AO3 News

Post Header

Published:
2017-03-24 16:11:18 -0400
Tags:

We've fixed CSV downloads for gift exchange sign-ups, corrected fandom counts in collections, and made a whole heap of behind-the-scenes changes, test improvements, and other minor fixes.

Credits

  • Coders: Ariana, Cesy, cosette, cyrilcee, David Stump (Littlelines), DNA, james_, potatoesque, redsummernight, Sammie Louise, Sarken, Scott, tickinginstant
  • Code reviewers: Ariana, bingeling, james_, Naomi, potatoesque, redsummernight, Sarken
  • Testers: Betsy, Lady Oscar, mumble, Rebecca Sentance, redsummernight, Runt, Sammie Louise

Special thanks to redsummernight, who has contributed their first pull request as an AD&T volunteer and completed their training!

Details

Bug Fixes & Enhancements

  • [AO3-4844] - We've started using the Devise gem to handle admin logins.
  • [AO3-4834] & [AO3-4835] - In our tag set code, we had two places where users would get a 500 error instead of the nicer, more specific message we meant to give them. Now they'll get a "What Tag Set did you want to look at?" error instead.
  • [AO3-4877] - Following a recent release, it was no longer possible to download gift exchange sign-up CSVs. We've fixed that, and we've also added some tests that will hopefully keep it from happening again.
  • [AO3-4808] - Editing a work and removing its fandom used to save the work, but return a 500 error, resulting in an invalid work and a confused user. Trying to save a work without a fandom will now not save the work and show the user an error message instead.
  • [AO3-4045] - If your chapter was over 500,000 characters long, you'd get an error message that included the oh-so-helpful suggestion, "Maybe you want to create a multi-chapered work?" Since you were already trying to do that, we removed that from the error message.
  • [AO3-2431] - A lot of collections were showing fandom counts that were higher than the actual number of fandoms in that collection. We realized that was because the code was also counting meta tags, so we made it stop doing that.
  • [AO3-4858] & [AO3-4922] - As detailed in Issues With Posting Works (And What We're Doing to Solve Them), we deployed some new caching code to help speed up work posting. Unfortunately, the code didn't work and we had to revert it.

Behind-the-Scenes

  • [AO3-4883] - A security vulnerability was discovered for one of the gems we use, so we quickly updated to the patched version. (We only use the gem for our automated tests and don't believe we were at risk, but better safe than sorry!)
  • [AO3-4895] - The tool we use to check our code style and syntax was giving us suggestions that only worked in a newer version of the Ruby language than what we're currently using. We changed the tool's settings so it will only suggest things for the version of Ruby we're using.
  • [AO3-4780] & [AO3-4782] - We've added strong parameters to FAQ categories and invitation requests.
  • [AO3-4918] & [AO3-4920] - In order to deploy the caching changes for AO3-4858, we temporarily amended our deploy script so the deploy process would take less time, but require us to briefly put the Archive into maintenance mode. After we were done, we reverted those changes.
  • [AO3-4825] - We had some help files that were outdated and no longer in use, so we removed them.
  • [AO3-4851] & [AO3-4933] - We updated the database schema file in our repository, since recent changes to our database structure meant it was out of date.
  • [AO3-4443] - We've updated our version of Pry, a gem that provides a number of development tools.
  • [AO3-4856] - We had some unused code in the tag set nominations controller, so we deleted it.

Tests

  • [AO3-4830], [AO3-4897], [AO3-4908], [AO3-4901] - We've extended the automated tests for tag sets to cover more lines in the controller and more use cases. We've also reorganized the tests into smaller files in their own directory.
  • [AO3-4726] - We've brought test coverage of the comments controller up from 71% to almost 94%.
  • [AO3-4914] - We now have tests to cover all the types of tags you can use on a bookmark of an external work.
  • [AO3-4887] - We've begun improving the test coverage of the challenge assignments controller.
  • [AO3-4810] - Our test coverage for the prompts controller is now at 93%, which is much better than the 65% it started at.
  • [AO3-4889] - The series controller now has 96% of its lines covered by automated tests.
  • [AO3-4916] - We've added more tests for the external authors controller.

