Blogger Lis Riba did some looking around on Teh Intarweebs for more information on FanLib, the “legal” fan fiction site sponsored by a number of media companies, and found this .pdf brochure in which the company pitches the FanLib fanfic experience to content creators, and in doing so reveals that they don’t actually understand how fan fiction works in the slightest, they’re under the mistaken impression that they’re going to be able to control how stories get written, and that most fanfic writers will be pleased to have their work subsequently hijacked by others.
For example, on page 3 of the .pdf file, in the “Managed and Moderated to the Max” heading, FanLib touts to media folks “a customized environment YOU control,” in which “players must ‘stay within the lines'” with “restrictive terms-of-service,” a “profanity filter” and “full monitoring & management of submissions.” And here’s the kicker: “Completed work is just 1st draft to be polished by the pros.”
Now, I don’t pretend to be incredibly intimate with the thought processes of fan writers, but honestly. Telling a fervent fanficcer he or she can only write a certain approved way? Yeah, that’s going to work. Also, personally speaking, there’s only one way I’d allow anyone to consider any story I wrote as a “1st draft to be polished by pros,” and that would be if there were payment involved of at least the WGA minimum (which, for an hour-long drama, would be $12,299, thank you very much). Otherwise they could kiss my ass, fanfic or not. It’s important to note that nowhere in the FanLib brochure is the idea that fan writers might get financially compensated for their work.
So here’s the thing: Fanfic writers appear to have two choices here: Accept that what they’re doing is fundamentally a violation of copyright and do it on the down low, and in doing so, have the freedom to play with the characters they love any way they want — or play the FanLib game, in which they’re controlled and exploited as cheap labor by the copyright holders. Again, I’m not someone who writes fanfic, but if I were, I know which of these I’d be doing, and it’s not the one that has a brochure attached.