kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Default)
[personal profile] kindkit
Inevitably, given the recent controversies, I have been thinking about the issue of podfic and permissions. (For the record, before I go any further, I would like to note that I have given blanket-ish permission for people to podfic my stories.) In particular, I'm thinking about the analogy sometimes made between podfic of a fanfic and fanfic of a professionally-made source text. "You didn't ask permission to write that fanfic," the argument runs, "so you have no right to say that people should ask permission to podfic it, or to impose conditions on how it can be podficced."

It's a false analogy for a couple of reasons.

1) Words.

A fanfic does not reproduce the words of the original. Some fanfic writers may borrow a little bit of dialogue from the source text, but mostly, they create new words, and also new situations or new views of canonical situations.

If you podfic a fanfic I wrote, on the other hand, it's still the same words. What you're doing is taking my words, the very story that I wrote, and putting it into a new format that I don't have control over. You're also, probably, archiving it in places that I don't have control over either. I don't have the ability to take your podfic down if I decide I don't like it. I'm not saying I should, because you put a lot of work and creativity into that podfic. But I put work and creativity into my words, too. When a podficcer says that they should have blanket permission to podfic anything they like, however they like, and post it wherever they like, they're asking for control over the fanfic author's words and they're not giving any control in return.

This also applies to things like editing a fanfic for podficcing purposes, or adding music. What if you add a song that I think the characters would hate, or that I think is the wrong tone for my story? Again, if you want to do that kind of thing without permission, you're asking for control over my words.

2) Distinction and authorization

When I write a Rivers of London fanfic (I use this example because it's a book fandom for a series that is still being written, unlike, say, Sherlock Holmes with its stable canon and its dead author), no one is going to mistake my story for something Ben Aaronovitch wrote. Nor for something he authorized, something that's "official" or canonical to Rivers of London. There are a couple of reasons for that besides the fact that my name is not Ben Aaronovitch. For one thing, readers acquire my fanfic in a completely different kind of space than Aaronovitch's novels. They don't buy my story in a store, whether bricks-and-mortar or online; they find it on my journal or on AO3, in spaces that are explicitly fannish and unofficial, and therefore distinct. And of course they don't buy my story at all; unlike most source texts, fanfic is distributed for free. There are clear boundaries between fanworks and their source texts. Therefore, since my fanfic is clearly unauthorized and unofficial, no one will think that my story is really part of Ben Aaronovitch's canonical Rivers of London series.

The boundary between fanworks and podfics based on them is much less clear. They're available in the same kinds of spaces, fannish spaces, and because of how fandom works, there's an assumption of cooperation that wouldn't be made about fanfic of a professional source. Someone could easily assume that a podfic fully represents my story. Perhaps they assume that I listened to it and okayed it before it was posted. They might think that the choices you made in recording (tone, pace, emphasis, etc.) are the choices I would have made had I recorded it myself, when in fact I might have made completely different choices. Maybe that line you thought was funny, I meant to be serious, or vice versa. Maybe I think Character X should sound sad here, not angry. Your interpretation of the story in podfic may be drastically different from how I myself see the story, yet because of the lack of clear boundaries, someone may take your podfic as authoritative and assume I agree with your interpretation.

This is something I try to be sanguine about, with varying success. Other fanfic writers may be deeply uncomfortable with it, and so they might want to hear how you read before they give permission, or impose limitations on what you can do (e.g. no editing), or even hear the finished product before you post it so they know you pronounced the character names right and that the line they think is kind of hilarious is still hilarious. I don't think this makes them hypocrites, or mean, or podfic haters. Remember, this is their words. It's different from a sequel or prequel or remix because it's still their actual words.

"But," one might object, "I'm sure J.K. Rowling didn't have control over how the Harry Potter audiobooks (or films, for that matter) were made! And playwrights don't get to veto performances!" No, but they get paid. They sign over their right of control in exchange for money (and they can always refuse to do so, if they like). We don't get paid in fandom; we just get the recognition of our work. And a podfic that can change that work, that will almost inevitably change a fan writer's words (either literally changing them through editing or more subtly changing the meaning due to performance choices) makes that simple fannish equation a lot more complicated. The insistence I've seen from some quarters that everyone should give unconditional blanket permission to podfic, not to mention the no-permission-is-necessary stance that some podficcers have, takes away the author's right to refuse to have their words changed by someone else. And that really troubles me.

