AO3 News

Heads up about a change to the posting form!

Published: 2014-07-09 07:12:01 -0400

Our upcoming code deploy will include a change to the default setting for Archive Warnings when posting a new work. Warnings are added to a work by selecting the relevant checkboxes in the "Archive Warnings" section of the form, either when creating or editing a work.

It is mandatory to choose at least one of the options, even if it's just to indicate that you do not wish to warn. Currently, the checkbox "Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings" is checked by default, allowing users who do not want to use warnings to skip straight to subsequent sections of the form. Unfortunately, this means that users who want to add warnings (or indicate that no warnings apply) must also remember to de-select "Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings." Because this isn't entirely obvious, a lot of works were unintentionally set to both "Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings" and "No Archive Warnings Apply".

After our code update, however, "Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings" will no longer be checked by default, requiring users to actively select it (or another option) in order to proceed. We hope this change will encourage creators to interact more meaningfully with the Archive warnings field, and ensure "Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings" is only ever applied to a fanwork deliberately.

Please note that other combinations that are seemingly contradictory are actually allowed by our Terms of Service. For example, you can tick both "Underage" and "Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings" if you want to warn for situations involving characters under 18, but not for other aspects of the work. You are always free to include more details about the content of your work in the Additional Tags, or in your Notes.

For more information about our Archive Warnings, please check the Warnings and Archive Warnings section of the ToS.

Comment

OTW Board response to concerns about the meta decision

Published: 2013-02-25 13:17:12 -0500

There has been a very active and thoughtful response to our recent announcement in favor of allowing meta on the AO3. We'd like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to everyone for raising their concerns, showing their support, and otherwise engaging with us as we work to define our policies, refine our processes, and improve our communication. In addition, we'd like to respond to a number of the issues raised and clarify how this decision was reached and what the process will be from this point forward.

For the purposes of this and the previous post, the term "meta" refers to nonfictional fanworks in all media. While text-based nonfiction fanworks have been a frequent focus, this decision and the surrounding commentary is meant to encompass fanworks in all media; this is one reason why multimedia hosting, posting, and filtering will be referenced frequently in conjunction with the decision to support meta.

There is still a long way to go before meta can be fully supported on the AO3, and we will address a number of the concerns about implementation and timing below. Determining how meta should be supported — for example, the details of how multimedia hosting on the AO3 will ultimately look — is a matter for our committees and users to decide through committee collaboration and user input. However, determining whether supporting meta on the Archive is consonant with the OTW’s mission falls squarely within the Board’s purview and duty.

History of the discussion

When the initial question of meta was posed to Board, it was framed as a request for clarification on whether meta fell under transformative works as we defined them for the AO3, and how to proceed with reports of meta as a violation of our Terms of Service (ToS). The Board voted last August to send the meta issue back to the committees for more discussion, in the hope that the committees could work out among themselves issues that the Board had found insoluble. The decision called for balancing the competing concerns of several committees, and the Board had been unable to reach a satisfactory agreement. However, the execution of that plan dragged on for months as we dealt with Board member hiatuses, resignations, and appointments on top of other day-to-day business, and the vote was never put into action.

When the Board reconvened in 2013, we initially had intended to continue with the plan set out by the 2012 Board, but we quickly realized that — partly as a result of the Board’s dramatically changed composition and partly because of a new focus on clarifying the Board's purview — we no longer felt it to be the best course of action. We looked at the conversations that had been happening within and outside the organization for the previous six months and came to the conclusion that it was in the best interests of both our users and our personnel that a basic decision be made as soon as possible, rather than occupy staff and volunteer time in further stretching out a question that we felt it was our responsibility as Board to settle: the question of the scope of the OTW and AO3's missions with respect to meta.

We had many users who had been waiting all that time to find out if their meta could stay on the Archive, and several committees who needed a determination in order to perform their duties. We took a fresh vote, which was unanimously in favor of interpreting the OTW and AO3's missions as inclusive of owing meta the same protections and support as other fanworks. Once that vote had been taken, sending the issue back to committees for a discussion that would not have changed the Board’s stance would have been disingenuous. We felt it was preferable to state a firm decision and engage the committees in determining how best to carry it out.

