AO3 News

International Volunteer Day 2014

Published: 2014-12-05 12:19:52 -0500

graphic by James Baxter with the words 'thank you' and hearts'

Since 1985, the United Nations has designated the 5th of December as International Volunteer Day, a day to celebrate and honour volunteerism around the world. We would like to take today to thank all the dedicated volunteers who keep this organisation running.

Today, the OTW is made up of 479 active volunteers and volunteer-staff, who run 20 committees and 2 workgroups. They keep AO3 and Fanlore online and functioning; edit Transformative Works & Cultures; preserve fansites through Open Doors; and protect and defend fanworks from commercial exploitation and legal challenge as well as do many, many internal tasks that are unseen by fans.

The OTW's staffers and volunteers put countless unpaid hours toward the organisation's mission of providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan cultures. Whether you've joined us recently or have been with us since the beginning--seven years ago!--we are grateful for the fantastic work you have done. To all the thousands of volunteers, past and present, who have helped move us forward in our work, thank you!


Release 0.9.35: Change Log

Published: 2014-12-02 15:25:44 -0500


  • Coders: Emily E., Lady Oscar, Sarken
  • Code reviewers: james_, Sarken, Scott
  • Testers: Agwen, Lady Oscar, legalizemavin, LtFoxYee, mumble, nightmarefluff, pendrecarc, Runt, Sara Heins, twofingerpost


Tag Wrangling & Tag Sets

  • When a tag wrangler attempted to create a tag containing certain restricted characters (i.e. , ^ * { } = ` \ %), the error message they received was incomplete and confusing due to the way the ^ character is interpreted by our code. We switched to using the numeric character reference for ^ and now a full, clear error message will be given.
  • When a user attempted to nominate a tag or create a tag set using restricted characters (e.g. giving it a title with * or ^ in it), the error message they received was similarly incomplete. These issues have been fixed as well!
  • The Wrangling Tools page (visible to logged-in wranglers) previously contained only a few links to the Wrangling Guidelines and the OTW-internal wiki. Now it includes a more detailed set of links to various pages of documentation and updated contact information for the committee staff.


  • Attempting to import a work from a LiveJournal community or journal marked as containing adult content would instead import the contents of LiveJournal's support page. We adjusted the importing code so it will bypass the adult content warning and import the work itself.
  • The "Post New Work Instead?" link on the import page was only reloading the import page. Now it will take you to the page for posting a new work.

External Works

  • When a user bookmarks an external work, they are asked to provide information about that work based on the work's headers. However, the field for providing the work's category (i.e. F/F, F/M, Gen, M/M, Multi, or Other) was presented as a dropdown menu, which would only let the user choose one category tag. The options are now presented as checkboxes, so the user can select all categories that apply.
  • Admins were unable to access the form for editing external work information due to a conflict with the "Hide my work from search engines when possible" preference. We've fixed the conflict so admins can access the page once again.


  • The "Totals" section on a user's Statistics page lists how many users are subscribed to them as a work creator. It was previously labeled "Author Subscriptions," but because we have more than written works on the Archive, we changed it to "User Subscriptions."
  • A work posted on or backdated to 31 December would not be included in the user's statistics for that year (or any other year). Now it will be listed in the correct year and any word counts, kudos, comments, hits, or subscriptions for that work will also be included in that year's totals.


  • In work blurbs, the first tag in a line of text was aligned differently based on whether it started on that line of text or had wrapped from the previous line. Now the tags will always align the same, creating a tidier margin on the left side of the tag section of the blurb.
  • If a form's HTML provides certain information, most browsers will place keyboard focus on an input (e.g. a checkbox or text field) when a user interacts with its label. To improve usability and accessibility, we've added that information to the form on the reset password page, so the field will correctly receive focus.
  • We recently changed the code for the pop-up search suggestions in the header (e.g. tip: lex m/m (mature OR explicit)) on most site pages. However, because our error pages use different code than the rest of the site, the search tip was always displaying there, not just when using the search field. The error pages have been updated and will now work the same as all other pages.
  • The chapter number at the top of a chapter was supposed to be a link in Chapter-by-Chapter mode and plain text in Entire Work mode, but caching would sometimes result in the the wrong format being used in a given mode. Now the chapter number will always be a link, regardless of which mode is in use.

Known Issues

See our Known Issues page for current issues.


Chat with Support (in multiple languages!)

