Terms of Service FAQ
Why does the Archive have a goal of maximum inclusiveness?
There are a number of wonderful specialized archives. Our aim with this Archive is to provide a place to preserve as many fanworks as possible. At the same time, the Archive software can be used by anyone to create their own archives, including archives limited to particular topics, fandoms, or ratings.
Why is the agreement between the Archive and Archive users governed by the laws of New York?
Given the great variation among laws in different places, we want our agreement with you to be governed by predictable and consistent laws.
What is an implied warranty of merchantability?
An implied warranty of merchantability is a legal agreement between a seller and a buyer that goods will be reasonably fit for the general purpose for which they are sold. In the United States this warranty is governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which allows sellers to disclaim it, thereby shifting the risk back to the buyer.
What is an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose?
An implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is a legal agreement that exists when a buyer relies upon the seller to provide goods to fit a specific request. This warranty requires that the seller know or have reason to know of a specific purpose to which the goods are going to be put, and know that the buyer is relying on the seller's expertise or judgment. In the United States this warranty is governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which allows sellers to disclaim it, thereby shifting the risk back to the buyer.
Under what circumstances would you suspend an account for an out-of-date e-mail address?
If we need to communicate with you to resolve an abuse complaint, and the e-mail bounces, we will have to resolve it without your participation, which means you won't be able to tell your side of the story. If your e-mail continues to bounce, we will suspend your account because we need to be able to communicate with you if necessary.
In that situation, you can get your account reinstated by associating it with a working email address and, if necessary, dealing with whatever problem led to the abuse complaint in the first place.
Suspension for bouncing isn't a strike. Suspension for bouncing would never lead to permanent suspension, though a sufficient number of sustained abuse complaints while the email was bouncing could lead to permanent suspension.
If we send a routine e-mail about general site policies and it bounces, that will not lead to account suspension, though whatever policies we announce will still apply to all account holders. We will only suspend accounts when individual abuse-related communications bounce.
I am a non-US resident. What does the Archive policy on US law mean for me?
The Archive welcomes fans from all over the globe, but it is set up under US law. We believe that US law governs the Archive, which includes the relationship between the Archive and its users and the definitions of terms in the ToS. Other laws may govern your behavior, however, and you are responsible for knowing them and complying with them.
What do you mean by banning "impersonation"? Can I archive first-person real-person fiction? Can I use a celebrity name as a pseudonym?
Roleplay is permitted when the assumption of such a persona is clearly disclosed (e.g., in a user profile or in another manner appropriate under the circumstances) and it doesn't otherwise violate the Content Policy, including the harassment policy. Fiction marked as such, including real-person fiction in first-person format, is not impersonation. Please consult the content policy for further information.
What do you mean by "world-wide, royalty-free, nonexclusive license"?
This means the Archive can make your content available to other people (subject to any login requirements that apply) without paying you. We will never charge for access to the Archive or otherwise sell your content. You can put your content anywhere else you want, too.
Why are children under the age of 13 not permitted to have an account or upload Content?
In the U.S., the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act governs the collection of personal information (which can include things like usernames) from children under 13. Requiring users to be over 13 is the easiest way for us to comply with this law.
Cookies may be required to customize your experience of the site. If you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use the site. There are many good ways to remove both browser history and cookies between sessions, and we encourage people who are concerned about privacy to investigate more global solutions. For example, Firefox can clear all your private data between sessions.
Content Policies and Abuse Procedures
What sort of things would lead to permanent suspension?
It's impossible to define everything in advance. We are most concerned with people who are actively and deliberately hostile to the community. Repeated upheld copyright complaints involving nontransformative works may lead to a permanent suspension. Wholesale plagiarism and deliberate disclosure of another person's real-life name or other identifying information readily justify permanent suspension, whereas a personal conflict that gets out of control may justify temporary suspension. Small and honest mistakes, even if they are annoying, are more likely to draw warnings.
What constrains the abuse team's discretion?
