Transforming Fan Culture into User-Generated Content: The Case of FanLib

You say “User-Generated Content.”

We say “Fan Culture.”

Let’s call the whole thing off!

The differences between the ways corporations and fans understand the value of grassroots creativity has never been clearer than the battle lines which have been drawn this weekend over a new venture called FanLib.

FanLib — “Where the Stories Continue”

I first learned about FanLib’s latest plans about a week ago when Convergence Culture Consortium analyst Ivan Askwith reported on their efforts in our blog:

FanLib.com launched as hub for “fan fiction” writers. The idea is to provide a home for creators of one of the first “user generated” genres, fan stories written using popular movie and TV characters and storylines. Members can upload stories, embed promos and build communities around their favorite shows. FanLib, founded by Titanic producer Jon Landau, Jon Moonves and former Yahoo CMO Anil Singh, is also currently sponsoring the Ghost Whisperer Fan Finale Challenge on the site asking fans to write their own conclusion to the show’s two-part finale.

Ivan concluded his post with some concerns about whether fans were going to eagerly embrace such a project:

Since fan fiction seems to be one of the last traditional forms of fan creativity that hasn’t been widely coopted and encouraged (within specific, copyright-friendly parameters) by the entertainment industry…My offhand guess would be that fan fiction, unlike mashup videos, tribute songs, and so on, are harder to ‘control’, and leave a lot more room for individual fans to take characters, or narratives, in directions that producers and executives aren’t comfortable with.

FanLib started promisingly enough, courting the producers of programs like The L Word and The Ghost Whisperer, and getting them to run official fan fiction contests. Fans would be able to write in these universes, safe in the knowledge that they would not receive Cease and Desist letters. They even worked with a book publisher to try to put together an anthology of amateur romance fiction.

But, FanLib didn’t emerge bottom-up from the fan culture itself. It wasn’t run by people who knew the world of fan fiction from the inside out. It was a business, pure and simple, run by a board of directors which was entirely composed of men. This last point is especially relevant when you consider that the overwhelming percentage of people who write fan fiction are women — even if there has been some increase of male writers as fandom has gone on line. To give you a sense of scale, there were more than 700 people who attended the Harry Potter fan convention I wrote about yesterday — most of them readers, many of them writers of fanfic set in J.K. Rowling’s world. By my count, there weren’t more than 20 men in the group. That’s about 18 more men than would have been there if this was a fan fiction oriented convention 16 years ago when I wrote Textual Poachers! To suggest how out of touch with this community they were, their original ads featured the transformation of fandom from a 90 pound weakling to a more robust and muscular form, leaving many women to wonder if this implied a move towards a more masculine conception of the practice. The company later did produce a female spokesperson who expressed confusion about why gender was an issue here in the first place.

Historical Background

Keep in mind there’s a history here of previous attempts by companies — some affiliated with the production companies, some not — to create a commercial space for the promotion of fan culture. Most of them have ended badly for the fans.

Consider, for example, this story in Salon in 2000 which describes a company called Fandom.com (“by fans, for fans”) which asserted a claim to have trademarked the word, “fandom,” and then tried to use its corporate control of the concept to try to shut down any amateurs who wanted to share their public via the web. Salon reported on a cease and desist letter that Fandom.com had sent out to a fan named Carol Burrell. As Salon reported at the time:

Fandom.com serves as an umbrella site for numerous “fandomains” — formerly independent Web sites dedicated to popular, merchandise-friendly topics such as Star Wars, The X-Files and Lord of the Rings that now run under the Fandom.com banner. Each site contains the same structure and design, and there’s a large copyright disclaimer placed at the bottom of every page….

The initial premise of Fandom.com was straightforward: to protect individual fan site owners from studio censorship (and sell a lot of nifty merchandise and advertising in the process) ….Fandom.com seemed to make sense — by joining together the little guys, it would create an institution that could defend itself from the heavy hitters. But Fandom.com’s letter to Burrell appeared to indicate something entirely different. Fandom.com was accusing Burrell of trademark violation — a fact that was ironic on at least two levels. First: Fandom.com may not even own a trademark for the word “fandom.” Second: A company whose individual sites flourished by pushing copyright laws to the legal limit was now turning around and itself playing the role of intellectual property bully.

Which leads to the question currently raging in the fan community: Who will protect the fans from Fandom?

Or consider another such effort which Lucasfilm created to “protect” Star Wars fans, one which was described in more detail in Convergence Culture:

In 2000, Lucasfilm offered Star Wars fans free Web space and unique content for their sites, but only under the condition that whatever they created would become the studio’s intellectual property. As the official notice launching this new “Homestead,” explained, “To encourage the on-going excitement, creativity, and interaction of our dedicated fans in the online Star Wars community, Lucas Online is pleased to offer for the first time an official home for fans to celebrate their love of Star Wars on the World Wide Web.” Historically, fan fiction had proven to be a point of entry into commercial publication for at least some amateurs, who were able to sell their novels to the professional book series centering around the various franchises. If Lucasfilm, Ltd. claimed to own such rights, they could publish them without compensation and they could also remove them without permission or warning.

Elizabeth Durack was one of the more outspoken leaders of an campaign urging her fellow Star Wars fans not to participate in these new arrangements: “That’s the genius of Lucasfilm’s offering fans web space — it lets them both look amazingly generous and be even more controlling than before….Lucasfilm doesn’t hate fans, and they don’t hate fan websites. They can indeed see how they benefit from the free publicity they represent — and who doesn’t like being adored? This move underscores that as much as anything. But they’re also scared, and that makes them hurt the people who love them.”

As far as long-time fans were concerned, the announcement that FanLib was going to create a commercial portal to support the publication of fan fiction was read as more of the same. Under the circumstances, there was going to be healthy skepticism within the fan writing community no matter how the company approached them, but so far, the company has approached the fans in all of the wrong ways.

What Went Wrong

There’s an excellent summary of the issues surrounding this venture written by a fan. I don’t want to repeat all of the details here. But here’s how Icarussancalian summarizes the company’s initial pitch to the fan community:

The founders of FanLib.com saw no reason they couldn’t cash in on the internet traffic. Formerly from Google, Chris Williams, the CEO and co-founder of FanLib, has an impressive resume. FanLib has corporate backing and $3 million of venture capital invested into the site.

“My colleagues and I want it to be the ultimate place for talented writers like you,” Naomi of FanLib wrote to fan fiction writers. “In case you’re wondering, FanLib’s not new to fan fiction. Since 2001, they’ve been producing really cool web events with people like CBS, Showtime and HarperCollins to bring fan creativity into the big leagues.”

FanLib did their homework. “We scouted for serious fan fiction authors on various sites and invited only a few hundred based on their writing and impact in the community,” co-founder David Williams says, and fans agree that their search focused on popular writers. What’s a “serious” fan fiction writer? A serious fan fiction writer could have anywhere from 30 to 100 stories, with upwards of 700 regular readers subscribed to their blogs or LiveJournal accounts. Currently, fan fiction writers do their own marketing through networking with other fans, posting in blogs, fan-run archives, and various fan fiction communities targeted to their readers.

Unfortunately, FanLib did little more than ask the writers to hand over the product.

FanLib’s creators immediately ran into trouble with fans critical of FanLib’s plans to turn profits on their freely provided fan fiction with no compensation to the authors, beyond t-shirts and prizes. Fan fiction writers were also unhappy at a clause where FanLib owned the rights to any fiction they posted…

This post also notes that FanLib was emphatically not going to take any legal risks on behalf of the fans here, leaving the writers libel for all legal actions that might be taken against them by any production companies that felt that fan fiction was in violation of their intellectual property rights. Fans were going to take all of the risks; the company was going to make all of the profits, all for the gift of providing a central portal where fans could go to read the “best” fan fiction as evaluated by a board of male corporate executives. (Taken at face value, the company was trying to “cherry pick” the top writers from the amateur realm. At worst, they were imposing their own aesthetic judgments on the community without any real regard for existing norms and hierarchies.)

To add insult to injury, the company surrounded itself with self congratulatory rhetoric about taking fan fiction into the “major leagues,” which showed little grasp of why fans might prefer to operate in the more liberated zone of what Catherine Tossenberger, an aca-fan who spoke at Phoenix Rising this weekend, calls the “unpublishable.” Or the producers talked about making fan fiction available to “mainstream audiences,” which clearly implied that the hundreds of thousands of fan fiction writers and readers now were somehow not “mainstream.” This is a debate which has long surrounded fan fiction. Some seek to legitimize it by arguing that it is a stepping stone or training ground for professional writers as if commercialization of creative expression was the highest possible step an author could take. Others — myself among them — have argued that fan fiction should be valued within the terms of the community which produces and reads it, that a fan writer who only writes for other fans may still be making a rich contribution to our culture which demands our respect.

FanLib had done its homework by the standards of the VC world: they had identified a potential market; they had developed a business plan; they had even identified potential contributors to the site; they had developed a board of directors. They simply hadn’t really listen to, talked with, or respected the existing grassroots community which surrounded the production and distribution of fan fiction.


Fan Fury

Well, if they hadn’t listened to fans before, they were starting to hear from them by this past weekend. Fans were rallying where-ever fans gathered, constructing arguments, deconstructing the company’s FAQ, proposing alternative models for how this might be done right, writing letters to the managers, and trying to hold them accountable for their actions. You can get some sense of the intensity of their arguments by checking out some of the many posts found at Metafandom, a site where fans gather to discuss the politics and poetics of fan culture or as they would put it, just “wank.”

As one reads these fan voices, one hears some of their deep ambivalence about the ways that the corporate embrace of “user-generated content” may be endangering the grassroots culture they have created for themselves. Here, for example, is almostnever:

This is the reason I have been involved recently in arguments about whether our community should accept the monetization of fan fiction. Because I think it’s coming whether we accept it or not, and I’d rather it was fan-creators getting the benefit of the $$$, not some cutthroat entrepreneur who doesn’t care about our community except as a market niche.

I don’t think FanLib is the one that’s going to change things, but I do see change coming. There’s a lot of happytalk in the entertainment industry about the money to be made by bringing your audience in under your corporate wing, the better to do market research, sell to them, and make $$ from their conversations about your product.

