Frequently Asked Questions

Archive of Our Own

Why another archive?

Our first goal is to create a new, free, open-source software package to allow fans to host their own robust, full-featured archives, which can support even an archive containing hundreds of thousands of stories and which has the social networking features to enable fans to connect to one another through their work.

Our second goal is to use this software to provide a noncommercial and nonprofit central hosting place for fanfic and other transformative fanworks, where these can be sheltered by the advocacy of the OTW and take advantage of the OTW’s work in articulating the case for the legality and social value of these works. Unlike other archives, the Archive of Our Own isn’t run by individuals whose interest in fandom may wax and wane, but by a nonprofit organization run by an elected rotating board of committed fans. We hope that this will lead to more permanence and stability than some other archives or services.

Who profits from the Archive of Our Own? Do users have to pay?

No one, including the OTW as an organization, makes money from the archive or its content; in fact, the opposite is true because the OTW pays to host the archive. Advertising is not shown. Instead, we hold public radio-style pledge drives to ask for support from our users. No donation will ever be required to use the archive or any of its tools.

Why is it taking such a long time to make the archive?

Building the kind of archive the OTW envisions is not a simple process. We’re not just setting up an archive using existing software, but building new open-source archive software designed around fans’ needs, that can be easily maintained and easily reused, and that can handle potentially millions of stories from hundreds of thousands of simultaneous users.

This work is being done by a group of volunteers, including a group of trainees learning how to write and maintain code, to help build the fannish community of coders. This is a group of people who can help to maintain the archive software in future. In other words, we’re not just building the Archive, we’re building the builders.

We have also taken the time to develop comprehensive and fan-friendly policies with as much input from fans as possible; you can see our resulting Terms of Service on the Archive of Our Own.

This is taking a little while to do, but we absolutely believe it’s worth the time. You can follow the progress of the Archive’s development in our newsletters and our blog. To get involved, contact the Volunteers committee.

Is the OTW trying to replace all other archives?

No. In fact, we hope that other fans will use our archive software, which will be open-source and free to use and modify, to build their own archives.

In the Archive of Our Own, we hope to create a multi-fandom archive with great features and fan-friendly policies, which is customizable and scalable, and will last for a very long time. We’d like to be fandom’s deposit library, a place where people can back up existing work or projects and have stable links, not the only place where anyone ever posts their work. It’s not either/or; it’s more/more!

How can I get an account on the Archive?

The Archive of Our Own entered open beta in November 2009. To create an account, you need an invitation. We’re using the invitation code system so that the Archive can grow in a controlled manner. We need to add new users gradually so that our account numbers don’t grow beyond what our hardware, bandwidth, help and support can cope with. This helps us ensure that everyone using the Archive gets the best possible experience. Once you receive an invitation email, click the link provided in the email to go to the account creation page. If you’ve been provided with an invitation link by another user, clicking this link should take you to the right place.

I run an archive I’d like to import/back up to the Archive of Our Own. What do I need to do?
Contact Open Doors for access to the archive importer. Please let us know from the outset if you have special needs — for example, if you’d like us to take over maintenance of the old domain, or if your archive contains multimedia content.
How many European users do you have?

By design, the OTW does not track all users or have the ability to create a browsing history for every individual. Based on assumptions about ordinary use that are reasonable in light of our experience, we have estimated the number of monthly active European users as approximately 3.48 million, but we reserve the right to make different assumptions in the future. In addition, there is uncertainty about what constitutes a “platform” or “service” under the Digital Services Act and whether projects such as the Archive of Our Own and Fanlore are distinct “platforms” or “services” from each other. We reserve the right to revisit this question in the future, but for now our estimate covers all our projects.


What is Fanlore?

Fanlore is a wiki—a multi-authored website—that any fan can contribute to. Our goal is to record both the history and current state of our fan communities—fanworks, fan activities, fan terminology, individual fans and fan-related events. For more information, see the Fanlore About page and the Fanlore FAQ.

What is the scope of Fanlore?

The scope of Fanlore includes all fandoms and transformative works of all kinds. We seek to host contributions from a diverse range of fans as they share experiences about the histories of their fannish communities.

What should I do if I believe there are articles or information missing?

All fans and interested persons are invited to contribute to Fanlore by creating articles or adding information to existing pages. Anything you can contribute towards the preservation of fannish history is welcome!

I want to edit a page on Fanlore, but I don’t know how. Help!

We’re always excited to welcome new editors to Fanlore, and we have lots of resources to get you started. Start with our Tips for Browsing Fanlore and the Basic Editing Tutorial, and then make sure to browse our more detailed help pages. You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with our policies.


Once you’ve started editing, the Fanlore Editing Cheatsheet is an invaluable resource – as is this list of templates that are frequently used around the wiki. If you need further assistance, you can always contact our gardeners for editing help. Short and/or introductory pages are always welcome!

Do you connect fan identities and real life identities in the wiki?