Our commitment is to build a community that welcomes anyone with a willingness to learn the rules but defends itself against people who deliberately flout them. Our discretion is aimed at that objective. Procedurally, permanent suspensions for violations other than spam or threatening the technical integrity of the site require a majority vote of the abuse team. Majority rule builds in checks on individual discretion without trying to resolve every possible situation in advance.
What do you mean by "only people who have a need to know" about a complaint will be informed of it?
What happens if someone who's a friend of someone on the abuse team is involved in a complaint?
We expect the members of the abuse team to behave professionally, even though OTW is entirely volunteer-staffed. We take the responsibilities of serving on the abuse team seriously, and a member of the team with a personal relationship to either party in an abuse situation is expected to recuse themselves entirely from the case, and, of course, to maintain our standards of confidentiality at all times; failure to do so may be grounds for dismissal from the team.
What do the different account statuses mean?
We define account statuses the following way:
At its discretion, the abuse team may issue a warning, rather than a suspension, in the instance of minor violations of the ToS. A user who has recently received a warning and who violates the ToS again, especially in the same or a similar manner, is likely to incur a suspension.
The abuse team may issue a time-limited ban on the uploading of new content and creation of new accounts; suspension occurs as the result of strikes incurred for violating the Archive's ToS. During this time, the suspended user can remove, but not edit, content uploaded prior to the suspension.
The abuse team may issue a permanent ban on the uploading of new content. Permanently suspended users cannot create new accounts or upload content to Archive, though they retain the right to remove, but not edit, content uploaded prior to the permanent suspension.
If I complain non-anonymously, will the subject be told who complained?
Will I be informed of complaints against me?
In general, the abuse team will only communicate with the subject of a complaint if there appears to be a violation of the abuse policy, or if the abuse team needs more information to resolve the issue.
How would the suspended user control their nonobjectionable content without an account?
Non-objectionable fanworks are not removed from the site when a user is suspended. Suspended users who wish to delete or orphan their fanworks may contact the Abuse team to have this done for them.
What information is available about a permanently suspended or deleted account? Can I reuse a userID that belonged to a deleted account?
Permanent suspension doesn't delete accounts; unless deleted by the user, any existing content that doesn't violate the content policy or other parts of the Terms of Service remains. It is possible that a userID that has been deleted by the user will be available to other people.
How do I appeal the resolution of a complaint?
The person against whom a complaint was resolved can submit an appeal the same way as one would submit a complaint, by contacting Abuse.
Spam and Commercial Promotion
How strict is the "no commerce" rule?
We want the Archive to remain a non-commercial space. That means that it isn't the right place for offering merchandise, even fan-related merchandise. Linking to your personal page (not, for example, an Amazon author page) is fine, even if the personal page includes some items for sale, but the Archive is not advertising space. If the abuse team issues a warning or sustains a complaint about commercial activities, the original poster can always appeal.
What about charity drives?
The Archive will host fanworks of any origin, including fanworks created in response to charity drives or other challenges. A link to a charity drive to explain the origin of a fanwork is appropriate. Solicitation itself, however, should take place outside the Archive. We concluded that this policy was the easiest to apply fairly to everyone, given the wide range of possible solicitation activities.
What's this about the spam filter? Can I be permanently suspended if I fail the filter?
If you're logged in, you shouldn't see a spam filter, so the situation shouldn't arise. If we find that accounts are being created simply to spam other users, we will permanently suspend those accounts. If you're a human being reading this FAQ, you shouldn't worry about the automated spam-control measures.
What do you mean by "attempting to interfere with the technical integrity of the site"?
Basically, we mean attempts to hack the site or spread viruses or other unwanted programs through it. If a user deliberately exploits a code vulnerability in order to install unwanted programs, redirect users to spam sites, or other destructive behavior, that's attempting to interfere with the technical integrity of the site.
Does that mean I can't have nifty formatting in my story?
Do you have a policy on bots or scraping? These are ways of extracting information from or indexing websites.
Using bots or scraping is not against our Terms of Service unless it relates to our guidelines against spam or other activities. However, we do reserve the right to implement robots.txt or other protocols limiting what bots can do, or to notify you and ask you to discontinue if a bot or scraping program is causing problems for the site.