But if, say, Paramount brings Star Trek fan fiction in-house, it wouldn’t be smart for them to allow competition from fan-run archives and sites. If Star Trek fans’ only choice was to post to a site like FanLib or get a C&D, then things could get lonely for Trek fans, if only from people dropping out of fandom or going underground to avoid the hassles.

These comments suggest two debates which are currently brewing in fandom:

1. the issue of whether amateur creators should be compensated for the work they contribute to for-profit sites like YouTube. This is an issue I’ve raised here before and won’t discuss in depth now.

2. the concern that as companies construct a zone of tolerance over certain forms of fan activities, they will use them to police more aggressively those fan activities that they find offensive or potentially damaging to their brand. Fans have long asserted their rights to construct and share fantasies that may not be consistent with the ideological norms of media companies. In an argument which parallels debates in the queer community, they argue that as long as some of their fantasies are being policed, none of them have the freedom of expression which drew them into fan culture in the first place.

Angiepen, another fan, walked through a detailed critique of the site’s terms of service, showing both the ways that they over-reached in asserting their rights to control and edit what fans produced and how they might threaten the uneasy zone of tolerance which surrounds fan fiction as far as at least some of the Powers That Be (the media companies and their executives) are concerned.

Almost everyone I meet in the media industry imagines we are moving towards a more participatory culture but the dispute surrounds the terms of participation. More and more media producers are adopting what I call the “collaborationist” model — embracing fan creativity as a way of enhancing engagement with their properties. Others have adopted a stance of benign neglect — willing to turn a blind eye to the proliferation of fan fiction online as long as people aren’t making money from it.

As fans note, however, FanLib’s efforts to commercialize fan fiction represented the worst case scenario: a highly publicized, for profit venture which left fan fiction writers even more exposed than they have before. Fans have long noted that there is no case law to determine what if any fan fiction constitutes fair use. They realize, however, that the “wrong case” could easily bring about the wrong kind of legal judgement on this entire space. Some, like AngiePen, went even further:

You know, this is probably just me being paranoid here but since the TOS prohibits any posting of material which violates someone else’s copyright, they could in theory have set up this site to draw in as many fanfic writers as possible with the intention of turning around and smacking all of them for copyright violation, whether that means direct prosecution of people who are writing fics based on properties whose owners are represented on the FanLib board, or sending notification with names and e-mails and copies of stories to the copyright holders who are not associated with the site. I’m just saying.

How Not to Handle a Controversy

And so the debate continues. As icarusancalion notes in her summary, the company only made things worse for itself by responding to the criticism in ways which fans considered haphazard and patronizing and then trying to erase previous posts once they came under fire. For example, when fans systematically critiqued the FAQ for the site, the FAQ disappeared from public view, one hopes so that it could be reconsidered and rewritten but potentially to simply hide the history of the company’s less than friendly interactions with fans. She quotes FanLib executive Chris William’s post to the community as an example:

“hey everyone, I’m Chris one of the founders of FanLib. it’s really late and i have been working on the site all day. I’m exhausted but i just realized what was going on here and all of the commentsts are making me sick. we’re a small company with 10 emplyees who work 16 hours a day to try and make a great website. we’re real people! with feelings and everything! we have been working on this and dreaming about it for a long time and you are just here to shit on it without giving us a chance. i care deeply about what you think but this is crazy. we’re good people here and you make us sound like we’re an evil corporation or the govt. sending your kids to war or something. we really are all about celebrating fan fiction and fan fiction readers and writers. im sorry this is so short and please excuse the fact that i am cutting and pasting this across a bunch of ljs but i gotta get some sleep.”

Those of you in the media business will understand the frustration expressed in this post but it also can come across as sounding like the student who wants a good grade because they worked really hard on the assignment and not because of the results. Williams ignores the fact that a significant number of the fans involved in this dispute had worked for a decade or more, some for many decades, to generate a community around fan fiction and that’s precisely why they didn’t want outsiders moving in and trying to turn it into a revenue stream for their companies.

Alternative Models

As the conversation continued, fans began to come up with their own proposals for ways that they could achieve the value of this venture — a central hub for fan fiction — while keeping the cultural production under the control of the fan community itself. Here’s part of one such proposal for “an archive of our own” by astolat which is starting to get some real traction among the fans I’ve spoken with the past few days:

We need a central archive of our own, something like animemusicvideos.org. Something that would NOT hide from google or any public mention, and would clearly state our case for the legality of our hobby up front, while not trying to make a profit off other people’s IP and instead only making it easier for us to celebrate it, together, and create a welcoming space for new fans that has a sense of our history and our community behind it.

I think the necessary features would include:

* run BY fanfic readers FOR fanfic readers

* with no ads and solely donation-supported

* with a simple and highly searchable interface and browsable quicksearch pages

* allowing ANYTHING — het, slash, RPF, chan, kink, highly adult — with a registration process for reading adult-rated stories where once you register, you don’t have to keep clicking through warnings every time you want to read

* allowing the poster to control her stories (ie, upload, delete, edit, tagging)

* allowing users to leave comments with the poster able to delete and ban particular users/IPs but not edit comment content (ie, lj style)

* code-wise able to support a huge archive of possibly millions of stories

* giving explicit credit to the original creators while clearly disclaiming any official status

It’s not hard to see the contrast between what these fans want and what the company is offering them. Given the speed with which this debate has grown and the skills held collectively within the fan community, I wouldn’t be surprised to see such a site emerge from this fray.

What’s Wrong with the “User-Generated Content” Model?

I have focused here on the fan’s side of the story. It is worth keeping in mind that there may be, almost certainly is, a considerable gap between the ways that FanLib’s directors see their venture and the ways that it is being perceived within the fan community. If FanLib is smart, they will take seriously these complaints which come from people who are at the center of the existing fan communities and will be trying to rework their plans to respond to this feedback. It is not clear to me that they can avoid some fundamental problems in the ways that their business plan intersects with the grassroots communities which they claim they want to serve and which some fans fear they want to exploit.

I hope that other groups entering the space of what the industry likes to call “user-generated content” study this story closely and learn from FanLib’s mistakes and missteps. Perception matters. Community relations are make or break. You can’t serve a community if you don’t understand their existing practices and their long-standing traditions.

Let’s start with the concept of “user-generated content.” The industry tends to see these users in isolation — as individuals who want to express themselves, rather than as part of pre-existing communities with their own traditions of participatory culture. FanLib’s rhetoric seems to be caught between these two conceptions of the “user,” talking about fan traditions but dealing with fans as isolated individuals and not respecting the community as a whole.

Second, the industry tends to think of “content” as something which can be commodified and thus isolated from the social relations which surrounds its production and circulation. Yet, fan culture stresses the ways that this material emerges from a social network of fans who have their own aesthetics, politics, and genre expectations. And for many fans, the noncommercial nature of fan culture is one of its most important characteristics. These stories are a labor of love; they operate in a gift economy and are given freely to other fans who share their passion for these characters. Being free of the commercial constraints that surround the source texts, they gain new freedom to explore themes or experiment with structures and styles that could not be part of the “mainstream” versions of these worlds.

Of course, there are already a large number of fans who are deciding to participate in the FanLib site, for whom its services do seem to represent what the corporate world would call “added value,” and we probably need to develop a better understanding of why they are making that choice. I don’t mean my discussion here to suggest that fandoms speak with one voice on this or any other matter. I only want to suggest that FanLib is bucking long-standing convictions within the fan community when it seeks to move fan fiction into the commercial realm.

A Public Invitation

That said, I would welcome response from the executives at FanLib. I would love to conduct an interview with them on this site in which they actually responded to the fan criticisms of their ventures. So, Chris Williams, if you or anyone else at FanLib is reading this, get in touch.

Update: Chris Williams has accepted my invitation to be interviewed in the blog. We are still working out the details. In the meantime, I wanted to solicit from my readers questions you would like to see addressed in such an exchange. My goal is to allow him to tell his side of the story and to speak to the concerns which fans have raised. Either send me your questions via the comments section here or via e-mail at henry3@mit.edu. Thanks. As always, my spam filter can be a little wonky so if you are getting error messages, send your questions directly to me.

Comments

  1. I just hope that your status as an academic will convince Chris Williams to take time out of his busy schedule and talk to you. When I responded to sincerely to the suggestion that I read FanLib’s FAQ–which has since been pulled down–and consider that the opening of a dialog, he seemed taken aback and of course did not have the time to respond.

  2. You can’t serve a community if you don’t understand their existing practices and their long-standing traditions.

    Well-said.

    These stories are a labor of love; they operate in a gift economy and are given freely to other fans who share their passion for these characters. Being free of the commercial constraints that surround the source texts, they gain new freedom to explore themes or experiment with structures and styles that could not be part of the “mainstream” versions of these worlds.

    Again, well-said. :-)

    I get frustrated here because it seems that Mr. Williams et al. are thinking of fandom in terms of a commodity that can be monetized, rather than as a community. From where I sit, the fact that we’re a community (or, more accurately, a loose co-operative of many communities) is the thing that makes our interactions meaningful and real. I’m not sure common ground can be found between FanLib’s intention to generate revenue and our intention to share our labors of love freely with people who share our passions and our joy.

  3. Icarusancalion says:

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful presentation on the subject, especially:

    At worst, they were imposing their own aesthetic judgments on the community without any real regard for existing norms and hierarchies.

    Very true.

    I have one important correction that was brought to my attention: Chris Williams was with Yahoo, not Google. It’s been corrected in my post, but I thought you’d like to correct the quote here as well.

  4. My question for Mr. Williams:

    FanLib has agreements with several copyright holders, but there are several fandoms currently represented on the site that FanLib does not have agreements with. Statements in the original FAQ and comments from FanLib representatives that “we assume fanfiction is legal fair use” and “it’s not in the copyright holder’s interest to sue” have many fan authors concerned. This is especially true for those of us who write Harry Potter fic, given that in 2003, attorneys for J.K. Rowling and her publishers sent cease-and-desist letters to fansites that posted mature-content Harry Potter fic. Does FanLib have an agreement with Warner Brothers, Bloomsbury, or Rowling to allow such fic to be posted on your site, and if not, what is your reasoning for allowing such fic to be posted?

  5. Dora T. says:

    My question: How is the site planning to deal with the (inevitable) first complaint from a copyright holder?

