Terms Of Service Update for the Archive of our Own

The OTW’s Content Policy is pleased to put the following updates to the Archive’s Terms of Service forward for two weeks of public discussion. The full Terms of Service can be found linked on the archive page, but for clarity, all emendations and new policy items are listed below the cut.

Summary of Changes: aka: the Bottom Line!

The TOS updates include the addition of section V, which covers new features not covered in the initial ToS–namely: A. Collections, Challenges, and Exchanges, B. Fannish next-of-kin, C. Orphaning Works, D. Open Doors–and updates to our tag wrangling and icon policies (sections I.G.1 and IV.J). Please note that the new features are experimental or in some cases, like collections, not active yet.

These changes are not yet final: we are currently offering them for a comment period of at least two weeks before the board votes on them, as per section I.A.2 of the ToS. We are soliciting feedback during this time. Comments must be received by July 28, 2009.

Specific TOS updates below the cut!

Addition to General Principles: What we do with your content: item 1

User-provided tags are subject to organization, which is a process we call tag wrangling; for a full explanation of tag wrangling, see the FAQ additions available on the OTW blog.

Update of the user icon policy (Content and Abuse Policies: J)

J. User Icons

User icons should be appropriate for general audiences. They should not contain depictions of genital nudity or explicit sexual activity. For more information, see see the FAQ additions available on “the OTW blog”:http://transformativeworks.org/news

Addition of Assorted Policies for New Features

V. Assorted Policies

A. Collections, Challenges, and Exchanges

Archive users may create collections and encourage other users to submit fanworks to those collections. The collection maintainer can set any constraints she or he wants on the collection, but must otherwise follow the content policy (e.g., if the collection content is explicit, it should be marked as “explicit” or “choose not to rate”).

To be part of a collection, the fanwork creator has to affirmatively submit the fanwork to the collection. The collection maintainer will be able to remove the fanwork from the collection, but not from the Archive.

In addition, if the collection maintainer has specified in advance in the collection rules that submissions cannot later be removed from the collection, the user who submitted the fanwork will not be able to delete it, but will be able to orphan it so that the user’s identity is no longer associated with the fanwork.

In the absence of an independent violation of the abuse policy, the Archive will not intervene in decisions by the collection maintainer.

B. Fannish next-of-kin

Registered archive users may designate a fannish next-of-kin. A next-of-kin agreement allows the transfer of content maintenance in the case of a user’s permanent incapacitation or death.

Both parties to the agreement must be registered users of the Archive.

The Archive’s role in this agreement is only to act as a facilitator. If the person designated as the fannish next-of-kin activates the agreement by sending a message to the Archive, the Archive will not do any independent investigation to confirm the necessity for the transfer.

A fannish next-of-kin agreement is confidential and accessible only by designated members of the archive team, who may only use it for purposes of implementing the agreement.

C. Orphaning Works

1. Definition of orphaning.

One of the goals of the OTW and the Archive is to provide a permanent long-term home for fanworks. We also understand that circumstances can arise in which creators wish to remove their stories from the internet or otherwise dissociate themselves from their work. Our archive software gives creators the ability to anonymize or “orphan” fanworks along with the option of deleting them from the archive. For a more detailed description of orphaning, please see “About Orphaning”:http://archiveofourown.org/orphans/about

2. User-controlled orphaning.

Users will have the ability to delete or orphan their works themselves as long as they have a valid account. Users are responsible for saving their account passwords and keeping their e-mail addresses up to date. Users will be able to have passwords e-mailed to them and to change the e-mail addresses associated with accounts. However, a user who has lost a password and has no access to the e-mail associated with the account may be unable to access the account for any purpose, including orphaning or deletion, unless the user can verify identity in some other way, as described below.

3. Caution: orphaning may be difficult or impossible to reverse.

If a user affirmatively orphans a work, any connection between the user and the work will be removed. It therefore may be difficult or even impossible to restore the link between an orphaned work and a user.