I'm not saying that podfic is bad or wrong or creepy. All I'm saying is that the relationship between podfic and fanfic, between podficcers and fanfic writers, is different from that between fanfic and source texts. Fan writers and professional creators are not part of the same community, but fan writers and podficcers are, at least supposedly. And because of that, because of the indistinction of the boundaries, we need to be sensitive to each other. Fanfic writers are not creators of commercial product, monetarily compensated, whose work and reputations will never be affected by fanfic, podfic, etc. and who therefore really have no right to a say in it. Fanfic writers write for the love of it, and because we are part of a community, we are affected by what people do with our stories. It would be nice not to be treated like the enemy.

Comments are, for the moment, open, but if things get ugly I reserve the right to freeze threads, use the banhammer, or shut the whole post down.

straw man alert

Date: 2013-08-27 06:26 am (UTC)
boxofdelights: (Default)
From: [personal profile] boxofdelights
When a podficcer says that they should have blanket permission to podfic anything they like, however they like, and post it wherever they like,

Can you show me one example of that in the wild? Just one?

I have seen examples of the other thing you are talking about, that is, podficcers who contend that they don't or shouldn't need permission from authors to record their work. But the podficcers who are asking authors to post blanket permissions statements if the authors are happy to grant blanket permission, or blanket noes if the authors do not want their work podficced, or blanket statements of what their conditions are, if they want to permit podfics under certain conditions, are all implicitly supporting the rights of authors to grant or withhold permission.

Re: straw man alert

Date: 2013-08-27 02:56 pm (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
I was also going to add this link here from a different poster to the rape apologist analogy person:

I'm probably the best example of what not to do in these situations, but I choose to take podficcer-author issues on a case by case basis. If I made a good faith effort to contact an author, - who didn't have BP - waited for months before posting, and then the author asked me to take it down, I would probably say no and suggest taking hir name off of the recording.

So, yet, people are boasting of giving authors a chance and then treating them as fair game.

Re: straw man alert

Date: 2013-08-28 06:06 am (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
No, neither do I think most podficcers (or even a substantial minority) of podficcers would do it, but I cited it as a Bertrand Russell black swan, really, in direct response to someone I read as saying, "Come on! Show me one case where that has happened!"

I also do see this as a case where there are people (probably a small and vocal minority - it usually is) supporting a view which seems to me to be unrealistic, namely that podfics are in the same relationship to the written fic as fanfic is to the source material, and that the norm with creating a podfic ought to be the same as that applied to creating any fanfic, namely do it, post it, and don't deliberately draw it to the source's attention.

And I'm concerned that there seems to be a creeping strategy used by holders of that view to try to incrementally change norms of acceptable conduct.

Re: straw man alert

Date: 2013-08-27 03:37 pm (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
Incidentally, although it's not wholly clear what the context is, this appears at least at first blush to be evidence of someone with a clear "no" policy having a story of hers podficced despite that for a charity auction.

Re: straw man alert

Date: 2013-08-28 12:55 am (UTC)
paraka: A baby wearing headphones and holding a mic (Default)
From: [personal profile] paraka
Just chiming in to say that that there was more to that situation than is said in that post. I was the podficcer in that situation.

The person who had bought my podficcing services at charity auction said they would ask all the writers for permission. That person tried to contact the writer (the blanket no was not up at that time), but didn't get a response at first. They came back a while later and told me they had tried an alternate email and got a yes that way, so I made the podfic.

The minute I found out the writer had not given that yes, I took the podfic down and apologized to the writer. The writer was appeased by my actions and said they were sorry I got caught I was misinformed. I have never made the mistake of letting someone else procure permission for me since.

Re: straw man alert

Date: 2013-08-28 05:55 am (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
Poor you - what a situation for someone to put you in! And, somehow, the fact it's for a charity auction makes it worse, because I bet the person who claimed permission had been obtained was betting the writer wouldn't make a fuss, because it would look uncharitable.

And charity auctions are one area where I do think it's particularly important for the writer to reserve the right to say no. I've had someone ask me to do a podfic of one of my fics for charity, and it turned out brilliantly - that's the one I mentioned on my post where she did a line in a completely different way to anything I'd ever thought of it sounding, almost a robotic sound, and it worked superbly. But certainly when agreeing to her doing the podfic one factor which really made me keen to assist if possible was that the charity was Planned Parenthood. If the charity had been the Susan G Komen foundation my answer would have been no to anyone who'd asked.

By the way, I came across that link in a discussion in a podfic space of how appalling writers could be and how important it was to name and shame writers who didn't comply with podficcers' ideas of courteous conduct. That discussion, and its comments both on livejournal and DW has really shaped my approach to this debate. I don't mind the idea of a list of blanket "no" responses as well as a list of blanket "yes" responses, but the idea of a blacklist of people who don't sufficiently toe the party line - including, in this case, it now appears someone who'd actively been lied about by the person claiming to have got the permission - is something I find very upsetting.
Edited Date: 2013-08-28 06:10 am (UTC)

Re: straw man alert

Date: 2013-08-28 08:04 pm (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
Incidentally, you may not have noticed this exchange about the shit list above.