Known Issues

See our Known Issues page for current issues.

Comment

Post Header

Published:
2017-03-23 12:13:46 -0400
Tags:

We're pleased to announce that after seven months, the Archive of Our Own is once again available on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine!

Late last year, the AO3 suddenly vanished from the Wayback Machine, a non-profit archiving service. We reached out to its maintainers several times during this period, to find out why AO3 pages weren't archived anymore. The project's director contacted us this week and explained the problem.

Rather than excluding only pages belonging to users who had asked for their content to be taken down (e.g. their profile page or specific works), the entire archiveofourown.org domain had been mistakenly excluded. The folks at the Wayback Machine have corrected this problem and the AO3 is available there once more. (Check out the Archive homepage from 2010!)

While the Wayback Machine is a great service, and another useful tool in the efforts to preserve fanworks and fan history, this is a good reminder not to keep all your eggs in the same basket. Download works you might want to read again in a year, crosspost your own works to other sites, and be sure you save back-ups locally and/or with a trusted online service.

If you're concerned about the public availability of your works, check our "How can I hide my works from non-Archive users?" FAQ for information that can help protect your privacy.

Comment

Post Header

Published:
2017-03-22 12:39:04 -0400
Tags:

OTW recruitment banner

Are you interested in volunteering for the Organization for Transformative Works as Abuse Committee Staff or Elections Committee Staff?

We would like to thank everyone who responded to our previous call for Tag Wrangling Volunteers and Fanlore Staff.

Today, we're excited to announce the opening of applications for:

  • Abuse Committee Staff - closing 29 March 2017 23:59 UTC
  • Elections Committee Staff: Team Coordinator - closing 29 March 2017 23:59 UTC
  • Elections Committee Staff: Voting Process Architect - closing 29 March 2017 23:59 UTC

We have included more information on each role below. Open roles and applications will always be available at the volunteering page. If you don't see a role that fits with your skills and interests now, keep an eye on the listings. We plan to put up new applications every few weeks, and we will also publicize new roles as they become available.

All applications generate a confirmation page and an auto-reply to your e-mail address. We encourage you to read the confirmation page and to whitelist volunteers -(at)- transformativeworks -(dot)- org in your e-mail client. If you do not receive the auto-reply within 24 hours, please check your spam filters and then contact us.

If you have questions regarding volunteering for the OTW, check out our Volunteering FAQ.


Abuse Committee Staff

The Abuse Committee is dedicated to helping users deal with the various situations that may arise. We also handle any complaints that come in about content uploaded to the Archive of Our Own. The team determines if complaints are about legitimate violations of the Terms of Service, and what to do about them if they are; our major goals are to adhere to the TOS, to make our reasoning and processes as clear and transparent as possible, and to keep every individual case completely confidential. We work closely with other AO3 related committees such as Support and Content.
We are seeking people who can keep in close contact, be patient in rephrasing explanations, make and document decisions, cooperate within and outside of their team, and ask for help when it's needed. Staffers need to be able to handle complex and sometimes-disturbing content, and must be able to commit a sufficient amount of time to the team on a regular basis.

Applications are due Wednesday 29 March 2017 23:59 UTC


Elections Committee Staff: Team Coordinator

The Elections Committee is responsible for running OTW Board elections. We ensure the fairness, timeliness, and confidentiality of the process. As a team, we update the elections process, communicate with members and other committees about the process, help candidates prepare for and carry out their tasks, and run the election itself.

We are currently looking for Team Coordinators to organize our efforts and document procedures.