  6. I was one of those at PR this weekend who was trying to attend sessions AND keep up with everything that metafandom and my own FriendsList was churning out. I wish we’d had another half hour or so during the plagiarism and copyright session to really talk about this when it came up; as it was, we spent a good portion of the q&a dealing with fandom internal issues that have been very important to the HP fic community in the last year but that are, by comparison, rather small potatoes. There’s a lesson there, I suppose.

    Looking v. much forward to the interview with Chris Williams; thanks for good discussion this weekend and thanks for entering this discussion.

  7. I think, if I have one question for Mr. Williams–well, no, I have multiple.

    1. Who is the target audience for the site? Did they do a market survey and identify who they wanted, and what is the demographic breakdown of that audience? (I will be surprised if it includes most of the fanwriters I know, who are college-educated women in their 30s and 40s.)

    2. Do they differentiate between readers and writers in their marketing or site design? All writers are readers, but there’s a lot of lurking readers out there.

    3. Do they understand that the vagueness about “partnerships” and “sponsorships” is implying that they have licenses to profit from fanfiction, which is not in fact the case?

    4. Are they going to police the content of the site for work which copyright-holders are guaranteed to find truly objectionable, and possibly obscene?

    5. Do they understand that a huge percentage of fanfiction is actually porn?

    6. Do they actually have a sound litigation risk analysis, based on the most recent case law in the IP field? Because I don’t really think it’s fair to ask the writers to indemnify them without knowing the risks, and Fanlib so far has not addressed that in any detail, responding with handwaving assertions that “the corporations will come after us first”.

    Thanks for hosting this discussion.

  8. First of all, excellent essay at summing up the issues. And I don’t want to belittle anything you’re doing, but…

    Isn’t it somewhat symptiomatic of FanLib’s problems that the spokespeople are more willing to talk to a man with credentials rather than the fans themselves?

    Women who wish to be heard have to submit their questions through you, rather than holding a direct dialog between the company and fans.

    Again, I’m glad you’re doing this, but given the some of the gender issues surrounding fanfic and the problems with FanLib in particular, I can’t help seeing the matter in this light.

  9. Don’t get me wrong, Henry, I love your thoughts on the matter and I love that you’ve offered to interview Williams – however, I do think he needs to be called to task on the fact that your (male, authoritative) voice is the first and only one he seems to have responded to in any serious way.

  10. My question for Mr. Williams:

    What’s wrong with telling us what you tell the VCs and Big Media: what’s the overall value proposition, and what’s our piece of it? Some people will care and some won’t, so why the “we’re on your side” smokescreen? (Please don’t try to explain why you really are on “my” side; that trust has to be earned.)

    Professor Jenkins: Thanks very much for hosting.

  11. Another question that I’ve seen in Metafandom and is worth asking:

    Why did Chris Williams choose to accept Jenkin’s invitation, but ignored the very nice question-and-answer post that Telesilla set up here?

    I don’t know why, but I get the feeling this guy is ignoring us women in favor of an “Important Academic”. Now, I love Jenkin’s thoughtful analysis here in this blog and the books, but based on Jdsampson’s painful ignorance of the gender issues as demonstrated in the Fantropology thread (and further ignorance in everything else), I, as a female fan in a mostly female space, feel dismissed.

    In other words, I feel that he’s ignoring us ‘stupid girls’ in favor of the VIP guy. No offense, Mr. Jenkins, because you rock. It’s just that Fanlib sucks.

    Oh, but wait, there’s more:

    Here’s another thread that’s not to be taken lightly. I’ll just go ahead and copy/paste what Rez Lo said:

    I’ve seen a lot of commentary suggesting that the men of FanLib are either na�ve about copyright-holders or ignorant about fanfiction and its legal fuzziness. I think that’s incorrect, given that they hang with big-time entertainment lawyers and that their last project was for a CBS/Showtime-sponsored fan site headed by Hilary Rosen, the immediate past president of the RIAA.

    (I think it’s worth noting that Rosen’s 17 years at the RIAA made it what it is today. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act is her baby. Napster, Grokster, DRM, and more�all her work. “Anticompetitive” is putting it mildly. “Criminalizing Fair Use” would be closer.)

    The FanLib men couldn’t actually approach us on our terms, I suspect, because that’s the whole point: FanLib is about corralling this wild tendency on the part of consumers of popular culture to go off and create a huge fannish universe of transformational content that we give away to other people, and channeling it to make a few more bucks for the Great Whites of the entertainment world.

    Now, I hate conspiracy theories, but these people worked for someone that made the RIAA the idiots they are today? That. Ain’t. Right. In the beginning, I thought they were ignorant, but this just makes them actively evil.

    You know what the sad part is? I don’t even write fanfic since 2000 or so, and have pretty much lurked around fandom ever since. Yet, as a fan, I feel its like my duty to future fangirls to nip this potential disaster at the bud, so much so I’ve actually undusted my fangirl hat and returned to fandom space, something I never thought I’d do again.

    This Fanlib thing makes me angry, really angry, and I can’t quite explain why. Scary.

    (I don’t know if this comment will make it through, but it seems some have already asked the male privilege question. Oh, fandom, I’m so proud of you.)

  12. Ventriloquist says:

    FanLib seems to really be unable to put a foot right here, do they? And I feel no sympathy for them whatsoever; and feel even less, if that is possible, knowing now that Chris Williams can’t bring himself to condescend to speak to authoritative (female)voices within the fan communities, but instead sticks in what I guess is his and FanLib’s comfort zone: “official”, masculine space. Please, no offense to Mr. Jenkins– this is a thoughtful and precise summary of the issues– but the fact that Williams can’t be bothered to engage with the very people he’s trying to exploit speaks volumes.

  13. “Here’s part of one such proposal for ‘an archive of our own’…”

    Um, what about fanfiction.net ?

  14. The fandom community of communities at LJ feels very strongly that it is not the target audience for your site. Your advertising and layout both appear to target teens, preferably male teens.

    My questions:

    —Who is your target audience?

    —Do you have any plans to do anything to appeal to the older, educated, female fan (20s-30s, and upward)?

    —How is your site an improvement over what we now have?

  15. Quicksilver Eyes says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on FanLib, Professor. Jenkins. I’m a great fan of your work!

    Question: Mr. Williams, are there any plans to rework the TOS?

    As of right now, I am not comfortable with giving FanLib so much control over my work while it’s on the site. (“You hereby grant FanLib a non-exclusive, worldwide, and royalty-free license to use, reproduce, distribute, and display the Submissions in connection with the Website.”) If I posted something on FanLib, you would have the right to publish, for example, an anthology containing my work without my knowledge or having to compensate me according to the TOS. I’ve read in a post that one of your employees promised on your behalf that this would not be the case, but it would be better to state this in an official document.

    The TOS would also allow FanLib to lay the blame completely on my shoulders if a copyright holder had objections with my fanfic. (“You shall be solely responsible for Your own Submissions and the consequences of posting or publishing them.”) This doesn’t seem at all fair to me since it’s very likely that it’s the fact that I’m posting on *your* site, which so openly makes a profit off of my work for free, that got me in trouble in the first place. Why should I take the risk of posting on your site? And what kind of help and support are you going to offer fans who run afoul of copyright holders on your site?

    Please keep in mind that C&D’s *are* a big deal to us.

    Thank you.

  16. I second Cofax and ChicGeek’s questions. Why invite Telesilla to start a dialogue, then blow her off?

    My question for Mr. Williams is perhaps a little detailed, but it boils down to this: Who are Naomi, one of the names used to send out the original ‘invites’ to FanLib?

    The question of “Naomi” is discussed here:

    http://icarusancalion.livejournal.com/626928.html?thread=8614128#t8614128

    Is she a sockpuppet, or a real person?

  17. Thanks for this. I’m betting that the CEO’s appearance on your blog won’t be very enlightening but will produce more material for fans to play with. Some of the mockery has been inspired, already.

    In that spirit, it might be entertaining to ask about Mr. Williams’ fan credentials – what fandoms does he read/write in? is he a shipper, and if so, what’s his OTP? who are his favorite fan artists? has he ever been to a con? how big is his lj f’list? and so on, and so on.

    Heh.

  18. Some of these are worded very clumsily; by all means feel free to take what you like and leave what you don’t. Basically, these are some of the things I would have liked to ask Chris myself. Thank you for not only getting him to agree to talk to you, but for asking for questions from fanfic writers.

    What does FanLib offer a fanfic writer that other ad-free sites run by people from within the fanfic community do not?

    Fanfic remains in a legal gray area because there had yet to be a precedent set stating that it is or is not, legal. Does FanLib understand that by both profiting from fanfic and putting fanfic further into the public eye, they are courting a law suit? Do they understand the impact across all of fanfic fandom if a court should rule in favor of the copyright holders?

    In your marketing brochure — http://www.my2centences.com/my2c_new/FanLib_info.pdf — you assure the copyright holders that FanLib is “managed and moderated to the max,” and that “as with a coloring book, all players must “stay within the lines.” One of the reasons so many fans write fanfic is so that they can deliberately step out of the “lines” and do their own creative thing without any interference from the copyright holders. How do you propose to reconcile these two diametrically opposing points of view so that you can, as you said in your former FAQ, can “be a bridge between this community [the copyright holders] and the fans–advocating for and understanding the concerns of both sides.

    It is a well known fact that both Christopher Tolkien and his publisher, Houghton Mifflin object to anyone making a profit off unauthorized works based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth saga. It is also well known that both J.K. Rowling and Time/Warner have strongly objected to adult Harry Potter fanfic and even sent out Cease and Desist letters to various archives demanding the removal of adult Harry Potter fanfic. And yet, you archive Lord of the Rings fanfic and adult Harry Potter fanfic on a for-profit site that you are doing your best to put into the public’s eye. What do you intend to do if Rowling or Tolkien come after you? How do you intend to protect the fan fic writer from C&D letters and furious copyright holders?

    Finally, you have been very clear that this is a for-profit site. You are proposing to make money from fanfic written by one group of people based on works written by another group of people. What is in it for the fanfic writers?

    (for some reason my comment hasn’t gone through. Sorry if you get this twice.)

