Have you heard about the Britney Spears fan fiction contest? I have. It is being run by Britney Spears‘s label. Should be massively awesome great fun! If you win, well you get the totally awesome prize of having your story turned into “official digital music video!”
Haven’t we heard about stuff like this before? Oh wait. We have. Only this Britney Spears contest makes them look angelic, showing corporations how to run things where fan fiction is concerned. Why? Because you retained the rights to your story when you uploaded content to their archive.
Take a look at the fun contest rules for the Britney Spears contest:
(ii) you agree that the Submission Materials shall be a “work made for hire,” with all rights therein, including, without limitation, the exclusive copyright, being the property of Sponsor. In the event the Submission Materials are considered not to be a “work made for hire,” you irrevocably assign to Sponsor all right, title, and interest in your entry (including, without limitation, the copyright) in any and all media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all uses thereof, including, without limitation, for purposes of advertising or trade.
(c) You hereby hold Sponsor harmless from and against any third party claim arising from use of the Submission Materials. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Submission Materials or to be compensated for any such uses. You hereby represent and warrant that you are at least 13 years of age and that you have read these Official Rules and are fully familiar with their contents.
When you know that other company was created with a Terms of Service that was a bit more benign? The “fandom” response included the beating of chests, and gnashing of teeth. Fans were angry! And they remained angry for months! They followed the news about the site. They blogged about it. They wrote academic papers! They were not going to allow people to colonize and commercialize their space and take advantage of fans who didn’t know better because they weren’t integrated into mainstream fandom. And out of that outrage, an organization was born. This organization’s purpose was to lobby for fan rights as they applied to fan fiction derivative works.
And so, twenty months after that event, with the organization well under way and having much support in the community? With the organization being aware of the Britney Spears fan fiction contest because information about it was posted to fanthropology, a LiveJournal community that many of the organization’s members follow actively follow having a post about it? You just know that the organization is on the case! They too are outraged about this! The bandom community that is represented by the organization is leading the charge! There is outrage because really, the Britney Spears contest makes that other organization look good! And rights of fans need to be protected! Especially those that don’t matter! And dude, they are trying to commercialize fan fiction while stealing the rights away from fan fiction writers! Woe! Unfair! Cruel! This must be stopped!
Wait. No. There isn’t outrage. I jest! They don’t care. This organization is not the least bit interested in Britney Spears. They aren’t interested in publicizing the rules that even I, some one who doesn’t have a problem with commercialism in fan fiction, consider unfair. The organization hasn’t had Britney Spears fan fiction contest days where they encourage their members to write meta about how this is unfair on their LiveJournals and to submit those stories to metafandom. They haven’t updated their wiki to include information about the unfair rules on the Britney contest. This topic hasn’t made fandom_wank because passionate fans, members of that organization, have gotten so passionate that they’ve hit the batshit phase of defending fan rights. I haven’t seen Henry Jenkins blogging about this like he did with that other company. The fan outrage hasn’t gotten to the point where the folks over at Making Light, a for profit press, have started to weigh in on the side of their fandom brethren to complain about how another corporation is unfairly taking advantage of their fannish brethren.
There isn’t any outrage and despite the so called lessons that the company taught us, nothing changes. The organization created to protect us does nothing. Why? Because really, who cares? This is Britney Spears. And that contest? It isn’t going to have any affect on fans like those that are involved with the organization. The Britney Spears contest isn’t going to challenge those fans perceived status in the fan community. They aren’t going to think that they are less than top dogs because of the Britney contest. So you see, the organization is going to sit quietly by while fans get screwed. Isn’t it lovely? That’s why we need them in fandom… to not document this, to not bring this to our attention, to not lobby for change that they could actually get done.
There is no outrage and there continues to be no organization, no group of people dedicated to protecting fan rights when corporations cross the line. And that makes me sad.