Does the harassment policy cover everyone, or just Archive users?
Both Archive users and non-users might potentially complain about harassment. In today's online environment, the line between non-user and user can be blurry, and so our policy covers both users and non-users. Writing RPF (real-person fiction), however, never constitutes harassment in and of itself, even if the content is objectionable. Please see the harassment policy for more information.
Can a person submit a plagiarism complaint anonymously, or without being the author of the plagiarized work?
Yes. Except in the case of copyright complaints, a complaining person may submit a complaint via the web form, which does not require identifying information.
Why would I want to have different pseudonyms connected to the same account?
We distinguish between usernames and pseudonyms, allowing multiple pseudonyms for each username. Pseudonyms are useful when more than one person wants to use a particular name; they allow multiple Sarahs or Kittens to coexist but be distinguished. Also, if you have used different fannish names over time or in different fandoms, you can keep them all on the Archive using pseudonyms.
Why are the rules for user icons more restrictive than the general Archive rules?
Right now, user icons appear on pages, such as user profiles, that are entirely unrated. The design provides for only one user icon per pseudonym, rather than multiple icons, which means that whatever icon a user picks will be visible to any browser. If there is substantial interest in changing the system, we may revise the Archive so that a user may have multiple icons and/or may rate their profile just as a fanwork may be rated, in which case we will change the user icon policy. The icon policy is not the general fanart policy. We presently allow embedding various kinds of files hosted elsewhere. We do anticipate eventually hosting images created by fans and treating them like textual fanworks, governed mainly by ratings and warnings rather than by content restrictions.
What can be on a user profile?
User profiles can contain information about the user, including information about the user's preferences and links to other sites on which the user can be found. User profiles must comply with the Archive's policies on harassment, impersonation, plagiarism, commercial promotion, and other conduct that threatens the integrity of the site. Users should not use their profiles to encourage the purchase of their other works (e.g., linking to a Kindle page). Linking to a personal page on another service is fine, even if the personal page offers some items for sale (e.g., the personal page includes links to an Etsy page), but the Archive is not advertising space.
Ratings and Warnings
What kind of content do you allow?
We will not remove content from the Archive because it contains explicit material, as long as it doesn't violate any other part of the content policy (e.g., the harassment policy).
One basic consequence is that users are responsible for reading and heeding the warnings provided by the creator. Risk-averse users should keep in mind that not all content will carry full warnings. If you want to know more, you may also wish to consult the bookmarks that people other than the creator have used to categorize the fanwork.
Some creators do not want to put specific ratings or warnings on their works. Our policy aims to enable creators to choose appropriate labels or to opt not to use ratings and warnings, with the understanding that some users will avoid unrated or unwarned content.
Though creators are not required to use ratings or warnings, they are often extremely useful to users. Ratings or warnings can attract some readers who are looking for specific content, and they can also warn off readers who are trying to avoid that content. Because fanworks may deal with controversial and painful issues, we encourage creators to choose ratings and warnings that help users make decisions about what to read. The "not rated" and "choose not to use Archive warnings" options will, of course, help users make decisions as well, though without much detail.
What sort of information do I need to provide for my fanworks?
The aim of the Archive is to let fanwork creators and audiences find each other. Choosing at least one fandom is therefore the basic requirement. If we don't have your fandom listed, you can always add it. After that, you can add characters, relationships (if you want), a summary, and other information.
The Archive also uses rating and warning tags. Our goal is to provide the maximum amount of control and flexibility for all users of the Archive, both creators and audiences, so that each user can customize their experience. It's always possible for creators to use "not rated" or "choose not to use Archive warnings," but audiences will always be able to avoid unrated or unwarned fanworks if that's how they want to use the Archive.
From the user's perspective, users who wish to avoid warnings will be able to hide them. Author-supplied warnings are displayed by default unless and until a user changes their preferences.