Applications are due Wednesday 29 March 2017 23:59 UTC


Elections Committee Staff: Voting Process Architect

The Elections Committee is responsible for running OTW Board elections. We ensure the fairness, timeliness, and confidentiality of the process. As a team, we update the elections process, communicate with members and other committees about the process, help candidates prepare for and carry out their tasks, and run the election itself.

We are currently looking for Voting Process Architects to run the election itself and preserve our data security.

Applications are due Wednesday 29 March 2017 23:59 UTC


Apply at the volunteering page!

Comment

Post Header

Published:
2017-03-21 15:17:26 -0400
Tags:

Update, April 4: We successfully deployed an improved version of the code referenced in this post on March 29. It now takes considerably less time to add a work to the database.

-

You may have noticed the Archive has been slow or giving 502 errors when posting or editing works, particularly on weekends and during other popular posting times. Our development and Systems teams have been working to address this issue, but our March 17 attempt failed, leading to several hours of downtime and site-wide slowness.

Overview

Whenever a user posts or edits a work, the Archive updates how many times each tag on the work has been used across the site. During this time, the record is locked and the database cannot process other changes to those tags. This can result in slowness or even 502 errors when multiple people are trying to post using the same tag. Because all works are required to use rating and warning tags, works' tags frequently overlap during busy posting times.

Unfortunately, the only workaround currently available is to avoid posting, editing, or adding chapters to works at peak times, particularly Saturdays and Sundays (UTC). We strongly recommend saving your work elsewhere so changes won’t be lost if you receive a 502.

For several weeks, we’ve had temporary measures in place to decrease the number of 502 errors. However, posting is still slow and errors are still occurring, so we’ve been looking for more ways to use hardware and software to speed up the posting process.

Our Friday, March 17, downtime was scheduled so we could deploy a code change we hoped would help. The change would have allowed us to cache tag counts for large tags (e.g. ratings, common genres, and popular fandoms), updating them only periodically rather than every time a work was posted or edited. (We chose to cache only large tags because the difference between 1,456 and 1,464 is less significant than the difference between one and nine.) However, the change led to roughly nine hours of instability and slowness and had to be rolled back.

Fixing this is our top priority, and we are continuing to look for solutions. Meanwhile, we’re updating our version of the Rails framework, which is responsible for the slow counting process. While we don’t believe this upgrade will be a solution by itself, we are optimistic it will give us a slight performance boost.

March 17 incident report

The code deployed on March 17 allowed us to set a caching period for a tag’s use count based on the size of the tag. While the caching period and tag sizes were adjusted throughout the day, the code used the following settings when it was deployed:

  • Small tags with less than 1,000 uses would not be cached.
  • Medium tags with 1,000-39,999 uses would be cached for 3-40 minutes, depending on the tag’s size.
  • Large tags with at least 40,000 uses would be cached for 40-60 minutes, but the cache would be refreshed every 30 minutes. Unlike small and medium tags, the counts for large tags would not update when a work was posted -- they would only update during browsing. Refreshing the cache every 30 minutes would prevent pages from loading slowly.

We chose to deploy at a time of light system load so we would be able to fine tune these settings before the heaviest weekend load. The deploy process itself went smoothly, beginning at 12:00 UTC and ending at 12:14 -- well within the 30 minutes we allotted for downtime.

By 12:40, we were under heavy load and had to restart one of our databases. We also updated the settings for the new code so tags with 250 or more uses would fall into the “medium” range and be cached. We increased the minimum caching period for medium tags from three minutes to 10.

At 12:50, we could see we had too many writes going to the database. To stabilize the site, we made it so only two out of seven servers were writing cache counts to the database.

However, at 13:15, the number of writes overwhelmed MySQL. It was constantly writing, making the service unavailable and eventually crashing. We put the Archive into maintenance mode and began a full MySQL cluster restart. Because the writes had exceeded the databases' capabilities, the databases had become out of sync with each other. Resynchronizing the first two servers by the built-in method took about 65 minutes, starting at 13:25 and completing at 14:30. Using a different method to bring the third recalcitrant server into line allowed us to return the system to use sooner.