Published: 2014-12-02 12:41:39 -0500

banner by caitie of chat-related words and emoticons in chat bubbles'

AO3 Support staffers are the people who receive your tickets through the Support and Feedback form and try to respond as soon as possible to register your feature suggestion, pass your bug report on to our coders, or do their best to help you out with a problem. However, when it comes to explaining how to do things or why something doesn't seem to be working right, the formal back-and-forth emails of a Support request aren't always ideal.

So Support will be holding an Open Chat session in our public chat room.

They'll be available on Sunday, December 7, 00:00 UTC to 04:00 UTC (what time is that in my timezone?). Volunteers will be available to answer inquiries in English, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. If you can't make it to this one, keep an eye out for future chat announcements.

If you're having a problem using the Archive, want help trying something new, or would like an explanation of one of our features, please drop in and talk to us in person!

Some guidelines from Support, just to keep things running smoothly

We don't have a fancy presentation or material prepared--there are plenty of FAQs, tutorials, and admin posts for that. The point of live chat is to talk with you, not at you. We're happy for you to drop in and say "hi", but it's even better if you drop in and say, "Hi, what's up with my work that won't show as complete even though it is?!"

As Support, our function is to help users with bugs and issues, and pass reports on to our Coders and Systems team, who actually keep the place running. This means that policy questions are way over our pay grade. (Just kidding--none of us get paid!) So, if you have questions or comments about AO3 or OTW policies, good or bad, Support Chat isn't the right place for them. If you do want to talk to someone about policy issues (meta on the Archive, philosophical issues with the tagging system, category change, etc.) we can direct you to the appropriate admin post or contact address so you can leave feedback directly for the people dealing with the area of your concern.

Additionally, if a question looks like it might violate a user's privacy to answer (if it needs an email address or other personal information, for example) we may not be willing to work with it in chat. In those cases, we'll redirect a user to the Support Form so we can communicate via email.

So, now that that's out of the way, what kind of things are we going to talk about?

Live chat is best for questions of a "How do I...?" or "Why does it...?" nature. For example, you might have been wondering:

  • I'd like to run a challenge, but I'm not sure how to do what I want.
  • For that matter, where did my work submitted to an anonymous challenge go?!
  • I want to post using formatting the Rich Text Editor won't give me. How do I do it using a work skin?
  • I want to add a lot of my older works to the AO3 -- what would be the easiest way to do that?

We'd be happy to help you with any of these questions, and anything else you're having trouble doing or would like to try doing with the Archive.


Important Security Update

Published: 2014-11-26 13:51:33 -0500

We've recently upgraded our password encryption in response to a possible security issue affecting a number of accounts. Your account will be automatically upgraded to use the stronger encryption next time you log in. If you usually stay logged in all the time, please log out and then back in to ensure your account is upgraded.

What was the issue?

We maintain a virtual development environment which coders who want to work on the Archive can download: this is a copy of everything needed to run the Archive so that our coders can easily develop and test. This comes with a partial copy of Archive data, so that coders can see how changes in the code will affect the site, with identifying information such as email addresses stripped out. However, we were alerted to the fact that the way we previously encrypted passwords meant someone with access to this data could theoretically use it to figure out passwords associated with some accounts.

Our new encryption system will make it much harder for anyone who accesses our data in any way to guess passwords. In addition, we will review how we put together the sample data we use for development. Only known coders have accessed the old data (we keep a record of downloads) and we have no reason to think that users' accounts were compromised. However, account security is a priority and we're asking our users to change their passwords as a precautionary measure.

How to change your password

Affected account holders will shortly receive an email with a link to the "Change My Password" page. To change your password without the link:

  1. Log into your account with your current password.
  2. Visit your Profile.
  3. Follow the "Edit My Profile" link at the bottom of the page.
  4. Follow the "Change Password" link at the top.

We strongly recommend you pick at least a combination of letters and numbers, and avoid easily guessable passwords like 'password' or '123456'. You may wish to use a service like How Secure is my Password? to help you create a strong password.


OTW is Part of the Amazon Smile Program

Published: 2014-11-23 13:47:02 -0500

Amazon Smile banner showing the OTW as a donor recipient

As many fans are preparing to celebrate the end-of-year holiday season, the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) would like to let U.S. supporters know that there is a simple way they can donate if they are making purchases through Amazon.

AmazonSmile is a program set up by Amazon that allows you to donate to a charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. There are currently nearly one million organizations participating, and the OTW is one of them!

How to use AmazonSmile

Simply go to from the web browser on your computer or mobile device. The site has the same products and services as the usual Amazon domain, many of which will be marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages. (Recurring Subscribe-and-Save purchases and subscription renewals are not currently eligible.) The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the charity of your choice. Donations are made by the AmazonSmile Foundation, however, and will not be tax deductible by you.