We are aware that the Board's decision seemed very abrupt to people both inside and outside the OTW, and we acknowledge that more transparency would have been preferable. The Board’s overall workload and the emotional burnout many of us have experienced as a result of the length and intensity of the meta discussion were obstacles that prevented us from communicating effectively. We regret our shortcomings in this area and will strive to do better in the future; we are working to reduce workload and burnout and clarify policies and purview in an effort to prevent this from recurring.

We are committed to fully engaging committees and users in determining how the decision will be implemented, and a revised Archive TOS and FAQ are currently being drafted under the leadership of the Content Policy Workgroup. As with other TOS and FAQ revisions, they will be posted for public comment before they are formally adopted.

Replies to some questions and concerns

We recognize that this decision will not be popular with all users, members, or even OTW personnel. Conversely, the choice to allow meta — and turning over the ability to define and craft specific policy to our committees — is a decision many support. The concerns raised by those leaving comments are ones the Board spent a great deal of time discussing, and we are happy to share our reasoning and to continue answering questions to the best of our ability. Here are some responses to common concerns and questions:

  • Meta does not require new code to be hosted in its bare form — unlike image or video hosting no new code is required for a basic level of service. For example, a nonfiction essay can be uploaded just like a fictional story, or a meta comic can be linked just like a fictional one is now, or a vid focused on commenting on the canon can be embedded like vids that build fictional narratives currently are. While there are ways the AO3 could be better organized to deliver meta, a basic level of hosting is already available.
  • The AO3 is intended to eventually have filtering based on work type/medium, allowing meta to be found and filtered. The intention is to expand the AO3 functionality to better host non-textual fanworks (e.g. vids, podfics, art, etc.), and the most-requested behaviors with respect to meta (filtering, tagging, etc.) all intersect with what will be in place for multimedia hosting and posting.
  • Refusing to host meta and waiting until we have sufficient code for works types would unduly punish users who have already posted meta works in good faith. In addition to posting meta based on good-faith interpretation of the TOS, users have been posting many types of works the AO3 is not strictly prepared to deal with on a technical and usability level, which includes meta of all media and most non-textual fanworks. Allowing and encouraging users to post all types of fanworks has been a cornerstone of the AO3's philosophy as an archive, and it would be disingenuous and unfair to punish one type of fanwork or creator but not others on this basis.
  • While text-based meta faces much less legal challenge than some other fanwork types, it still faces other challenges such as loss of hosting due to failing archives or discontinued blogging platforms. Non-text-based meta, such as meta art and vids, shares many of the same legal challenges as other non-text-based fanworks.
  • Fans should be able to archive all their fanworks together. Besides this general principle, there are specific instances of at-risk archives that include meta fanworks. Grandfathering in previously posted meta or disallowing meta except for that taken in through Open Doors leads to an inconsistent policy likely to cause confusion, conflict, and difficulty in enforcement.

We hope this answers some of your comments and concerns. We welcome further input and look forward to working with our personnel and our users in continuing to welcome a broad range of fannish endeavors under the OTW umbrella.

Comment

OTW Board Approves Meta Hosting on the AO3

Published: 2013-02-15 14:05:33 -0500

After a long period of discussion, the OTW Board has voted to allow the posting of meta on the Archive of Our Own. We considered a range of issues while making this decision, including how this move would fit into the overall mission of the OTW, the technical and financial resources required, and demand from users of the Archive and members of the OTW. We determined that there is already a demand for meta on the Archive, and that this use of our resources is consonant with our purview and mission.

We're aware that this decision has taken some time, and we sincerely apologize for the delay. We had hoped to reach a decision sooner, but the complexity of the discussion meant we needed to think carefully about the issues. As the term of some OTW Board members ended while the discussion was ongoing, we also needed time for the new Board members to get up-to-speed with all the issues involved.

