When thinking about fan culture usually the first thing that comes to mind is that fans are hurting the producers of the show/movie/book/etc. that they are creating content of. The fans are stealing the original author’s ideas, characters, worlds, etc. and making their own material with it and this can sometimes result in lawsuits and issues of copyright infringement and authors generally getting upset about their ideas being used (usually this only happens when the fans start making money off of the fan works).
However I would say that the fan culture that people build around these works only make the original producers/authors more popular, and more profitable. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery – fans create their own works based off of their favourite shows and movie because they love it so much that they want to be a part of it. If it weren’t for the fan culture that grew around some shows there wouldn’t be events like ComicCon (which bring in about $180 MILLION for San Diego), the merchandise and DVD copies of movies and TV seasons wouldn’t sell as well and shows and movies wouldn’t gather as many fans.
Think about the shows that you’ve maybe seen a few episodes and then given up on. Would you tell all your friends how great it is, that they should watch it? Would you go out and buy yourself the complete DVD set of all the seasons with the director’s commentary? Would you buy the merchandise and posters? Dress up as that character for Halloween? The intense fans that constitute fan culture and fandoms are the people that do this. And while with all of that engagement often comes stealing (or borrowing) of ideas and characters authors should take it as a compliment – realize that these people love the work and want to be a part of it, and because of this they become more engaged and ultimately buy into the product and help it to succeed.
In this case citizen media is feeding back into the capitalist system of mainstream media. But the fan culture still creates strong communities, encourages sharing and interactions, and amateur production of media and cultural artifacts. Its a balance between the fans and the original producers. Ultimately big media producers allow this kind of engagement, as they figured out pretty quickly that serving lawsuits to your fans is a good way to lose them, though there is always a fine line and when it is crossed and the fans step too far the mainstream does not hesitate to shut it down.