If you have an existing account, all details will remain the same including your shopping cart, Wish List, wedding or baby registry. On your first visit to AmazonSmile you will be asked to select a charitable organization. Enter "The Organization For Transformative Works Inc" in the search field. That's it!

If you'd like to donate to more than one charity, you can always select the “Change your Charity” link in the “Your Account” page for different purchases. If you'd like to know more about AmazonSmile, visit their program details page.

Screenshot of a user's Amazon Smile page showing the OTW as the designated charity

What if I don't use Amazon U.S.?

At this time, AmazonSmile is only available to users of the U.S. site, and AmazonSmile is the only retail program through which we receive donations. If you have suggestions of other programs, please let us know!

However, you can donate directly to the OTW at any time of year through our donation page. We have answers to some frequently asked questions there, but if you have additional questions, please contact us.


Release 0.9.34: Change Log

Published: 2014-11-18 21:44:48 -0500


  • Coders: Lady Oscar, Sam Johnsson, sarken
  • Code reviewers: Enigel, james_
  • Testers: Anika Kabit, Lady Oscar, Runt, sarken


  • Misc.
    • Previously, if the original version of an AO3 News post was accidentally designated as being a translation, it couldn't be set back, creating a situation in which the post would permanently vanish from the main feed. It's now possible to restore the setting.
    • On the External Bookmark page, required fields were not correctly marked as being required. All required fields are now denoted with an asterisk (*) and error messages have been updated to be inclusive of non-text fanworks.
    • We have added a link to the Troubleshooting: Common Problems When Logging In News Post from the error message that is generated upon a failed login attempt.
    • We have reduced the number of emails sent out during the AO3 signup process. After signing up, users will still receive an email with an activation link, but will not receive a success email after activating the account, as this email contained no new information.
  • Skins
    • While using the 'Reversi' Skin, it was previously impossible to read the 'You have already left kudos' message. This has been fixed.
    • We have also edited Reversi to make it easier to read the tooltip information displayed when viewing Tag Set nominations.
    • We have added a '.book' style to the Basic Formatting workskin. This style will indent the first line of each paragraph and remove the blank lines between paragraphs to give an appearance similar to the text in a standard printed book. You can read more about Work Skins in our Work Skins Tutorial.

Known Issues

See our Known Issues page for current issues.


The Case Against Licensing Fanworks

Published: 2014-11-06 15:43:46 -0500

lBanner by Erin of a spotlight on an OTW logo with the words 'Spotlight on Legal Issues'

As fanworks have become more popular and the concept of fanwork creation has become more mainstream, the legality of fanworks has become a popular topic for media stories and blog posts. Some of these stories reflect understandings of American copyright law that are muddled or just plain wrong. Writers--particularly those focused on recent examples of "commercialized" fanworks--ignore or under-emphasize copyright's fair use doctrine, or look for ways to combine fanwork creation with media markets. One common trope, lately, has been to suggest that fanwork creators can, or should, obtain licenses before creating fanworks. After all, the argument goes, many authors and other media creators now recognize the positive value of fanworks, and would be delighted to give permission for fans to make fanworks. So why not have more licensing regimes for fanworks, where copyright holders give fans permission to make fanworks, probably in exchange for a fee or a share of the fan's proceeds if they want to commercialize their fanworks?

Here's why not -- licensing is neither legally necessary nor is it favorable to fans or fan culture for a number of reasons.

Licensing is unnecessary, especially for fans who do not want to commercialize their fanworks.

The American copyright doctrine of fair use favors noncommercial transformative works. The fair use doctrine is an exception to copyright infringement, and it provides people with a right to base their works on copyrighted works without infringing copyright. The factors considered in determining whether a work is a fair use--that is, noninfringing--include whether it transforms the meaning or purpose of the original, whether it's commercial or noncommercial, how much of the original work it copies, and whether it serves as a market replacement for the original. Because commerciality of use is one consideration in the fair use analysis, fans who want to try to make money from their fanworks face a more difficult legal question, but if their works don't create market competition with the original, they still may constitute fair use. But noncommercial transformative works -- the kind hosted on the AO3, for example -- are generally protected from infringement by the fair use doctrine.

Licensing invites censorship.

Licensing requires either seeking permission from a rights owner, or creating a work in line with a set of permissions that the creator has set out. In a past post, we discussed how Kindle Worlds' licensing system allows Amazon to restrict what fans can create in that setting, and that's only one example. Fanworks provide a way for fans to express things that the original creator didn't express, and even the most fan-friendly rights holders may not like what every fan wants to create. Licensing schemes may want fans to “celebrate the story the way it is,” not explore ways in which it might be different. But that takes away the freedom that makes fanworks so vibrant, innovative, and even potentially critical of the originals works' approach to sexuality, race, politics, or any number of other topics.