What will happen next?

Agreeing to include meta on the Archive is just the first step in this journey. The Board will now work with all related committees to define exactly how meta will be handled. Our committees, including AD&T (which will be doing the work on the technical side), Abuse, Support, and others, will be working with our Content Policy workgroup to design a workable policy.

One of the main tasks ahead of us is to agree on some definitions and policies. We need to agree on definitions that are usable and enforceable. While any category is inevitably fuzzy, we want to preserve the Archive as a site for fanworks (so for example, we don't want it to become a general blogging site). Once we've agreed on these definitions, our committees will have a whole range of tasks ahead of them, including:

  • Drafting revisions to our Terms of Service and FAQ. Revisions to the Archive TOS will be subject to a public review period (as detailed under Section IB of the TOS) before becoming final.
  • Determining technical plans for making meta more accessible. We are already planning changes to posting and browsing on the Archive to allow for multimedia hosting. We do not expect meta to require any additional coding to implement beyond what will be required for these changes, and allowing meta won't change the existing prioritization of these features, but we will need to factor it into our design.
  • Determining tagging policies to allow for multimedia and meta browsing.

What will be allowed?

Our Content Policy workgroup will be posting guidelines on what will fall under the 'meta' category and the policies which will apply to it in the next two weeks.

What does this mean for me?

Going forward, we hope that this will mean you can find and enjoy fannish meta more easily (and screen it out if you're not interested).

If you currently have meta posted on the Archive, or you plan to post some in the near future, you should be aware that our policies are still being finalized. As action on existing meta posts was suspended while Board deliberated on this issue, in the coming months some users may be contacted in connection to how their posts fit the new policies. We recommend that users wait until these policies are made public before putting a lot of effort into new meta posts. However, we hope that, long term, meta writers will feel their contributions to the archive are welcome and can join other fanworks in finding an audience at the AO3.

Thoughts?

If you have thoughts and feedback you'd like us to consider, we ask that you comment here on the AO3 version of this post, to make it easier for the various committees involved to answer you and collate your replies.

Comment

Public Feedback for AO3 Terms of Service FAQ

Published: 2012-11-25 15:14:53 -0500

The Content Policy workgroup is presenting a set of proposed changes to the Archive of Our Own’s Terms of Service and Frequently Asked Questions. These are largely clarifications and changes made to deal with functionality as the Archive has developed. This post marks the start of a two-week public comment period. The Content Policy group will track any comments or questions made here and will then evaluate if further revisions need to be made.

The content change files are available in either a FAQ revision PDF and and ToS revision PDF or a FAQ revision doc file and ToS revision doc file format and will show proposed changes to the language at different points in the document.

The proposed changes do not include any discussion of meta, which is still under review by the Board. This document is mostly a matter of language cleanup and putting the answers to some common Support questions in the AO3’s FAQ.

Comment

Fan Art is Coming! Fan Art Is Coming!

Published: 2011-09-03 19:00:10 -0400

In preparation for hosting fanart on the AO3 (that is, you will soon be able to upload art directly to our servers and not just link it from elsewhere), we are revising the official Terms of Service and our FAQ!

As always, we actively seek and very much appreciate feedback on all archive policies. The coding for fanart is still underway, and there is time to make changes, so if there's anything in this draft that concerns you, please let us know.

Here are the proposed additions to the FAQ:

* When can I use pictures I have made on the archive?

The basic rule is that a fanwork based on an existing work should be transformative. Transformation means adding something new, in meaning or message, to the original. We consider that fanart, like fan fiction, is generally transformative. Please remember that the ratings and warnings policies apply to images.

You can also use pictures you've made to complement a fanwork--so, if you are illustrating a story, you can use illustrations of the setting, the original characters, or anything else that fits with the story, as long as you otherwise follow the content policy.

