Who owns fandom?

By Sarah Kendzior

By Letters to the Editor

Published December 15, 2000 8:26AM (EST)

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There were many misleading assertions in Sarah Kendzior's article, but let me stick to the one that involves me personally.

I am the person (unnamed in the article) who sent Section31.com's Tim Hansen the supposedly "angry" e-mail about his copying a Ronald D. Moore interview that ran on Fandom.com. Kendzior dismisses Hansen's action as "questionable but common" -- as if the commonality somehow diminishes the offense.

The thing to remember about this cyber theft is that the Ron Moore interview was written not by me or by any employee of Fandom Inc., but by a freelance writer whose livelihood depends on being paid for her work, not on having it disseminated for free. Anna L. Kaplan is a longtime fan of "Star Trek", and she wrote me one day to ask whether I had given permission to Section 31 to reprint her interview with Moore. I had not. I wrote to Hansen and asked him to do what we ask our own Fandomains to do: excerpt the article, not reprint it in its entirety.

Hansen, of course, never responded to me. Instead, he supposedly "went public" -- but only after a fashion. He did not print my letter; instead, he offered up his own interpretation of it, spun in such a way as to make himself look good. This conveniently allowed him to duck the real issue: copyright infringement. He claimed to be merely "reporting" about the Ron Moore interview -- when of course he was actually copying and pasting the work of a freelance writer without permission.

Despite Kendzior's statement to the contrary, my second letter had nothing to do with an "aversion to public disclosure of [Fandom.com's] actions." The action in question was mine, not the company's, and there had been no real disclosure of that action by Hansen, who was ignoring my attempt to help out a single individual and instead trying to portray himself as the victim of ... well, I don't know what exactly, but he certainly managed to sound aggrieved.

The bottom line is this: As editor for Fandom.com, it is my duty to look after and protect freelancers who work for me. Kendzior and Hansen can try to spin this in a negative way, but a true disclosure of the facts does not support their interpretation.

-- Steve Biodrowski

As the owner of a medium-sized fan site and an outspoken defender of fans' intellectual property rights, I see a moral here about what fans must be wary of becoming as fandom increasingly enters the mainstream. Fandom, Inc. indeed -- what a perverse concept. Fandom must not allow itself to be owned by Warner Brothers, Fox, Disney, Lucasfilm or any of the other media giants that have attempted to corral, control and own fan creative work and even fan culture itself. Just as surely, fandom must not allow itself to be owned by companies like this one.

The creators of Fandom.com have crossed the line into a whole new category. They mean to profit off fans' creative work -- something most media fans are deeply wary of doing themselves. This kind of arrangement could conceivably weaken arguments for the "fair use" copyright status of this culturally important but contested category of works.

-- Elizabeth Durack

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