4. Linking an author with an orphaned work.

As part of the OTW’s commitment to user privacy, users are not allowed to use comments or tags to publicly identify the creator of an orphaned work after the work has been orphaned. Users who add public identifying tags or comments after a work has been orphaned violate the Archive’s Terms of Service. Additionally, identifying tags or comments will be removed.

If the creator has an account, it is the creator’s responsibility to delete any identifying comments associated with the work prior to orphaning it, and to inform the abuse team of any identifying tags that should be deleted. If the creator does not have an account, it is the creator’s responsibility to identify any comments and/or tags that should be deleted as part of a request for orphaning (see “Policy on unverified identities and orphaning or deletion” below).

5. Policy on unverified identities and orphaning or deletion.

Our policy is that creators should be able to orphan or delete a work, and they should also be protected against claims by non-creators. We will provide creators with several alternative methods of confirming source, including using the e-mail address associated with the fanwork; using information from a creator’s own site or journal; or using an e-mail address or other form of contact associated with a different copy of the fanwork, including on the Internet Archive. We will also consult with the maintainer of any collection of which the fanwork is a part and take any other actions that seem likely to help with verification.

If the source of the request is confirmed, we will comply with the request. When the link between the source of the request and the fanwork’s creator cannot be confirmed, and attempts to contact the fanwork’s creator through any existing contact information receive no response, we will orphan the fanwork.

D. Open Doors

Please note: these terms are designed for agreements between the OTW and archive owners.

The Open Doors project of the Organization for Transformative Works is dedicated to preserving fanworks for the future.

Once the Archive of Our Own is up and running, we will be happy to help maintainers of typical fanfic archives preserve or back up their collections by transferring the contents of their archive into the Archive of Our Own. We plan to collect these stories under the name of the archive from which they came, as well as to set up automatic redirecting from the original URLs if desired and whenever possible. Other fannish projects that cannot be integrated into the Archive may also be preserved as special collections, resources permitting. Both kinds of projects will be featured on the Open Doors page.

1. ToS for Open Doors projects

a. Maintainer Consent

The OTW will only preserve collections with the full consent of the maintainer of the collection. The current maintainer of the project must agree to the Open Doors ToS and agree to grant us access to a copy of the current contents of the collection. The maintainer must also transfer ownership of the domain name (if any) if she or he wants URL redirects, and if such redirects are possible. (Domain name transfer is not necessary if the maintainer is merely backing up an archive within the Archive of Our Own.)

b. Transfer of Project

When the board of the OTW and the current owner of the collection have decided to bring on an archive or a special collection under the Open Doors project, the current owner will provide a copy of the current contents (either manually or by giving Systems access to the existing site) and transfer ownership of the existing domain name to the OTW (if he or she wants redirects; again, domain name transfer is not necessary if the maintainer is merely backing up the archive within the Archive of Our Own.)

Typically, fanfiction archives will be transferred into the Archive of Our Own, and individual stories will tagged with the name of the archive from which they came to preserve the archive’s history as a collection. In the case of projects that are structurally difficult to integrate, we may either preserve whatever software is currently being used to maintain the project, or choose different software in consultation with the original maintainer. Systems will not be required to install any software on the OTW servers which they are not prepared to maintain, and the software and content must pass a security review before they are added.

c. URLs for Open Doors Project

The special collection or project will be available under one or more URLs like the following:

A subdomain of transformativeworks.org:


A subdirectory of opendoors.transformativeworks.org:


We may also preserve the original project’s domain name, if any:


In addition, the collection will be linked from the Open Doors gallery:


Archives that have been integrated into the Archive of Our Own will also be listed in the Open Doors gallery.

d. Role of Original Maintainer

The original maintainer of the archive special collection will be invited to continue working on the collection for as long as she or he wishes, so long as she or he is willing to abide by OTW’s general policies for its volunteers (including but not limited to the conflict of interest policy and admin access policies). The OTW will try to find volunteers to provide maintainers with what assistance they need for as long as they work with us.

In the case of an archive that has been preserved within the Archive of Our Own, the maintainer will be invited to moderate her or his archive’s collection within the Archive of Our Own with all the powers that a collection moderator in the Archive usually has; so, for instance, to decide whether a new story fulfills her collection’s rules, or should be removed from the collection.

