Scholars have joined with pop-culture fans to form the Organization for Transformative Works, which will fight for the legal right to produce creative works that mash-up characters from a range of media.
“We envision a future in which all fannish works are recognized as legal and transformative and are accepted as a legitimate creative activity,” says a statement on the group’s Web site. More and more people are creating so-called fan fiction, in which they write stories incorporating characters from popular television shows, movies, or other media, reimagining the fictional worlds in which they live.
Several academics are listed as serving on the group’s Board of Directors, including Francesca Coppa, director of film studies and an associate professor of English at Muhlenberg College, and Rebecca Tushnet, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.
Henry Jenkins, co-director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Comparative Media Studies Program, calls the group an “unprecedented effort.” The scholar, who was profiled in The Chronicle last summer, was one of the first academics to give serious attention to fan fiction.
“The Web 2.0 era offers a chance for fans to gain greater visibility and impact, but it also raises risks which fans wanted to be ready to confront,” said Mr. Jenkins, in an e-mail interview today.
Mr. Jenkins cited a situation this past summer in which a company called FanLib upset its customers by building a Web site to share fan fiction and then claiming control of the homemade content. He and other pop-culture fans pushed back, as he wrote on his blog.
“The Fan Lib flap was simply one of a series of conflicts this year which raised awareness within the fan community of the need to take action to protect the integrity of their own traditions and to maintain control over their own cultural practices,” said Mr. Jenkins today. “Fans are pooling their knowledge and skills to push their community to the next level.” —Jeffrey R. Young