Users who wish to serve as filters for other users may also use bookmarks and recommendation tags. These will serve as an extra source of information for other users who are trying to determine whether or not to access a work. Users will have to choose to use other users' bookmarks and recommendations.
This system is designed to offer numerous different ways to customize the experience on the Archive, which should in general accommodate users' desires for warnings or to avoid warnings, along with authors' ability to choose the appropriate warning or to choose not to provide warnings. In most cases, users can control their experiences by accessing only fanworks that have ratings and warnings that are acceptable to them, and creators can use their artistic judgment about what ratings and/or warnings, if any, ought to be on a fanwork.
If I don't choose, what's the default?
The default is "not rated" and "choose not to use Archive warnings."
What's the consequence of a violation of the ratings/warnings policy?
Please see the Content Policy for details. If we sustain a complaint about ratings, the fanwork will remain available on the Archive, but it will have the "not rated" label. If we sustain a complaint about warnings, the fanwork will remain available on the Archive, but it will have the "choose not to use Archive warnings" label.
The ratings/warnings policy is really minimal. Why is this?
We believe that appropriate ratings and warnings are often in the eye of the beholder. Users who feel that a fanwork lacks an appropriate rating/warning are encouraged to try to resolve the issue with the creator. Users may also add tags of their own to on-site bookmarks of a fanwork, which other users can consult for more information. When those tags are present, you can click on the "Bookmarks" link at the top of the work to see them.
What's the difference between ratings and warnings?
Ratings are a measure of the intensity of overall content. Warnings refer to more specific subjects and can be used to complete the sentences:
I prefer not to read works that contain X
I search out and enjoy works that contain X
Do the Archive maintainers screen works as they're uploaded for compliance with the ratings/warnings policy?
How will this work while the Archive is in beta?
Since many features will not yet be available in the early version of the Archive, the Content Policy only applies to active features. Because we're just getting started, we will emphasize communication and dialogue about policies; everyone, including the Archive maintainers, will be learning how this works.
Can chapters of a larger work be rated/warned separately from each other?
Not in the initial version of the Archive, but we have put it on the roadmap for later addition.
Can I use "not rated" but not "choose not to use Archive warnings," or vice versa?
Yes, absolutely. So you could use "not rated" for a story that has a warning for rape, or you could rate a story "explicit" or "general" but choose not to give specific warnings.
Do you distinguish between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships or activities for ratings purposes?
No. Please note that the creator's choice of rating is presumed appropriate. In assessing abuse complaints, we will not treat slash any differently than het.
What's the difference between "general" and "teen and up" or "mature" and "explicit"?
This is left to the creator's judgment. People disagree passionately about the nature and explicitness of content to which younger audiences should be exposed. The creator's discretion to choose between "general" and "teen and up" or between "mature" and "explicit" is absolute: we will not mediate any disputes about those decisions. Instead, we encourage creators to consider community norms, whether fandom-specific or more general (such as how you'd expect a video game or movie with similar content to be rated), in selecting a rating.
What's the difference between "teen and up" and "mature"?
Likewise, this is almost entirely up to the creator's judgment. In response to valid complaints about highly explicit content, the abuse team may redesignate a fanwork marked "general" or "teen and up" to "not rated," as explained in the abuse policy, but our policy is generally to defer to the creator's decision.
Suppose I'm searching for explicit fanworks. How will "not rated" Fanworks be treated in my search?
You can include or exclude "not rated" Fanworks from a ratings-based search.
What are "Archive" and "additional" tags?
In addition to ratings, the Archive provides two separate lists of tags for creators to choose from when uploading a fanwork. These tags allow creators to ensure that their stories are accurately labeled. They are also helpful for many users in finding and categorizing work, or avoiding work which they may not want to see.
When uploading a fanwork to the Archive, creators must choose at least one item from the Archive tags list. Along with some specific warnings, the list allows creators to select "choose not to use Archive warnings," and "none of these warnings apply." It is also possible to choose multiple Archive warning combinations, e.g. both "underage" and "graphic description of violence" if a fanwork contains both elements, or "choose not to use Archive warnings" and "underage" if the creator wants to disclose the underage content but doesn't want to say whether the work contains major character death. It's a little messy in that type of rare case, but trying to express that concept in other ways led to significant confusion.