Licensing discriminates against those with low resources.

Licensing generally also involves a financial exchange --paying the rights holder, sharing proceeds, or owing some other sort of payment to the rights holder either for every work or for works that meet certain criteria (such as reaching a pre-determined amount of financial success). Even a small fee creates a barrier to creation that can be particularly detrimental to fans with fewer financial resources, young fans, and struggling and beginning artists, many of whom rely on fanwork creation to hone their crafts.

Licensing creates psychological and practical barriers to fanwork creation.

As OTW Legal's Rebecca Tushnet has been saying for years, creativity is often spontaneous and unpredictable, and if people have to ask permission before writing 500 words about Harry Potter, they will make other plans. This means many fanworks simply won't get made under a licensing system. This barrier to creation is especially strong for younger fans and those who doubt their political or expressive power--the very people who most often use fanworks to discover themselves, talk back to culture, and benefit from the support of fan communities.

Licensing undermines fan cultures.

Licensing invites commercialization of fanworks and undermines the "gift economy" that brings many fans together. It makes fanwork creation a transaction rather than just a conversation, and disturbs fan ecosystems.

Licensing hurts the law.

Finally, and importantly, the existence of widespread licensing for certain kinds of fanworks could warp perceptions of the fair use doctrine, which explicitly (and importantly for free speech!) exempts fair uses from the need for licensing and already exists to provide a space for fanwork creation. Some courts have held that when a licensing market exists, failure to obtain a license makes a use less likely to be fair. But even when licensing markets exist -- as we've seen above -- they do not provide the sort of freedom that the fair use doctrine is designed to provide.

These are only a few illustrations of why the OTW does not support a move toward licensing of fanworks. For more on the OTW's views about the legal framework for fanworks and the drawbacks of licensing regimes, see the document we produced addressing why any change in copyright law should favor freedom to make transformative works.

OTW's Legal Committee works on behalf of fans and fandom to make sure our voices are represented in discussions on copyright reform and they are available to answer individual fans' questions.


October 2014 Newsletter, Volume 85

Published: 2014-11-05 11:25:25 -0500

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

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


Thousands of fans became new members of the OTW in October and many more donated, signal boosted, and cheered us on during our most successful membership drive ever! The final total for the drive was US$173,760.34, but by the end of October we had received US$182,930.34 in donations from 8,211 people.

Our Development & Membership committee had been preparing content for months, but then had to handle many last-minute workarounds due to tech issues and changes during the drive. Development & Membership also responded to hundreds of fan questions and comments during the drive itself, meaning many long days for this small but hardworking group.

Translation also worked extremely hard in a tireless race to translate all the October drive content, even while it changed as the drive went on. They prepared 10 documents in 18 languages — including two infographics and lots of tweets! Everyone came through brilliantly and amazingly fast. Special kudos to teams Czech and Hebrew, who only recently joined the committee and already hurried to help with the drive effort, as well as to volunteer Ania, who created versions of all the many drive graphics in each language.


Accessibility, Design and Technology had a series of tiny code updates this month (Releases 0.9.26, 0.9.27-.29, and 0.9.30-.32) and otherwise worked with Development & Membership and others on drive matters. The Quality Assurance & Testing subcommittee has been recruiting and will welcome a bunch of new testing volunteers soon!

Abuse handled over 180 tickets in October. They are currently working on a roadmap for next year and reviewing stats for 2014 in preparation for an end of term report. Meanwhile, AO3 Documentation is still making good progress as it works on AO3 FAQs.

Tag Wrangling's had a busy month! Wrangling staff helped Support on several tag-related tickets, answered questions from Twitter, and moved to Trello for internal task management. Our wrangling guidelines completed the migration to a new location. Finally, they welcomed 36 new tag wrangling volunteers and five new staff members!


Open Doors has been continuing to assist with archive imports and improving committee documentation. Communications released a second guest post, this one interviewing fandom blogger Jamie Broadnax. Meanwhile, Journal is pushing through the last few manuscripts for their next two issues while redoing their coding documentation.

Legal has been hard at work on the OTW's initial submissions in the process of seeking to renew the U.S. Copyright Office exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that provides legal protection for fan video creators who have to break encryption on DVDs (and other media) in order to make fan videos. They put out a call for comments, and have received some very helpful responses. If you have other responses, or examples of videos from the last three years that you think we should consider using as examples of how fan videos can create new meaning from existing works (especially if making those videos required breaking encryption on Blu-Ray or online sources such as iTunes or Netflix), please continue to send them! Legal plans to submit our exemption requests in November, but the process will continue from there, and we will still have lots of uses for new examples.

