I have big opinions on this because I grew up in a community dedicated to making Sonic fan games in that period between 1994 and 1999 where Sonic Team had abandoned making real Sonic games (aka the entire Saturn era).
Getting anyone outside of that community to acknowledge what we were doing was basically impossible, even within the greater Sonic community, because fan games were seen as tantamount to piracy due to how close they can be to actual bootleg games. It ended up with me getting very familiar with how copyright law works, how fair use works, and how accepting companies can be of so-called “fan content.”
That, in turn, sort of lead me to becoming a kind of activist in getting fan games (and other fan-related content) a wider acceptance by the public at large. While I was still in high school I started something called The Sonic Amateur Games Expo (SAGE), an online-only event dedicated to showcasing the best and brightest of that fan gaming community. I personally operated the event for around two and a half years, organizing entrants, designing the website, and running livestreams (which were audio only, done through Shoutcast). I did all that while also working on my own games to show on the site along my colleagues.
It didn’t take long for SAGE to open to a wider audience of entrants; it was more of a community event than a staunchly Sonic-only thing, so eventually, anyone that posted on the forums, regardless of what their game actually was, could show at SAGE. Once I burnt out on doing all of that stuff I handed it off to the community, where it ran yearly for over a decade. Some of the earliest builds of Freedom Planet were shown at SAGE. A significant portion of the development team now working on Sonic Mania showed games at SAGE for multiple years running. Former members of Sonic Team, like Naoto Ohshima, have given Q&A sessions during SAGE. It became this incredible anchor point and a milestone for that community to strive towards.
Every time I hear about a fan project getting a Cease & Desist notice, it breaks my heart. A lot of them seem to be from companies who still equate them to a form of piracy. And don’t get me wrong, fan games are technically illegal. But by that measure so is fan art, fan fiction, and anything else involving using somebody else’s IP without their explicit permission. The boundaries are not clear and I feel like most companies sending C&D notices don’t realize they’re literally punishing their biggest fans for expressing their love. I don’t think SAGE was a good educational tool like I wanted it to be, but at the very least, Sega’s never Cease & Desisted any Sonic fan games (in fact, they went on record a few months before the reveal of Sonic Mania encouraging Sonic fans to keep making stuff like that).
But yeah, like, protecting fan content like that is something I’ve become weirdly passionate about, particularly with regards to fan games. Stuff like Everything Is A Remix is my jam.