I just filled out the Organization of Transformative Works' Copyright survey, and I encourage you to do so as well.
As I was filling out the survey, I realized that these questions and answers were like a fandom interview of me, so I have decided to publish my responses to the survey here.
How and/or why did you first get involved in fandom? What is the first fandom platform you used (e.g., zines, Usenet, Livejournal, AO3, Tumblr...)?
The first fandoms that I spent large amounts of time in were Japanese Anime forums. I was very active in posting about anime in the early 2000s, I chatted, recorded and posted creator interviews, and wrote reviews, but I didn't really participate in content creation until I got into writing fanfiction on fanfiction.net in 2012. I had always wanted to write, and this was an opportunity to get some things off of my chest. It also allowed me to get comments on my writing for the first time. I was hooked. I formed a community with other fans, and we supported each others writing.
Why do you create fanworks?
Many reasons, all of which boil down to "To Communicate". I write stories about emotions, about feelings, about fears. I use characters that others know and understand to make this easier and quicker for people to access.
I also write to fix stories that I think are different. For example in 2017 a new season of the series Sherlock came out with many problematic elements. I wrote stories to draw attention to some of the elements that the story glossed over. I wrote social commentary on the way the show presented mental illness, women's roles, relationships between men, etc. By couching them as stories instead of formal written social commentary, I was able to punch people in the gut with their emotions and reach audiences that will not go to a journal to learn about their favorite TV show. Also, you don't need to be peer reviewed to tell someone that you think a show has got it wrong.
How has your participation in fandom changed over time?
I have become more of an activist for hidden voices. The more that I read fan fiction, the more that I realize how limited public media is. I had not heard many of the voices of gays or disabled persons, or other social minorities before. I hadn't even noticed that they existed before I started reading different opinions. I saw viewpoints from people from many walks of life, from people whose jobs are packing boxes, to doctors, to scientists.
And the art that I have seen is amazing. Videos and drawings showcasing amazing talent. It has enriched my life. I continue to find it an important part of my mental health and happiness.
Do you think that fanworks should be treated or seen the same as other types of art (e.g., original writing)? Why or why not?
I am unsure.
At the moment fan communities are both limited by and protected by their perception as being other.
The people in the fanfiction community see themselves as separate from mainstream media, and thus feel free to voice opinions that are not mainstream. When you draw attention to their work, some authors will get angry because they discount their own work. They have internalized the voices that fanfiction is trash, and they think that to exhault their work is to insult them.
I personally think that fan writing is the most interesting and exciting writing that I read, and I will often prefer to read fanfiction over published stories. Some of the quality in these fan works are far superior to published works, and much of this is due to the fact that fan works are rarely written solely by an individual. They are based on the works and comments that have come before, and they are shaped by comments made during the writing process. This makes work with far fewer plot holes. Works that are based on a community of intelligent opinions instead of a solitary authors mind. It is exciting. It is addictive.
I think that it would be a sad world if these communities are attacked because people with power are fearful of their voices. I have seen comments by published writers saying that fanfiction detracts from their works and takes money away from them. This is ridiculous. Fan fiction honors a work, and it usually results in increased sales as fans of the fanfiction go back to the original works to understand what everyone is talking about. I know this from the Sherlock Holmes fandom. Many many people, especially young people, have read the Arthur Conan Doyle works only because they were mentioned in fan fiction and fan art.
Fan fiction is fiction. Fan art is art. The only distinction is a construct of the society we live in. In time, there will be no distinction at all.
Optionally, feel free to share anything else about your participation in fandom that you would like. (The questions following this will more specifically focus on copyright issues.)
I think that copyright law is a threat to the creation of fan works. Fan videos are constantly being taken down. Fan art works are derided and mocked for their subject matter regardless of their techniques. Many people routinely mock and laugh at fan artists, and it is considered a shameful thing to admit to writing such stories. Even main stream successes like "50 shades of Gray" are mocked primarily for being derived from fan fiction sources.
This disconnect between the mainstream publishing world and the welcoming fan communities means that most writers in fan communities know very little to nothing about copyright law. Because the mainstream media looks on fan works as illegal, most artists are afraid to advertise their works outside of limited ghettos. They do not look at other forms of copyright, like creative commons licences, because any legal structure seems like the enemy to them. They expect to be persecuted, and in many cases they are. Fan works are routinely purged from servers without warning or recourse for possible decency or legal reasons simply on suspicion. The current legal system is very hostile to the fan writer, and until they legally mandate a safe place for fan works, the communities will always be looked down on, mocked, and attacked. There is no safe space for fandom in current copyright law.