Fanlore has an identity protection policy which ensures that fans can keep their pseudonymous fan identities separate from their real names if they wish to. Additionally, the Organization for Transformative Works as a whole is committed to protecting the privacy of fans, whether they are users of our services or not. If an edit has been made to the wiki which connects your real-life and fannish identities without your consent, please contact Fanlore and we will work with you to resolve the issue.

Why is the wiki only in English? Can I contribute edits in other languages?

Fandom is international, and we welcome contributions from fans all over the world. At this time, Fanlore is an English-language resource, although editors are absolutely encouraged to document fandoms, fanworks, and fan communities that may have originally been conducted in languages other than English. If you would like advice on or assistance with documenting aspects of non-English-language fandoms, or are interested in working with Fanlore to improve the international scope of the wiki, please contact us.


Who profits from the formation of OTW?

In a fiscal sense, no one; OTW is a nonprofit organization, so any revenue the organization takes in goes into the organization’s coffers to support the work the organization does. The OTW does not currently have any paid staff and is run by volunteers. Our official conflict-of-interest policy is the one recommended by the IRS for nonprofits.

Where is the OTW incorporated?

The OTW is incorporated in the state of Delaware, in the United States.

Why does OTW need money, and what is it going to be spent on?

The OTW uses funds to purchase goods and services that cannot be provided by its volunteers, such as expenses related to operations and certain administrative costs. Such operational expenses include the purchase of software and server space to create and maintain the archive. Administrative expenses include a variety of items typical to a nonprofit organization, such as insurance, payment processor fees, and tax preparation and auditing services.

Who decides what OTW spends money on?

The Board is ultimately responsible for these decisions as part of its fiduciary obligation. The Board treasurer is specifically responsible for the creation and implementation of the OTW’s budget, but the Board must vote to approve the budget, as well as any unplanned expenditures. For smaller transactions, the Board will delegate responsibility to OTW’s committees to determine what goods and services may be necessary.

How can I donate to OTW? Can I donate if I live outside the United States?
The OTW is able to accept donations from all over the world via online donation, or by check via mail to our post office box. See Support the OTW for the details.

Our payment processor will not reveal credit card or bank account numbers to the OTW. Personal checks received by mail will necessarily have account information on them, but that information will not be retained.

Are donations to OTW tax-deductible?

Yes, in the United States. The IRS has approved OTW’s tax-exempt, nonprofit status. One of the benefits of our nonprofit status is that any donation that you make to the organization, including your US$10 OTW membership fee, is now tax-deductible in the United States! Even better, your past donations are also tax-deductible, back to our date of incorporation: September 5, 2007.

Please note that if you are located outside the US, your contribution may or may not be tax-deductible. You should consult with a tax adviser and see whether a gift to a US 501(c)(3) qualifies for a tax deduction under your local laws.

How does OTW protect the data collected on individuals making donations?

The OTW must collect certain information (such as name, address, etc.) from donors to comply with IRS regulations. Given the prevalence of fans using pseudonyms in their fannish life, this information will be held closely by the OTW and is only available to the OTW’s treasurer and members of the Development and Membership committee. Completely anonymous donations can only be made in cash.

What measures are in place to protect the investments of members?

The OTW is a nonprofit corporation, subject to laws and regulations dictating its fiduciary responsibilities to conduct activities in a manner that upholds the public trust. The OTW will be scrutinized not only by its members and fans outside the organization, but also by the IRS and the State of Delaware, our incorporation state.

There are a number of additional safeguards in place. Misuse of OTW funds constitutes fraud and could be subject to prosecution. This operates as a solid deterrent. Distribution of the OTW’s funds will follow generally accepted accounting principles with regard to oversight and authorization of expenditures. The OTW’s financial information is also audited by an independent third party CPA firm every fiscal year. Finally, the OTW is required to file Form 990 with the IRS each year to report the organization’s financial activities.

Annual audit reports and Form 990s are available publicly on the OTW website’s Reports & Governing Documents page as well as the Finance Committee page.


Why does the OTW believe that transformative works are legal?

Copyright is intended to protect the creator’s right to profit from her work for a period of time to encourage creative endeavor and the widespread sharing of knowledge. But this does not preclude the right of others to respond to the original work, either with critical commentary, parody, or, we believe, transformative works.

In the United States, copyright is limited by the fair use doctrine. The legal case of Campbell v. Acuff-Rose held that transformative uses receive special consideration in fair use analysis. For those interested in reading in-depth legal analysis, more information can be found on the Fanlore Legal Analysis page.

What exactly is fair use?

Fair use is the right to make some use of copyrighted material without getting permission or paying. It is a basic limit on copyright law that protects free expression. “Fair use” is an American phrase, although all copyright laws have some limits that keep copyright from being private censorship.

Fair use favors uses that (1) are noncommercial and not sold for a profit; (2) are transformative, adding new meaning and messages to the original; (3) are limited, not copying the entirety of the original; and (4) do not substitute for the original work. None of these factors is absolutely necessary for fair use, but they all help, and we believe that fanworks like those in the archive easily qualify as fair uses based on all these factors.

What is the OTW’s position on plagiarism vs. fanfiction?

