Fanlib

May. 21st, 2007 10:40 pm
kitesareevil: (coffee)
[personal profile] kitesareevil
At first I was writing Fanlib off as a ludicrous idea because of the obvious stupidity factor. You aren't supposed to make money off of anything involving fandom. It's one of the rules that I've always followed and I know I've had my share of laughs at those who have attempt to make some sort of profit off of their fandom. Even if it is just in ad revenue, they are still putting something on the line, and it sure isn't their playground: it's ours. And Mr. Chris Williams et al seem to know that very well.

I found this first through Fandom_Wank and I did my usual lolling before going back to whatever it was I was supposed to do today that ended up not getting done because I was playing detective. I spoke with [personal profile] savvyliterate who was worried about this, and the two of us read the Fanlib TOS together. I recommend reading [profile] angiepen's look at the TOS to see what's going on here. Basically the TOS are written in such a way that even though Fanlib is hosting the fanfic, and making money off of the fanfic via ad revenue (I don't know how else they are), they will take no responsibility for any legal action and it is still on you, the author, who is NOT making the money. In addition, by allowing them to host your fanfic they are allowed to edit and distribute it in any way they see possible.

Why yes, I believe that would include publishing it in some type of anthology or elsewhere. Perhaps even into the shows themselves. As long as it somehow ties to the website.

It was at that point that [personal profile] savvyliterate brought up the possibility that there could be a writer's strike in Hollywood starting this summer. Nothing official, but it's out there and the studios are planning on a just in case. Why yes, this is entering conspiracy theory mode, hang in there though, it might make sense if I drink a little more and slant it sideways. No really, this is just what got us talking and thinking about what's going on.

Bunny and I started to investigate with what we had, which wasn't too much. We found a press release which describes five backers in Fanlib as HarperCollins, Penguin Books, Showtime Networks, Simon & Schuster, and Starz Entertainment.

Simon & Schuster and Showtime Networks are both a part of CBS Corporation, which also has a 50% interest in the CW. Starz is owned by Liberty Media who has an interest in AOL/Time Warner. AOL/Time Warner is the corporate giant behind Turner Broadcasting Networks, and who has the other 50% of the CW to consider plus a few other things. I don't know, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. come to mind there. HarperCollins is a very large publishing house which is owned by News Corporation, aka FOX. Penguin books is one of the largest children's book publishers in the world. So what does that mean? Those are some big names supporting this FANFIC archive.

WHY?!

That's a great question, let's keep looking.

Chris B. Williams is a small time producer who is a part of a production company called My2Centences. For some reason when he registered his domain name for MY2Centences, he registered it under another company name called "Big Slick Entertainment" which is also listed as a production company that has made one movie. I feel like I'm in a very not fun circle jerk. On the front page of My2Centences is this advertisement for Fanlib:

"Fanlib. Introducing the new, turnkey entertainment marketing solution that lets a mass consumer audience create original scripts collectively and democratically. FANLIB recently made a successful debut with THE POTTER PROJECT."

The Potter Project is now defunct, but when active apparently went to the Fanlib website. There are still traces of it to be found from 2003 until early 2004 on the wayback machine. At that point wayback is unable to track the website anymore even though they show it existing. This is probably because the website's owners put a block on spiderbots, which would not allow wayback to take pictures of the webpages. The Potter Project was also being supported by Snitchseeker.com a large Harry Potter FAN site. I am unsure of why or how they were in this, or even what this project was supposed to be doing.

Fanlib, apparently, is no longer a part of My2Centences, though both websites are registered to Chris Williams and he and others on the staff are still linked between the two.

Fanlib's existence was much different than how it exists today, but the same people were running it with the same logo of "People Powered Entertainment." Instead they were doing:

"COLLABORATIVE STORYTELLING FOR THE PEOPLE!

Driven by a revolutionary patent pending technology two-years in development, FANLIB lets a mass audience collectively and democratically create original scripts one scene at a time."


They lost me at "patent pending" because there is no explanation, really, of what this technology even is. Unless they're trying to patent round robins. The only thing that I can think of is this, which shows that by typing in non script form they can convert it to script form. And "two years in the making" now sets us back into 2001.

So, the people powered entertainment company is trying to get fans to write scripts. For Harry Potter. Three years later, in 2006, Showtime's TV series "The L Word" would be the target. And by target I mean social experiment. "L Word" suffered from poor ratings and instead of simply writing a new round robin fanfic together, Fanlib partnered with Showtime and created a contest for fans. What are now called Fanisodes were created. Which means that fans were writing scripts for the show in the hopes of their script being used in the future for the actual show.

