Podfic Permission

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Related terms: Blanket Permission to Podfic
See also: Permission to Archive, Blanket Statement, Blanket No to Podfic, Unauthorized Sequel, Sharing Deleted Fanworks
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Obtaining permission to podfic a fan writer's fanfic is the norm within the English-language podfic community and within the fanfic fandoms they typically make podfic for. Many podficcers ask permission before starting to work on a podfic, but some ask only when or if they decide they want to post their podfic on the internet.

There have been a number of discussions regarding whether or not permission should be required, especially in cases where the author cannot be reached. There has also been a trend toward more authors posting blanket permission statements to encourage podfic of their work or at least not have to field so many individual inquiries.

Pre-history in Zine Fandom

Fan Fiction Audio Recording has been around since long before podfic, but available information about permission etiquette in the past is sparse.

Started in 1992, The Fanzine-Taping Service for Blind and Print Handicapped Readers recorded zine fanfic with the permission of the publisher, but made it available only to sight-impaired fans with special tape players; the tapes would not play on regular machines.

A discussion that was documented revolved around providing access to zines for blind fans and others with physical difficulties reading the printed page. A 1984 letter in Universal Translator #23 requested feedback on audio sharing without permission:

I've recently become involved in a tape correspondence with an ST fan who is visually handicapped, and have been taping an occasional story from one of my fanzines to sent to her. In all honesty, I don't feel this is abusing anyone's rights or violating anyone's copyright, any more than the very common practice of lending out or trading zines. The basic question I'm posing here is: At what point does the practice stop being friendly sharing and become zine piracy? Suppose the tape is passed to a third party and beyond? Or suppose someone should decide to produce multiple copies of tapes for general distribution? Obviously, at some point, permission to sued the material is necessary. At what point? And who is authorized to give it -- the author, the zine editor, or both? There is also the question of reimbursement. If multiple copies are made, is a contributor's copy in order? If the tapes are sold at a profit, are royalties to be expected? And in either case, who is entitled to that reimbursement -- again, the author or editor?

A response by Susan Garrett two issues later gives us an early example of a blanket permission statement:

... I hereby give permission to audio tape any amateur story written under my name, or a pseudonym, for the purposes of making the material available to handicapped fans. Also, as an editor, I am will ing to contact contributors to my zines, should there be an interest in having one of their stories verbally transcribed.[1]

Blanket Permission, etc.

See also Blanket Permission to Podfic

Some fanfic authors give blanket permission for anyone to create podfics based on their writing. Before blanket podfic permission statements became widespread, individual enthusiasts or mods for podfic communities would post asking if authors were okay with fans podficcing their works, and authors would leave their permission statements in the comments section of the post. Examples include the Amplificathon post[2] and the Multipodicity blanket permission list. [3] Many authors on AO3 or LiveJournal now post their blanket statement on their user profile page.

Sometimes the blanket statement includes caveats or limitations on that permission, such as specific works that are not to be podficced. In 2011 Paraka noted that many blanket statements excluded fanfic that had already been podficced and speculated that the authors might be assuming that podficcers would not want repods.[4] Meanwhile, many fan writers post podfic-friendly statements that don't meet the criteria of blanket permission necessary for inclusion on the list — authors would say they liked podfic, but still wanted to be asked first.[4] A very common request is to ask podficcers to link to the original work and alert the author (usually so that they can squee over it); akamine chan suggested in a 2012 Pod Aware for authors to think carefully about whether to mandate or simply encourage conditions such as "Drop me a link to the completed work,"[5] though some people took offense at the implication that authors hadn't already thought through the wording of their permission policies.[6]

Very few authors have issued a formal Blanket No to Podfic, although some authors without a blanket permission statement have been known to say no when asked.

Effects of Permission

Anecdotal evidence suggests that most authors, when asked, say yes. However, requiring permission is seen as a difficult hurdle for podficcers who are shy about asking and fear rejection.[7][8] Some have commented that receiving a "no" response actually killed their enjoyment of the original story. Other reasons for podficcers' reluctance include feeling obligated to finish the project if they receive permission and fearing to make the author feel obligated to listen[9][10]. Tales of uncomfortable encounters between authors and podficcers have circulated widely in the podfic community — incidents where authors didn't understand what they were agreeing to[11] or for one reason or another retroactively revoked the permission after the podfic was posted. As a result, authors who have said yes in the past are much more likely to be podficced again as people take note that they are receptive to podfic requests.