There is a distinction between plagiarism (the unacknowledged use of someone else’s words claimed as one’s own), fanfiction (the acknowledged or obvious borrowing of story elements to tell a new story in the fanfiction writer’s words), and quotation (the acknowledged or obvious use of small excerpts of another’s work).

By “obvious” we mean that even if a fan writer didn’t put a disclaimer on their story, readers know that they did not invent Wonder Woman or Voldemort, or the phrase “Use the Force, Luke.”

Plagiarism is deceitful and prevents the original author from receiving credit for their own original work. Fanfiction and quotation are important fair uses which acknowledge the original author and their work. The OTW does not support plagiarism; we do support fanfiction and quotation.

Is the OTW trying to change the law?

No. While case law in this area is limited, we believe that current copyright law already supports our understanding of fanfiction as fair use.

We seek to broaden knowledge of fan creators’ rights and reduce the confusion and uncertainty on both fan and pro creators’ sides about fair use as it applies to fanworks. One of our models is the documentary filmmakers’ statement of best practices in fair use, which has helped clarify the role of fair use in documentary filmmaking.

Who are the OTW’s legal partners?

The OTW’s Legal committee is consulting with the Stanford Fair Use Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Does the OTW support the commercialization of fanfic?

The mission of the OTW is first and foremost to protect the fan creators who work purely for love and share their works for free within the fannish gift economy, who are looking to be part of a community and connect to other fans and to celebrate and to respond to the media works that they enjoy.

These fans create vibrant and active communities around the work they are celebrating, tend to spend heaps of money on the original work and associated merchandise, and encourage others to buy also. They are not competing with the original creator’s work and if anything help to promote it.

While some transformative works legitimately circulate in the for-profit marketplace — parodies such as The Wind Done Gone (the retelling of Gone with the Wind from the perspective of a slave), critical analyses that quote extensively from an original, “unauthorized guides,” etc.—that really isn’t what fanfic writers and fan creators in general are doing, or looking to do. We just want to enjoy our hobby and our communities, and to share our creative work, without the constant threat hanging overhead that an overzealous lawyer at some corporation will start sending out cease & desist notices, relying not on legal merit, but on the disproportionate weight of money on their side.

I am a professional creator. Is the OTW trying to destroy my copyright?

Not at all. The OTW does not oppose the derivative works right that allows copyright owners to authorize a mass-market film adaptation, for instance, or allows a writer to authorize a specific individual (such as the author’s son or daughter) to publish sequels commercially. The founding Board Chair of the OTW is Naomi Novik, herself a professional novelist, whose work is under copyright and who has a stake on both sides.

How many European users do you have?

By design, the OTW does not track all users or have the ability to create a browsing history for every individual. Based on assumptions about ordinary use that are reasonable in light of our experience, we have estimated the number of monthly active European users as approximately 3.48 million, but we reserve the right to make different assumptions in the future. In addition, there is uncertainty about what constitutes a “platform” or “service” under the Digital Services Act and whether projects such as the Archive of Our Own and Fanlore are distinct “platforms” or “services” from each other. We reserve the right to revisit this question in the future, but for now our estimate covers all our projects.

Will OTW’s legal advocacy project be willing to help fans outside the US, such as fans from Germany where the copyright laws are different?

We are absolutely willing to help if we can find someone with the necessary legal knowledge. Fortunately, our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are making a major effort to develop global legal expertise, and we plan to call on them in such situations. In any situation, US or non-US, we’ll see what we can do based on the facts and our resources.

What are your plans for a test case?

We have no plans for a test case. We are focusing on building relationships with legal advocacy groups like the EFF and developing legal resources of our own.

One of the most exciting and helpful developments in copyright of late has been the development of “best practices,” principles and procedures establishing what constitutes fair use in the judgment of a community of creative users. Best practices can successfully defend fair use rights even without litigation—see the statement of best practices in fair use. It is our position that, at a minimum, noncommercial, transformative fanworks are fair use, and the OTW will defend that position, just as the documentary filmmakers are using their best practices to make films and do business without litigation.

If fanfiction is legitimate, wouldn’t that also mean that publishers or studios could produce derivative works without compensating the original authors?

No. Profit matters, and the degree of transformative quality matters: telling stories around a campfire, freely sharing nonprofit fanfiction, summarizing plot in a book review, or making a documentary film about fans is not the same as a major commercial derivative enterprise like making a major TV miniseries out of a novel.

I don’t live in the US. Is there an equivalent to fair use in my country? How might it be different from fair use in the US?

Most countries have exceptions to copyright rights for various purposes. In Europe, the more common term is “fair dealing.” Countries differ in their treatment of the scope of copyright and exceptions.

For example, in Canada, parody is not a specifically recognized defense to copyright infringement, although it can be fair dealing in appropriate circumstances. Australia has limited protections regarding the freedom of communications. The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property in the UK is expected to bring about changes in UK laws regarding parody and transformative use.

In other words, it’s complicated. And it’s ever-changing.

If my work is published in the OTW’s archive, what applies, my local laws on fair use, or US law?