We do not allow sexually explicit photos of minors, nor images manipulated so that they look like sexually explicit photos of minors (even if the manipulation is obvious). This is necessary for us to comply with US law, which has special rules for photographs and video of human beings under age 18. In addition, under Section IV.H of the Terms of Service, we may remove content, including photos or drawings, when we determine that it is necessary to resolve a threatened or pending lawsuit. We will not screen or ban images for offensiveness.

 

* When can I use existing (nonmanipulated) pictures in my fanworks on the archive?

The basic rule is that a fanwork should be transformative. Transformation means adding something new, in meaning or message, to the original. Existing works, including pictures, can be part of a transformative work. Please remember that the ratings and warnings policies apply to images.

When you're using an existing picture, commentary and critique are particularly favored kinds of transformativeness. A use that highlights the way that framing, angle, or other pictorial elements affect the pictures’ meaning; a use that draws attention to the roles of different people in the pictures; and a use that contrasts different pictures are all examples of potential transformation. Humor can also be transformative: unlikely subtitles may change the meaning of the picture substantially. Commentary can be explicit or implicit, as when it’s done by pointed contrasts between images, where the use of a picture recontextualizes it and gives it new meaning.

The number of pictures should be appropriate to the purpose: if you’re illustrating the relationship of a character’s costumes to her story arc, then you are likely to need more pictures than if you merely want to introduce the character so your audience knows what s/he looks like.

Where possible, credit or attribution to the original source of your image is also helpful.

We have drawn on the American University Center for Social Media’s Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video in our discussion here. You may find a full copy of the code here http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use/related-materials/codes/code-best-practices-fair-use-online-video if you want to see more detailed discussion and examples, though they are focused on video.

 

* When can I use pictures in my skins on the archive?

We generally consider skins containing pictures to be fanworks, so please follow the guidelines in the sections above. In addition, since skins are created by individual users, the OTW does not endorse particular skins in any way. We do screen public skins for technical compliance, to limit the proliferation of public skins in order to keep the public skins feature usable for other people, and for obvious violations of the content policy, but it's the user's responsibility to make sure a skin complies.

You can use pictures you've made for skins, even if they aren't fanworks, as long as you otherwise follow the content policy--e.g., you can use a picture of the view from your window.

You can put attributions for images in your skins into a comment like this:

/* This image comes from SOURCE and is used here for INSERT TRANSFORMATIVE PURPOSE */
header { background: url(http://url/of/image.jpg); }

 

Here is the current text in the Terms of Service about user icons, which are the only artworks currently on the archive:

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, please refer to the ToS FAQ.

Here is the proposed new text of the Terms of Service for our new expanded set of artwork:

J. Images

A. 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, please refer to the ToS FAQ.

B. Other images

Other images are subject to the general content policy, including the ratings and warnings policy. No sexually explicit photographs of minors (people under age 18) or sexually explicit photomanipulations that appear to be pictures of minors (people under age 18) are allowed. For more information, please refer to the ToS FAQ.

Relatedly, we propose to delete the last paragraph of Section IV.D, which currently reads:

Please note that the first version of the Archive will only host text and user icons. Future policies will focus on other media.

Mirrored from an original post on the OTW Blog.

Comment

Archive TOS Update

Published: 2009-12-26 01:52:38 -0500

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 are based on a revision and clarification of the system for ratings and warnings on the Archive (Section IV.K), and the expansion of policy on Collections in response to new functionality (Section V.A). In particular, we are trying to make the warnings more intuitive in response to user feedback, though we remain committed to the basic policy that creators get to decide whether and how they want to use warnings. For more information on the new system and how it will affect users, please see our post on Changes to the Archive Warnings System.

These TOS 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 January 1, 2010.

Specific TOS updates below the cut!

Section IV.K.1.b. Revision to wording about warnings and tags, to reflect the new system on the Archive.

By default, all users will see the archive warnings and tags the creator has selected. Any logged-in user who wishes to avoid archive warnings and tags may set preferences to hide them by default. Logged-in users who set their preferences to hide information are proceeding at their own risk and may be exposed to content they would otherwise wish to avoid. Such users may change their preferences, or reveal information for specific stories, at any time.