  19. As one of the authors who was contacted (and subsequently spoke at length with one of their reps) I told them pretty much point blank that in my opinion they should stick solely to licensing contracts and avoid archiving unlicensed fan works. Because what studio in their right mind would work with a legitamate new media company if it was clear from their content if they *didn’t* have a licensing agreement, unlicensed derivative content was going to be archived *anyway*? Because (for now, anyway) you can’t have it both ways. You have to be one thing or another. For everyone’s sakes–the fan author AND the studios who own the rights to those properties (and more importantly, the creators). There is no cake and eating it too. Not if you see a future for your online business, anyway.

    And suddenly, I received no more contact from Fanlib. I wish I could say I was shocked, but I’m not.

    What does sort of sadden me is that they had an opportunity to be something new and different–with more efforts like the “The L Word” contest, and running online workshops and serving as a resource for fan authors to improve their craft. Building something new not to replace the existing system, but bridge a gap that does exist and is shrinking with each decade that goes by, between fandom and studios.

    And from what I’ve read in the last week, it’s looking more and more like they just want to milk what they seem to think of as an internet fad (more fool them) for quick cash.

  20. Henry Jenkins says:

    The following post was being eaten by my filters. As always, if you don’t get through, send me an e-mail. I am trying to be very attentive to all of the letters coming in right now.

    Questions for Mr. Williams:

    1 — The FanLib TOS explicitly bans the posting of any material which

    infringes upon anyone’s copyright or intellectual property, stating that it

    is the responsibility of the individual posting a story to secure any

    required permissions. On a site which was created and is managed solely for

    the encouragement and collection of (and profiting from) fanfiction, does he

    understand why this appears disingenuous at best, and strongly suggests

    hypocrisy? Everyone knows that fanfiction is not created with the

    explicit permission of the rightsholders but the TOS suggests that FanLib

    actually believes that every story in its archives was written with such

    permission. Is this the argument FanLib’s defense lawyers will use if a

    rightsholder decides to sue?

    2 — Does he honestly not understand why the section of FanLib’s TOS which

    requires writers to “defend, indemnify and hold harmless FanLib” in the case

    of legal action might make people angry? Particularly since it’s FanLib

    which is making the money here and (the way the TOS is written, regardless

    of what the individuals on FanLib’s board might say otherwise) the fan

    writers who are taking all the legal risks?

    Angie

    ================

    Good article, by the way. You did a decent job summing up our concerns,

    probably as well as anyone could’ve done without running on for another

    twenty or thirty pages. :)

  21. Henry Jenkins says:

    Another one bites the dust. This message was sent from Nestra and got blocked:

    > their original ads featured the transformation of fandom from a 90 pound weakling to a more robust and muscular form, leaving many women to wonder if this implied a move towards a more

    masculine conception of the practice.

    Those ads are still in use on the site.

    My question: FanLib allows adult content under an “ADULT” rating, but the Terms of Service say that the website must not

    be used to publish any material “obscene, vulgar, or indecent.”

    Isn’t there an inherent conflict there? What happens when a parent finds his-or-her child reading an ADULT-rated Harry Potter fic? (I know that ADULT-rated fics can only be viewed by

    logged-in members, but people lie about their age on the internet all the time…)

  22. Henry Jenkins says:

    I told Williams that I would send him questions first thing tomorrow. At this point, questions are coming in — both here and through my inbox — at a pretty fast pace. It’s clear I won’t be able to ask every question that has been submitted, not if I want him to actually respond to any of them.

    So, I will do my best to consolidate the questions and try to get to what seem to be the most consistent issues people have here.

  23. Mr. Williams:

    What review process, if any, does FanLib put submitted fic through?

    Is there any quality review for submitted fic, or is it merely reviewed for categorization/rating purposes?

    And most importantly:

    Who performs the review? Are they authors, and if so, how were they headhunted and hired?

  24. All the big questions have been asked so I have just one little one.

    Assuming I put a fic on FanLib. Do I have the right to post the same fic on other archives?

  25. slodwick says:

    FanLib, at this point, at least, appears to be marketing itself towards the current/existing fannish world, and ainsley asked the same question above that I keep coming back to myself: as a fanfic writer & reader who is already part of an established, gratifying fan-run community, what can FanLib possibly have to offer me that I don’t already have?

    To my mind, none of the potential benefits of being involved with FanLib that I’ve seen discussed (t-shirts? really?) outweigh the potential liabilities, including some very real legal exposure.

    So, honestly: what’s in it for me?

    (And just to be clear, I am a college-educated woman in my late twenties, with a keen interest in graphic design, so the advertising I’ve seen thus far, as well as the overall site design, have seriously failed to impress.)

  26. Not only do I find Mr. Williams’ claims that he only wants to celebrate fanfiction disingenuous, I don’t want to be involved in his highly corporate type of celebration in the first place.

    Mr. Williams deserves whatever anguish he gets for stepping into the fandom community at large with the belief that it composed entirely of people so utterly gullible that they wouldn’t see right through this scheme.

    I would like to see Mr. Williams admit that his purposes are for profit, and not for fanfiction.

    In case he hadn’t noticed, we know what someone who is just doing it for the love of the fanfic looks like. Because that’s *us*. The people who pay out of pocket for domain names, websites to house archives and fanfiction pages. The people who create free communities on livejournal and such places.

    We’re the people who actually intend to celebrate fanfiction.

    Mr. Williams is out to make a profit, without having done any substantive or beneficial research. If he had, he would never have dreamed of creating a site that profits from fanfiction.

    If the man wants to turn a profit off of the fandom community without turning our stomachs, he ought to consider actually giving us a product that we’d want to buy instead of trying to dupe us into forking over free content (made at the cost of our own time and effort).

    He also neglects the fact that his competition is legion and has the advantage of credibility. I don’t need to go to fanlib.com to get my fanfic fix, nor will I ever have to. I can go to one of hundreds and hundreds of sites and get what I want, custom ordered to the fandom, pairing, genre, and tastes that I have.

    If Mr. Williams needs a business metaphor, let’s try this one. He is in a city of small cafes and little niche bookstores and tiny, cozy restaurants that are definitely affordable (in fact, free) and run by people who I know, in fact sometimes run by people I’ve known for years.

    And he seeks to introduce an overpriced McDonald’s run by an outsider that is clearly trying to disguise itself as one of the gang when it’s clearly only there for the purposes of making money.

    Why would I accept a subpar product when I can go to my friend around the corner and say “give me the house special”, knowing that I love and adore the house special?

    And, for the most part, the fanfiction on Fanlib.com IS subpar. I have yet to find one author that I respect there, nor have I find a story that I would read even if it was on a more respectable site.

    Fanlib.com has no real product, only an exploitative scheme that relies on fanfic writers being decidedly less saavy than they actually *are*.

    Also, I want to give a “shame on you” to Mr. Williams for his utter lack of professionalism with that much copied reply on Livejournal communities.

    Whatever his personal feelings might be, nobody who makes such an unprofessional display can be taken seriously. This proves that not only is Mr. Williams dishonest, but a very bad businessman to boot.

    I’m sorry that he feels that we “shit” on his efforts, but he started it. He came into our community, arrogantly believing that he had us all figured out and could make money – thus shitting on *us* first.

    Fandom is deeply personal, deeply grassroots, and resents the intrusion of impersonal, big business interlopers. And that *IS* what Fanlib.com is.

    I might be inclined to give Fanlib.com more of a chance if there hadn’t been three millions dollars invested in it. And any fool can figure out that nobody invests three million unless they intend to make at least three million back.

    And why should I help Chris Williams make money for free?

    That’s called a job, and when I do one, somebody pays me for it.

    Nice try, Mr. Williams, but you aren’t Tom Sawyer. You can’t trick us into whitewashing your fence *for* you while you collect the money and laugh.

  27. To add one more layer to the questions slod and I asked: the existing fannish community has made it clear what our ultimate fic archive looks like. Mentions of it are made in Dr. Jenkins’ post, and he links to the conversation itself (which is still ongoing).

    Some elements of what the existing fannish community want run counter to your purposes, particularly with regard to revenue and profit. Many other aspects, though, could be added to your site to make it user-friendly to the existing fannish audience, which would be a great and easy way to attract users. Have there been any plans to do so, and is that something you would consider adding in the future?

    One specific example: your tagging interface doesn’t take into consideration how either readers or writers actually tag fic, by forcing one categories rather than layered classifications. Say I want a postwar Harry/Ginny angsty hurt/comfort deathfic drabble. I’d have to look in four categories to see if that story exists.

    As we ask what’s in it for us, keep in mind we have an interface already that allows us to search that way, for a multiplicity of categories, and that tagging is only one of several features we want and have that you’ve yet to provide.

  28. To add one more layer to the questions slod and I asked: the existing fannish community has made it clear what our ultimate fic archive looks like. Mentions of it are made in Dr. Jenkins’ post, and he links to the conversation itself (which is still ongoing).

    Some elements of what the existing fannish community want run counter to your purposes, particularly with regard to revenue and profit. Many other aspects, though, could be added to your site to make it user-friendly to the existing fannish audience, which would be a great and easy way to attract users. Have there been any plans to do so, and is that something you would consider adding in the future?

    One specific example: your tagging interface doesn’t take into consideration how either readers or writers actually tag fic, by forcing one categories rather than layered classifications. Say I want a postwar Harry/Ginny angsty hurt/comfort deathfic drabble. I’d have to look in four categories to see if that story exists.

    As we ask what’s in it for us, keep in mind we have an interface already that allows us to search that way, for a multiplicity of categories, and that tagging is only one of several features we want and have that you’ve yet to provide.

  29. I have several questions, most of which I figure will be common, but whatever. I might as well ask them and add my voice. That is, after all, what we do.

    What is your site going to do about slash and other queer forms of fanfiction that might be considered to be “subverting” what the companies (which you seem to be working closely with ) are trying to do with their characters? What about porn about Harry Potter or Lilo and Stitch or My Little Pony?

    What’s your favorite fanfic? What was your first fandom? Have you ever been to a con? Do you know us, did you try to get to know us at all? Is the fan community even your target audience? As a sort of corollary, are you actually surprised at the uproar? I could have told you this would happen – any number of fans could.

    What happens at the first C&D?

    What happens if a writer gets sued by a company? By a parent, for corrupting their child with your “adult” rating?

    Why, specifically, naming the benefits, should people submit fic to your site and what, precisely, are our rights if we do?

