Archive: Assorted policies & FAQ

Below is the final section of the draft Terms of Service for the Archive of Our Own, and its accompanying FAQs. The earlier sections and their accompanying FAQs can be found on the Archive site (ToS and FAQs).

This is a work-in-progress. We’re posting it to get as much feedback as possible. If there’s something you don’t understand, please ask. We will try to clarify, and possibly add to the FAQ. If there’s something you don’t like, it would be really helpful if you’d suggest alternatives.

Members of the Content Policy committee will be available to answer questions. Please remember that anonymous comments are disallowed.

In response to feedback on the first sections of the policy, we have changed some wording and made two substantive changes: First, rather than a strict three-strikes policy, the abuse team will have discretion on when to issue warnings, temporary suspensions, and permanent suspensions, with that discretion to be exercised with an eye to correcting inadvertent violations of the ToS and preventing deliberate abuse.

Second, we have clarified that original works are not currently allowed, unless they come in as part of an Open Doors collection. While this policy, like others, is open to revision depending on user feedback, we concluded that this was the best initial policy, especially given our plans to host fanart.

J. User Icons

User icons should be appropriate for general audiences. They should not contain profanity or depictions of frontal nudity or sexual activity.

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. An orphaned story will retain no information connecting it to its original creator, while preventing broken links and allowing people who enjoyed the story to read it again in the future. This allows us to preserve the work while protecting the author’s decision to avoid association with the work. We encourage orphaning as an alternative to deletion.

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 (link), 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

A subdirectory of

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., and subdirectory (e.g, 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., 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.

User Icons

Q: Why are the rules for user icons more restrictive than the general archive rules?

A: Right now, the design calls for user icons to appear on pages, such as user profiles, that are entirely unrated. The design provides for only one user icon per pseudonym, rather than multiple icons, which means that whatever icon a user picks will be visible to any browser. If there is substantial interest in changing the system, we may revise the archive so that a user may have multiple icons and/or may rate his or her profile just as a fanwork may be rated, in which case we will change the user icon policy. The icon policy is not the general fanart policy. We do anticipate eventually hosting fanart and treating it like textual fanworks, governed mainly by ratings and warnings rather than by content restrictions.


1. What do you mean by “collections”?

Collections can be fic fests, exchanges, ficathons, or other types of creative challenges, as well as simple collections of fanworks chosen by the collection maintainer. Currently, the limited beta version of the archive software being tested now has a tab called “communities,” where collections will be listed once that feature is active.

2. What’s the point of having separate rules for collections/challenges?

The rules are basically the same as for everything else on the Archive. This just allows another way to group fanworks by areas of interest. There is one important special rule: if the collection maintainer says in the rules that submissions are final, then you can’t withdraw your contribution from the collection, though you can always orphan it. We put this rule in place to allow gift exchanges. Ordinarily, removing a fanwork from the archive is sad, but it’s up to you. But when you’ve added a fanwork as a gift, and possibly received a fanwork as a gift in return, we think it’s fair to say that the other participants should continue to enjoy the benefit of your contribution. In those cases, orphaning allows you to sever your connection with the fanwork while not removing it from the collection. This policy was based on prior experience with the Yuletide Rare Fandoms gift exchange.

3. I think my fanwork would be perfect for a collection, but the maintainer won’t add it to the collection!

Unless there’s an independent violation of the Content Policy, we won’t intervene in collection decisions, even if they are arbitrary, biased, or wrong. You may want to add tags to your fanwork that will be of interest to people who are fans of relevant collections.

4. How can I start a collection?

When the Archive adds this feature, we will add a link here!

Fannish Next-of-Kin

5. What does “fannish next-of-kin” mean?

The Archive allows you to choose someone to manage your fannish works if you die or are permanently incapacitated.

6. What does my fannish next-of-kin get to do?

We will transfer control of your archive account to your next-of-kin. After that, they can follow whatever guidelines you set for them. You might ask them to leave all of your fanworks alone but transfer control of any challenges you were running to people of your or their choice. You might ask them to orphan all of your fanworks and close your account.