If the collection’s maintainer no longer wants to work on the collection, the OTW will find someone else in the organization to keep the collection up and running, and potentially growing into the future.

e. Collection Policy

Where possible, the existing policies of the collection will be preserved, even if they differ from the policies of the Archive of Our Own. Specifically, collections (whether integrated into the Archive of Our Own or preserved as special collections) can have limits on fandom, subject matter, sexual content, etc. that do not apply to archive content generally. Open Doors collections may be mixed fan and non-fanworks; when we accept a mixed collection, the entire collection will be added to the Archive, and the standard prohibition on non-fanworks will not apply to the collection. However, the OTW retains the right to remove content from its servers if the Board deems removal necessary for specific legal reasons, or if the content violates the Content Policy (other than the prohibition on non-fanwork content).

Control over individual fanworks contained within a collection rests with their creators. If the creator of any individual fanwork contained within a collection requests its removal or alteration, the OTW will always comply with such a request. We will also provide mechanisms allowing creators to claim their fanworks from such a collection and if desired to attach them to a new or existing Archive of Our Own account.

f. Parting from the OTW

As noted in section e., control over individual fanworks contained within a collection always rests with their creators. This section applies to collections as a whole. If the collection’s original maintainer decides that he or she no longer wants to be affiliated with the OTW, or the OTW board decides they no longer wish to work with the original maintainer, the following procedures for dissolution will apply:

i. OTW will keep the content currently on the OTW server(s), whether in the Archive of Our Own or in a special collection.

ii. OTW will keep the subdomain (e.g., foresmutters.transformativeworks.org) and subdirectory (e.g, opendoors.transformativeworks.org/foresmutters) URLs of special projects, pointing to the content currently on the OTW servers.

iii. OTW will give the original maintainer back the original domain name if any (e.g., www.foresmutters.org) or the archive or special project, as well as a copy of the current contents of the project (or all stories under the archive tag in the Archive of Our Own).

iv. OTW will not be responsible for helping the maintainer set up elsewhere, only for giving him or her the content and transferring back domain ownership.

v. OTW will place a prominent announcement on the Open Doors page indicating that the original maintainer has moved to a new location, with a link to the new location if provided by the maintainer.

vi. OTW may choose to continue work on the collection on the OTW servers.

vii. These ToS are written assuming a single maintainer. If there are multiple active maintainers of a collection, they must all agree before the OTW will bring the collection into Open Doors. If some but not all of the maintainers later wish to part from the OTW, those who wish to do so can continue to work with the collection on the OTW servers, while the OTW will follow provisions iv. and v. for any maintainers who wish to move the collection elsewhere. The OTW will retransfer domain names only to maintainers who were registered owners of the domain names at issue. For active collections, maintainers can use whatever dispute resolution procedure they work out between themselves, provided that they otherwise comply with OTW policies.

The goal of these rules is to be clear about how special collections and other extant fannish projects might come under the OTW umbrella while still preserving the autonomy both of the original maintainer and of the OTW. We want to provide a permanent home to projects, and preserve the results of our efforts, without the original maintainer feeling like she or he is giving up all control.

g. General provisions

Matters not specifically addressed in this agreement will be governed by the general Terms of Service.

Announcing: OTW’s GeoCities Rescue Project

As we reported earlier this year, GeoCities, which hosts many fannish resource pages and archives, announced that it will be closing down at the end of the year. They’ve now announced a more specific date: October 26, 2009.

In response, the Open Doors Committee of the OTW would like to announce our GeoCities Rescue Project.

If you are the owner of a fanfiction archive or resource, meta or other fannish page on GeoCities and you are looking to house your fiction or other content, the OTW can help! Open Doors is teaming up with the Archive of Our Own and Fanlore to preserve as much material as possible.

Fanfiction: We’re offering AO3 beta accounts to fanfiction authors currently hosted on GeoCities –both single author and multiple author archives are welcome–so that you may preserve your fiction. If you are not the author, owner or site administrator, you can still document and memorialize parts of a fanfiction site on Fanlore, but we need an authorized person for an AO3 account. Contact Open Doors for more information!

