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My two cents on FanLib.com
(I gotta get to work but this meta has been scratching at the inside of my head, wanting out.)

[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."
"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."

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(Deleted comment)
You cybersquatter, you.

I think the best thing would be to boycott the site. Voting with our feet, lest this sort of thing catches on. It opens a whole can of nasty wiggling worms.

Those people can't be unaware of that. I mean, those are industry people. They got a lawyer on their board of directors, I believe I read. Even their "co-promotional partners" don't own the rights of the majority of the fic featured on that site... What the hell are they thinking? Do they *want* to push a test case?

Besides, I think that fic should be not-for-profit and covered by fair use but *if* someone gets to profit, it would seem appropriate that the fic writers and the copyright holders get a cut.

Am also joylessly cybersquatting.

They got a lawyer on their board of directors, I believe I read.
Sure sounded like it. We'll see what happens.

Hey, haven't seen you around in ages! :)

Sure sounded like it. We'll see what happens.

Yeah. It's at least interesting to watch. All former attempts to turn fic into coin have been stomped out rather quickly. And the fact that these are outsiders, with money and business sense but without fandom street cred, can't help things.

Did you read the post and comments on genreneep?
The Here. jdsampson, IIRC, helps run the boards. Her position appears to be that it's all fine and dandy that men from outside fandom can appropriate the product of forty years of female creativity, for profit. Why ever should it be a problem to have only men in charge? Why ever should the legal situation be a problem? After all, it's only what LJ and YahooGroups do...

::bangs head against desk repeatedly::

Honest to god, I can't tell whether it's just amateur hour or active evil. Or both. Trumpeting their partnerships with publishers and content providers makes it more likely they'll lose an infringement suit, not less.

And... I just had a horrible thought: you could take down fandom from the outside, by drumming up enough attention that the producers have to take action....

I read some of that thread. I've seen jdsampson state elsewhere (on the fanthropology thread I think) that ffn is making a profit as well, arguing that fanlib is not different from ffn. I'm wondering whether there is any truth to that statement or whether it's BS. As far as I know, all sites like ffn are non-profit, the money going into maintaining the archive.

I see that she didn't argue further when you said that ffn is not for profit. That would speak for the BS theory.

I'm a little wary when it comes to the gender issue because I think it's just one factor out of many (and I know plenty of male fic writers) but yeah, I find it offputting to see not one woman on their board of directors. It leaves a nasty aftertaste.

And... I just had a horrible thought: you could take down fandom from the outside, by drumming up enough attention that the producers have to take action....

A paranoid little part of me had the same thought, that someone's trying to force fanfic before a court, but I don't really believe that. Not least because too much thought and work went into that site. And who would be interested in that? Fanfic, as it is now, benefits all involved (Lee Goldberg's opinion notwithstanding).

Honest to god, I can't tell whether it's just amateur hour or active evil. Or both.

The mind, it boggles, eh? They got a lawyer, a high-profile one from the sound of it... they must be completely aware of the implications, and they must believe they'll be able to weasel out of any possible infringements suits. Which doesn't bode well for the writers who post there, imho.

Meh. All in all it's too high-profile for something that offers no legal protection in return. Why would anyone post there when they got LJ and ffn and, well, thousands of other sites.

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.

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

woh! if this really is coming from one of the founders of fanlib, than I think their business model may be a self-correcting one - in that a lack of professionalism and inability to discuss the issues (even with people that are - in one's own opinion - being unreasonable) are the hallmarks of failure.

So let's hope this is a troll and not the "coming of age of fan fiction, or "fanfic."

PS. You keep using this word "fanfic".... I do not think it means what you think it means....

Re: fanlib (Anonymous) Expand
I'm literally sick to my stomach right now browsing that site.

Disgusting. Should have known the profit driven would eventually try to worm their way into fandom.

Anyone who posts their stories there is kind of foolish. Unless they *like* other people profitting off of their work.

I do not believe fanfiction is copyright infringment and do believe if it ever actually went to court, it would fall under fair use for transformative works. I'm neither a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, however so YMMV

(oh, and here from Ces's LJ in case you're wondering.

Weirdly enough, I'm not in any way getting worked up about it. And normally my blood pressure easily rises on occasions like this. I think my brain is still boggling too hard trying to figure out what they're thinking (and why they didn't anticipate this reaction).

I do not believe fanfiction is copyright infringment and do believe if it ever actually went to court, it would fall under fair use for transformative works. I'm neither a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, however so YMMV

I totally agree. Just, no one really wants to be the test case for *that* one, I imagine...