7. How do I choose someone?

That’s up to you. It should be someone reliable, someone you trust to make decisions about your fanworks.

8. What do I do once I’ve chosen someone?

Both you and your fannish next-of-kin need to send a message to [next-of-kin address] indicating that you want to have him/her as your fannish next-of-kin and that s/he agrees. You need to provide your Archive usernames for our records. When we receive matching requests, we will confirm that a fannish next-of-kin arrangement is in place.

9. If they’re my next-of-kin, am I theirs?

The relationship can be reciprocal if you want, but it doesn’t have to be. However, you can only have one person as your fannish next-of-kin at a time.

10. Why can’t I have more than one fannish next-of-kin?

We want to know who has the final say. This arrangement exists precisely so that we don’t have to mediate disputes over what you would have wanted.

11. What happens if my fannish next-of-kin also dies?

You would need to choose a new person. Your fannish next-of-kin can also designate someone else as their own fannish next-of-kin. If A designates B as a fannish next-of-kin, then dies, and B designates C as B’s fannish next-of-kin, when B dies C can control all the accounts that B controlled, which at that point would include A’s.

12. What if my fannish next-of-kin decides s/he’s tired of being my fannish next-of-kin?

Either party can revoke a fannish next-of-kin agreement by sending a message to [next-of-kin address]. We will inform the other party that the agreement has been ended. Please include your username and the username of the other person involved in the agreement so we can find the right record.

When a fan is dead or incapacitated, the fannish next-of-kin will have control of the account and can make any decisions about it, including handing it off to someone else; the Archive cannot control whether or not anyone shares password information with anyone else. If the fannish next-of-kin lets us know that s/he wants to stop managing the account, we will permanently suspend the account, which means that all existing content will stay in place, but nothing may be changed or added.

13. What if I decide I don’t like my fannish next-of-kin agreement?

Send an e-mail saying that you want to terminate the agreement. Please include your username and the username of the other person involved in the agreement so we can find the right record. The [name of committee/group] will e-mail the parties involved in the agreement to let them know. Either party in an agreement can terminate it. You are free to choose a new fannish next-of-kin.

14. What if my fannish next-of-kin does something I wouldn’t like?

Please choose someone you trust. It would be difficult or impossible for the Archive to enforce the exact terms of your agreement. All we will do is verify your status and transfer account control to the appropriate person.

15. How can my fannish next-of-kin get control of my fanworks?

A fannish next-of-kin can activate the agreement by sending a message to [next-of-kin address] that you are dead or permanently incapacitated. The Archive will send a message to the email address associated with your account. If we do not receive a response from that address within ten days, we will transfer control of your account to your fannish next-of-kin. The Archive will not do any independent investigation into whether you are dead or incapacitated.

16. Why won’t the Archive check to see whether I am really dead or incapacitated?

We don’t want to be in the position of collecting and possessing personal information of the kind that we’d need to confirm what your fannish next-of-kin says. It is your responsibility to choose someone you trust. If you want a custom arrangement, we suggest you make private arrangements with someone you trust to handle your passwords and accounts in the event of your death or incapacity.

17. What happens if I die before choosing someone?

Your account will remain just as you left it. No one will be able to delete, orphan, or modify your fanworks except in response to a ToS violation.

18. Why should I bother choosing someone?

It can be useful to have someone you trust as a fellow fan to make decisions about your account.

19. Help! Something went wrong: control of my account has been transfered, but I’m still hale and hearty!

If rumors of your death were greatly exaggerated, please contact [next-of-kin address] right away. Whether you’ve turned up after being lost in the Amazon for a decade or whether someone is just trying to pull a fast one, we’ll do our best to get you your account back ASAP.


20. You mention that an orphaning request might come from someone who doesn’t have an active account. How could that happen?