Because the OTW and its servers are based in the US, we believe that US law applies to content in the Archive of Our Own, even if the author is a resident or national of a different country. However, different countries make different claims about the reach of their laws. Your country of origin’s laws are likely to apply to you. It is possible that some sections of the OTW policies are broader, or perhaps more restrictive, than a specific jurisdiction’s laws.

Other organizations that serve an international audience are dealing with the varying legal regimes under which their users live, work and play. Creative Commons, for example, has developed a multi-step process to “port” their licenses internationally by “both linguistically translating the licenses and legally adapting them to particular jurisdictions.

Ideally, we would like to develop a similar process within the OTW, but for the time being, we are happy to work with our friends at EFF when engaging in legal advocacy outside the United States. If you would like to work on non-US legal issues or education, please contact the Volunteers Committee.

I’m a professional creator. Do I need to avoid reading or acknowledging fanworks based on my own works?

This is essentially a personal decision. If it will upset you to read, view, or watch fanworks based on your works, then don’t.

Authors are sometimes advised to avoid reading or acknowledging fanfiction transforming their own work, as it is in theory possible that an author could read a story, go on to write something similar, and face a claim by the fan that they copied the fan’s work. There are many reasons to discount this risk, the least of which is that U.S. case law is all in the first author’s favor: no court is going to be receptive to a claim that a later work by the first author in the same universe infringes the fanwork. Among other things, when people begin with similar premises, it isn’t at all surprising that they will end up with similar ideas — but U.S. copyright law protects the specific expression of an idea, not ideas. Even if a fan work is similar to a later work in the same universe, similarity of ideas (say, how wand magic works in Harry Potter) isn’t sufficient for a copyright claim.

However, not being able to win doesn’t erase the possibility that someone could threaten to sue. The real issue is that it doesn’t take a fanwork to generate a threat! If an author reads fan mail or online reviews, they might encounter a fan’s ideas about what should happen with the characters; if they read other books, they might encounter a storyline or character similar to a storyline or character they might later use. In fact, the typical author-versus-author infringement case involves claims that one work copied another, apparently unrelated work.

The OTW’s mission includes explaining the difference between ideas and expression. A lot of people may have the same idea about what should happen on the next season of House; but if they each write different stories expressing the idea differently, then those stories don’t infringe each other.

Donations and Membership

How can I make a donation to the OTW?

To make a donation, go to our donation form.

Thank you for your support! If you have any questions or issues completing your donation, please contact the Development & Membership Committee.

Can I donate via check? Where do I send it to?

Yes, if you’re a United States resident. Unfortunately, we cannot accept checks from outside the US at the moment. Please fill out our donation form, select the “I will send payment by check” option, and send your check to:

Organization for Transformative Works, Inc.
228 Park Ave S #18156
New York, New York 10003-1502

Check donations may take up to 3 weeks to be deposited. If you have any questions, please contact the Development & Membership Committee.

Can I donate via cash or money order?

Yes, if you donate in US dollars, but cash and money orders will only be accepted as a non-membership donation. For membership purposes, we need to be able to connect your payment with a bank account or credit card so that we can verify that you’re a real person and an individual when we hold elections.

To donate, send the money to:

Organization for Transformative Works, Inc.
228 Park Ave S #18156
New York, New York 10003-1502

If you have any questions about this, please contact the Development & Membership Committee.

Can I donate in currencies other than US dollars?

Yes, you can make donations online using our donation form. (Please note that we cannot accept cash or check donations in currencies other than US dollars.) When you donate using our online form, you will be asked to specify the donation amount in US dollars on the form; afterwards, you can complete the payment using a credit card or PayPal.

Please contact the Development & Membership Committee or PayPal support for further assistance.

Are donations to the OTW tax-deductible? If so, what’s your EIN?

Yes, in the United States. The OTW is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and all donations made to us are tax-deductible. Our Employer Identification Number is 38-3765024; it will also be included in your donation receipt for your records.

Please note that if you are located outside the US, your contribution may or may not be tax-deductible. You should consult with a tax adviser and see whether a gift to a US 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization qualifies for a tax deduction under your local laws.

Please contact the Development & Membership Committee if you have further questions about this.

Why do you request my name and address in the donation form? Can I donate anonymously?

For membership donations, we need to link each donation to a specific individual for legal purposes, in order to avoid one person giving multiple times and having the right to several votes. (Read Why do you require a membership fee to give someone the right to vote in OTW elections? below to know more.)

Your information is safe with us, and we have a strong commitment to data security. We will never connect your legal and fannish identities. Please read our Privacy Policy for more details.

If you wish to donate without providing an address, you can make a non-membership donation using cash or money order (only in US dollars). Please refer to Can I donate via cash or money order? above.

Please contact the Development & Membership Committee if you have further questions.

What’s the difference between a membership donation and a non-membership donation?

A membership donation makes you an OTW member: you can vote in our annual elections for the Board of Directors. For more information about our elections process, please visit the OTW Elections website or contact the Elections team.