On the author side, thefourthvine reported email anxiety as an author when faced with podfic permission requests.[12] It has also been pointed out that authors who particularly don't want podfic may not respond to permission requests due to anxiety about saying no.[13]

One solution to the problem of shy and sensitive podficcers (and authors) that has been championed in many a meta post is to encourage more authors to post a statement of blanket permission to podfic. This solution has been promoted as both a good way to avoid the stress of asking and as a good way for authors who want to be podficced to get more podfic. A comment on Fail Fandomanon points out another benefit of blanket permission:

[Anxiety is] an important factor, yes, but another big reason why it's advocated is simple convenience, since when you want to podfic you can start right away and don't need to put time and energy into the communication or choosing a new project when you get a 'no' (because yes, most podficcers do respect a 'no'). When you podfic a lot that adds up, windows of time where you can do something open and close and having a list of authors who give a blanket yes is simply a great resource. They serve podficcers well and they serve authors well who don't want to repeat themselves. Now I can see that some FFAers will find that desire unjustified and tell people to just pick a different hobby if they want spontaneity but I really can't blame people for advocating policies that make their lives easier.[14]

Starting in 2010[15] podficcers have been maintaining lists of authors who give blanket permission. (One copy of the multi-fandom masterlist is maintained on Fanlore itself.) After the initial idea of compiling lists of authors who gave blanket permission to podfic, podficcers began encouraging blanket statements other than a straightforward yes; authors could also signal their interest in podfic with a statement of "probably yes, but please ask first". Although a few regard a blanket statement requesting that podficcers ask first as pointless (asking is the default in the absence of a policy), others have pointed out that in an environment where some authors are actively hostile to podfic, such a statement is very useful.

Commentators have noted that this has been a successful campaign, and including a "transformative works statement" has become a standard practice among many authors. (As of August 2013, following many rounds of FFA podfic wank, there appeared to be some backlash as some authors who did not want to give blanket permission perceived a social pressure to conform.[16] However, after the death of the epic wank, this issue hasn't resurfaced. People may also have stopped complaining because podficcers were no longer campaigning as hard for everyone to make a blanket statement. Finally, a lot of these discussions also happened on journal services now inhabited only by a single tumbleweed.)

In the Context of Fandom's Views of Podfic

Podfic's status as a niche activity within the larger fanfic community may have a direct impact on what podfic can be produced. Some fan writers are very protective of their fanfic and will withhold permission, given the opportunity. Many fans have simply never heard of podfic. Many do not see podfic as a separate artistic creation[17] and so do not comprehend the enormity of retroactively removing permission.[18][19] Many do not see the appeal.[20][21] Some say it gives them second-hand embarrassment.[22] Some have even expressed disgust at the thought of listening to explicit fanfic read aloud.[23][24]

For many reasons, not all fanfic writers are on board with podfic, and a few have issued a blanket no. Consequently, the distribution of available podfic is as much an indication of who the podfic-friendly authors are as it is an indication of who the popular authors are.

Some podficcers have responded to fandom's lack of awareness of podfic by trying to educate fandom — making individual meta posts or creating challenges and fests such as Pod Aware. In response to several publicized misunderstandings in 2010, revolutionaryjo started a trend in writing a generic "dear author" letter to clearly outline the podficcer's expectations when an author grants permission.[25]

Discussion and Controversies

There is a range of opinion among podficcers (and fandom as a whole) regarding permission. Whether or not requiring permission in the first place is necessary or good has been a topic of debate in some podfic communities and anon memes like Fail Fandomanon. However, issues of permission are implicated in several different meta discussion topics.

Orphan Works

A problem that is brought up frequently is what to do when permission cannot be obtained because the fan writer cannot be contacted. It can be difficult to determine whether the fanfic is truly abandoned or whether the writer is simply not checking their email. Furthermore, some fan writers have died, email accounts stop working, websites and user accounts disappear, and there is no agreement on whether it is okay to proceed in these cases.

Permission requirements disproportionately affect fans who want to podfic older fanfic and especially zine fic[26]; many zine writers are not online. People have argued that permission prevents the preservation of and fannish engagement with old fanfic. In 2010 zvi commented,

if we have a politeness standard that says, 'You should ask the author,' and one is unable to ask, the politeness standard then implies, 'Too bad, so sad, all of that fic for which an author cannot be found is now unavailable for additional transformation.' And I think that's a great loss.[27]

The rising popularity of anonymous kink memes resulted in questions about whether podficcers should (or could) get permission from anonymous authors, especially when authors frequently "de-anonned" after the fact, but didn't always add a notice at the original URL of the fic.[28] In a 2010 podficmeta post, paraka commented, "Not only will I not know if whomever answers my request for permission is the real author, some authors might not be tracking comments to the ficlets so they may never see it. My impulse is to just go ahead without author's permission but, well, it's such a touchy subject."[29] In a 2012 podficmeta post, anatsuno said,