Creators may also choose to add additional tags to their work. These tags can be serious or humorous. They can be warnings or promises, or whatever else the creator chooses. Tags may be made synonymous for purposes of filtering by our Tag Wranglers, but your tags will continue to appear in their original form on your work.
Please see our ratings and warnings policy for more information.
What's the purpose of the Archive tags?
The purpose is to identify subjects that have been the subject of substantial, recurring debate in many sectors of fandom and provide an easy way to warn for those subjects (though a choice not to warn is always acceptable as well). We also decided to limit the Archive tags to a small number of subjects out of concerns for enforcement. Concepts like "dubious consent" vary substantially from person to person, and we decided that we could not reasonably expect fair enforcement of a rule requiring warnings (or a signal that the author chose not to warn) for concepts beyond those listed in the Archive warnings.
What do you mean by "underage" in the Archive tags?
Underage refers to descriptions or depictions of sexual activity by characters under the age of eighteen (18). In general, we rely on authors to use their judgment about the line between reference and description or depiction. Sexual activity does not include dating activity such as kissing, but again, we rely on authors to use their judgment about what is generally understood to be sexual activity. An author may always specify the age of the characters.
Why is "underage" defined as "under 18"?
Though there is no international consensus, there is a trend to focus on 18 as an important age in regulating depictions of sexual activity (as opposed to actual sexual activity/age of consent, which is regulated in many more varied ways). Thus, we decided that 18 would be helpful for the maximum number of users, including audiences as well as creators, though we recognize that no solution is perfect for everyone. We encourage creators and recommenders to be more specific in tags or summaries where this would be useful to potential audiences.
Note from the Content Policy committee: With the exception of user icons, the Archive hosts only text, but we do plan to expand over time, and we do allow embeds of certain types of files hosted elsewhere, which are also subject to the Content Policy. Because regulations of sexually explicit content are generally concerned with visual depictions, there is potentially more flexibility for textual depictions. The current rule is for 18 across the board, but we welcome suggestions on alternatives, especially from people with an interest in fan art.
What about robots, computer simulations, elves, aliens, vampires who are three hundred years old but were turned into vampires at age 12, etc.?
The core use of the underage label is to identify fanworks depicting sexual activity by humans under the age of eighteen as measured in Earth years. Please use your judgment for other situations. If the fanwork does not include a depiction of sexual activity with a human under the age of eighteen as measured in Earth years, then we will not generally consider it "underage," though creators may use the tag if they feel it accurately represents their intent. As always, we encourage creators and recommenders to be more specific in tags or summaries where this would be useful to potential audiences.
What about when a vignette or other fanwork doesn't specify the characters' ages?
The presumption is that the characters are of age unless the fanwork's creator indicates otherwise.
What if there's only a brief reference to rape in a story–am I required to use either "rape" or "choose not to use Archive warnings," or can I still choose "none of these warnings apply" if I think that's a better description?
This is the kind of decision that is up to the discretion of authors. In general, we will not recategorize a fanwork in response to a complaint when the content at issue is a reference or is otherwise not graphic.
You say that logged-in users can hide warnings. Why is that?
Some people consider warnings as spoilers and try to avoid them. This is part of our attempt to make the Archive user-customizable.
If I'm not logged in, what can I see?
You can see anything rated "general" or "teen" without logging in or clicking anything else. For the other ratings ("mature," "explicit," and "not rated") you will be asked to agree that you are willing to see such content.
Something that I consider really immoral, dangerous, triggering, or outrageous is not on the Archive list for warnings.
We're very sorry. We encourage you to use the additional tags, summaries, and user-provided bookmarks and recommendations to screen for fanworks you'll enjoy, and you may wish to comment to creators when you feel that further warnings would be desirable. The content policy committee would also like to hear your suggestions for the tag system.
How will you apply the ratings and warnings policy to embedded images, videos, etc.?
