|See also:||The Fannish Potlatch, Fandom and Profit, Gifts|
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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.
Contrasted to Media fandom, the Furry fandom, where many people make a living making art, has sometimes been said to be a socialist economy, though not without controversy. The furry fandom is unique in that most artwork sold is not "fanwork" however, as people often have original characters and fursonas commissioned. It has also been called "a collective art project" and resistant to commercialism, thanks to DIY ethics,  much like punk-inspired indie culture.
See Fandom and Profit.
Media Fandom, Girls and Women
Some people argue that media 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)
Fandom As A Gift To Others and Oneself By Taking Back Power
In 2017, more and more fan writers began discussing AO3's ban on advertising and soliciting payment for fan fiction on the archive.
In response one fan wrote about why she supported AO3's stance:
My dislike of this whole patreon and writing commission thing is that there should be somewhere in one's life that is pure gift and without the expectation of money and advertising. Once profit comes into the mix, then power dynamics and motivations shift. Not that there isn't power of other sorts in fandom, but the whole appeal for me is its off-the-grid, thumb-the-nose-at-the-Man, free agency, you-can't-tell-me-what-to-do, subversive elements. Once it's a paid gig in any way, it just becomes part of the machine I want to get away from.
Fandom and its storytelling is taking power back and sharing it around a campfire. Once you start charging admission, you're not only boring but also predictable.If people want to create art and fic for money, feel free, but don't do it on the backs of the original creators, and on your fellow fans. That's hardly ground-breaking and subversive. 
- What Price Fandom? by Arduinna (May 2000)
- Semantic noodling...the word "gift" makes people -- or rather specifically me -- uncomfortable by Seema (January 2003)
- Think-y things about zines and fic and all (2009)
- Sherlockology and Galactica.tv: Fan sites as gifts or exploited labor? by Bertha Chin in Transformative Works and Cultures (2014)
- Fan work: Labor, worth, and participation in fandom's gift economy by Tisha Turk in Transformative Works and Cultures (2014)
- “That’s not even how love works”: Fandom, Gift Economy, and The Turn of the Story by Alexandra Lamb on Paper Droids (September 2014)
- WoMEN’s Work: Representing Fan Labor on Heroes of Cosplay; WebCite, In Media Res (May 2015)
- Tumblr essay (and responses) on fannish commenting culture, and comments as "fannish currency" by greywash (2018)
- Money and Networks, Archived version by cesperanza (2019)
- On Fandom and the "culture of selling" page 1; page 2 by fairestcat (2019)
- on swindles and fandoms; archive link by melannen (2019)
- Expanded thoughts on the question of fandom, networks, and money; archive link by silveradept (2019)
- Re: Money and Networks vs. On Fandom and the "culture of selling"; archive link, discussion at fail-fandomanon (2019)
- Signal Boost: Money and Networks; archive link by ellie-nors (2019)
- Re: Fandom Venting; archive link discussion at fail-fandomanon (2019)
- Fansplaining: The Money Question & My Own Thoughts; archive link by anneapocalypse (2019)
- Gift Logic: Labors of love flourish online under fandom’s social norms by Casey Fiesler (2021)