A non-membership donation, while greatly appreciated, does not make you an OTW member and confers no voting benefits.

Why do you require a membership fee to give someone the right to vote in OTW elections?

Like many nonprofits, the OTW uses a membership fee as a straightforward and easy-to-check requirement to ensure that each member is a single individual. Otherwise one person could create multiple membership accounts to have multiple votes in our elections.

These fees also go to help support the OTW—to pay the operating costs for both the organization and all of our projects, so that we do not need to use advertising or charge fees to users. We intend to keep our minimum donation low to ensure that it is not a barrier to entry for anyone who cares about the organization, but we hope that most members will give more if they can!

Can I buy a gift membership for someone else?

To ensure that all voting members of the OTW are in fact real individuals in order to hold fair elections, we cannot allow gift memberships. You’re welcome to make donations in honor of others through our form, but these donations will not confer membership status upon them.

Will a membership get me an AO3 invitation?

No. OTW memberships and AO3 accounts are not linked in any way. To get an AO3 account, please join the invitation queue. Donations to the OTW help us keep the Archive running, so we welcome your support, but we are committed to offering AO3 as a free service for everyone. There is no connection between individual donations and accounts on the Archive.

If you have questions about AO3 invitations, please contact AO3 Support.

Will my OTW membership be tied to my AO3 account?

No, OTW memberships and AO3 accounts are not linked in any way. The OTW strongly supports the right of fans to separate fannish and non-fannish identities. We will never connect the two, and the databases that contain membership information and AO3 account information are entirely separate. Our storage and usage of your data is governed by our Privacy Policy.

How long does a membership last? How do I know if I can vote?

Your membership lasts for one year counting from your most recent donation. If your donation is received by the “Record Date” for an election or vote, you’ll be eligible to vote in that election, and you’ll receive email notifications with more information about an election or vote when it occurs. The “Record Date” for an election or vote will be 30-60 days before an election ends, and the date(s) of any election period will be publicized at least 14 days before the Record Date.

If you’re not sure when you last donated, please contact the Development & Membership Committee.

Where does my donation go? How does the OTW spend its money?

Your donation supports the OTW’s operations and its projects. We’re an all-volunteer organization, so the bulk of our expenses goes towards our projects’ upkeep.

To learn more about our recent expenses and prospective budget, check out the following:

If you have any more questions, please contact the Development & Membership Committee.

Can I make a donation earmarked for a specific OTW project or expense?

There’s currently no way of earmarking donations for a single OTW project or expense. There are several expenses that are non-project-specific and related to the organisation as a whole: for instance, the software that our volunteers use to host meetings and make plans; the server hosting that works for both our internal documentation and AO3 content; and the firewall that protects Fanlore, the Archive and our internal storage. Donations go towards the upkeep of all these and other OTW projects.

How do I get a summary of all my donations in this fiscal year?
What’s a thank-you gift? How can I get one?

Thank-you gifts are optional items that you may choose to receive if you donate over US$40. The list of gifts available changes regularly. Please visit our donation form to know what the current selection is.

I’ve made a recurring donation. Can I get a thank-you gift when my donation total adds up to that amount?

Yes! You will receive instructions on how to select a thank-you gift in your donation receipt. When you reach that donation total for your selected gift, we’ll send it to you. Please contact the Development & Membership Committee if you have any questions.

How can I schedule a recurring donation (give US$__ every __ months)? Can recurring donations count towards membership?

Visit our donation form to make a recurring donation.

Membership requires at least one donation of $10 or more. You can create a membership with a one-time donation of $10 or more or a recurring donation that is $10 or more such that each donation of $10 or more will qualify as a membership renewal. Recurring donations of under $10 per donation will not count toward membership.

How can I cancel or change the recurring donation amount I had previously scheduled, or change the credit card I used?

To cancel your recurring donation, select your last contribution in PayPal and go to “Manage payments for …,” or go to the Payments tab on your PayPal Settings page. Recurring donations cannot be edited. If you wish to change your recurring donation, you must first cancel it and then set up a new one.

To change the credit card used in a donation, you will need to alter the PayPal transaction details. Please refer to PayPal help for more information about this, and contact PayPal support for assistance.

If I donate in honor of someone, will they get a notification?

No. Providing an email address for the ‘In Honor of’ section of the donation form is optional and does not generate any notification, although the honoree will receive any general emails sent to all donors.

I can’t donate right now, but I would like to support your work. Can I volunteer in the OTW instead?

All our currently open positions are listed on the Volunteer page. If a position you are interested in isn’t listed there at this time, check the page again later, and keep an eye out for new openings. We always publish information about new positions on OTW news outlets.

Open Doors

What is the Open Doors project?

The Open Doors project of the Organization for Transformative Works is dedicated to preserving fanworks for the future. Our goal in particular is to preserve those fannish projects that might otherwise be lost due to lack of time, interest, or resources on the part of the current maintainer.

Please see the Open Doors website for more information, including the complete Open Doors FAQ.

Organization for Transformative Works

What is the Organization for Transformative Works?

