June 15, 2015

Fan Fiction, Transformative Works, and Women's Voices

Elizabeth Rosenblatt, Whittier Law School and Rebecca Tushnet, Georgetown University Law Center, have published Transformative Works: Young Women's Voices on Fandom and Fair Use in eGirls, eCitizens 385 (Jane Bailey & Valerie Stevens, eds; University of Ottawa Press, 2015). Here is the abstract.

This chapter considers the transformative impact of copyright fair use and fair dealing laws on the lives of individuals based on first-person accounts of young women and girls involved in media fandom. It builds on the work of scholars who have addressed the relationship between media fandom and copyright law, and relies specifically on the voices of media fans themselves about the role that fandom, particularly the creation of noncommercial fanworks, has played in their personal and developmental lives. In so doing, it examines how exceptions to copyright exclusivity that promote remix and other transformative expression create spaces that promote girls’ self-actualization.

The chapter draws principally on fans’ responses to a call by the U.S.-based nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works for personal accounts of how creating fanworks has influenced their lives. The responses reflected young women’s views that fandom provides unique opportunities for young women and girls to connect with others, build professional and educational skills, and develop personal and emotional maturity. For example, respondents reported that through the creation of noncommercial transformative works, they found their voices; discovered unknown abilities; shared their own points of view; learned professional skills; made friends; found the strength to overcome personal hardship; and gained greater understanding of themselves and others. At the same time, fanwork creation has afforded young women and girls an audience and a unique opportunity to use existing cultural expression as a springboard to talk back to a culture that might not otherwise hear their voices. These fans’ personal accounts indicate that laws permitting the creation of noncommercial derivative works not only promote individual expression by often-marginalized speakers, but also offer particular benefits to those speakers that are not readily available through other means. The paper concludes that broad understandings of fair use, fair dealing, and other laws that promote the creation of noncommercial transformative works are beneficial not only for free expression, but also for the girls and young women who create and consume that expression.

Download the chapter from SSRN at the link.

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