By 14:57, we had a working set of two out of three MySQL servers in a cluster and were able to bring the Archive back online. Before bringing the site back, we also updated the code for the tag autocomplete, replacing a call that could write to the database with a simple read instead.

At 17:48, we were able to bring the last MySQL server back and rebalance the load across all three servers. However, the database dealing with writes was sitting at 91% load rather than the more normal 4-6%.

At 18:07, we made it so only one app server wrote tags’ cache values to the database. This dropped the load on the write database to about 50%.

At 19:40, we began implementing a hotfix that significantly reduced writes to the database server, but having all seven systems writing to the database once more put the load up to about 89%.

At 20:30, approximately half an hour after the hotfix was finished, we removed the writes from three of the seven machines. While this reduced the load, the reduction was not significant enough to resolve the issues the Archive was experiencing. Nevertheless, we let the system run for 30 minutes so we could monitor its performance.

Finally, at 21:07, we decided to take the Archive offline and revert the release. The Archive was back up and running the old code by 21:25.

We believe the issues with this caching change were caused by underestimating the number of small tags on the Archive and overestimating the accuracy of their existing counts. With the new code in place, the Archive began correcting the inaccurate counts for small tags, leading to many more writes than we anticipated. If we're able to get these writes under control, we believe this code might still be a viable solution. Unfortunately, this is made difficult by the fact we can’t simulate production-level load on our testing environment.

Going forward

We are currently considering five possible ways to improve posting speed going forward, although other options might present themselves as we continue to study the situation.

  1. Continue with the caching approach from our March 17 deploy. Although we chose to revert the code due to the downtime it had already caused, we believe we were close to resolving the issue with database writes. We discovered that the writes overwhelming our database were largely secondary writes caused by our tag sweeper. These secondary writes could likely be reduced by putting checks in the sweeper to prevent unnecessary updates to tag counts.
  2. Use the rollout gem to alternate between the current code and the code from our March 17 deploy. This would allow us to deploy and troubleshoot the new caching code with minimal interruption to normal Archive function. We would be able to study the load caused by the new code while being able to switch back to the old code before problems arose. However, it would also make the new code much more complex. This means the code would not only be more error-prone, but would also take a while to write, and users would have to put up with the 502 errors longer.
  3. Monkey patch the Rails code that updates tag counts. We could modify the default Rails code so it would still update the count for small tags, but not even try to update the count on large tags. We could then add a task that would periodically update the count on larger tags.
  4. Break work posting into smaller transactions. The current slowness comes from large transactions that are live for too long. Breaking the posting process into smaller parts would resolve that, but we would then run the risk of creating inconsistencies in the database. In other words, if something went wrong while a user was updating their work, only some of their changes might be saved.
  5. Completely redesign work posting. We currently have about 19,000 drafts and 95,000 works created in a month, and moving drafts to a separate table would allow us to only update the tag counts when a work was finally posted. We could then make posting from a draft the only option. Pressing the "Post" button on a draft would set a flag on the entry in the draft table and add a Resque job to post the work, allowing us to serialize updates to tag counts. Because the user would only be making a minor change in the database, the web page would return instantly. However, there would be a wait before the work was actually posted.
  6. The unexpected downtime that occurred around noon UTC on Tuesday, March 21, was caused by an unusually high number of requests to Elasticsearch and is unrelated to the issues discussed in this post. A temporary fix is in currently in place and we are looking for long term solutions.

Comment

Post Header

Banner by caitie of a newspaper with the name and logos of the OTW and its projects on the pages

I. INTERNATIONAL FANWORKS DAY

Thanks to help from volunteers from around the OTW, Communications hosted a celebration for the third annual International Fanworks Day, in which over a thousand participants played games, created fanworks, and shared recs. Some of the works created for #IFDShare were signal boosted across our social media accounts as part of the event, so go check them out to see some of what people did!

