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”:https://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.

Archive of Our Own
  1. zvi commented:

    I really think this is a problematic policy. If an archivist has dissociated their project from the archive, why is the archive continuing to work under their “brand”? I understand preserving the work already done, but I don’t understand why the OTW reserves the right to continue with a competing product under the same name. If the OTW really likes the idea of the collection, I think that a new collection tag should be created, so that it’s clear, even if you’re surfing the collection from the archive side, and not the Open Doors side, that these additions post-original-collector are a fork of the project, and not the fork by the people chosen by the original maintainer of the project.

    • Rebecca Tushnet commented:

      Thanks for the feedback. We anticipate that Open Doors projects–which may have features not generally available on the archive–will represent a significant investment in terms of coding and other technical resources. We’re working on this service in order to further the goal of preserving the history of fandom. So the thinking is that, as with other preservation projects in the offline world, we want to make sure that the preservation actually occurs and has some continuity. At the point where there’s been a joint investment, we think it makes sense to preserve the collection on the OTW’s servers. It’s certainly possible to create a new tag, and we can look at that as part of implementation.