In addition to that, Legal has continued to work with the USPTO/NTIA Multistakeholder process for improving the operation of the DMCA notice and takedown procedure, and has responded to several queries from fans with legal questions and requests for help.


The OTW Board and Strategic Planning were joined by representatives from Volunteers & Recruiting and Legal for a planning session to map out future plans for the OTW. During the meeting, Strategic Planning presented the data they had collected from surveys and interviews of current and retired staff and volunteers and highlighted organization-wide challenges facing the Board, chairs and leads, and committees and workgroups. From this presentation, they facilitated a brainstorming session that led to a list of overall strategic goals to be accomplished in six-month intervals over the next three years. Board director Anna Genoese stepped down from the OTW Board following the three-day meeting.

Strategic Planning then scheduled three follow-up meetings, open to observers throughout the OTW, to review the goals brainstormed in the meeting. They are currently working on writing up these goals into a draft that will be presented to all staff and volunteers for review, input, and discussion of specific implementation steps. Strategic Planning expects to contact each committee or workgroup individually, as well as lead OTW-wide discussions of these goals, during the feedback phase.

Internationalization & Outreach has been holding a series of internal meetings to help it develop a more thorough understanding of the needs and ideas of the OTW, so that the direction that the committee takes in the future is in response to those needs and ideas. Internationalization & Outreach is focused on raising the profile of the OTW in underrepresented fannish communities and devising outreach strategies and implementing them. Internationalization & Outreach wants to focus on which fannish communities may share or be interested in the OTW's goals, how to reach them, and how to make our projects and our organization more welcoming and more in line with their needs.

Elections announced this year’s candidates for the OTW Board and posted candidate manifestos and bios for the public to peruse. They also reached out to the public for question submissions, which led to the recent posting of a Candidate Q&A covering many issues relating to OTW Board work. They also held a series of chats with the candidates and worked on creating transcripts of those meetings.


Volunteers & Recruiting was very active in October both in terms of committee projects and providing support to the rest of the organization. At the beginning of the month, three staff attended the in-person Board meeting to provide input into the discussions there, and have been actively involved in the follow-up conversations working toward the draft strategic plan. Volunteers & Recruiting also managed recruiting for five different roles (with over 150 applications received) and began the official decommissioning of the Category Change workgroup.

Internally, they finished documenting their annual report project and planning for next year, closed out the annual Still Willing to Serve project, finalized the annual revision of our induction and removal procedures, and completed the final stages of migrating volunteer records to a new database system. They also identified and filled in a few documentation holes and have started looking at the future leadership structure for the committee and succession planning with an eye toward sustainability.

New Committee Chairs: Niko Thompson (Strategic Planning Co-Chair)
New Tag Wrangler Volunteers: Forever42, Karissa, LauraBeth, Jamie101, Yzmaisamzy, mrajick, Elizabeth Moonstone, Carolina, Gryfeathr, a_phasia, cordial, SunnyB, Kise, RawringPopcorn, Sezso, clotpoleofthelord, Asha, grungehemmings, Assassin_J, ravelqueen, whylorinda, hannahmhall, ShotaSammy, Swimmies, Amy Ketchup, phoenixacid, Cryllia, needleyecandy, Perfidiously, PhoenixFlame, Pax, Celia, Estirose, Sinope, especiallysarah and Krista
New Translator Volunteers: Neru and Hirannis

Departing Directors: Anna Genoese
Departing Committee Chairs: Cat Meier (Finance) and Aja (Development & Membership)
Departing Workgroup Leads: Soledad Griffin (Category Change)
Departing Committee Staff: 2 Translation, 1 Web Strategy, Design & Development, Reanna LaCasse (Support), 2 Communications, 1 Volunteers & Recruiting, 1 Tag Wrangling, 4 Abuse and 1 Finance
Departing Workgroup Members: 1 AO3 Docs volunteer, hele braunstein (Category Change), Lady Oscar (Category Change), bingeling (Category Change), kiki-eng (Category Change) and 2 other Category Change volunteers
Departing Communications Volunteers: Diane Quintal and 1 other
Departing Tester Volunteers: ljunattainable, openendings and 28 others.
Departing Tag Wrangler Volunteers: Michelle Dong and 62 others.
Departing Translator Volunteers: 3


Pages Navigation