The separation between fandom as a subcultural social practice and the mainstreaming of fan culture wherein “fannish values and reading practices spread across the entire viewing public” in ways supported by media corporations is noteworthy (Jenkins 2006). In the mainstreaming of fan practice, media industries use the labor of fandom, whose practices have been altered and molded, in service of another group of fans, ultimately for corporate gain. While mainstream fans might become members of fandom, as Jenkins points out, the Star Trek fan film guidelines place fans associated with fandom in the middle of a tug-of-war between corporations and mainstream fans. This tug-of-war parallels the structure of the Axanar case: where Peters might have taken advantage of other fans’ donations and engaged in copyright infringement, the corporation prepares to regift and control fan films, using the labor of one fan group to generate support for mainstream fan platforms. As Stanfill concludes about media industries appropriating fan labor, “The same corporations filing takedown requests on fan transformative works are quite willing to appropriate fan labor by monetizing those works, and they often profit from appropriating other artists who never get to count as artists” (137). In this scenario, neither Peters nor Paramount/CBS seem especially ethical. There is realized and potential exploitation on both sides.

Lerner, Sarah Elizabeth. 2018. “Fan Film on the Final Frontier: Axanar Productions and the Limits of Fair Use in the Digital Age.” In “The Future of Fandom,” special 10th anniversary issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 28.
Tagged on: