Connected Learning: Fandom and Fair Use

fair useWe are only one week away from discussing connected learning at the ALA Annual YALSA President’s Program, A Burning Need to Know: How Passion Connects to Learning. One thing about this event that grabs me is the word “passion”, something I strive to foster in the teens that come to our library. We hope to give them a voice, and a place to share their passions and interests with each other through anime clubs, cosplay groups, book discussions and more.

This summer, we are featuring a series of fandom events for teens. Some programs focus on a specific fandom, some celebrate all fandoms from Doctor Who to photography. If you love it, we want to help you dive deeper into it. As I prepared for these programs I encountered the challenge of at the intersection of fandom and fair use.


Trying to explain to my anime club why we can’t just stream their favorite anime from Crunchyroll or making Frozen buttons in the button maker can be a disheartening activity for any librarian. Their eyes are lit up, they are excited, passionate about what they are doing…and you have to gently let them down. I try to see this as a learning opportunity, that via our favorite movies, TV shows and books we can talk about copyright and the rights of creators to maintain control of their work.

In our fanart and animated gif workshops we encourage our teens to bring their favorite fandom with them, to use as a launch pad for the skills they will acquire. Writing up some notes on animated gifs, I thought it might be a good opportunity to talk about fair use and copyright law when you are dealing with your favorite Disney movie, or a clip from Supernatural. As I tried to translate fair use and copyright from legalese to English, I realized, even I (a librarian) hadn’t thought about fair use in a long time.

We tried to look at it from the creators perspective, sympathizing with an artist on DeviantArt, if their work is copied all over the internet without their consent. Although it can be hard to muster sympathy for multi-billion dollar companies like Disney, my teens lovingly agreed that they would want control how their work is shared or used (even if they want to share it freely).

Passion leads to learning opportunities and I find that often that learning starts with copying someone or something you love. Imitation is a great way to practice skills, learn new ways of doing things, and the passion that drew you to the topic in the first place will keep you hard at work through the dead-ends and bugs in your project. But we need to remember that when we borrow from someone else, we want to make sure we do it the right way.

When offering learning opportunities based on your teens passions and interests, think about including information about copyright and fair use. Let’s foster a generation of library users that always uses attributions, both in their research papers, and on their Tumblr accounts.

About Kate Mcnair

Member of the 22x20 Taskforce
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One Comment

  1. Do you have any specific suggestions for resources to use to develop these conversations, or easy guidelines to help kids and teens know where the lines are? We have an active group of fans who frequent our library, but I don’t know enough yet about these issues to start an effective discussion with them. Thanks!

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