The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is a nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms.

Why was OTW created?

OTW was created to work toward a future in which all fannish works are recognized as legal and transformative, and accepted as legitimate creative activity.

Our mission is to be proactive and innovative in protecting and defending our work from commercial exploitation and legal challenge, and to preserve our fannish economy, values, and way of life by protecting and nurturing our fellow fans, our work, our commentary, our history, and our identity, while providing the broadest possible access to fannish activity for all fans.

What do you mean by a transformative work?

A transformative work takes something extant and turns it into something with a new purpose, sensibility, or mode of expression.

Transformative works include but are not limited to fanfiction, real person fiction, fan vids, and fan art. The OTW is interested in all kinds of transformative works, but our priority will be to support and defend the types of works hosted in our archive, and the fans who create them.

Why was this terminology chosen?

The term transformative was specifically chosen to highlight in the nonprofit organization’s name one of the key legal defenses for fanworks of all kinds (including real person fiction): that they are transformative of original source materials.

A transformative use is one that, in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, “adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the [source] with new expression, meaning, or message.” A story from Voldemort’s perspective is transformative, so is a story about a pop star that illustrates something about current attitudes toward celebrity or sexuality.

The courts have also analyzed “right of publicity” claims against creative works by using the transformative use test from copyright law, so this also applies to one of the main legal issues real person fiction faces. Because one of our primary goals is to defend the right of fanworks to exist, having a key defense for them in our name is important to the organization.

Does the OTW represent all of fandom?

The OTW neither wants to nor can speak for all of fandom: fandom is huge, no matter how you define it. Right now, the OTW wants to provide a useful, searchable, reliable and stable home for all fanfiction regardless of rating or fandom, and in the longer term expand to other fanworks. In order to do that, we’re trying to set up a stable, defensible infrastructure—that’s the OTW.

We welcome all fandoms in the OTW’s projects, including the Archive of Our Own, the Transformative Works and Cultures journal, and the Fanlore wiki. All of us engaged in making transformative fannish works face a common set of legal issues; we’d like to help fellow fans fight off pointless cease & desist letters, or find legal help if they’ve got a good case and want to pursue it.

We are trying to find allies and make connections before there’s any trouble, while also explaining to the world why there shouldn’t be trouble, because fans are loyal customers.

Why do the values and mission statements focus on female fans?

The OTW has its roots in a fan community with a decades-long history as a community made up mostly of women. Today, due to the internet and new technology, that community and its interests are rapidly growing in various ways and intersecting with other fan communities with different histories. We are excited and hopeful about the way our community is expanding and meeting with other varieties of remix culture, and we welcome anyone who wants to do what we’re doing. At the same time, it is still important to us to acknowledge that this particular creative community is a place created and shaped so strongly by the tastes of women, because that is historically a pretty rare and amazing thing.

OTW values all fans, and the contributions made by fans of all genders. As the Organization grew out of a practice of transformative fanwork historically rooted in a primarily female culture, we also specifically value that history of women’s involvement, and the practices of fandom shaped by women’s work.

Many organizations, including the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, focus on issues and interests related to fandom; the OTW is specifically focusing on issues relating to transformative works of fanfiction, fanvids, and fanart.

Who is behind OTW?

OTW is an organization created by fans, for fans. It’s run by a board of directors. See About Us for more information.

How many European users do you have?

By design, the OTW does not track all users or have the ability to create a browsing history for every individual. Based on assumptions about ordinary use that are reasonable in light of our experience, we have estimated the number of monthly active European users as approximately 3.48 million, but we reserve the right to make different assumptions in the future. In addition, there is uncertainty about what constitutes a “platform” or “service” under the Digital Services Act and whether projects such as the Archive of Our Own and Fanlore are distinct “platforms” or “services” from each other. We reserve the right to revisit this question in the future, but for now our estimate covers all our projects.

Who chooses the Board of Directors?

The 2007-2008 Board was appointed to get the OTW up and running. All subsequent boards are elected by OTW members. It is the Board’s responsibility to organize committees, make final decisions, keep financial records, handle compliance, and so on.

Board members are asked to serve three-year terms. One-third of the Board is elected every year. The Board is elected from among members in good standing who have served at least one term on a committee. Every member of the OTW gets one vote in the election, regardless of how much they contribute. If you are interested in running for the Board, please contact Elections staff. For more information about our elections process, please visit the OTW Elections website.

How were the committees selected?

The Board determines which committees should be organized, then appoints chairs to those committees and approves committee members chosen by the chairs. The initial committee members were chosen from people who responded to the first public “Willing to Serve” call for volunteers.

Can I volunteer to help?

The OTW recruits regularly for different committees and positions. For recruitment calls, please see our Volunteering Page . You can also contact our Volunteers & Recruitment committee at any time.

You might also be interested in Fanlore, the OTW’s fandom preservation wiki, and helping add information there. (A good place to start is the Fanlore wishlist, where current editors post where they’d like assistance).

For more information, please visit our Volunteering FAQ.

