[edit: removed the direkt link to fanlib.com; no need to up their google ranking] The FanLib discussion has finally hit metafandom; tomorrow it should be all over LJ.
My first reaction when I read about it on fanthropology last week was: knee-jerk unease and skepticism. Now that I've checked out the site and a little of the debate, my response is: yet more unease and skepticism: the whole thing makes my hair stand on end. Can't help it, it smells of exploitation and viral marketing... some entertainment business folk trying to get their foot in the door and cash in on things that we do for free, driven by nothing but love for a story or a fictional character.
One problem is that it's a multifandom fic archive that's owned by people with no roots in fandom and no real understanding of our particular community and subculture.
The site's slogan is: "The world's greatest fan fiction by popular demand." That's the kind of marketing lingo that goes over really well. I did some browsing through the fic that's already up... can't say I'm impressed. Small wonder, it's a non-selective archive, of course they can't have 'the greatest'. Come to think of it, it's that bubbly, hyperbolic marketing-speak that's responsible for much of my knee-jerking. All this talk of 'exciting' or 'grand prizes' sounds, I don't know... artificial.
From the press release:
The launch of FanLib.com represents the coming of age of fan fiction, or "fanfic."*twitch*
"For my most passionate fans, reading isn't enough—they want to extend the story, to put their favorite characters in new situations," said Scott Westerfeld, New York Times bestselling author of the Uglies trilogy. "FanLib.com helps these readers find each other and gives them a space to share what they've created."What would we do without them.
I think what I find most disturbing (not getting into the complete lack of women - or anyone with any fannish history - on the board) is this part:
FanLib.com launches with co-promotional partners including HarperCollins, Penguin Books, Showtime Networks, Simon & Schuster, and Starz Entertainment. The launch partners are heavily featured and have customized marketing integrated on the site while providing promotion for FanLib.com.The whole issue of copyrights and licenses is completely unresolved, yet here's a for-profit enterprise who're completely upfront about their intention to make money from the site. (note: I do think it's a good thing that they're upfront about it, but that still leaves the problems inherent in it.)
The thing is that because of said partnerships with some publishers or networks, one could get the deceptive impression that the fic on the site has TPTB-approval. If you look closely, nowhere does it say that the actual copyright holders have given their okay. Of course they haven't... and if they had it'd be a huge thing that we certainly would've heard of.
Fanfic has always been denied real recognition and Fanlib isn't changing that. It gives an illusion of recognition and legitimacy, but not the real thing. I doubt they would provide the fic writers with any kind of protection from charges of copyright infringement.
All that said, I actually like the site itself. Don't look at me like that *g*. It's a bit too flashy for my personal taste but it's obvious there's a lot of effort going into designing and maintaining it. Maybe it'll catch on. Maybe the license thing won't be an issue. But fact is that a) the people making money off it are neither the writers nor the copyright holders, but a third party, and b) we're left in just the uncertain legal position we've always been in. I do have trouble imagining how it is supposed to work. I'm really unclear on the legal implications.
I just know that this is as far from 'flying under the radar' as it gets. They had a *press release*, for Pete's sake.
[eta: by angiepen: Browsing the FanLib TOS. Interesting, to say the least.]
[eta2(May18): FanLib Emerges From Stealth Mode with $3M in Funding and Big Media Sponsors
quote: "This is one niche site that has a lot of support and will do well capitalizing on existing communities around media for an extended period of time."
... no comment.]
[eta3(May19): From BusinessWeek (MARCH 13, 2006): Putting The Fans To Work
choice quote"The genius of FanLib is realizing that fans can be happy just being recognized."