Personally, I view anon-posting as a practice that comes with a price; the fact that you-the-author are hard to identify is a feature and a bug both. If you haven't de-anoned (by reposting a/o by claiming the fill in the meme itself), you are "protected" in your anonymity, but you also *cannot* claim ownership. Hence there is no reason that your socially-non-existent ownership be socially acknowledged or respected. So in my view, if a podficcer does their best to track the author down (checking for reposts in communities and archives, asking around, and most of all signalling their intentions by posting on the meme in the relevant thread(s)) and they're not receiving any answer, the story is fair game.[30]

A 2014 discussion in a Phoenix Wright kink meme[31] showed that some memers emphatically did not consider anonymous works to be abandoned works and would rather anonymous works not be podficced at all due to the difficulty of obtaining permission:

I appreciate what you're doing because I think it's creative and fantastic but I think there are better ways to go about it... below are a whole host of keen authors offering their work and I think authors contacted on Ao3 would be delighted. If an author declined, at least you'd know for certain what their wishes were and could use work by someone who fully supports you instead.[32]

When the question — So what's the best policy when you want to do a podfic, for a fanfic but the author hasn't been seen on the internet for forever — was posed anonymously on Fail Fandomanon[33], it generated a diversity of responses, including:

  • If you can't contact them, go ahead and post.
  • If you can't contact them, go ahead and post, but be prepared to take it down again if they resurface and object.
  • If you can't get permission, you can't post.

Retracting Permission

At one time (circa 2010?), distressed podficcers were reporting cases where fan writers who had formerly given permission revoked permission and requested that the podfic be taken down. Fans differ on whether the podficcer should honor the author's request. In fact, fans differ on whether the author's reason for making the request is relevant to the podficcer's decision:

  • "as a podficcer, I would never ever take my podfic down if asked by an author unless they had a REALLY STELLAR REASON. I'd take their name off, lock it to ao3 members etc, but I wouldn't take it down."[34]
  • "This is horrifying. As a writer, I don't need to justify to anyone why I deserve to remove my own work from the internet."[35]

Podficcers reported that a few authors who were deleting their fanfic have asked them to take down their podfic. In 2010, general jinjur commented that "if an author gafiates from fandom, there is a 50/50 chance that she will ask the podfic of her stories to be pulled down."[36] Sometimes the podficcer was able to simply remove references to the author after negotiating with the author.

During the 2013 FFA podfic wank, some fans argued that it shouldn't matter why the author wants a takedown, because the story belongs to that author.[37] Others argued that the whole reason for asking permission in the first place was to avoid precisely this situation.[38]

Since then, the permission retraction issue seems to have faded away. In a November 2014 Pod Aware podcast, klb reported that takedowns no longer seemed to be an issue; although takedown requests used to happen on a monthly basis, she hadn't seen any for two and a half years.[39] In an April 2016 Auralphonic podcast, paraka reported that she had tried to get numbers of actual confirmed takedowns and came up with "definitely less than 10, probably no more than 5." There had been two cases total of an author contacting the Audiofic Archive retracting permission (instances where the author contacted the podficcer, and the podficcer contacted the archive were not counted). Paraka explained that the discrepancy between the numbers and the importance of the issue in people's minds was due to early podfic fandom being very small and close-knit.[40]

Requiring Permission, Pros and Cons

Arguments Against Requiring Permission

Although most podficcers do not actively campaign for wholesale abandonment of asking permission[41], various arguments have been put forth as to why this practice is questionable. Arguments include: no one should expect control over a fanwork once it is posted publicly on the Internet, it isn't fair to impose restrictions on other people's fan activity, it creates unequal power relations between podficcers and authors, and only fanfiction (as opposed to fan art or fanvids) ever got such privileged treatment in the first place. The inability to podfic orphan fanfics has also been used as an example of why requiring permission at all is bad.

In any discussion about permission and fanworks, some have pointed to the hypocrisy of having to ask permission from another fanwork creator when it is not considered necessary to ask the canon creator's permission. Very few fan writers would consider, for example, the wishes of professional authors to be relevant to whether or not they decide to write fanfic.

Arguments for Requiring Permission

One major reason often cited for requiring permission to podfic is that the podfic in a sense is a copy of the fanfic in a different format. Although the podficcer's work in performing and editing and packaging the podfic is creative, podfics normally contain the entire text of the original story and are in a legal sense derivative, rather than transformative, works. Podfics are the fannish equivalent of audiobooks and, like audiobooks, normally cannot be distributed without an agreement with the original copyright holder (there are some exceptions for services to the blind in U.S. copyright law).