    What’s your response to the criticism leveled at the fact that you’ve ignored community requests for discussion but are recognizing a recognized academic male (sorry, Mr. Jenkins) in a heart beat?

    And, in what I think is the most important point, in one of your brochures that a cheshyre dug up, you said that you will manage us to the max and : * As with a coloring book, players must “stay within the lines”

    How do you intend to reconcile something so fundamentally contradictory to the textual play that fandom indulges in? Like. Don’t you get that the point of writing fic is to make our own coloring books with your characters?

    And if the point was viral marketing, which you claim it was, then why present it like you did? People participate in viral marketing all the time while knowing it is marketing – see ilovebees and the release of halo – and I’m quite sure we aren’t appreciating being lied to and manipulated.

  30. I have several questions, most of which I figure will be common, but whatever. I might as well ask them and add my voice. That is, after all, what we do.

    What is your site going to do about slash and other queer forms of fanfiction that might be considered to be “subverting” what the companies (which you seem to be working closely with ) are trying to do with their characters? What about porn about Harry Potter or Lilo and Stitch or My Little Pony?

    What’s your favorite fanfic? What was your first fandom? Have you ever been to a con? Do you know us, did you try to get to know us at all? Is the fan community even your target audience? As a sort of corollary, are you actually surprised at the uproar? I could have told you this would happen – any number of fans could.

    What happens at the first C&D?

    What happens if a writer gets sued by a company? By a parent, for corrupting their child with your “adult” rating?

    Why, specifically, naming the benefits, should people submit fic to your site and what, precisely, are our rights if we do?

    What’s your response to the criticism leveled at the fact that you’ve ignored community requests for discussion but are recognizing a recognized academic male (sorry, Mr. Jenkins) in a heart beat?

    And, in what I think is the most important point, in one of your brochures that a cheshyre dug up, you said that you will manage us to the max and : * As with a coloring book, players must “stay within the lines”

    How do you intend to reconcile something so fundamentally contradictory to the textual play that fandom indulges in? Like. Don’t you get that the point of writing fic is to make our own coloring books with your characters?

    And if the point was viral marketing, which you claim it was, then why present it like you did? People participate in viral marketing all the time while knowing it is marketing – see ilovebees and the release of halo – and I’m quite sure we aren’t appreciating being lied to and manipulated.

  31. Henry, I’m very fond of you, but I think fanlib is beyond rehabilitation at this point and I will not be reading the interview.

    As TOR editor Theresa Neilsen-Hayden says over at her blog Making Light:

    If fanfic writers are living in and fixing up buildings that theoretically belong to other people, FanLib’s the guy who shows up to try to collect the rent, even though he doesn’t own the buildings and hasn’t done any of the fix-up work.

  32. Quicksilver Eyes says:

    So far, we’ve discussed how much of a danger FanLib is to us as a community. Those of us who know the risks have voiced our concerns.

    However, I’d also like to talk about some of the patrons and future patrons of FanLib. I suppose there are a few people who know about FanLib and the risk they take, but still join the site. If, for instance, you write vanilla flavored Harry Potter fanfiction that never gets a rating above a light 13+ on the site, your only risk is losing control of your story while it’s posted on the site.

    However, I think there are many more people who do not know of the risks. I’m thankful for my connection to the fandom community through Live Journal, but not everyone has that. FanLib repeatedly cites its sponsors in order to create a false sense of security in fans who are looking for a haven for their fanfiction. It clearly isn’t but gives the impression of being such a place. Some people may not even have read the TOS, but just signed up because they were drawn in by all the contests, prizes (ipod nanos and $50 amazon.com gift certificates while still beta testing), and offerings of recognition by Big Names.

    I think this is unfair, particularly to younger fans or fans who are new to fandom and do not know exactly how everything works just yet. I doubt FanLib will ever make a move to explain the risks for fear of losing members, but in doing so they allow some fans to unknowingly invite the unwanted attention of copyright holders. If FanLib cares about fans as much as it claims to, they will make sure their users are well informed and protected.

    Mr. Williams, do plan on doing so?

  33. Dzurlady says:

    I’d love (honestly, and not sarcastically) to know why he decided to start the archive in the first place – what first gave him the idea, why did he carry through with it? What was he hoping to achieve?

  34. Henry Jenkins says:

    What follow are a few more posts that got stopped at the border by my poorly functioning filter.

    This first comes from Trudy:

    My proposed question:

    What specific steps is FanLib taking to improve its community relations skills and to develop that expertise in-house on an ongoing basis?

    Speaking as a fan and as somebody who works in Silicon Valley and has been a participant in various Web 2.0 communities/sites — it surprises me how clueless and ham-handed FanLib has been.

    It’s 2007; we have many examples of for-profit companies that have created a successful dialogue with their online community.

    By their backgrounds, the FanLib team looks like they should be fairly savvy business guys. So how did they found a Web 2.0 startup and yet completely miss Community Relations 101? That’s like a search engine startup that doesn’t know how to do algorithms.

    It’s good the CEO has agreed to talk with you — he’s gotta start somewhere (although I do find it amusing, like others have pointed out, that he to date hasn’t talked with fans, but he’s willing to talk with a white male professor from MIT). ;-)

    Given the sustained level of cluelessness that FanLib has displayed so far, I’ll be shocked if they successfully rebound from this. With startups, people who are so completely clueless to begin with, rarely manage to learn fast enough to get ahead of the rolling snowball of doom. Yeah, startup people make mistakes; but these guys seem deeply, genuinely clueless. That does not Bode Well.

    This one comes from Betsy:

    I wanted to thank you for your intelligent and insightful article. You get it. There are so many perceptive moments in the essay. This: “Second, the industry tends to think of “content” as something which can be commodified

    and thus isolated from the social relations which surrounds its production

    and circulation. Yet, fan culture stresses the ways that this material

    emerges from a social network of fans who have their own aesthetics,

    politics, and genre expectations. And for many fans, the noncommercial

    nature of fan culture is one of its most important characteristics.” particularly spoke to me.

    As to questions, everybody before me has asked the good ones. I would like

    to add my support to “Why are you responding to a male academic and ignoring equally reasoned responses from women fanfic writers?”

  35. Dr. Jekyl says:

    I’ve just read through the Fanlib Info brochure, and it’s left me with a lot of questions. Also, a bad taste in my mouth, but I’ll try to be polite.

    1) You tout that a “restrictive player’s terms-of-service protects [the original IP holders’] rights and property”. Does FanLib intend to provide and protection for the rights and property of the fans?

    2)As with a coloring book, players must “stay within the lines”. Will you remove or edit *any* material that does not comply with the original IP holders’ preferred guidelines?

    3) You say that “completed work is just 1st draft to be polished by the pros”. Is it your intention to promote FanLib as a way for the IP holder to get new and cheap content? If this is the case, what remuneration, if any, will the fan authors receive? Will it be in line with the WGA’s regulations or that of any other major writing body?

    4) You tout that the rewards for fan participation are that their work is published to a mainstream audience. Do you feel that this is and should be more than sufficient reward? What substantial reward is there for fan fiction producers, given the money you apparently hope will be made off their creations?

    5) Competition and copyright laws vary internationally, sometimes in quite extreme ways. How do you intend to handle submissions and competition entries from fanfiction producers who are not residents of the United States?

    6) Does FanLib reserve the right to publish material posted to their site in anthologies etc?

  36. What sort of rights does Fanlib have over work that was once posted on the site but has since been taken down?

    How many authors are currently signed up on Fanlib? Now, how many of them have actually posted any stories? I know several authors who have registered their names to prevent anyone else from taking them, but they have no intention of ever posting anything to Fanlib.

    You claim to have arrangements regarding certain copyrights. What do these arrangements entail? I.e., are these particular fandoms completely immune from C&Ds, or is that only certain types of fanfic are immune within a particular fandom? Also, could you please provide a cmprehensive list of exactly which copyrights you have arrangements regarding?

    When do you intend to post a new FAQ? Have you taken into account the many complaints regarding your previous FAQ when composing the new one?

  37. Questions for Mr Williams:

    1. According to information such as this: http://mashable.com/2007/05/18/fanlib/, FanLib has three million dollars in funding. How much have you already committed to developing the site and other startup costs, and how else are you planning to invest your funding?

    2. What will your course of action be if the vast majority of fanfiction authors elect not to participate at your site? Is your venture feasible if only a small proportion of fandom chooses to join? What other strategies do you have for engaging with fans and bridging the gaps between fans and producers?

    3. How did you plan and research your approach to the fanfiction community?

  38. Nice of mr Williams to agree to the interview! I’m sure he was relieved to find a man to talk to.

    Can you ask him and his brother to post some more personal info on their bio pages?

    *Writes*

  39. I third (or is it fourth) the question: Why is Chris Williams not willing to talk with the authoritive (but female) voices from within the fannish community, such as Telesilla, but is willing to respond to questions from a white male academic? (No offense to you, Henry: if Williams is only willing to answer questions when a man asks them, you’re probably the best guy we could have found to ask those questions: but it’s notable at this point that he wasn’t willing to talk to any of the women asking questions.)

    A lot of good questions have already been asked.

    My question is: Consider the worst-case scenario of what happens when DC Comics swings by FanLib, as they surely will, and sees FanLib hosting Batman fanfic. Suppose that DC Comics instructs their lawyers to sue the directors of FanLib. No ifs, ands, or buts: just “You’ve been profiting from what we own; we’re taking you to court.”

    Who will pay for the court costs? The FAQ, now taken down, said that in the case of legal action the writers agreed to �defend and indemnify� Fanlib, which by my understanding, means that according to the previous legal agreement, the writers of the Batman fanfic would be responsible for the court costs if DC Comics decided to sue FanLib to recover the profits from that Batman fanfic.

    So, that’s my question: when FanLib is sued, who pays? (And “We don’t plan on getting sued” is not an acceptable answer, no matter how it’s phrased.)

  40. Henry Jenkins says:

    Another poor victim of the soul-less spam filter:

    Most of the concerns I have with Fanlib have been addressed in earlier posts, particularly by Telesilla, Cofax and Darkrose. But on top of the issues they raise, I want to know who Fanlib believes their target provider is and who their target customer is? What kind of research (if any) did they do? What were the results of that research? By choice I live a small fan box, but there appears to be a huge disconnect between my experience and their expectations. I’d like know if they launched on anything more substantial than wishful thinking.