Translation collaborated with Communications to translate several news posts into 19 (!) different languages for IFD. A big thank you to all the translators and betas who made this possible. And speaking of Translation, they're pleased to announce that they now have a new team: team Bengali!

II. AT THE AO3

Committees were busy making improvements and changes to the AO3's inner workings this month. The brilliant minds at Accessibility, Design & Technology posted the release notes for their last six releases, including their sole February release, 0.9.180. They continued to focus on improving test coverage and upgrading the technologies the Archive is built on.

Abuse received over 1000 tickets this month, 600 of which were sent in by spammers. Please be patient if you sent in a ticket this month! Abuse is going to be recruiting next month, so if you've been wanting to join, keep an eye out. Meanwhile, Support received about 950 tickets this month, and they passed the milestone of 10,000 tickets since the switch to their new ticket tracker. Support would like to extend their thanks, as always, to Translation for their help with tickets in languages no one on the Support team speaks!

Tag Wrangling finished updating existing canonical tags on the AO3 to be compatible with revised guidelines regarding how tags mentioning animals are handled. They also created a new page with a more detailed description of what Tag Wrangling is and how it works, to help those considering applying to become wranglers. That page is a work in progress; expect more information in the near future!

In non-AO3-related technical news, Systems was busy managing servers this month, as well as doing repairs and relocations. They also asked vendors for quotes for purchasing new hardware. Webs has been making some upgrades, too; the committee is in the process of rolling out updates to the OTW's main website.

III. LEGAL ADVOCACY AND FAIR USE WEEK

Legal celebrated Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week with a post discussing some preliminary results from last month's Fan Creation & Copyright survey! Legal reported that many of the fans who responded had a good understanding of fair use law, but that there's more work they can to do to help fans understand the law even better. Thanks again to everyone who responded!

Also, in a follow-up to their March 2016 comments to the U.S. Copyright Office, OTW Legal answered questions from the Copyright Office regarding the notice-and-takedown provisions in Section 512 of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Among other things, they drew on the OTW's experience operating the Archive of Our Own and the experiences of OTW members in dealing with takedown notices to highlight ways in which the current system works well and ways in which it can be improved.

Lastly, Fanlore has put out a call for input on their image policy notice targeted at doujinshi creators to make sure they understand that their works are not being uploaded in full to Fanlore.

IV. GOVERNANCE

Board had a meeting on February 22, where they approved requests from several committees, worked on internal documentation, and approved the dissolution of the Internationalization & Outreach committee.

Strategic Planning continued to work on the implementation of the OTW's 2017-2020 strategic plan, and they began discussions with Board to develop a charge and scope for the creation of the next strategic plan.

V. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PEEPS

As of the 27th of February, the OTW had 593 volunteers. Recent personnel movements are listed below.

New Committee Staff: Bella Irvine (Open Doors), Cyn (Open Doors), Liz S. (Open Doors), Stephanie Godden (Open Doors), 1 Translation staffer
New TWC Volunteers: 1
New Translator Volunteers: Adriana, Teodora Kaurinović, DefneOz, Diya Basu, and 2 translators
Departing Tag Wrangler Volunteers: Dreamingphoenix, blondcockerel, and 3 Tag Wranglers
Departing Translator Volunteers: vikikat and 2 other translators

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

Comment

Post Header

Published:
2017-03-09 12:46:42 -0500
Tags:

Five Things an OTW Volunteer Said

Every month or so the OTW will be doing a Q&A with one of its volunteers about their experiences in the organization. The posts express each volunteer's personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. Today's post is with Amy Shepard, who volunteers as a staffer with our Elections Committee.

How does what you do as a volunteer fit into what the OTW does?