There is a similar community norm that opposes the archiving of fic without permission. Reasons for this norm include: it's the polite thing to do; the writer should have the right to control where their fic is published; and if the writer needs to take their fic down for any reason, they can do so easily.[42] One notable exception to this norm is Twilight fandom, where authors so frequently pull to publish that at least one archive exists to repost fic without permission; according to giselle, Twilight is a lesson in what not to do, as it has devolved into "a spiral where pulling begets reposting which begets more pulling and that whole situation just leaves authors and readers at each other's throats with pitchforks".[43]

The importance of maintaining good will within the fandom community is also cited as a reason to ask permission. Unlike the canon creators, fanfic writers move in the same circles as podficcers. It is not even possible in many cases to ask permission of TPTB, but fan writers are in theory just an email away. Even podficcers who question the sense in continuing to require permission have said that they would always ask permission because not doing so would result in hurt feelings and backlash from the community.

kindkit argues that podfic's relationship to fanfic is not comparable to fanfic's relationship to canon.[44]

Meta Discussion Links

Permission Masterlist Links

Fandom-specific Blanket Permission Lists

Fire_juggler also maintains a list of lists here.

See Also

References

  1. Susan Garrett. Letter printed in Universal Translator #25, January/March 1985.
  2. podmod, permission to record? *\o/*, posted March 29, 2010.
  3. paraka, Blanket Permission, posted August 3, 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 podcast with jenepod, paraka and revolutionaryjo. Pod Aware Day 2 - Blanket Permission. Posted 7 November 2011.
  5. akamine chan. I want 15 minutes of your time. Seriously, this is important. posted to Dreamwidth 14 November 2012.
  6. legionseagle. Re: Recording before permission sought posted to Dreamwidth 27 August 2013.
  7. Says fire_juggler, "The angst around asking permission and waiting for permission is deep and unknowable." Pondering Transformative Works, Blanket Permission, and Transformation in General. Posted to LiveJournal 23 June 2012. (Accessed 7 April 2013.)
  8. Says Paraka, "I think there's a lot of shy podficcers.... The shy ones are more drawn to the blanket permission authors." podcast with jenepod, paraka and revolutionaryjo. Podfic Awareness Week - Pod Aware Day 2 - Blanket Permission. Posted 7 November 2011.
  9. fuckyeahpodficplatypus. May 5, 2013 Tumblr post.
  10. The idea that authors had to at least pretend to like the podfic was widespread enough to prompt at least one Dreamwidth post to announce in giant sparkly letters that "It's totally fine" to not like the podfic. See A note to authors who are not podfic fans, from me, sophinisba, posted 29 March 2012.
  11. For example, one author was very surprised to discover that the November 2010 podfic she gave permission for would be uploaded to the Audiofic Archive and that it was traditional on Amplificathon for a third party to make cover art and convert the file to an mp4 audiobook. Her comments to the post appear to have been deleted, but see these podbook posts: November 22, 2010 livejournal post, dreamwidth mirror
  12. thefourthvine. {Meta} Permissions Statements Are Awesome. Dreamwidth post 24 August 2013.
  13. September 1, 2013 anon comment in Protective Measures: Avoiding Awkward Podfic Situations
  14. 28 August 2013 comment on Fail Fandomanon
  15. Multipodicity's list was created August 3, 2010 and was the first of its kind. Before that, there were posts collecting statements in the comments, but no organized lists.
  16. legionseagle. Podfic Permissions meta, posted 26 August 2013.
  17. For example, see this anon comment in a June 9, 2013 Fail Fandomanon thread: "It's hard for me to think of podfic on the same level as fanworks which involve a greater application of creativity...It seems more like a labour intensive way of reformatting a story, like putting it into a better font and indenting the margins and stripping out garish colour scheme choices so it can be read more easily." Same thread, two days later: "Someone else's fanwork? It's their own fanwork, just in a different format. And, yeah, if the author wants a podfic version, they should think about how to host their fanwork."
  18. general_jinjur. untitled Dreamwidth post, 15 June 2010. "there's an attitude with podfic, in some circles, that it is a service that readers should be grateful to be allowed to provide. this is linked to the idea that they are allowed to record stories at the sufferance of the author, that they are recording in order to grab at some piece of reflected glory that by right belongs only to the author."