  41. Henry Jenkins says:

    Just wanted people to know that I compiled together the questions and sent them to Williams this morning. We will see how he responds.

    The following are the list of questions I sent him:

    BASIC BACKGROUND

    What is your own background in fandom? Have you had a history of involvement in

    this community? More generally, are there people working for your company who come out of the fan fiction world and have an understanding of its traditions

    and practices?

    What led you to create this site? What first gave you the idea and why did you

    carry through with it? What are you hoping to achieve? What sold your investors that this was a good idea and that this was the right time to move forward?

    What is the basic value proposition you are making? Who is making money here?

    Why are the fans not being compensated for the work they produce? In what other

    ways might fans receive benefit from their participation in your site?

    What does FanLib offer a fanfic writer that other ad-free sites run by people

    from within the fanfic community do not?

    Who is the target audience for the site? Did you do a market survey and identify

    who they wanted, and what is the demographic breakdown of that audience?

    COPYRIGHT ISSUES

    What rights is your site claiming over the fiction that gets posted there? What

    rights remain with the authors? Can fans post the same stories on other sites,

    for example, or are you claiming an exclusive right to the material? Fans note that the original terms of service implied you had the rights to edit the

    material or republish it in other places. Is this true?

    Fanfic remains in a legal gray area because there has yet to be a precedent set stating that it is or is not, legal. Many fans worry that FanLib changes the

    terms by which fan fiction is being produced and circulated by charging money and pushing it further into the public eye and that this increases the risk of legal action against it. A court battle could adversely impact the entire fan community by basing case law on the most commercial rather than the least

    commercial forms of the practice. How might you respond to this concern? What

    risk analysis have you done here?

    Statements in the original FAQ and comments from FanLib representatives that “we assume fanfiction is legal fair use” and “it’s not in the copyright holder’s interest to sue” have many fan authors concerned. In some cases, you are publishing stories in universes where there have been explicit statements made by creators that they do not consider fan fiction to be fair use. Have you researched the individual fandoms involved or are you treating them each the same?

    Your previous efforts around The L Word and The Ghostwhisperer involved working

    directly with production companies to authorize certain kinds of fan fiction.

    Why have you shifted strategies with this new initiative? And can you reconcile the two models?

    How is the site planning to deal with the (inevitable) first complaint from a

    copyright holder?

    Your TOS requires writers to “defend, indemnify and hold harmless FanLib” in the case of legal action. What efforts do you plan to take to inform writers about the risks they are taking? Many fans are concerned that your company will make all of the money here while leaving fans to take all the risks. How would you respond to this criticism?

    CONTENT ISSUES

    FanLib allows adult content under an “ADULT” rating, but the Terms of Service

    say that the website must not be used to publish any material “obscene, vulgar,

    or indecent.” Isn’t there an inherent conflict there? What happens when a parent finds his-or-her child reading an ADULT-rated Harry Potter fic?

    In your marketing brochure —

    http://www.my2centences.com/my2c_new/FanLib_info.pdf — you assure the

    copyright holders that FanLib is “managed and moderated to the max,” and that “as with a coloring book, all players must “stay within the lines.” Can you explain what you mean by that statement? One of the reasons so many fans write fanfic is so that they can deliberately step out of the “lines” and do their own creative thing without any interference from the copyright holders.

    COMMUNITY RELATIONS ISSUES

    Fans note that someone named “Naomi” was used to send out the original

    invitation letters to fan writers, but fans have been unable to find out who

    this person is. Is it a real person or a sock puppet? Why was a female name

    used for this purpose, when the board of directors for the company seems to be

    all male? Why has the initial advertising with its play on the Charles Atlas bodybuilding campaign adopted such a masculine metaphor for what has been and remains an overwhelmingly feminine cultural practice?

    Many fans feel that the company has done a poor job so far in community

    relations. What steps are you taking to turn this around? Are you rewriting the

    terms of service and FAQ based on the feedback you’ve received? Are you planning to develop an advisory board composed of members of the fanwriting community?

    What, if anything, do you think you can do to enhance the credability and

    responsiveness of FanLib to the people who have invested their energy into fan

    fiction in some cases for several decades?

    This last question is a bit awkward for both of us but it has come up a number

    of times and so I feel I need to ask it: Isn’t it somewhat symptiomatic of

    FanLib’s problems that the spokespeople are more willing to talk to a man with

    credentials rather than some of the female fan writers who have approached you?

  42. Henry Jenkins says:

    Just wanted people to know that I compiled together the questions and sent them to Williams this morning. We will see how he responds.

    The following are the list of questions I sent him:

    BASIC BACKGROUND

    What is your own background in fandom? Have you had a history of involvement in

    this community? More generally, are there people working for your company who come out of the fan fiction world and have an understanding of its traditions

    and practices?

    What led you to create this site? What first gave you the idea and why did you

    carry through with it? What are you hoping to achieve? What sold your investors that this was a good idea and that this was the right time to move forward?

    What is the basic value proposition you are making? Who is making money here?

    Why are the fans not being compensated for the work they produce? In what other

    ways might fans receive benefit from their participation in your site?

    What does FanLib offer a fanfic writer that other ad-free sites run by people

    from within the fanfic community do not?

    Who is the target audience for the site? Did you do a market survey and identify

    who they wanted, and what is the demographic breakdown of that audience?

    COPYRIGHT ISSUES

    What rights is your site claiming over the fiction that gets posted there? What

    rights remain with the authors? Can fans post the same stories on other sites,

    for example, or are you claiming an exclusive right to the material? Fans note that the original terms of service implied you had the rights to edit the

    material or republish it in other places. Is this true?

    Fanfic remains in a legal gray area because there has yet to be a precedent set stating that it is or is not, legal. Many fans worry that FanLib changes the

    terms by which fan fiction is being produced and circulated by charging money and pushing it further into the public eye and that this increases the risk of legal action against it. A court battle could adversely impact the entire fan community by basing case law on the most commercial rather than the least

    commercial forms of the practice. How might you respond to this concern? What

    risk analysis have you done here?

    Statements in the original FAQ and comments from FanLib representatives that “we assume fanfiction is legal fair use” and “it’s not in the copyright holder’s interest to sue” have many fan authors concerned. In some cases, you are publishing stories in universes where there have been explicit statements made by creators that they do not consider fan fiction to be fair use. Have you researched the individual fandoms involved or are you treating them each the same?

    Your previous efforts around The L Word and The Ghostwhisperer involved working

    directly with production companies to authorize certain kinds of fan fiction.

    Why have you shifted strategies with this new initiative? And can you reconcile the two models?

    How is the site planning to deal with the (inevitable) first complaint from a

    copyright holder?

    Your TOS requires writers to “defend, indemnify and hold harmless FanLib” in the case of legal action. What efforts do you plan to take to inform writers about the risks they are taking? Many fans are concerned that your company will make all of the money here while leaving fans to take all the risks. How would you respond to this criticism?

    CONTENT ISSUES

    FanLib allows adult content under an “ADULT” rating, but the Terms of Service

    say that the website must not be used to publish any material “obscene, vulgar,

    or indecent.” Isn’t there an inherent conflict there? What happens when a parent finds his-or-her child reading an ADULT-rated Harry Potter fic?

    In your marketing brochure —

    http://www.my2centences.com/my2c_new/FanLib_info.pdf — you assure the

    copyright holders that FanLib is “managed and moderated to the max,” and that “as with a coloring book, all players must “stay within the lines.” Can you explain what you mean by that statement? One of the reasons so many fans write fanfic is so that they can deliberately step out of the “lines” and do their own creative thing without any interference from the copyright holders.

    COMMUNITY RELATIONS ISSUES

    Fans note that someone named “Naomi” was used to send out the original

    invitation letters to fan writers, but fans have been unable to find out who

    this person is. Is it a real person or a sock puppet? Why was a female name

    used for this purpose, when the board of directors for the company seems to be

    all male? Why has the initial advertising with its play on the Charles Atlas bodybuilding campaign adopted such a masculine metaphor for what has been and remains an overwhelmingly feminine cultural practice?

    Many fans feel that the company has done a poor job so far in community

    relations. What steps are you taking to turn this around? Are you rewriting the

    terms of service and FAQ based on the feedback you’ve received? Are you planning to develop an advisory board composed of members of the fanwriting community?

    What, if anything, do you think you can do to enhance the credability and

    responsiveness of FanLib to the people who have invested their energy into fan

    fiction in some cases for several decades?

    This last question is a bit awkward for both of us but it has come up a number

    of times and so I feel I need to ask it: Isn’t it somewhat symptiomatic of

    FanLib’s problems that the spokespeople are more willing to talk to a man with

    credentials rather than some of the female fan writers who have approached you?

  43. Henry Jenkins says:

    Another MIA Post, this one from Tahariel:

    Let’s be honest, Williams and co. are jumping into a subculture they have no knowledge of and are completely ignoring the customs and traditions of the people they’re trying to sell to. It’s like going to ancient Japan and forgetting to bow to the Emperor – rude, ignorant, and likely to get you your head cut off.

    Fandom, for all its faults, is a place I love; where else can you find everything of value given out to all comers for free? Where else on this planet can you find a culture where there are no restrictions, no limits on what you can do and say and think? Yes, we have flamewars, yes, we have wank, but for the most part we’re wide open and willing to try something different, no matter what ‘normal’ social mores say.

    And now Fanlib is going to get us all taken to the slaughterhouse by calling down the Powers That Be on all our heads. Gee, thanks guys. Hope you don’t mind that I won’t even be clicking a link now without making sure it doesn’t lead to your site.

  44. Thanks for the cogent summing-up of our questions, Professor Jenkins. I look forward with great interest to Mr. Williams’s replies.

  45. sassyinkpen says:

    Thank you, Professor Jenkins, for your excellent post, and your very respectful handling of everyone’s questions, comments and concerns. I really appreciate you posting the stuff that got snagged by your filter – that wasn’t strictly necessary, and yet you took that step to keep everyone included and informed.

    I really hope the phrasing of your last question to Mr. Williams:

    “Isn’t it somewhat symptiomatic of

    FanLib’s problems that the spokespeople are more willing to talk to a man with

    credentials rather than some of the female fan writers who have approached you?”

    which leaves out the point that several of the female fan writers took very well reasoned and organized approaches…

    …won’t allow him to wiggle out of that one by simply saying that the fans were mean and vicious and unreasonable, as he and David Williams have already done more than once.

