Yesterday, the fanfiction platform Archive of Our Own won the Hugo Award for Best Related Work. The Hugo Awards are given for excellence in science fiction and fantasy, and are widely considered the most prestigious honor in the genre.
Archive of Our Own (AO3) is the flagship project of the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW). AO3 is a nonprofit, volunteer-run, multilingual platform that supports over 5 million pieces of fanfiction, fan art, and fan podcasts across more than thirty thousand fandoms.
The following can be attributed to Meredith Rose, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:
“AO3 is an ad-free site that is created, maintained, and populated entirely by volunteer fans. It is living proof that communities can and do create spaces that serve their needs, from the ground up. From the site’s immense technical achievements, to its embrace of international writers fleeing oppressive speech restrictions, to its donation-funded business model, to its advocacy for preserving and expanding fair use, AO3 and OTW are models for the web and how we should strive to exist within it.
“Importantly, when accepting the award, the OTW delegation asked for anyone in the audience who was part of the AO3 community to stand and accept the award with them. In response, a full third of the room of professional authors, editors, artists, journalists, commenters and publishers stood. It was a watershed moment that upended the outdated image of readers and consumers as passive recipients.
“First, it demonstrated that fans are not passive recipients of work, but interact, remix, transform, and comment on copyrighted works in a host of active — and sometimes transgressive or controversial — ways, and do so in a communal setting where these new works are shared freely among one another. Second, it destroyed the stereotype of fanfiction writers as young amateurs. Instead, it showed that these practices are central to the culture of many writers and communities, and embraced by professional, full-time creators. We need to do away with the myth that authors and fans are separate communities with separate priorities once and for all.
“Fanfiction authors standing and being acknowledged by the most prestigious awards in science fiction was a powerful moment of visibility for a community that existentially depends on robust fair use protections in copyright. We will continue to fight for a system which uplifts and defends this kind of work, now and in the future.”