In making rating/warning decisions, creators should take into account anything visible, including embedded images and videos. As with all other content, creators' decisions are presumed reasonable, and using "not rated" or "chose not to use Archive warnings" will always be sufficient.
How will the ratings/warnings policy apply to fanworks that come in through Open Doors?
We will import the original ratings, warnings, and other associated information as part of Open Doors as best we can. However, the rating and warning systems used by older archives preserved through Open Doors may differ from our system. Therefore, an Open Doors work that can't be mapped to an Archive rating will be treated as if it were marked "not rated" and "choose not to use Archive warnings" unless the maintainer of the collection (or the original creator, if they "claim" the work) specifically selects other ratings and warnings for it.
How explicit or graphic can the summaries and tags on my fanworks be?
Explicit or graphic content in itself does not violate the content policy. Please use your judgment about what will best identify and describe your fanworks.
Someone has added a tag I hate to a bookmark of one of my fanworks!
We're very sorry. In general, user-provided tags can be positive or negative. Like any other content, tags are subject to the content policy, so if the tag violates the harassment, personal information, or other content policies, please report it. User-provided tags will not automatically be displayed on fanworks, in order to allow you to avoid them.
So user-added tags will be displayed differently than creator-added tags? How does that work?
The tags displayed on the fanwork itself will only be the creator-placed tags. As a site user, you will see user tags in several different situations. These are the current plans:
- If you use Tag Search, you'll be able to find fanworks that anyone, whether creator or user, has labelled with a particular tag.
- If you use Work Search, you'll see tags from the creator.
- You will be able to see when other people have publicly bookmarked a work. When you're looking at a given user's bookmark for a particular fanwork, you'll be able to see that user's tags.
- You will be able to see a list of a user's public bookmarks, with associated tags, and a list of the public bookmarks for a fandom or other canonical tags, with associated tags.
What kinds of fanworks can I post?
You can post any noncommercial, non-ephemeral fanwork. Here are some examples of allowed content:
- An audio performance of a fannish essay about vampire biology across sources, or the same essay in text form.
- Short clips of footage from existing sources, edited over a song to make an argument or tell a story.
- A comic telling the romantic adventures of the protagonist of a video game.
- Photographs of a knitted character.
- An alternative version of a Jane Austen novel in which there's a zombie apocalypse.
- The supporting text for an original adventure for a tabletop roleplaying game.
What if what I want to post isn't similar to one of the examples listed in the Terms of Service FAQ?
In general, you can post any non-ephemeral, transformative content that is fannish in nature. If you have doubts about any particular examples and you don't want to risk posting it, you can always contact our Abuse team to ask, using the Abuse form.
Can I archive original fiction?
Yes and no. Although some users may want a place for all their creative work, our current vision of the Archive is of a place dedicated to fanworks in particular. The Archive was designed to serve the mission of the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), which was "established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms."
Because our long-term plans include hosting fanworks of all kinds, not just fan fiction, we concluded that it was better to draw a line between fanworks and non-fanworks and only host the former, in order to avoid becoming a general repository for all sorts of creative works. In addition, we will enforce the noncommercialization policy strictly, including a ban on works posted to promote the sale of the author's other works, even if those are not hosted on the site.
However, there are a number of varieties of works produced by fans that do not fit comfortably into a narrow definition of fanfiction, fanart, vids, or other types of fanworks. Some of these do fall within our mission. In particular, original fiction that is part of an Open Doors project is allowed, as are types of original fiction and quasi-original fiction produced within a fandom context. Examples include such things as anthropomorfic, original fiction that is produced as part of a fandom challenge, exchange, or charity event, and genres such as Original Slash, Original BL, and Regency romances produced in Jane Austen fandom.
At such time as we are able to host art and vids, we anticipate similar policies will apply to those mediums: Art and vids will be considered fannish even in cases where they do not directly depict characters and elements from or use footage from an existing media source if they were created in a fandom context for a fandom audience. This may include such things as fanart that is intended to be for a particular canon but which does not contain readily identifiable canon characters or elements, art and vids produced as part of a fandom challenge, exchange, or charity event, illustrations of fanfiction, and vids that comment on a particular canon without using any clips from it (e.g., fan-produced videos set in a particular universe).