    Note to Mssrs William: Everyone knows you were invited to more than one very reasonable and intelligent conversation about fans concerns, BY calm and reasonable fans.

  46. My (somewhat general) question to Mr. Williams:

    1) If you will exclude all the fan fiction that contains porn, squick, BDSM, bad taste, Mpregs, RPS, incest, rape, chan, bad grammar, violence, torture or are from non-high profile writers, and

    2) Some of the writers exclude themselves because of the fear of ending up in the legal hit list and the dislike towards any attemts for controlling and making money out of fans..

    What will be left?

    Granted, some of the writers in Fanfiction.net do voluntarily censor their fics, e.g. cutting all the sex parts off. On the other hand, there are many fans who generally started boycotting the site after RPS was banned.

  47. As someone who’s been involved in various fandoms for the past 5 years or so, I have to say that I’m offended by a group of corporate-minded men who think they know what we, as fans, could possibly want and need, and then attempt to exploit our talents for their own profit. But most of all, as a writer, this statement from their marketing brochure frightens me:

    Managed and Moderated to the Max

    All the FANLIB action takes place in a highly customized environment that YOU control.

    ~ As with a coloring book, players must “stay within the lines.”

    ~ Restrictive player’s terms-of-service protects your rights and property.

    ~ Moderated “scene missions” keep the story under your control.

    ~ Full monitoring & management of submissions & players.

    ~ Automatic “profanity filter.”

    ~ Completed work is just 1st draft to be polished by the pros.

    If we dissect this list (a close-reading, if you will), we can see that they’re basically trying to turn fandom, the one place we as fans can go to express ourselves without restriction, into a Big Brother-esque censorship engine. FABULOUS.

    I think the one question every fan has on her mind right now is–what makes these men think they have the right to profit off of us? If they really cared about fans, fandom, and fanfiction, they wouldn’t have started a website that puts our culture at such a great risk. Fandom IS its own world, with its own culture, heirarchies, rules, and even language. It’s frankly offensive to a lot of us that these FanLib people assume that they can infiltrate our world from the outside and then seek to control it.

  48. Jake Lockley says:

    I worked on this problem 12 years ago for a major studio when I first discovered Textual Poachers (what you wrote about tastes should be taught to everyone, I think would help resolve a lot of conflict in the world caused by cultural differences).

    Ask Chris why he just doesn’t work out an agent/broker deal limited to the site and allows fans to particpate in ad revenue. Feel free to give him my email address. I once wrote a business plan that did this and promoted the idea through equal profit participation for the individual, community and company with operating costs coming from profits and going towards what each demanded. The user, their community, and the company each get a third of the profit. The company pays for capital expenses from their cut, the community pays for their serving and application hosting needs through their cut, and the individual does the same. It is a simple self-sustaining model with the only caveat being that the it’s transparent. That’s what scares most companies, but the users love the idea of full disclosure. It allows them to have fun if they want to have fun and make money fairly if they want to make money.

    The ad model is the problem, not the content or the corporations. The netertainment industry is about attracting an audience for ads. They use content to do that. It’s changing the ad model to one that is opt in that will change the industry, until then the most you can do is act like an agent and broker relationships between individuals and communities and those with money. If fanficers (who by my experience are mostly shippers who through their fiction explore relationships between characters moreso than creative story ideas, hence the female skew) want to self-publish there are hundreds of ways they can do it on their own. If they want to make money off it they can use a blog and Adsense and make what they can get. But the idea of FanLib is a good one, just one that needs to properly execute a business model that challenges the commodifcation approach you suggested. What a corporation has to offer to fans that media companies can not is relationship brokerage between the entertainment business and consumers. Specifically acting as an agent which can allow fans to participate in profits or can direct them down the learning path to becoming a skilled professional working in the idustry. What other ends are there in this scenario?

    These ideas don’t go over well in entertainment – it is an old slow moving business that can’t come up with or deal with original ideas. What they do have is money, so if you want their money you have to play by their rules or add a layer of abstraction to the rule set (like an agent or broker) to act as a buffer and work with the commonlities between the corporations and entertainment enthusiasts and wannabes.

    For the record I started as one of these enthusiasts and it ended up getting me a job in Hollywood where I now struggle with this problem every day. Before dealing directly with the business side of entertainment I never even had a concept of the battle between business and creativity and what it was about. Nowadays I’d be happy to find a job with a company that I didn’t feel exploits consumers.

  49. cassievalentine says:

    I post at fanlib.com and fanfiction.net as well as various other fandom-specific archives and a personal website. No fanfiction archive is ever going to be perfect. fanlib.com has it’s share of problems as does fanfiction.net and so do the other archives I’ve seen.

    Maybe letting an impartial 3rd party run an archive is a good idea. If you’re an impartial third party who’s not involved in fandom, what do you care who the BNF in the fandom are? There will be no preferential treatment, no turf wars, nothing that seems to plague the other fan-run archives.

    If people are so put out by what’s going on at fanlib, don’t post there, it’s as simple as that.

  50. I haven’t had much to say about this entire thing, although I’m kind of looking forward to what kind of responses Chris Williams provides, if any.

    However, my initial reaction to it hasn’t really changed since fan lib was brought to my attention — in that I don’t think, by and large, the majority of what *we* call fandom — those media fans falling into the primarily female, denizens of mail lists, livejournals, alt.tv., and a long history of fannish interactions at cons, koffee klatches, and knit and bitch sessions — we’re not the fans they are looking for.

    They *are* looking for the gamer boys, the FF.net teens, the myspace and facebook crowd.

    My impression is that not only do they not want our fic (or our questions) but that until they actually tripped over us while backing their corporate truck into this thing…they didn’t even know we were there.

  51. Ventriloquist says:

    I’ll just leave one final comment; it’s to link to this article at http://www.my2centences.com/my2c_new/mad+vine120303.html, which basically tells me everything I need to know about FanLib. Their big aim, and the goal which they hope to attain through FanLib? Solving the “missing 18-34 men problem” for television networks. I feel it’s worth quoting several paragraphs from the article, just in case there was any doubt as to the motivations behind FanLib:

    EDITOR’S NOTE

    Hank Kim, Editor

    Madison+Vine

    One of the more unique concepts being pitched to the TV networks and brand marketers could potentially be a tool to combat the “missing 18-34 men problem” that has flared up this fall season.

    Chris Williams and Craig Singer are a filmmaking team that have hatched a promotional idea rooted in fan participation that speaks directly to “young men and women who’ve fled online and to other media.” Mark Stroman, who they’ve hired to get them meetings, says it’s one of the best ideas to come across his desk because it allows brand marketers an opportunity to leverage a promotion that will tell them more about network viewers than what you’d normally glean from the embattled Nielsen.

    Will Nets Sign Off On Fan Episodes?

    Stroman touts FanLib to Mad Ave

    By Hank Kim

    Inspired by the American public’s obsession with entertainment and the creative process, independent media company My2Centences, is pitching a fan-based promotional program to the TV networks to further leverage their existing programming properties.

    Co-founders Chris Williams and Craig Singer have retained Mark Stroman of Entertainment Marketing Partners to grease the skids with broadcasters as well as Madison Avenue for FanLib, their proprietary concept.

    “There is this incredible amount of fan energy that is unharnessed by the creators, producers, and distributors of these existing properties,” said Williams. “We thought why don’t we marry the [online] technology and the audience and create a platform that will harness the energy in a way that can be controlled and moderated by the creators and distributors of that existing property.” [emphasis mine]

    I gather it’s too late to add any questions to those already passed onto Chris Williams by Dr. Jenkins, but I wouldn’t mind seeing this addressed. How, exactly, is any of this helping the fan communities, which are doing just fine without FanLib?

    Thank you, again, for hosting this discussion.

  52. Quicksilver Eyes says:

    That you Professor Jenkins for volunteering to host this dialog between Mr. Williams and yourself. As always, you’ve shown a strong grasp of the situation and our concerns.

  53. I feel the need to point out that many women in fandom– and no doubt many of the women who addressed problems with FanLib– are academics with credentials. The fact that they post under pseudonyms hides this fact, most of the time, but I feel like that’s another piece of the insult

    Oh, and thank you for this well-written piece, and your excellent distillation of questions and concerns.

  54. Henry Jenkins says:

    Chris Williams has acknowledged that he has received the questions and that he and his staff are working hard to pull together answers for us. He didn’t give me any clear indication of when we would receive the responses but I will post them as soon as I receive them.

  55. I feel that my questions have already been posed here, but I really want to assert my agreement with this statement by Alison above:

    “Don’t get me wrong, Henry, I love your thoughts on the matter and I love that you’ve offered to interview Williams – however, I do think he needs to be called to task on the fact that your (male, authoritative) voice is the first and only one he seems to have responded to in any serious way.”

    I’ll be reading this interview despite the fact that at this point, when I think too hard about Fanlib I shake with rage.

  56. Thanks, Henry. Good summary.

    I shall be interested to see how Fanlib’s team respond to all these questions, especially the last.

  57. I feel that some of the major disconnect coming from the industry side is a disconnect with their own business model. They say they want more interaction, they say they want more active participation but I believe they are still working with the image of the users as passive — receptacles of service, and generators of profit (or of ‘content.’) I believe this shows itself in FanLib representative’s general attitude of surprise that the fan authors are responding ACTIVELY to their proposals — asking questions, making responses and denials, grouping and moving on their own. I believe this also shows itself in some of the language used; they described their new venture as a “playground” for women writing fanfiction, and when was the last time a kid had any say in the way the playground was run?

    Fans within fandom are used to being the architects of their communities, sometimes down to the very code their screens display. They are used to being INVOLVED and to having their opinions and input taken seriously. If FanLib expects their ‘users’ to do nothing more than hand over content when asked for and spend the rest of the time sitting quietly, swallowing the soothing official legal line and jumping for bones and prizes that FanLib provides to keep them distracted and happy, I think they are receiving an ugly shock about who exactly their intended customers are.

  58. doneril says:

    I realise that I’m a bit of a late comer with my concerns, but I admit to being a bit surprised that no one else raised them before me. It has been discussed on a few community on livejournal.