Someone whose account has been permanently suspended, or someone whose fanworks are archived in a collection that we are preserving through Open Doors, might submit an orphaning request. In that case, we’d attempt to verify their identity according to the procedures set forth in the Orphaning policy.

Open Doors

See our Open Doors FAQ.

Announcement, Archive of Our Own
  1. folk commented:

    Hey, generally, all this? Awesome. I love the next-of-kin arrangements.

    You guys, after Nipplegate on LJ, can I make a strong suggestion for a watertight policy on precisely what “frontal nudity” is? And whether female nipples are allowed if male nipples are? I realise that it may seem pedantic and overkill, but I bet it’d be time and thought well spent.

    Thanks for all your hard work.

    • ainsley commented:

      And thank you for the input! We will take this feedback into consideration at our next meeting.

  2. kassrachel commented:

    Content Policy gang, y’all rock! This is awesome.

    I especially love the fannish next-of-kin notion. (I tried typing &hearts there, but Firefox does not want to translate that into a little heart icon! So I’ll settle for plain old English language. 🙂

  3. zvi commented:

    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.

    To me, these clauses are both pretty darn problematic.

    For section v, I think that an announcement that the original maintainer has moved should also appear on the pages [project] and[project], and they should be equally as prominent as what appears on the Open Doors page.

    For section vi, I am honestly pretty opposed to OTW continuing to work on the collection in general, but, at the very least, I want a lot more clarity on what ‘continue to work on the collection’ means. Is this simple maintenance work, where if people submit stories which qualify for the collection, a collection maintainer will approve their inclusion? Or is OTW going to actively solicit content for the collection, in some sense competing with the original maintainer’s project which is now spun off elsewhere? Is there going to be any distinction between work added under the auspice of the original maintainer and that added under the new OTW management?

    P.S. For clarification, I am speaking as a general member of fandom, not as a member of the Webmasters’ Committee. However, this website only provides one icon per account, and I have the webmasters’ one to be clear when posting announcements.

    • ainsley commented:

      Thank you for the feedback! We shall discuss these points further when the committee next meets.

  4. msilverstar commented:

    I can’t see anything that I’d change in this, you have worked through a lot of thorny issues and come up with a reasonable solution for all that I can imagine.

    Since I usually nitpick, I thought I’d give an attagirl for a change.


  5. Laura Shapiro commented:

    This is such a great concept. I wish LJ had such an arrangement!

  6. gatewaygirl commented:

    This is a suggestion on policy & procedure, not on the actual TOS, but I have twice recently had a site (one a fannish archive, one a high school) send me my new password in clear text in email, with no warning that they would do such a thing. Please be more secure than this! Minimally, you should warn at password creation if you will ever send the password as text, but better yet, don’t do that.

    What I consider “standard security” behavior is this:

    • When you create an account, you are sent email with your username and links to relevant data, possibly including your account page, the “if you forget your password” procedure, and self-help resources.
    • If you forget your password, an admin changes it to a temporary password, and then emails the temporary password to you. (Note that this still protects your password if you use it for more than one site.) You log on and change the temporary password to something you think you can remember.

    I’ve worked in computers since 1988, the majority of it in support for network software, including monitoring software that grabbed network traffic for analysis and display. Given that package, I could easily filter on SMTP (mail) data containing the string “password”, and get this sort of message from, say, unsecured wireless networks within range of my laptop. I could also automate that to run and store data while I’m not at the computer. That was state of the art fifteen years ago or more. (Though my example does assume a modern network card.)

    *takes off geek hat*

    Great job! This shows a stunning amount of planning. I especially like the “fannish next-of kin” idea, and the provisions for other archives using the site for backup. 🙂

    That reminds me — a few years ago, I instructed my husband as to whom he was to send all my unfinished stories if I died. I should probably remind him of that, or write it down in my planner…..

    • ainsley commented:

      Thank you for the feedback! I don’t know much about the technical stuff, but I’ll make sure the relevant people take this into consideration.