I volunteer with three committees, Strategic Planning (SP) as a co-chair, Elections, and Tag Wrangling, so what I do may be quite different from another staffer. For the Elections committee, I work as a team coordinator (TC). A lot of the organizing and day to day functions to get ready for the election are completed by TCs, which are like the Elections committee's personal assistants. I help write the minutes, the roadmap, organizing the to-do board, drafting newsletter updates (which I also write for Strategic Planning), and generally help where other staffers need an extra hand.

What is a typical week like for you as a volunteer?

Elections is a committee with about 14 people spread all throughout the world. We have a short meeting on Sunday to check in and get our assignments for the week, then we can either work on them right after our meeting or on our own time if we have other obligations. During the election season, everyone is working multiple days a week on their tasks to organize the candidates' platforms, host chats, and close the election. In the off season, TCs are busy with updating the internal wiki, creating the roadmap for the next year, and organizing feedback from candidates, members, and other involved committees to improve the election for everyone.

What made you decide to volunteer for Elections?

I already volunteered with the Strategic Planning committee and a lot of their purview supports the governance and direction of the OTW. Elections felt like a natural progression from SP. I was already familiar with the OTW's structure and tools, and the position of team coordinator felt like a really good fit. It also didn't hurt that everyone in Elections is kind, supportive, and a lot of fun to work with.

What's the most fun thing to you about volunteering for the OTW?

The benefit of working in such a large organization like the OTW means that everyone is a megafan of something. We play games (like Cards Against Humanity or role playing mafia-type games we call Sarlacc games), write fics together, hold movie nights, and share fan art.

What fannish things do you like to do?

I write some fanfiction for Doctor Who, Dragon Age, Yuri!!! on Ice, and Mass Effect, but mostly enjoy reading and commenting on everyone else's works. I've also met several volunteers in real life and plan on visiting one in Malaysia this fall!


Now that our volunteer’s said five things about what they do, it’s your turn to ask one more thing! Feel free to ask about their work in comments. Or if you'd like, you can check out earlier Five Things posts.

Comment

Post Header

Pretty Lights 2010 Banner

Pretty Lights, a multifandom actor RPF archive, is being imported to the Archive of Our Own (AO3).

In this post:

Background explanation

Pretty Lights was a multifandom actor RPF Secret Santa challenge which ran from 2005 to 2010. The archive for the challenge is now closing for financial reasons.

Open Doors will be working with diana, the archivist, to import Pretty Lights into a separate, searchable collection on the Archive of Our Own. We will begin importing works from Pretty Lights to the AO3 collection after March.

What does this mean for creators who have work(s) on Pretty Lights?

All works archived on the behalf of a creator will include their name in the byline or the summary of the work. As we import works, we will e-mail notifications to the address associated with the work. Before we import, we'll do our best to check the AO3 for an existing copy. If we find one, we will invite it to the collection instead of importing it.

All imported works will be set to be viewable only by logged-in AO3 users. Once you claim your works, you can make them publicly-viewable if you choose. After 30 days, all unclaimed imported works will be made visible to all visitors.

Please contact Open Doors with your Pretty Lights pseud(s) and e-mail address(es), if:

  1. You'd like us to import your works, but you've changed email addresses.
  2. You already have an AO3 account and have imported your works already yourself.
  3. You’d like to import your works yourself. (Including if you don’t have an AO3 account yet.)
  4. You would NOT like your works moved to the AO3.
  5. You are happy for us to preserve your works on the AO3, but would like us to remove your name.
  6. If you have any other questions we can help you with.

Please include the name of the archive in the subject heading of your email. If you can't access the email account you used for your original archive account, please let us know. If you've posted the works elsewhere, or have an easy way to verify that they're yours, that's great. If you don't, we will work with the moderator to confirm your claims.

Please see the Open Doors Website for instructions on

If you still have questions...

If you have further questions, visit the Open Doors FAQ, or contact the Open Doors committee.

We'd also love it if fans could help us preserve the story of Pretty Lights on Fanlore. If you're new to wiki editing, no worries! Check out the new visitor portal, or ask the Fanlore Gardeners for tips.