Resource sites: If you are the owner of a fannish resource site, we recommend a page in Fanlore with a summary of the information and purpose of the site along with screencaps of the entry page and/or other key pages to convey the feeling of the site. We have volunteers who can help you set up a Fanlore page documenting both the content and feel of a GeoCities page. Even non-owners of a resource site can document and memorialize a site on Fanlore. Contact Open Doors for help or for more information!

For either a fic or a resource site, please include the URL of the site you wish to archive/preserve, and an email address. If you are the administrator of a multi-author site, please include email addresses for each hosted author (if possible).

Archive News #3 – How is the Archive developing? + More about tags!

Welcome to our third Archive news post! These regular posts are a venue for us to answer some frequently asked questions about the Archive of Our Own. Questions about the Archive Roadmap, Tags, and Warnings…right under the cut!

Please leave your questions about the Archive in comments and we’ll answer them in upcoming posts. (This is a space for more general questions – if you have specific comments about the design or usability of the Archive please send feedback on the Archive site itself, so it goes into our bugfix and design process).

How far through the Archive Roadmap are the coding team?

You can view the AOOO Roadmap on our website. We’ve completed the basic work up to version 0.6, although we want to make some major revisions to Searching and Browsing, and we are also enhancing our Bookmarks.

When will you add the big features which are still outstanding?

Search and Browse
This is already in place, but we’re doing some intensive work to make it faster, stronger and better. We expect to finish our redesign by August 2009.

Bookmarks are already in place, but we want to refine and add some features. We expect to finish our redesign by August 2009.

Collections and challenges:
We’re in the process of designing this feature, with the help of all the lovely people who contributed their thoughts on scenarios. We hope to have it fully designed and coded by October 2009 but are aware this is a big piece of work. In the best case scenario, we hope to run a pilot this year, but either way, we should be able to start accommodating larger archives around New Year’s this year.

This is scheduled for development during July-October 2009, when we will be welcoming an intern from Darmstadt University, Germany, who will be leading the design and coding for this area.

Will the Archive host fanworks other than fic?

Yes! The OTW supports all forms of fan creativity, and the Archive will ultimately host fanart. We’re in the very early stages of planning how we’ll host fanvids, which will probably be their own project rather than part of the AOOO. Thankfully, we can take advantage of existing and developing open source solutions for hosting online video: we won’t have to build a vid archive from scratch.

What does it mean for a tag to be ‘common’?

If you’ve ever clicked on a tag, you may have noticed that the page that comes up tells you ‘This is (or is not) a common tag’ – see the tag John Sheppard/Radek Zelenka for an example. ‘Common’ tags are used as options in our search filters (the ones your see on the right hand side of the page marked ‘filter your results’. This allows us to avoid having multiple different versions of a tag all showing up in the filters at the same time – so you don’t have John/Radek as well as John Sheppard/Radek Zelenka. The filters still find the alternate versions, because they’re all connected to the ‘common’ (aka ‘canonical’) tags behind the scenes. (See our previous news post on tags for a bit more information about this.)

I have used my tags multiple times, but they’re not marked ‘common’ – why not?

It may be that your tag has been connected to another tag – for example the tag John/Rodney has been merged into the Rodney McKay/John Sheppard tag.

If your tag is a freeform tag, for example kink_bingo, santa, and roadtrip, you might find that it has not been marked common or connected to any others. This is because our tag wranglers haven’t wrangled it yet, as we’re still working on the best way to use freeform tags in our filters. Once we figure out the best way to handle these, then we’ll incorporate them into our search and browse so that you can easily find fics tagged in a particular way. However, this has a big potential impact on performance since there are a lot of these tags. We’re currently rebuilding our search and browse interface in order to improve performance while enhancing choice and control on the part of the reader. In the meantime, our tag wranglers have been holding off on marking most freeform tags common and focusing on dealing with fandom and characters.

How can I search for fics with tags that haven’t been marked common?