Who is welcome to use the OTW services and to volunteer?

We welcome everyone who wishes to discuss sources (shows, bands, sports players, anime, etc.) and fandom; we welcome everyone who creates or enjoys fanfiction, vids, fanart, and other kinds of transformative works.

OTW Website

Who translated this website?

OTW translators work in two tiers: Translation staff and the language teams. Staff coordinates translation assignments and liaises with the other committees. Language teams vary in size (with at least one translator and one beta reader) and consist of volunteers who are either native speakers, or fluent in a language other than English.

Apart from this website, the translators also help to make other OTW projects like the Archive of Our Own accessible to an international audience.

Why is some content only available in English, and not in the language I selected?

This site is being translated by volunteers in their free time. We decided to release core information in your respective language as soon as it was ready, even though the full site translation has not been completed yet. We are working on eventually making all content available to you, but please understand that this takes time.

Your question wasn’t answered?

Please contact us with your question and we’ll be happy to answer it.

Transformative Works and Cultures

What’s the purpose behind Transformative Works and Cultures?

The journal is meant to provide a space for academic analysis of individual transformative works and the larger culture of fandom from which they come, helping to demonstrate the social, educational, and aesthetic value of fandom and fannish works.

A successful journal will also help fans who happen to be interested in engaging in fandom in a more theoretical and academic way to share their scholarship more widely, improving communication between fans and academia, as well as provide a theoretical background for OTW’s mission of explaining and preserving fandom and transformative fanworks. The journal will also explain the context of particular works to help establish fanworks as creative art in their own right.

How frequently does TWC come out?

Transformative Works and Cultures comes out twice a year, on March 15 and September 15.

How can I submit to TWC?

Detailed online submission guidelines are available at the Transformative Works and Cultures website.

We welcome submissions from everyone as long as the contribution complies with Transformative Works and Cultures‘s focus and scope.

What sorts of things does TWC print?

Transformative Works and Cultures prints peer-reviewed academic articles about transformation, broadly conceived, about fan engagement with various sorts of texts, and about fan communities; editorially reviewed meta articles and personal essays; book reviews; and interviews.

What copyright is TWC using?

Beginning with TWC No. 25, essays are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. For an explanation of the journal’s reasoning, see the September 15, 2017, editorial, Copyright and Open Access.

This license permits both noncommercial and commercial use with attribution. For that reason, entities, such as presses, who wish to reprint articles (even for commercial purposes) do not need to obtain copyright release paperwork.

TWC Nos. 1 through 24 are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. For Nos. 1 through 24, TWC, not the author, retains copyright. Anyone seeking to reproduce content for profit, including authors, must obtain permission from TWC. Such permission is routinely granted for free.

Why doesn’t TWC provide PDFs of its articles?

Because Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC) is a multimedia journal that publishes screen shots, embeds videos, and uses hyperlinks, the journal must appear online. PDFs are unable to adequately duplicate the interactive experience of the journal.

Further, because TWC copyrights under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, fans may wish to transform the journal by creating PDFs of content and making it generally available. As long as the document provides the URLs of the original source, and as long as the poster does not charge money, this activity is perfectly acceptable under the terms of the CC license. In fact, TWC encourages such transformative fan activity.

Finally, TWC is bucking the importance the academy places on print media. If we created official PDFs, these documents, not the online versions, would be treated as authoritative merely because of the privilege print is provided in the academic publishing industry—and yet the PDF will always be a second-rate static snapshot of an interactive document.


Do I have to be in a specific location to volunteer?

All of the OTW’s volunteers work asynchronously online, so you don’t need to be in any particular location. As long as you have access to an internet connection, you’re in the right place (and you’ll get to work with people from all over the world).

Most of the information on your websites is in English. Can I still volunteer if English is not my first language?

Yes! We welcome volunteers from all backgrounds all around the world. We have many users, members, and volunteers whose first language is not English. Many of our committees and projects enjoy having volunteers who can speak more than one language.

English is the main language we use to communicate with each other in the organization, so you will need to be able to work in English, but it doesn’t have to be perfect! If you have questions about applying for an open role, let Volunteers & Recruiting know.

Can I volunteer for more than one role?

Yes, many OTW volunteers dedicate their time to more than one role. We do ask that you consider the time demands of the roles you’re interested in and how much time you have for the organization. It can be helpful when people volunteer for more than one role, but we also want to make sure our volunteers don’t burn out from too much responsibility. All our position descriptions give an estimated time requirement. Volunteers should also consider discussing taking on extra roles with their committee chair.

What happens after I submit an application form?

This depends on the type of role you’re interested in. Once you press submit, you should see information about what happens next. Then, you’ll receive an automated confirmation message.

Once recruitment ends, Volunteers & Recruiting will send everyone’s applications to the relevant chairs (committee leaders). Chairs will then interview prospective applicants, either over chat or in the form of additional questionnaires, to find volunteers for their current needs. We’ll let everyone know the results of their application as soon as we can.

I don’t have the skills or experience that the available roles ask for. Can I apply anyway?