    When I look at the advertisements and the website itself, I am concerned less for the adult fans who are talking about it and more for the very young fans who aren’t. I came into fandom on the internet as a pre-adolescent. When I look at the ads (particularly the Mexican wrestler, which some people have compared to a now-defunct Saturday morning cartoon, but also pink guy/blue dude), I have the sinking suspicion that this site is being geared toward a younger age set. This concerns me greatly and not, I think, unduly.

    Also, I would like to register my problems with Mr. Williams willingness to discuss things with a male academic, but not female fans, though I do thank you, Mr. Jenkins, for hosting this and talking to him. It’s no stain on you that he is unwilling to take us seriously.

  59. I seem to have turned up a bit late for this particular party, but thankfully all of the questions that I had bubbling around in my head seem to have been asked by people who are far more capable of stringing words together in a coherant fashion than I am (in a similar fashion, I keep on thinking of things to say about this whole mess, but then finding that someone else saying it far more clearly has already been linked via metafandom). This is one of the many reasons I love the big sprawling subculture of fandom.

    I am, however, going to add my disappointed voice to those saying: Mr. Williams, why are you only responding to the male “voice of authority”? Why are you ignoring the vocal, female majority? Having a double X-chromosome doesn’t magically render us invisible under computer-screen illumination. Promise. I wonder if you realise by what factor of badness you’ve just multiplied the– what’s the word I’m searching for here? Hole? Pit? Chasm? Ah, wait, I know– abyss that both you, your fellow board-members and your concept are hurtling towards the bottom of because you’ve snubbed the established– intelligent– fandom-fanfiction community?

    I have to warn you; that first step’s a doozy and I don’t think any of us are going to be chucking pillows or padding after you.

    (back on my soapbox, slightly different angle)

    By no means are we usually coherant or cohesive in any kind of panfandom, internet-wide fashion; each fandom is its own country, with the assorted genres the counties therein, and spending even a few minutes within the vicinity of fandom_wank makes it perfectly clear that we’re an interesting stew of squabbles, shipwars, fanon/canon bitchfests, and- yes, inevitably- a degree of just plain wank.

    And yet–

    And yet I’ve been repeatedly using the word ‘we’ in order to describe myself and fandom, and I’ve seen an awful lot of people doing something very similar. Apart from a few outlying kerfuffles, fandom has become more of a ‘we’ that I reckon it’s ever managed before (which will have probably disintegrated mightily by this time next week, when everyone will be incensed over pairing X, kink Y and fanauthor Z once more*). That gives me a bit of a warm glow and I’m thankful, because at least it means that some good has come of FanLib existing.

    *I’m turning into a tangent fairy and I completely apologise, but this just occured to me as I was letting my mind run off in control of my typing impulses; Fandom’s a lot like an extended family. Amongst themselves the members of that family will have a mile long list of feuds, arguments anmd trigger topics, which they will chew out and scrap over ad nauseum. But. They’ll also have another mile long list, one that’s comprised of the private language of slang, conversational short cuts and, for want of a better term, in-jokes, and a whole set of behaviours that make it easy to immediately identify fellow family members versus outsiders. As soon as one of those outsiders blunders into the family group and starts trying to barge their way in without going through the proper… channels, I guess… or, even worse; starts trying to counterfit the behaviours and private language and to pass themselves off as family members even when they’re obviously not, then guess what? The family closes ranks, firmly, unequivocally and– particularly in fandom’s case– loudly and with a lot of words.

    And now I really am going to submit this and I’m not going to add anything more except; thank you, Mr. Jenkins, for providing this opportunity for dialogue.

  60. Actually, Henry, I do believe that FanLib’s new TOS have answered my question for me: the answer is spelled out.

    If FanLib is sued, the fanfic writer pays. And pays. And pays.

  61. Wilderness Guru says:

    Is this FanLib group worried about Bush and Attorney General Gozales cracking down on copyright violations?

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/business/news/e3i1eab080aca01d9b213dbfc0ef296de6d

  62. Yet another academic female fanfic writer checking in. I believe that Renet’s comment bears repeating. I’ve been interviewed by researchers on fanfic; I’m picking up a second M.A. this weekend and starting work on a dissertation. The pseudonym keeps my professional and academic identity partitioned off from my non-professional hobbies.

    My case is fairly typical for many of the female fanfic writers I know. Yet again, it’s clear that Chris Williams has no idea whom he’s blowing off, when he chooses to respond to Henry Jenkins as a “credentialed” male instead of his potential customer base. Mr. Williams’ illiterate spam letter suggests that he is aiming for chatroom, ill-educated teens who respond to reasoned dialogue and critique with “omg you’re bein’ meeeean to me!” As Mr. Jenkins says, “How not to handle controversy.” Also, how not to impress those he was trying to woo: people who write for pleasure. News flash: that means we value coherent writing!

    At this point, Fanlib.com has given itself enough rope to hang itself. The only question is whether it has dangled enough rope to hang the rest of us, by drawing legal authorities into a quiet backwater part of the internet it obviously had no competence to be encroaching upon.

    My thanks to the articulate folks out there, especially telesilla, for asking the questions that needed to be asked and opening the eyes of many of us to the disconcerting doubletalk and legal limbo that Fanlib.com has foisted on us. Mr. Jenkins, I appreciate your addressing this controversy with care and attention, even if I’m underwhelmed by Mr. Williams’choice to respond to you instead of making good his offer to have a dialog with telesilla, who organized and raised the questions that fanfic writers were asking in a public thread many, many of us endorsed.

  63. Ventriloquist says:

    Doneril:

    When I look at the advertisements and the website itself, I am concerned less for the adult fans who are talking about it and more for the very young fans who aren’t. I came into fandom on the internet as a pre-adolescent. When I look at the ads (particularly the Mexican wrestler, which some people have compared to a now-defunct Saturday morning cartoon, but also pink guy/blue dude), I have the sinking suspicion that this site is being geared toward a younger age set. This concerns me greatly and not, I think, unduly.

    This article about FanLib, from the 2Cents site, specifically notes that they are targeting teenagers: http://www.my2centences.com/my2c_new/hwood_reporter102803.html

    It’s entirely possible that their current troubles have come about because they merrily tried to recruit fanfic writers, having no idea that a huge percentage of them are canny, wordly, professional middle-aged women. More fools them.

    For further indications of who they believe their target markets are, as well as the deep respect in which they hold them, check this article at http://www.my2centences.com/my2c_new/ny_daily_news102303.html which contains the quote “‘Finally kids are doing something online that’s constructive,’ said FanLib creator David Williams.” Also worth reading is this article, which yet again makes it explicit that under-18s are their primary focus: http://www.my2centences.com/my2c_new/mediapost_100303.html

    Apologies for all the links– perhaps I should start a LJ?– but I’m more and more disturbed by these people (not to mention their methods; today’s revelations that they ask for their members’ FFN passwords, then send bots to import their stories from the FFN site, which has prompted FFN to respond by adding visual captchas to their login, is just the most recent).

  64. FANtastic says:

    Could you please remove the links to Icarusancalion’s post? She has been posting to a lot of LJ communities that she is upset about being linked from your blog.

    For example, here and here and here.

    Thanks.

  65. Icarusancalion says:

    FANtastic, I do appreciate your concern, but I am tickled pink that I was linked to Professor Jenkins’ blog. In fact, I linked back to his post here in my summary.

    A troll tried to attack my critical comments regarding FanLib on Mashable (comments that later became that summary) by linking to explicit fanart for one of my stories. I posted a link to the NC-17 story in question and a copy of my invitation to FanLib, suggesting they take a look at what they’d requested.

    Belatedly, it occured to me that right below my summary was a series of story recommendations including NC-17 slavefic and steamy Wincest, and various links to other people who might not be too comfortable with the exposure. This morning I was sent an alarming message from several trusted friends who were as duped as I was by what turned out to be an LJ hoax concerning deleted LJ accounts. I’ve worked very hard to establish a readership and it would be a heavy loss for me. The hoax has been exposed and I’ve locked reference to others’ work. It’s not a problem.

    I guess we’re all a little jittery at the exposure FanLib represents.

    Icarus

  66. hey there, late to the party as usual, and somewhat horrified by everything that has taken place in my short absence… FanLib (and is that a subtle glance at FemLib, or is that just me? – i can smell marketers thinking that the name contained just the right amount of ‘reverent nod’) seems to have had some sort of perceptual bypass when it comes to both their target demographic and their preferred contributors – i think Maygra’s summation was perfect:

    My impression is that not only do they not want our fic (or our questions) but that until they actually tripped over us while backing their corporate truck into this thing…they didn’t even know we were there.

    Ventriloquist sings on the same theme, and i think maybe that’s where FanLib’s creators fell to pieces – lack of awareness about so much, from demographic to audience to the history and the lay of the land. this ‘verse, that they thought they could happily strip-mine with impunity, is structured in such a unique way – loose, free-forming, the dynamic and movement of readers/writers constantly changing, like a flow of water – that it was impossible for them to get a handle on it.

    and thank god for that. i’ve been writing fic for ten years now, and i’d hate to see a space/a place/ a ‘verse that i consider so personal and varied and important become a homogenized marketing adjunct. while there’s plenty of opportunity for fans (writers too) to spend their money in support of fandom, there has to be somewhere in this life where we can leave some of that ‘i’ll buy it’ commercial response behind and experience an active, creative, personal response.

    FanLib doesn’t really sound like that somewhere.

  67. FANtastic:

    Could you please remove the links to Icarusancalion’s post? She has been posting to a lot of LJ communities that she is upset about being linked from your blog.

    It might’ve been a bad idea to link those other posts about her temporary-leaving-due-to-outside-site-linking in a public outside site, though. (Kinda makes it a little redundant; did that make sense?)

    Mr. Jenkins, there’s nothing else I can really add intelligently that others haven’t already in far more eloquent language, but I’d just like to say my ‘thank you’ for writing this.

  68. Uh, FANtastic (if that is your real name) if Icarus wants her links removed from this post, she’s fully capable of asking Dr. Jenkins to remove them.

  69. Icarusancalion says:

    I have no idea who FANtastic is, but this is completely false. I’m pleased to be linked from your blog. I’ve attempted to post over the last couple days, but they would not go through.