Our search box searches all fields, so you can search for anything you like in there. In response to popular demand, our latest code update adds some new tag functionality – clicking on any tag will now bring up works which use that tag. We hope to bring some more power to tag searching in the revamp of our search interface, but in the meantime we think it should be reasonably easy to find what you are looking for.

I’m not sure how to tag my crossover / rpf / other fic.

We mentioned in the last post that we’re still figuring out the coding logistics for crossovers and real person fiction. However, this work relates entirely to things which will happen behind the scenes, so please don’t let it delay you in posting fic to the Archive! Just tag your fics in the way that feels right to you, and let our tag wranglers deal with any headaches that may arise. The one thing we do ask is that you be generous with your tagging information – for example, giving characters’ full names makes life a bit easier for us.

How are you planning on organising the fandom tags for Books and Literature? They seem a bit inconsistent.

It’s true that the canonical tags for Books and Literature do not follow one consistent pattern – books fandoms vary a lot in the way they are referred to (book title, author name, series), so it’s almost impossible to use a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Our official standard is to use ‘Book / Series name – Author name’, for example Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis. However, this standard is still evolving, and there are some complexities relating to fandoms such as Georgette Heyer which don’t fit neatly into this form. We’re working on some code that will make it easier for us to manage tricky fandom names like this, and we’ll likely make some changes to introduce more consistency in the future, but for now we’re focusing on having tags which will be meaningful and familiar to our users rather than on a single unified form. If you’re wondering how to tag your own fic, then please do use a format that seems sensible to you rather than worrying too much about the ‘right’ way from our POV.

When you wrangle tags, how do you deal connections between tags which aren’t exact equivalents?

As we mentioned in our previous post, our tag wrangling process connects up tags which are synonyms, such as SPN and Supernatural. Some of you have pointed out that some tags may technically be synonyms, but the individual terms carry levels of nuance. For example, Alternate Universe and Alternate Reality are used interchangeably by some people, but others make a distinction. We currently don’t have any way to add nuance to our tags relationships – we’re working on ways to categorise tags as ‘related but not identical’, but we haven’t come up with the right code yet. In the meantime, we take these on a case-by-case basis – as a general rule we won’t mark tags as synonyms if there is the potential for confusion.

I want to add more warnings to my work than your standard warning tags allow.

When our Content Policy team decided on our warnings policy, they wanted to ensure that authors could give (and readers could get) as much information as they wanted about stories. This is one of the main purposes of our freeform tags – you can add as much information to your story as you see fit, and readers can add their own additional descriptions and tags if they choose to bookmark the fic. One of the key themes which has emerged in the recent debates on warnings is that many people just want more information about stories generally. Our freeform tags not only let you add other warnings to your own story, but also to label your stories with themes, kinks, or other story elements readers might want to know about and to tag other stories on the archive with the information you find most relevant.

Our standard warning tags, which include “choose not to warn”, “choose not to warn for some content”, and “none of these warnings apply”, were designed to help the reader decide about whether or not to seek out additional information about a story through the tag system, rather than as a comprehensive list of all serious warnings. We want to keep the number of core warnings low because those warnings are enforceable: if a story contains major character death, and is labeled “none of these warnings apply,” a reader can report that story to Abuse, who can contact the author and, if necessary, change the story’s label to “Choose not to warn for some content.” The same applies for graphic violence, underage, and rape/noncon. The bigger the list of core warnings, the more difficult they are to enforce (not even taking into account the even greater difficulty of defining categories such as “dubcon”), especially given that our policy is to defer to authors’ judgment in close cases.

But if you’re someone who prefers not to have too much information about a story before you read, fear not! You may already have noticed that logged-in users have an option to hide all warnings by default (you set this on your preferences page, and when it’s enabled you can still reveal warnings on a case-by-case basis). We’re planning to add the same option for tags, so that if you prefer surprise!alien spiders–or even surprise!incest–you can have it – watch out for this new feature in a future site update.

As the latest discussion on warnings reminded everyone, it’s hard to find a solution that works for everyone – but we think the model we have developed is a good balance.

We hope this post answers a few of your questions! Please leave other questions and comments here. We won’t always answer comments on this post directly – we’ll put your feedback into our pool of things to answer in future posts.