Key line:
I have a PDF of Maya's fic and treasure it after she's done her best to scrub it from the web, and when I lost it once I had to rely on the kindness of fans willing to go against her explicit wishes to get a new copy.

As you can see, [personal profile] maya is on the shit list as an anti-podfic person, and she's on it because (possibly on legal or publisher advice) once she became a professional author she sought to take down her fanfic from the web. Not only did that land her on the Shit List, because podficcers got upset she wasn't there to be podficced, but when this came up on FFA someone apparently took out their resentment at not being allowed to podfic her by explicitly linking her professional and fan identities.
Edited Date: 2013-08-28 08:06 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-08-27 06:40 am (UTC)
lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
I find the discussion you linked quite off-putting, because while I personally don't care what people do with my work - podfic, remix, spork - as long as they credit me for the original, that discussion seemed to be about gossip and innuendo and worst-case scenarios. It was weird to see writers who might put conditions on their work categorised as "difficult" when podficcing is by definition a co-operative art.

Date: 2013-08-27 08:47 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Two warning signs one above the other. 1) Falling Rocks. 2) Falling Rocs. (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Someone could easily assume that a podfic fully represents my story.

I find this argument odd. Not bad, not wrong, just a little odd, and therefore worth poking at. Suppose two different readers each recorded a podfic of your fic. Would this resolve your objection to people podficcing your work, since nobody could reasonably mistake any one podfic for the author's intent?

Date: 2013-08-27 09:08 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Two warning signs one above the other. 1) Falling Rocks. 2) Falling Rocs. (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Another question, which I don't have a clear answer to. It is a common criticism of fanfiction from professional authors that fanfiction writers have misappropriated the characters that the profic authors have created. This essay of yours essentially reiterates this argument, but substitutes words for characters as the new quantum of authorial ownership. This distinguishment between characters and words as the quantum of ownership is possibly but not necessarily borne out as a legal doctrine. I wonder what the basis is for your derivation of it as a moral doctrine.

Consider this paragraph that I have misappropriated from you:

If you fanfic a profic I wrote, on the other hand, it's still the same characters. What you're doing is taking my characters, the very characters that I created, and putting them into a new setting that I don't have control over. You're also, probably, archiving it in places that I don't have control over either. I don't have the ability to take your fanfic down if I decide I don't like it. I'm not saying I should, because you put a lot of work and creativity into that fanfic. But I put work and creativity into my characters, too. When a fanfic author says that they should have blanket permission to fanfic anything they like, however they like, and post it wherever they like, they're asking for control over the profic author's characters and they're not giving any control in return.
Edited Date: 2013-08-27 09:09 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-08-28 12:29 am (UTC)
podcath: podcath's default icon (Default)
From: [personal profile] podcath
The thing though is that characters and words are not really analogous, I'd argue. Characters are taken and then developed whereas the fic gets recorded in its entirety. This is one of the reasons it's not really transformative (in the legal definition and possibly in any other) but more of a translation/adaptation/performance.

I think the problem on all sides is that we have very different relationships to our works, that we have different understanding of what kind of community fandom is (if any), and that we have very different relationships to said community. Why shouldn't kindkit feel weird about having the recording associated with her fic? Other folks feel weird having their name as beta on a fanwork they have issues with or having manips or fanart they don't like associated.

The other thing, of course, is that the fanfic analog wouldn't be of fan writers using pro work characters but rather of fanfic of fanfic. And it's not like this debate is settled yet. Many writers feel uncomfortable letting others ply in their sandbox, and while there are many reasons to find that hypocritical, there are also good arguments to be made as to why interaction between two fans is different from a fan's relationship to a pro creator. I don't want to reiterate all the points, but the main ones are access to the creator (the two are on the same level as opposed to let's say JKR); possibility of conflation of the works (again, not likely with JKR); and the issue of credit, given that one's name and other people's thanks are the only types of currency we have in fandom... [I made a longer post on the similarities and differences a while back HERE.]