We presume that, by posting the work to the Archive, the creator is making a statement that they believe it's a fanwork. As such, unless the work doesn't meet some other criterion, it will be allowed to remain.
Can I archive nonfiction?
Fannish nonfiction, which includes what is called 'meta' by some fans, is allowed. Where we provide a specific function (search, bookmarking, challenges) we will ask you to use the specific methods we provide for those activities rather than create separate works. So, for example, a request for recommendations for particular kinds of fanworks would not be an appropriate work. That search should be carried out by searching works and/or bookmarks. A list of recommended works on a particular topic would also not be an appropriate work. Recommendations should be done by using our bookmarking function. A description of a challenge for other creators would also not be an appropriate work. That should be carried out by using our challenge function.
In addition, as an Archive whose goal is preservation, we want permanent, nonephemeral content. To the extent that your content is designed to be ephemeral, such as liveblogging episode reactions, it should go on a journaling service and not the Archive.
How will 'ephemeral' be defined?
'Ephemeral' applies to the nature of the work–designed to be experienced in a particular time period rather than the creator's desire to have a permanent record of their reaction, such as can be found on a journaling or blogging service. Our resources and database structure make it difficult for us to plan to host content of this type. Please use your best judgment; our general policy is to defer to creators in cases of doubt. Ephemeral content could include, for example, a single short sentence, a single unedited image or .gif with or without a short caption, a short unedited video clip, or a short unedited sound clip. Ephemeral content is generally meant to be read at a particular time: for example, a message about a particular challenge or a reaction meant to be read while or just after a particular episode airs.
Our policies are designed to focus on our mission of preserving fanworks within our resource constraints, including the constraints on our hardworking, all-volunteer Abuse team.
What falls within the definition of fannish nonfiction?
Fannish nonfiction can be discussions of fannish tropes, essays designed to entice other people into a fandom, commentary on fandoms, hypothetical casting for alternate versions of works, documentaries, podcasts about fandom, explanations of the creative process behind a fanwork or works, tutorials for creating fanworks, guides for fan-created gaming campaigns, or many other things.
However, the nature of the Archive and the limitations of our resources mean that, while we will endeavor to host as much fannish content as possible, we need to put some limits on allowable works. In particular, the Archive is not a journaling service and it is not designed to host ephemeral content.
In addition, we have a separate project, Fanlore, which is a wiki designed to chronicle fandom history. Some fannish content, especially discussions of specific fandom-related events such as conventions or debates over particular incidents, may be more appropriate for Fanlore than for the Archive.
We will, in general, defer to the creator's characterization of a work as fannish nonfiction as long as it has a reasonably perceptible fannish connection, either to a specific source or to fandom in general, and takes the form of an independent, nonephemeral commentary. For example, an analysis of or commentary on multiple fanworks falls within our definition (and must comply with our other policies, including our harassment policy). An essay on a particular character's narrative arc in canon or of the interaction between film and comics versions of a source is also within our definition.
We understand that, as with many things, there are hard cases at the edges of categories, but we nonetheless need some limits in order to keep the Archive manageable for our hard-working volunteers as well as for other users.
What isn't fannish nonfiction?
The examples are potentially limitless, but here are some examples that we believe, based on our experience so far, do not qualify as fandom nonfiction and should not be posted as a work:
- episode transcripts and other non-transformative fandom material;
- primarily autobiographical or non-fandom-related essays (e.g., essays on bike lanes, even if they contain a single reference to a fannish source);
- general complaints about behavior towards a particular creator (e.g., a post stating that a work was deleted due to lack of feedback);
- suggestions that other fans contact the creator through email or other social networks;
- a single word or pairing name repeated hundreds of times;
- offers and giveaways.
As with all works, we presume good faith on the part of our users, and ask that you do the same for the fans who make up our Support and Abuse teams.
How will you draw the line between fanworks and non-fanworks?
