May 26, 2007
Fan Videos and Lucasfilm

I was interested by the recent news that Lucasfilm wants to empower fan proselytism of its forthcoming animated television series by making some of its copyrighted material available for fans to create their own videos about the show, through Eyespot.

In short, the company has made the tools available on its Star Wars Web site, which features "a Web browser-based, drag and drop editing application that allows fans to play with copyright media without having to download additional software to their computers," according to TelevisionWeek's Alex Romanelli.

Since Lucasfilm hopes to create 100 episodes of the series before it ever shops it around, the company would benefit greatly from creating as much goodwill from its fans as possible during this process, so that there will be as much demand for the product as possible once the 100 episodes are "in the can" (in a metaphorical sense, of course).

What fascinated me most is Romanelli's linking this to Sci Fi's decision to make an online library of clips available, as well as tools for sound and visual effects and editing to enable the production of fan films.

But these issues raise some of the questions brought up in the firestorm of controversy over at Henry Jenkins site about FanLib. After Ivan wrote this piece here last week, Henry wrote about Transforming Fan Culture into User-Generated Content and then provided this interview with FanLib's Chris Williams.

These types of contests raise similar questions. Even as it is empowering, on the one hand, for companies to be more willing to allow people to play in this "fair use" space, there are concerns on the other end that companies can then use these sometimes "neutered" spaces to then prosecute non-authorized user-generated content more actively.

It's too early to tell if that's the case here, and I would say that in both companies' cases, the benefits of allowing space for user-generated content would be damaged by active prosecution and prohibition of any unauthorized content if the activities are primarily meant for brand-building among the fan base.'

In other words, I'll take these developments as positives and further movement toward creating places of potential collaboration, rather than secret plans for fan exploitation. It will be interesting to see how much updated or new content will be put in such repositories as time goes on and how open the contests will be to fan creations that are completely "outside-the-box" of what was expected.