Section IV.K.2.b. Removing definitions on Ratings, to allow for user discretion.

The Archive uses the following ratings:

  1. General audiences.
  2. Teen and up audiences.
  3. Mature.
  4. Explicit.
  5. Not rated.

Section K.3. Revision to information on warnings, reflecting wording changes on the Archive.

  1. General description:

    There are two components to warnings on the Archive.

    1. Archive warnings: Creators can select from a list of archive warnings. The list also allows creators to select "choose not to use archive warnings" and "none of these warnings apply," or equivalent text as specified on the creator upload form."
    2. Secondary (optional) tags, including warnings: Creators can define their own tags, as seriously or as humorously as they like. These can include specific content warnings. The warnings policy only covers archive warnings.
  2. As a rule, the creator controls the warnings.

    Selecting "choose not to use archive warnings," or the equivalent text as specified on the creator upload form, satisfies a creator's obligation under the warnings policy. If a fanwork uses this option, we will not sustain any failure-to-warn complaints. If the abuse team receives a failure-to-warn complaint in other circumstances, the abuse team may decide the absence of a specific archive warning is misleading. In such cases, the creator may be asked to add a warning or to select the choose not to warn option. If the creator declines or fails to respond, the abuse team may set the warning to indicate that the creator has chosen not to warn. The abuse team's authority extends only to changing a warning to "choose not to use archive warnings" or equivalent text, not to selecting any other warning.

  3. The meaning of "choose not to use archive warnings" or equivalent text :

    The fanwork may contain any of the subject matter on the archive list. Users who wish to avoid specific elements entirely should not access fanworks marked with "choose not to use archive warnings." A creator can select both "choose not to use archive warnings" and one of the archive warnings in order to warn for some but not all of the archive warnings.

  4. Consequence of failure to use an appropriate rating or archive warning

    In general, failure to use an appropriate rating or archive warning is not a violation of the abuse policy.

    It is our policy to defer to creators' categorizations, but we reserve the right to recategorize a fanwork in two situations. (1) When we determine that a complaint about a "general" or "teen and up" rating is valid, we may change the rating to "not rated." (2) When we determine that a complaint about a failure to warn for content on the archive warning list is valid, we may add "choose not to use archive warnings" or equivalent text. The abuse team will not pick a more specific rating or warning for a fanwork.

Section V.A. Expansion of policy on Collections, to reflect new functionality.

A. Collections, Challenges, and Exchanges
  1. 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, including rules about anonymous works (see A.4 below) 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"). The collection maintainer may be able to ask users for suggestions for new fanworks ("prompts"), collect prompts, match participants with prompts (including contacting them via the contact information provided to the Archive or to the collection maintainer), and show the prompts on the Archive, following the general rules governing works on the Archive. Where collection rules allow, prompts may be anonymous or limited-visibility, as detailed in A.4 and A.5 below.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. In order to implement certain types of collections, the Archive may allow works to be posted without making the creator generally visible (which we call anonymous works).

    1. Anonymous works are not orphan works, though they can be orphaned.
    2. The creator's pseudonym will not be publicly associated with the story while the anonymity is in place. For non-orphaned works, the creator's pseudonym will be visible to administrators (including members of the abuse team for purposes of resolving complaints), co-creators (if any), and the maintainers of any collection of which the work is a part.
    3. If the collection of which a work is a part specifies rules regarding anonymity, such as a designated time for revealing authorship, the collection maintainer may be able to control the work's anonymity consistent with those rules. In other situations, creators may be able to choose anonymity.
  5. In order to implement certain types of collections, the Archive may allow works to be posted which will not be generally visible until a time set by the collection maintainer.