We’d love to welcome all volunteers looking for new experiences, but some of our roles do need volunteers with certain skills and experience. Training beginners for a role may also depend on how many experienced volunteers can train them. The position’s description shows the experience and time requirements for the position.

Please continue to check the volunteer page for open roles that match your qualifications.

You can also help by adding information to Fanlore, the OTW’s fandom preservation wiki. (Get started at the New User Portal.) If you’d like to contribute to the AO3’s code, you can do this through our GitHub without formally volunteering. Please see this page for more details.

If you have questions about the requirements for a role, feel free to contact Volunteers & Recruiting.

I am interested in a role that is not currently listed. Can I apply anyway?

We are currently only accepting applications for the listed roles. Part of our process is to only recruit for roles which are accepting new volunteers and are ready to train and bring them on board. However, we encourage you to keep your eye on the volunteer page and OTW News for the role you are interested in to be available.

You can also help by adding information to Fanlore, the OTW’s fandom preservation wiki. (Get started at the New User Portal.) If you’d like to contribute to the AO3’s code, you can do this through our GitHub without formally volunteering. Please see this page for more details.

If you have more specific questions about roles, you can contact Volunteers & Recruiting.

Do I have to use the name I currently use in fandom or on the AO3 if I want to volunteer? Do I have to use my existing AO3 name to volunteer as a Tag Wrangler?

You are welcome to use whichever name you like when you volunteer, as long as it follows the OTW Name Policy. Some volunteers like to tie their work to their fandom identity and others prefer to use their legal name, especially if they plan to use their volunteer service on their resume or CV. (You don’t have to volunteer using your legal name for this purpose. Volunteers & Recruiting can confirm your work with your employers.) You are welcome to do either or to choose a completely new name to use.

If you become a Tag Wrangling volunteer but do not wish to link your wrangling with your existing account, your chairs can help you set up a separate account. Your existing account does not need to match your OTW name, but your OTW name may be linked with your AO3 name in the course of your wrangling work.

Please note: A limited number of roles do need you to use your legal name, as they involve work with outside organizations. This will always be in the position description or the application.

It is also a legal requirement for the Board of Directors to use their legal names. Candidates for Board of Director must run under their legal names. However, they will only need to change their OTW Names to their legal names after they are elected.

Can I change my name/details after I apply?

Yes, you can change your name or details after you apply or during the course of your volunteer work. Your new name will need to follow the OTW Name Policy.

Can I take a break from volunteer work before my term is up?

If you find that you cannot do your volunteer duties within the time requirements expected of your position, you can ask to take a hiatus from your committee chairs.

If you would like to retire from volunteer work, you may also do so at any time.

Can I volunteer for more than 1 year?

Yes! The term listed on the position description is just the minimum requirement. In fact, we have many volunteers that have been with the OTW for more than a decade!

What e-mail should I use to apply?

You can apply with any e-mail address you use. Your e-mail address will be visible to some volunteers in charge of processing and reviewing your application, though. If you don’t want to connect your fannish identity with your legal name, don’t use your personal/work/school e-mail addresses.

Please whitelist e-mails from * so that you receive messages from our volunteers.

I applied, but I haven’t heard anything yet. What should I do?

All applications should receive an auto-reply with the next steps in the process. To make sure you get these e-mails, please whitelist e-mails from *

If you have not gotten the auto-reply within 48 hours, check your spam filters and then please contact Volunteers & Recruiting. Let us know what position you applied for and the name you used on the application.

If you have received an auto-reply and you are waiting to hear back from the committee you applied to, please note that most volunteer applicants get responses 2-4 weeks after the position has been closed. You can confirm the time estimate for responses on the auto-reply. If it is past that time, please contact Volunteers & Recruiting. Let us know what position you applied for and the name you used on the application to request an update.

Do I need any special software or devices to volunteer?

You will need stable access to the Internet, as we use web-based software and e-mail to communicate. For data security reasons, volunteers must conduct and manage volunteer work using the OTW’s e-mail service provider. Some roles may also need access to different websites or software. Access to these tools is free or paid for by the OTW.

Is there a minimum age requirement to volunteer?

In order to follow the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) under EU law, we can only accept volunteers who are 16 years of age or older. Some roles and committees may need volunteers to be 18 years of age or older. You can find age requirements on the position description.

Will I be paid for volunteering?

No, volunteers in the Organization for Transformative Works do not get paid for their work.

But the OTW also does not expect volunteers to pay for expenses incurred in the course of their work for the organization. The OTW will pay for access to online tools and software needed to carry out organization work. We will also reimburse pre-approved and necessary expenses.

Are there accessibility concerns regarding volunteering?

Some roles for the Organization for Transformative Works use tools that may not work well with some assistive technology. Our work is largely text-based, and some roles can be fast-paced, and need immediate online interaction in the form of text-based chat.

If you have questions about tools needed for certain roles, please contact us and we will do our best to help.

I have questions about volunteering that are not answered here.

Contact Volunteers & Recruiting via the contact form and we’ll be more than happy to answer them for you.