I just had a look at that fanlib site and I have to say that a preliminary look does not reveal their marketing to be at all 'upfront'. I had to read your post to find out about it! I was spooked out by that site. Hm. Not sure what to think.

Oops, late reply, sorry. You're right, just from looking at the main page it's not obvious at all that that site's for profit. I heard from FL via their press release linked from the fanthropology post, so that was among the first things I learned about them.... and in the FAQ they're more or less upfront about it. But it's well possible that a writer who (somehow) missed the bruhaha stumbles over the site without even being aware of that aspect.


I'm not quite sure what to make of fanlib versus FFN with respect to "non-profit".

In the sense tossed around when people are worried about staying under fair use, it simply means one didn't make any money off the work.

OTOH in the accounting sense "non-profit" means there is no one getting the "leftover" money made after all the expenses have been paid.

There have been plenty of scandals with non-profits. Why? The big wheels who are employees can be paid big $$s which do not count as "profits" in the legal sense, so they sure as hell are making money off it. Non-profit just means there are no pesky stockholders or the taxman looking over their shoulders closely.

If FFN is presumably non-profit, well the ad revenue could still be paying the salaries of full time paid employees (the founders?) -- so, yes, they, the individuals would be [presumably] making money off it after all.

It realliy is a shame there is not big fan run archive like a better FFN , that did do like fanlib seems to be trying to do in terms of promoting the better fics within the site, or at least had a reader star rating system that was smart enough to try to block spoofing/ballot stuffing. I remember one Farscape archive that was pretty good about that.

If FFN is presumably non-profit, well the ad revenue could still be paying the salaries of full time paid employees (the founders?) -- so, yes, they, the individuals would be [presumably] making money off it after all.

Nonprofit corporations are completely entitled to pay full-time employees. Hell, many colleges are nonprofit (you can view their tax returns), and college presidents often pull in multi-million salaries.

Now, if we could figure out where ff.net is legally based, I believe we could find their tax returns.

Ewwww. This sounds perfectly horrid.

Dude, I'm boggling. Boggling hard.

Also, if I hear those FL guys say just one more time that, no worries, the worst that can happen to you is getting a C&D which ain't so bad, after all you just take your stuff down, no harm done... I swear I'll scream.

I spent over half a year on STtC, pretty much every free day. If I had to take it down, that'd kinda be a big deal for me. What's a story without readers? (I'm assuming that a C&D for a fic archived in one particular place means that you have to take it down everywhere else as well...?)

Those people are clueless. What I think is that it never occured to them that there's culture behind the product. Such a simplistic view. And this is why they ignored a whole bunch of variables, like how the actual writers might react.

Thanks for the link, and for the heads-up about that Mashable piece. I went over, read, and commented. I couldn't help it -- they're so clearly swallowing the FanLib party line, I had to say something. :/


Good comment. I wonder if anyone of the business side is willing to listen to comments like that, of if they're too blinded by the $$$.

I found another article, this one in Business week. Check it out: "The genius of FanLib is realizing that fans can be happy just being recognized." (link above in yet another eta)

With stuff like that I don't know whether to laugh or cry write a long, sarcastic comment.

Surfing in from The List

I've been reading and catching up on this for most of my late morning/ early afternoon. I haven't read replies on this thread yet - mostly because I was struck by the Westerfeld quote. I can't believe Scott Westerfeld actually promoted them. I've tried looking through his site and forum and all I see is promotion from one fanfic.net user to other people on the forum, claiming it was easier to archive fic there. And that was in 2006.

Of course Westerboard apparently allowed fanfic posted onto it by its members so it's possible thant FanLib presented themselves to authosr as if they had their fingers on the pulse of fandom/fannish community....

But Westerfelds fans, in general, are young, mostly pre-teens and teens. I didn't see anything on their site about age restrictions for their site. In fact the closest thing I can find is in their privacy policy where they state:

FanLib is sensitive to parents' concerns about the collection of personally identifiable information. We will not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from persons under the age of 13.

Which means people even younger could be encouraged to use their site (like Westerfelds fans). Moreover the privacy police doesn't strictly say they won't sell any collected personally identifying information. It just says that they'll inform you if they require it.

Even before 6A bought livejournal, they had information there about if you were under 13, having a parent involved in acquiring a livejournal etc. FanLib's sign up page has nothing.

This makes this site even skeezier to me.

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