    1. Once posted, the work will be visible to administrators (including members of the abuse team for purposes of resolving complaints), co-creators (if any), and the maintainers of any collection of which the work is a part.
    2. If the collection of which a work is a part specifies rules regarding time of general visibility, the collection maintainer may be able to control the time at which a work becomes generally visible to archive users.
  6. In the absence of an independent violation of the abuse policy, the Archive will not intervene in decisions by the collection maintainer.

Comment

New change to the AO3's "Archive Warning" system

Published: 2009-12-26 01:47:14 -0500

We choose that you can no longer choose to choose not to warn for--wait, I'll come in again.

Based on your feedback, we've decided to eliminate one of our previous Archive Warnings: "Choose Not To Warn for Some Content." While it was meant to give users additional flexibility, feedback revealed that it was just too confusing. So there will now be only one opt-out tag, represented by a new icon, (which combines and clarifies two previous ones): "Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings."

But what are Archive Warnings exactly? There are two answers to this question.

1) There are six in all. Four designate particular content: major character death, underage, rape/noncon and graphic violence; the other two are "No Archive Warnings Apply" and "Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings". All stories in the AO3 must carry at least one of these descriptions. There are icons that represent

2) They are enforceable; that is, if a story in the AO3 features major character death, underage, rape/noncon, or graphic violence without being labeled as such (or without you being told that the author has chosen not to warn for these tropes in this story), you can report that story to Abuse.

So why this system? To allow users to roam the A03 with reasonable confidence that they will not encounter these four things if they don't want to. (But click on a story labeled "Author has Chosen Not To Use Archive Warnings" at your own risk!)

Q & A:

 

How does this affect stories I've already posted to the Archive?
If you warned for Rape/Non-Con, Graphic Violence, Major Character Death or Underage, then those warnings will stay exactly as they are. If you chose Choose Not To Warn or Choose Not To Warn For Some Content, these will be merged into Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings. We hope this makes the choice easier for the author and more comprehensible to the reader; we also hope that it makes clear that this field doesn't represent all warnings: just the four the AO3 enforces.

"Why these four "Archive Warnings" and not others?"
We chose those four for a mix of practical, historical, and technical reasons, but the bottom line is enforceability. The AO3 allows for an infinite number of customizable warnings through additional tags, which allow users to search for content they want and avoid content they don't want. But Abuse can't be responsible for the accuracy of all those tags. By limiting the number of Archive Warnings to four--major character death, underage, rape/noncon, and graphic violence--we can provide broad categories of content for people to seek out or avoid. We think it's better to have four than none, since we can't have all warnings be Abuse-enforceable.

"And if I don't want to warn for anything?"
We've got you covered: you can choose "Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings" when you post. Readers who absolutely must know if a story contains major character death, underage, rape/noncon, or graphic violence might avoid your story.

"What if I don't have major character death, underage, rape/noncon, or graphic violence in my story?"
Choose "No Archive Warnings Apply." Please note that this doesn't mean that the story is "safe" or that there's nothing to be warned for. It just means that there are no Archive-enforceable warnings: i.e. no major character death, underage, rape/noncon, or graphic violence. But there could be additional author-added warnings in the tag field, or listed in the summary or notes of the story, or there could be something else that offends or squicks you. But there shouldn't be major character death, underage, rape/noncon, or graphic violence; if there is, please report the story to Abuse.

"I want to warn for something beyond those four things."
Please do! You can add any other warning you want to any story, either in additional tags or in the summary or notes. We also encourage everyone to develop their own warning (or "don't wanna warn") policy and post it to their profile page.

"What about dubcon?"
Dubcon, or dubious consent, is probably the number one additional warning requested by users, and while we've discussed it many times, we just don't think it's enforceable. The label "dubcon", by definition, is applied to dubious cases and blurry situations, and we don't think it's possible for Abuse to judge if a story fits the criteria. That being said, a story's author tends to know if her own story is dubcon, and so we encourage authors to warn for dubcon when appropriate through the tag system. Readers can also use bookmarks, or comment to the author, But we don't feel comfortable potentially subjecting the author to a penalty over the definition of dubcon.

Mirrored from an original post on the OTW blog.

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