We're excited to be able to help preserve Pretty Lights!

- The Open Doors team

Comment

Post Header

Published:
2017-02-24 14:54:26 -0500
Tags:

Banner by Erin of a spotlight shining the OTW logo behind the text spotlight on legal issues

Last month, OTW Legal conducted a survey about fan experience with and knowledge of copyright. We had such a great response! Nearly 3,000 people participated. Because of this amazing response rate, we have a LOT of data - especially since so many gave us great, detailed answers to free response questions. So we still have more analysis work to do! But as part of fair use week, we wanted to provide some preliminary results, and give some thoughts about trends we're seeing - especially around issues related to fair use. And the best part about our results is that we're learning a lot about how we think we can help you as a legal advocacy team!

For some of the results below, we have only analyzed a portion of the data, so though the trends are meaningful, not all responses are accounted for.

First, some information about you guys as fan creators!

Pie graph showing whether respondents identify as fan creators; roughly 85% responded yes; roughly 15% responded no

Bar graph showing the types of fanworks created by respondents; from most to least popular, the answers are fanfiction; fan art; graphics; fanvids; other; podfics; filk

Bar graph showing the platforms respondents use to share fanworks; in order from most to least popular, the answers are AO3; Tumblr; fanfiction dot net; Livejournal; Twitter; Dreamwidth; Facebook; Wattpad

Most people who filled out our survey identify as fan creators, and fanfiction is by far the most common type of fanwork among our participants. This makes sense since so many of you use AO3! In fact, 97% of our participants reported having shared and/or read content on AO3 (and 32% are official members of OTW). Besides the fanworks we listed on the survey, the most common in the "other" category were: meta, cosplay, fanmixes, crafts, and roleplay. There were also many different online platforms listed; the ones represented on the chart are the most common.

Bar graph showing how many fanworks respondents consume; in order from most to least popular, the answers are many per day; a few per day; a few per week; a few per month; a few per year; less than a few per year

Unsurprisingly, our participants also read/watch/view a lot of fanworks, too!

And though an accurate count of self-described fandoms is ongoing, our initial analysis shows the following top 20 (starting with the most popular) among those who responded: Marvel (and MCU), Harry Potter, Supernatural, Star Wars, Sherlock, Star Trek, Teen Wolf, Dragon Age, Doctor Who, Avengers, Naruto, Merlin, Hannibal, Mass Effect, Lord of the Rings, Yuri on Ice, Overwatch, NCIS, Steven Universe, and Hamilton.

And now, onto questions about copyright!

Only about 15% of respondents reported having any kind of formal copyright education or training, ranging from "l'm a lawyer!" to "I watched YouTube's copyright school video." However, unsurprising to us, they also self report as knowing more about copyright than the average person.

Bar graph showing how respondents rate their own knowledge of copyright law; from most to least popular, the answers are average; slightly above average; moderately above average; slightly below average; moderately below average; far above average; far below average

Interestingly, we found that on average, those who identify as fan creators reported a somewhat lower copyright knowledge than those who do not. However, we also did not find a clear correlation between this self-reported knowledge of copyright and the actual accuracy of a description of fair use. Self reports are always tricky in surveys - but we might speculate here that those who do know more about copyright might know enough to know that they don't know everything!

We also asked some questions about the relationship between fanworks and copyright law.

Pie chart showing what respondents believe about whether fanworks are copyright infringement; roughly 7% responded yes; roughly 33% responded not sure; roughly 60% responded no

Pie chart showing what respondents believe about whether fanworks must be permitted by copyright owners; roughly 2% responded yes; roughly 33% responded it depends; roughly 65% responded no

As you know, at OTW we advocate for the legality of noncommercial fanworks and the right for creators to create and share them without permission. It seems that most of you agree with us! And for those who were unsure, that most often hinged (rightly!) on commerciality.