Pretty neat, huh?

That's what David B. Williams thought when he wrote this article in support of Fanisodes. David B. Williams is one of the co-founders of Fanlib, so take that with some salt. But the ratings did go up, and the fans did enjoy it. I guess we'll have a cookie in celebration. Well, I would if it didn't sound like they were attempting to milk fans instead of using actual creativity from writers to write stories that would engage people.

In a 2003 interview Chris Williams had this to say about fanfics:

"These are complete episodes of existing entertainment properties penned by civilians, not by Hollywood," [Chris Williams] says. "The fan-fiction phenomenon cries out to be harnessed by a mass distributor of entertainment as an audience- participation promotional tool."

So what does that mean? Basically it seems that Chris Williams has been attempting to find a way to exploit the fandom market for years. He found a working model in "write your own script and we'll try to publish it" with "The L Word" and he ran tests in "The Potter Project" which was a safe fandom to try it out in. JK Rowling is pretty lax in her fanfic policies.

So, why would they need such big investors and large media corporations backing them? Because if Fanlib has found a way to properly manipulate the fans into churning out scripts (or ideas) and all they have to do is sometimes throw a shirt their way? Wow, that's hella cheap compared to paying a writer. Or someone else who is doing actual advertising.

Fanlib is trying to sell something to other people, not to fanfic writers. Fanlib has been trying to take advantage of fandom since at least 2003, probably since 2001, and I have a hard time believing the fanfic authors interests are anywhere on the agenda. If something similar to what was done with "The L Word" than he is looking for people to help the corporations write future scripts (or anything else), and last I checked that wasn't my job, not for free. But if you put your fanfics there, who is to say that that won't happen? The TOS says it can as long as it's 'connected with the website' and being a sponsor isn't that hard to do.

Speaking of the other members of the board, let's take a quick look at them. We've got the above mentioned David Williams, who is apparently the one who takes care of a lot of the web design. He's 'known for' creating Whirlgirl, which is supposed to be something important. I've never heard of it. Craig Singer is a screen writer and director of several independent films. Yeah, I'm starting to notice this trend of people being 'famous.'

The one that really got me was Jonathan D. Moonves, who is a senior partner in the law firm Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finkelstein & Lezcano. He is listed as an "advisor." Ri~ight. Some research showed that Moonves is the brother of Les Moonves, current head of CBS. It also shows that the law firm appears to be one that I would never afford, and I don't think I'd want to: I ask what lawyer in their right mind would allow this to happen? The other one that was interesting was David Shen of David Shen Ventures who is a specialist in helping start up internet companies. In fact, the first sentence on his website says "David Shen Ventures, LLC works with entrepreneurs and startups to give them an edge over the competition." What competition? Are you going to shut down The Pit of Voles so something worse can rise in it's place? Cause that'd be Fanlib, and we're good, thanks.

But perhaps those of Fanlib should follow Mr. Shen's advice of "take care of your users and listen to them" and "let the consumer decide" which is listed both on his page and on theirs. They may not have any real competition, but they sure don't know what the hell they're doing.

Someone on F_W suggested that they were in this in order to get tax breaks, and I think that's a possibility, too. There's something going on, and maybe you didn't need all of this for me to just say "they're attempting to exploit us" but I don't like to throw things out without cause. Some of this seems out there, but at the same time I think I've been online long enough that it just doesn't seem that far out there.

I can't deny that fanfiction advertises, but that's not why I wrote it. I wrote it because I wanted to. Because there was an unanswered question in an episode of Inuyasha, or because maybe I thought that twinkle in Dumbledore's eye in book 4 was weird. I sure as hell didn't write it because Hollywood became too stupid to promote their series and not know what their fans wanted. I'm a fan, I'll write fanfiction, but I am not going to allow you to exploit me and write your show for you.

Below are links to others who I've seen discussing it, but I guess my conclusion is that if you have put your fanfics on there I would recommend taking them off. They are a corporation, this is them attempting to exploit us, and they are just asking for us to tattoo "welcome" on our asses.

Fuck that.

EDIT (05/23/2007): I hate being right.

Telesilla, where Chris William joins the discussion!

Cofax discusses the website.

A VERY good summary of what has been going on by Icarusancalion

Morandawn gives more background on Fanlib

Stewardess posts about Fanlib and more links than I know what to do with! Very much worth a check out.
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