February 2020 Newsletter, Volume 143


Legal had an active month this February! In response to an outpouring of concern from AO3 users about unofficial AO3 reader apps, Legal answered a number of user queries and released a public news post about apps monetizing fanworks or monetizing access to works posted on the AO3 without the authors’ consent, helping creators understand their own copyrights and helping them unravel what they could do to prevent this sort of activity if they didn’t approve of it.

Legal also got a great result in February: Last year, Legal joined allies to file an amicus brief in the case of Smith v. Drake. In that brief, we argued that a use should be considered transformative under the fair use doctrine whenever it uses an underlying work to convey a different meaning or message than the underlying work, and need not provide a direct critique or commentary. The OTW also argued that the transformative use of substantial amounts of source material is legally permissible under the fair use doctrine. In February, the court ruled in that case, and our arguments won!

Legal team member Rebecca Tushnet testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Her testimony focused on how the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA work for small organizations like the OTW, how they advance creative expression by making sites like the Archive of Our Own possible, and how they provide the legal flexibility necessary for a diverse Internet to survive. Her testimony also addressed the failure of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions and the work the OTW has done in creating exemptions that protect vidders and similar creators from those provisions’ overreach.

Finally, Legal addressed a cease and desist letter defending a fanwork from allegations of infringement.


On February 15, the OTW celebrated its sixth International Fanworks Day! Communications kept busy with 29 hours of party games in our public chatroom, an #IFDrabble challenge with the prompt ‘characters discovering fanworks about themselves,’ and a Feedback Fest that invited fans to post recs, leave kudos, and drop comments online. Communications also asked fans to respond to the question: ‘What’s your favourite fanwork trope?’ To see contributions to the various IFD festivities, check out the #IFD2020 tag on Tumblr and Twitter, the International Fanworks Day 2020 tag on AO3, and the content created by participants during the Games and Fan Chat under the AO3 pseud MODEliot.

Fanlore also participated in the celebration with its third annual IFD Fanlore Challenge featuring daily editing challenges throughout the week leading up to IFD. Each participant who completed each day’s challenge received a badge that they could display on their Fanlore user page.

Board plans to host an open house on Campfire on March 8 at 20:00 UTC (What time is that for me?). This open house is open to all to ask questions and learn more about who Board is and what they do! To participate, look for a tweet with a link to the chatroom about an hour before the meeting.


Open Doors was excited this month to begin getting back in touch with moderators of Yahoo Groups about importing the fanworks and meta discussions from their groups to the AO3. If you previously contacted Open Doors about importing your group and would like to know the status of your request, please contact them to check your group’s position in the queue. Moderators who managed to save a backup of their group before the Yahoo Groups mass deletion are also welcome to contact Open Doors to start the import process.

Accessibility, Design, & Technology deployed releases, most notably making updates to performance and Elasticsearch-related slowness. Systems contributed a lot of work to reduce that slowness and prevent users from disconnecting from the AO3 due to Elasticsearch load. Systems also is starting to commission the OTW’s new virtual machine servers and is looking at improving the VPN some staffers use to access the OTW’s infrastructure.

Meanwhile, other AO3 committees have been setting record-high numbers at the beginning of the year. In January, Tag Wrangling handled more than 260,000 tags across more than 35,600 fandoms, and Support received almost 1,400 tickets, a 15% increase from the previous January. At the time of this writing, Policy & Abuse had received about 1,000 tickets in the month of February.


From 15 January to 21 February, Volunteers & Recruiting received 163 new requests, and completed 162, leaving us with 13 open requests (including induction and removal tasks listed below).

As of 21 February the OTW has 819 volunteers. \o/ Recent personnel movements are listed below.

New Committee Chairs: Natalia Gruber (Translation)
New Committee Staff: Cyn (Translation), 1 Communications staffer
New Tag Wrangler Volunteers: adastra03, Alex of the Winter, Anne Apocalypse, aoglic, axelmania, bde3y, Bean II, blackelement7, Briar, CB, Cedar, Clock, conifer, dark14, Denali, Diana Sakharova, El, Felix Engler, flamethrowr, g33k_magnet, Glassea, HazelDomain, Jacinta Klein, jeansprout, Jingyuan, Joey, Kali, Kyrstin, leonyxx, Lourie, Naphyla, Nexidava, Ngil, Piano, Rae Friedenson, Rin A, Riz, Scatteringmyashes, Shan, SmudgeInktopus, Stellae, ValerieZA, Wendy, Wintersheir, Yveslyn, YZ Koh and 1 other volunteer
New Translation Volunteers: vasilymo

Departing Committee Staff: Erlkoenig, Natalia Gruber, Nrandom (all Policy & Abuse), Sable (Support) and 3 more Support staff
Departing Tag Wrangler Volunteers: 1 Volunteer
Departing Translation Volunteers: Zane Valule

For more information about the purview of our committees, please access the committee listing on our website.


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