The important thing I'd argue is that we need to remember that we have needs, anxieties, and wishes and so does the other party. I'd hate, or example, to be a writer feeling guilty, because someone has already podficced my work, but I'd also hate being told that my accents didn't appeal to an author or my reading wasn't up to par. I actually start recording a lot of times before I ask permission or check in with the author when they have a BP, because I need to know whether the prose works for my reading. But I hope I've never put an author under pressure and will certainly be more careful from here on out. (And if I don't hear back or they say no, it's just another lingering file on my HD to be deleted eventually...) Likewise, I'd much prefer to get a no on a request than to "audition" and then be told that I wasn't up to par. And maybe an author does feel they don't like my reading (I tend to link them to my work, so there's really no need to audition, I'd say, but then that puts the burden back on the author, so I'm not sure...), but a plain, No thank you might avoid a lot of hurt feelings and doesn't seem more demanding than requesting a sample and then turning the request down. (<- this is more in general and less to your comment, but I was on a roll...indulge me? :)

Date: 2013-08-28 02:44 am (UTC)
podcath: podcath's default icon (Default)
From: [personal profile] podcath
OMG, I am so sorry! I know you're male, so I can't believe I wrote that and have no idea what was going on in my mind (I can't edit after you've commented, right?) Again, I sincerely apologize. I should and do know better, and i'm sorry to put you in the spot to have to yet again point that out and in your own journal to boot!

And yes, that's exactly what I meant!!! I think none of us want to purposefully make anyone else uncomfortable, so the question is, how do we find ways to make it OK for most. And that won't be achieved, I believe by being on the extreme end but rather by talking and sharing experiences and realizing that we may feel differently about the same things, have different likes and dislikes. And when we get to a place where your discomfort as author outweighs mine as podficcer, I continue to believe that I need to step back, take down the work, and accept that. But I think that empathy going both ways and conversations like the one you are having here may help all of us get a better sense of why and how we see fandom and fan works and community interactions.

Date: 2013-08-28 08:49 am (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
Just a heads up, and this is probably something which is more likely to occur to me because of my day job, if there were a very short gap between permission being sought and granted and the finished work going up, if it were me as the writer I'd probably end up feeling a bit uneasy, because it would then become apparent that the work had already been done at the time the request for permission was made and while you might be absolutely clear in your own mind that had permission been refused you'd have deleted it, the writer wouldn't know that. And no-one likes being taken for granted.

Date: 2013-08-28 03:44 pm (UTC)
podcath: podcath's default icon (Default)
From: [personal profile] podcath
I feel like I have two responses to this, one the more abstract and general one and the other the more practical personal one.

Yes, it could be that the turnover time is really short. And that could indicate that large portions of the story were already podficced. But likewise an author who doesn't reply back or says no, because they don't like the person' style/voice may actually give permission to someone else (that has happened to me before). So it's maybe more a matter of plausible deniability? Like, you can't prove that I didn't do this fic in the short time span just like I can't prove that you purposefully hated my reading. And everyone's hopefully not as upset as they might be. (As for the short turnaround--I organized a collective podficcing of a series of stories by multiple authors recently. The last author never responded, so I posted the collection without it to AO3. Within an hour, they contacted me, I found a fourth reader, they recorded and edited it, I changed the cover image, reformatted everything and uploaded the new version. It was a short story and we all had time on our hands, so it worked...but not I'm thinking the author might have thought I had ity all already preplanned...when I really didn't :)

Which brings me to my personal response. Recording the fic is by far the smallest effort in a podfic production for me. Let's say it's a 6K story, which translates to about an hour. I may record the story before I ask permission, which takes around 90 minutes. (If the story is much longer, I probably will only record the first hour or so before i ask). I then ask. Editing the story will take me 8-10 hours, finding music and editing it, creating the cover image will take another 2-3 hours. So as you can see, those 90 minutes that I have initially invested are the much smaller part of the equation. So for me personally, I don't think the case you are describing would occur, but if it did generally, I'd still suggest it's a fear or suspicion rather than the certainty (and all of that presupposes that the author WOULD have a problem with my simply recording it...not all authors do--even those who may feel uncomfortable seeing publicly shared recordings of their work...but then many writers hate having their fic printed out or the formatting changed, and many others do not...)

Date: 2013-08-29 01:52 pm (UTC)
seekingferret: Two warning signs one above the other. 1) Falling Rocks. 2) Falling Rocs. (Default)
From: [personal profile] seekingferret
Your other comment merits a more detailed response, and I'm in the middle of composing it. To this, I merely say: I posed a hypothetical because I was interested in exploring the meaning of the hypothetical. It can't be turned away simply by saying it would never happen. And as to the idea that the average listener would only listen to one version... even granting that, surely that listener even if they only listened to one version could hardly think it represented the full intent of your story if there was another version out there. And then I wonder if the mere hypothetical presence of the second version serves the same function: Does the reader, knowing that this is a podfic and that another podficcer could therefore create their own version, inherently know this this does not constitute the full intent of your story? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps you're right that even a reader aware of a second version out there would view the podfic that they are listening to as a complete work of art on its own. In which case I might ask another question: If this is in fact true, is the complete work of art that they are considering the fanfic, or the podfic?

