|See also:||The Fannish Potlatch, Fandom and Profit|
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Gift Economy is a social science term that refers to a system where things are given with out any formalized system of exchange.
In fannish terms, gift economy refers to the process of fans making fanworks available openly and freely without any formalized requirement that anything be given in return.
Many fans believe that the gift economy is part of what makes fanworks legal. It is common to see something in disclaimers about no money being made. (See Fair Use for more information on the legal status of fanworks.)
Just because fans often offer their works without requiring anything in return, doesn't mean they don't expect to receive something. Most fans expect some kind of feedback that acknowledges their work, or as Rachel Sabotini discusses in The Fannish Potlatch, the value of works can also be seen in the status the fan holds in fandom.
From an article in L.A. Weekly (December 2009): "Women would write stories as part of what Prof. Penley calls a 'gift economy.' In slash fandom, where almost everyone is a writer, you create something, hoping it will inspire someone else to write another story. It’s a sexed-up game of Exquisite Corpse. 'In other words, I will write this really hot story, and maybe in turn you will write one for me. They’re doing it for their own pleasure,” she says'." From a fan reacting to the Kindle Worlds announcement in 2013:
With all due respect... being monetarily compensated for fanfic isn’t a “better deal.” Gift culture has is own rewards—development of friendships, positive feedback, infectious ideas—and most of us delight in subverting the social standard and corporate norm. Making a deal at all would be selling our souls to the very devils we’re out to get. 
Internet Based Fandoms
Internet fandom today offers a host of free spaces where fans can share fanworks of all kinds. Services like Livejournal, Youtube, DeviantArt, the AO3 or fanfiction.net also provide fans with tools to measure hit counts, and all have commenting systems that allow the feedback on a work to be seen by everyone and for it to remain attached to the work.
Sometimes Money Changes Hands
Some fanworks are exchanged for money. Zines, some forms of fanart, vids on discs have all been "sold" to fans for amounts that range from some of the costs of production and distribution to larger amounts that may move the work out of the gift economy and into the market economy. Fandom cultures vary, and fans have differing opinions about the issue of selling fanworks for what is or is perceived to be a profit.
See Fandom and Profit.
Fandom and Female
Some people argue that fandom and fanworks, often predominately female-consumed and generated, aren't taken seriously because they aren't done for money, the primary legitimization of a product or activity in the mundane world. (need some quotes on this very stubby section)
- What Price Fandom by Arduinna, (September 2005)
- Sherlockology and Galactica.tv: Fan sites as gifts or exploited labor? by Bertha Chin (2014)
- Fan work: Labor, worth, and participation in fandom's gift economy by Tisha Turk (2014)
- WoMEN’s Work: Representing Fan Labor on Heroes of Cosplay; WebCite, In Media Res (May 2015)
- Wikipedia:Gift_economy, accessed December 1, 2010
- Man on Man: The New Gay Romance ... by Gendy Alimurung, accessed 12.14.2010
- comment by Scole, Kindle Worlds: Instant Thoughts, posted May 22, 2013, accessed May 28, 2013