting a story on FanLib, I have a hard time just shrugging and walking away.

I don't have a car but when the petroleum companies pounce on any opportunity to gouge drivers at the pumps, I still get annoyed. I'm not gay but when I hear about some group pushing for legislation against gay people, it still pisses me off. And I'm not a naive little fankid either, but when I see some company setting up a business in such a way as to lead the naive little fankids of the world into doing something which could have serious negative repercussions for them, then yes, I'm going to criticize.

Most fans I know don't have to have a personal stake in something to speak up when they think something is wrong. It's one of the things I really like about fandom, and it's why we're not just shrugging and walking away from this, no matter what FanLib might think or wish.
Tags: fandom, issues, writing
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