Transformative Work

From Fanlore
(Redirected from Transformative works)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Synonyms: Fanwork
See also: OTW, Transformational Fandom, Derivative Work, Fair Use, Moral Rights
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

The term Transformative Work is sometimes used as a formal and legal expression for fanworks.


The Organization for Transformative Works (parent organization to this wiki) has this glossary definition:

Transformative works are creative works about characters or settings created by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creators. Transformative works include but are not limited to fanfiction, real person fiction, fan vids, and graphics. A transformative use is one that, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the [source] with new expression, meaning, or message. [1]
A story from Voldemort's perspective is transformative, so is a story about a pop star that illustrates something about current attitudes toward celebrity or sexuality. [2]

Fannish Drift

Contemporary fannish use of the term may well be a direct result of the OTW's influence. However, casual fannish use of the terms transformative works, transformative, and transforming may not always align with the OTW's stated definition or the original U.S. legal concept. In U.S. law, transformative use is one of the tests for determining if a work represents a fair use of another copyrighted work, but fannish use of the term is broader and can refer to any fanwork or fanwork of fanwork, whether or not the resulting work would be judged a fair use in a court of law. This has created confusion in fan arguments over, for example, whether or not podfic is creative due to the non-legal use of the term transformative to describe podfic.

Blanket permission statements by fan creators are sometimes referred to as "transformative works policies" or include phrases like "open to further transformations" or "permission to transform my works", meaning that fanworks can be made from their fanworks.

Fan Reactions

While the term 'transformative work' has caught on in some sectors of fandom, other fans often find it confusing or pretentious. One anon remarked that use of the term disparaged their favorite kinds of fanworks:

I think the focus on transformative implicity devalues fanworks that aren't transformative, but are no less interesting for that. Things don't have to be legal to be well-done and interesting and valuable, and when you start using legal terms to make your argument, I feel like you're fundamentally...missing the point, I guess? Legality defines how well protected fanworks are, it doesn't define how valuable they are to a community.[3]

While not using the word itself, this fan in 1977 writes of the appeal of the practice of transforming:

There is a good deal of fun and fascination in taking someone else's Created World and, working withIn the framework of that world, adding to it, interpreting it. In this way, the worlds you enter into are made more personal, more meaningful. They become a continuing source of entertainment and delignt, rather than a static entity, with a limit to the pleasures it contains. [4]

Further Reading

External Sources

  • R. Anthony Reese "Transformativeness and the Derivative Work Right," (PDF version) 31 The Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts 467 (2008)


  1. ^ the Supreme Court ruling came in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music.
  2. ^ Organization for Transformative Works glossary accessed 2010-05-27
  3. ^ 2014-08-22 anonymous comment in pw_kink_meme. (Accessed 22 August 2014.)
  4. ^ from an LoC in The World of Dark Shadows #16/17