We also asked specifically about fair use, and analyzed all of that data to find out what people think fair use is, and how accurate their ideas are.

Pie chart showing whether respondents are familiar with US Fair Use law; roughly 8% responded that they were unfamiliar; roughly 37% responded that they had heard the term; roughly 55% responded that they were familiar

Pie chart showing whether respondents were able to accurately describe US Fair Use law; roughly 13% gave explanations with high accuracy; roughly 45% gave explanations with medium accuracy; roughly 30% gave explanations with low accuracy; roughly 12% gave explanations that were wrong

As you can see, almost all of our participants were at least aware of fair use, and more than half could explain what it was. For those who could explain, an awesome group of law students evaluated how accurate these explanations were. "High" accuracy meant that the explanation was completely accurate; "medium" meant that there was nothing blatantly incorrect, but might be slightly misleading (e.g., the implication that it turns entirely on commerciality); "low" meant that it wasn't entirely wrong but might have missed the main points (e.g., that fair use is about "personal use"); and "wrong" was an incorrect explanation (e.g., saying that it requires permission). It turns out that most of our participants have a decent understanding of what fair use is - but there's more we can do to help educate!

Bar graph showing which factors respondents believe are relevant to US Fair Use law; in order from most to least popular, the answers are commerciality; amount; transformativeness; market harm; purpose; credit; external; critique/parody; nature; education

We also asked what factors you think determine whether something is fair use. Nearly everyone who answered this question was in the ball park, naming at least one correct factor! In the chart above, only the last two are not part of what determines fair use.

The first factor in a fair use determination is the purpose and character of the use. This includes things like transformativeness (so important!), educational use, critique and parody, and commerciality. We are not surprised at all that most people hit commerciality as being a very important part of fair use. However, remember that this is not the only part! Though we advocate that noncommercial fanworks are fair use, there are some commercial works that can be fair use as well, and types of noncommercial works that might not be.

The second factor is the nature of the underlying copyrighted work - whether it's fact or fiction, published or unpublished. For fanworks, this does not tend to be very relevant.

The third factor is the amount and substantiality of the underlying copyrighted work used. So those who said things like "how much of the original comes into your fanwork" are completely right! However, it's important to remember that there isn't a bright line rule for how much this is. Like all of these factors, they're all balanced together for a fair use determination.

The fourth factor is market harm for the underlying copyrighted work. Does the new work replace the underlying work in the market, or potentially harm the potential for the original copyright owner to make money? As we know, this is almost never true for fanworks--in fact, fanworks often augment the market for the underlying work!

The most common factor we saw discussed about what makes something fair use is credit. Attribution to the original source is not generally part of what determines fair use. It might be good manners, and it might show good faith, but isn't required by copyright law. And importantly, disclaimers do not hold any official legal weight at all. Some people also mentioned external factors like the feelings of the original copyright owner towards the work, or "who has the best lawyer." Technically these things don't matter either as a matter of law, although, like disclaimers, they may have practical or ethical importance.

So what's the upshot of this? It's good news: most fans know something about fair use law, and most of what fans know is correct. But we still have a long way to go in helping fans understand how copyright law, and fair use, is good for them! Here are some things to keep in mind when you're thinking about fanworks and copyright:

  • Disclaimers and attribution don't matter, legally, but might be considered good manners
  • Commerciality is important but not all of a fair use determination
  • You don't need permission when something is fair use, and the copyright owner's feelings about fanworks don't matter, legally
  • If you get a DMCA takedown, you can fight it if your work is fair use
  • If someone remixes your fanwork, that could be fair use, too
  • If you have questions, you can come to us!

We'll be back with reports on more of the survey results. We have much more information than this, ranging from knowledge of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, to common fan experiences with copyright, to copyright law outside the U.S., and much more! We're grateful to everyone who took part in the survey, and we look forward to sharing more with you about it!

Comment


Pages Navigation