  19. "But there's always the fear that because the author's are only interested in my podfic as it applies to them that they aren't going to... I don't know. Take into consideration what the podfic means to me and others. In some ways, as horrible as it sounds, I almost welcome the indifference from authors because maybe then they'll forget about what I've done and just leave me with it." Paraka. The Fannish Life of a Podficer. Posted to Dreamwidth 18 October 2010.
  20. See, for example, these responses to a Fandom Secrets post decrying overly defensive podficcers and their assertion that podfic is a creative fanwork "on a par with fic or art." The contents of the thread prompted one anon to remark, "For the record, this anon doesn't especially care which "level" vocal performance gets on your ranking of creativity, but I am seriously starting to see where the podficcers are coming from." 22 Jnauary 2013 comment.
  21. There are also plenty of reasons why someone might not personally enjoy podfic without declaring that people who enjoy it are weird. See klb. Negative Attitudes About Podfic: A Guided Tour. Posted to podficmeta 8 July 2012. (Accessed 7 April 2013.)
  22. A Google search for podfic + "second hand embarrassment" gets 2400 results. A September 19, 2012 example on fail_fandomanon. A dreamwidth discussion on the origin and nature of podfic-related embarrassment squicks.
  23. In her 2012 roundup post of negative attitudes toward podfic, klb noted the trend in people thinking that "[t]he idea of reading porn aloud is inherently gross/creepy/laughable/mockable", but remarked that the situation had actually improved; "where once I couldn't go two days without seeing someone, somewhere, calling podfic gross, creepy, disgusting, laughable, I now go months at a time without encountering a single instance of that." klb. Negative Attitudes About Podfic: A Guided Tour. Posted to podficmeta 8 July 2012. (Accessed 7 April 2013.)
  24. One commenter in a Fail Fandomanon thread offered an explanation for why they didn't want to listen to porny podfic: "For approximately the same reason I wouldn't go watch a live version of a porn movie being put on at the local community theater, I think. :) I might run into that person at the grocery store! I need some separation!" Re: Podfic's validity as a genre, and AO3's problems as an archive for all fanwork, posted 19 September 2012. (Accessed 8 April 2013.)
  25. In her original post, dated 18 October 2010, revolutionaryjo remarked, "There have been a lot of discussions floating around about podfic lately that are making me realize just how easily miscommunication can happen between a podficcer and an author." See also paraka's signal-boosting post, dated 21 October 2010. For another example, see lunchy munchy's Dear Author letter, posted 25 October 2010.
  26. paraka. comment in general_jinjur's post, posted 16 June 2010.
  27. comment thread started by zvi, 2010-01-24. See also Question on Permission, a September 2012 podfic_tips post.
  28. taste of water. Kinkmeme fics, to pod or not to pod? posted in podficmeta, 14 April 2012.
  29. paraka. Author Permission Question posted in podficmeta, 20 August 2010.
  30. anatsuno. 2012-04-14 comment posted to podficmeta.
  31. NOT COOL. thread started 2014-08-19 in pw_kink_meme.
  32. 2014-08-20 mod response in pw_kink_meme.
  33. anonymous June 9, 2013 comment posted to Fail Fandomanon: So what's the best policy when you want to do a podfic, for a fanfic but the author hasn't been seen on the internet for forever (in this case close to two years) and therefor you're unable to get their approval to create and share said podfic? I've left a comment on their AO3. can't find them on Tumblr. their LJ looks completely dead. whaddo I do?
  34. 10 June 2013 comment on Fail Fandomanon
  35. 11 June 2013 response on Fail Fandomanon
  36. general jinjur. untitled Dreamwidth post, 15 June 2010.
  37. 12 June 2013 anonymous comment: "I podfic myself, but if someone needed me to take something down I would without question, because it's their story."
  38. "I think it's shitty to retract permission after the fact unless you have a super serious reason like a stalky ex or similar. I just don't think it's fair to tell someone to take something down they spent hours working when the only reason they did it is because you said it was okay." anonymous comment posted June 11, 2013 to Fail Fandomanon.
  39. Pod-Aware Day 1: 10 Changes in Podfic History Since 2009.
  40. Auralphonic 017: Talking with the AO3, posted 2016-04-14. About 12 minutes into the file.
  41. Many will say they don't think permission should be required, but then hasten to assure everyone that they will continue to ask permission anyway. For example, see aphelant's Pod Aware podcast on 8 November 2011. pod_aware day 2: blanket permission
  42. aphelant. pod_aware day 2: blanket permission. Pod Aware podcast on 8 November 2011.
  43. comment thread started by giselle_lx, 2011-04-18.
  44. kindkit. podfic, permissions, and false analogies, posted to Dreamwidth 26 August 2013.