Obviously a reading of my story against my intentions is possible from the text too, but with podfic there's a middle-person, a layer of interpretation being inserted before my story even gets to the listener. I don't know if you're a fanfic writer, but surely you can see how that could make writers uncomfortable?

I am a fanfic writer, but much of my fic attempts to make the reader uncomfortable via the insertion of middle-persons and layers of interpretation. "The Basket of Invisibility" features a narrator clumsily trying to retell the story someone else told him. "Only the Third Story in this Forsaken Fandom" nests the narrator three layers down in some places. To my mind the intermediation between reader and author is a feature, not a bug. It is the magic that makes fiction work.

Can I see how it would make writers uncomfortable? Of course I can. Writing fiction and putting it out there in the world where everyone can see it and reinterpret it is hella scary! But what is more unclear to me is whether that means that the creator of an unauthorized intermediary layer is doing something wrong, or if the writer is wishing for an impossible level of control over their relationship with the reader. For me, the scariness of putting my words out there where others can reinterpret them is one of the things that is most important in investing the act of writing fiction, of storytelling, with meaning.

Date: 2013-09-02 12:56 am (UTC)
eosrose: (Merlin: Arthurian legend)
From: [personal profile] eosrose
Hi! I'm enjoying reading your podfic discussion very much, but I chuckled a little when I read this:
Anyway, to address your more substantive points: first of all, I think it seldom if ever happens that two people podfic the same story. And if they did, the average podfic listener would probably only listen to one version.
Repods are actually a thing in podfic fandom that many enjoy. And I know of one story, Important Angel Business, that has been podficced at least five times. Not that repods are statistically common, but I do have multiple versions of a fair few fics on my ipod. It's pretty neat to hear different interpretations.

Sorry to interrupt! I'm just gonna go back to quietly lurking now. I'm one of those people who would rather borrow an audiobook from a library than a paperback (audiobooks/podfic are more accessible to me for a variety of reasons), but I can see where you're coming from. :)
Edited Date: 2013-09-02 12:57 am (UTC)

Date: 2013-09-02 02:57 am (UTC)
eosrose: (Supernatural: Embarrased)
From: [personal profile] eosrose
I get the sense that people who listen to podfic (and, on a related note, audiobooks) frequently do approach the subject differently. I wish we got more feedback from listeners who are neither authors nor podficcers, but I don't think they bother much with meta. I can't speak as an unbiased listener because I create podfic myself (it appeals to my dramatic streak and has provided the means for me to make a lot of great friends), but I listen to podfic for a lot of reasons:

  1. I lack the time to sit down and read the story myself

  2. Staring at a computer screen or even an ereader for two long can be a strain on my eyes

  3. I grow bored easily, so having the story read aloud to me actually prevents me from skipping significant portions of a story to "get to the good bits"

  4. I can be a nervous reader--listening prevents me from skipping to the end to make sure things end well, thus spoiling myself

  5. Podfic takes a lot of work, so it's almost guaranteed that any story that is podficced will be worth the time to listen; I've been introduced to a lot of stories I would have never bothered with this way

  6. Podficcers have become familiar voices, so listening is like listening to a friend read me a story

  7. I like to analyze a performance and compare how the reader approaches the story to how I would have approached the story--usually I'm taken by surprise by how much another person's interpretation improves upon my own.

I tend to walk away with more of the details of the story after listening vs. when I read it myself. My focus is stronger, you know? I find myself spending more time analyzing the words. I suspect this relates to how some people are better audio learners than visual and vice versa?

There are a lot of perfectly reasonable explanations for why some people are "squicked" by (or simply uninterested in) podfic just as there are lots of reasons why some people might prefer it over reading on paper or on their screen. It's all very subjective. I think sometimes it's hard for people who view the experience so differently to really grasp other perspectives, which is when wank happens.

In an ideal world, fanworks of fanworks would never lead to hurt feelings, misunderstandings, or anxiety, but we don't live in that world and the best we can do is try to be courteous of other people's passions while being aware of (and protecting) our own personal boundaries.

Wow, how did I get to be so wordy? I rarely ever speak up in podfic discussions.
Edited Date: 2013-09-02 03:01 am (UTC)

Date: 2013-08-28 01:44 am (UTC)
metanewsmods: Abed wearing goggles (Default)
From: [personal profile] metanewsmods
Would you mind if we linked to this in [community profile] metanews?


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