The presumption is that a work is a fanwork, but if it's clear from context—tags, author's notes, etc.—that it's not, it may be removed for violating the Content Policy. Please note that alternate universes/alternate realities or fanworks set in the distant past/future of a particular canon are still fanworks. Original works that are not based on a specific media source (canon) may also count as fanworks so long as they are fannish in nature. Please see "Can I archive original fiction?" above for more detail.
What about nontextual works (like pictures of Daleks I crocheted)?
We currently don't host nontextual works other than user icons, though you can embed various kinds of files that are hosted elsewhere. If it's a fannish transformative work or part of one, and otherwise complies with the content policy including the rating/warning policy, embeds are fine. Just be aware that we don't allow all kinds of embeds, for technical reasons, and that embeds may break for various reasons including trouble with the host site.
What is a fanwork's 'type'?
We expect to define a fanwork's type partly by its medium, and partly by its content. Thus, a fanwork can be text, audio, images or video (all different types), and it can be fiction or non-fiction.
How does tagging apply to work type, such as textual content, and podfics, vids, and other nontextual content? Do I need to use particular tags?
Please use tags that you think will help people identify works of the type you're posting; this can include fanwork types (e.g., podfic, vid, essay). Anything visible on the Archive should also follow the ratings/warnings policy.
Later versions of the Archive will have specific work types that can be selected on posting. No one will be penalized for having posted a work that, because of the implementation of work type, becomes technically "mislabeled." However, we may try some automated solutions for detecting work type and/or ask creators to change a work type when they posted before work type was introduced. Part of the transition may thus be to automatically set work type based on the presence or absence of certain tags or other work content, then notify the creators and allow them to change the work type if the automated process made a mistake. Administrators will also have the ability to correct an obvious miscategorization of work type (that is, a case that is not borderline even after deference to the creator) if the creator fails to respond to an inquiry after a reasonable time.
What kinds of mis-tagging does Abuse handle?
We encourage direct dialogue with the creator. However, Abuse also handles complaints about work language (e.g., Chinese mistagged as French); Archive warnings; Archive ratings; fandom categorization and work type (once work type is implemented). Tag recategorization policies are about required tags. Abuse will not recategorize any optional tags, though optional tags are subject to relevant principles of the general content policy, including the harassment policy. Unless a tag violates some other policy, such as the harassment policy, Abuse will not mediate disputes about general tagging (e.g., whether a particular relationship tag should or should not be present).
What do you mean by recategorizing a fanwork type?
For technical reasons relating to how our database is planned to evolve, we need for Archive administrators to have the ability to change a work type where it is clearly appropriate (e.g., a review essay or fanvid mistakenly or inadvertently categorized as textual fiction). Because work type will be a new addition (and we may create new categories over time), we understand that users won't necessarily go back and change the work type on previously uploaded works. Inaction on already-existing works will not be grounds for any penalty for users, even if we do later ask that the work type be changed to reflect what it is. People will also make mistakes when work type is in place.
As part of the transition to formal work types, we may automatically set work type based on the presence or absence of certain tags or other work features, then notify the creators and allow them to change the work type if the automated process made a mistake.
Once work type is in place, our general policy when a recategorization is clearly appropriate will be to ask the user to recategorize the work, and change the work type if we receive no response. In addition, our general policy is to defer to the creator's choices in borderline cases.
What do you mean by a manual recategorization?
A manual recategorization is an individualized determination that a specific work has been miscategorized, made as the result of a specific complaint. By contrast, any automatic process we use to detect work type will operate outside the abuse process, not as a manual recategorization.
When will you change a language tag?
When Abuse determines that there is no reasonable dispute that the work is not properly categorized, subject to ordinary Abuse procedures.
When will you remove a fandom tag?
When Abuse determines that there is no reasonable dispute that the work is not properly categorized, subject to ordinary Abuse procedures. Please note that we will apply this rule restrictively. We will not intervene in cases of disagreement over, for example, whether movie-based works can be tagged using comics/graphical works fandoms when there are both movie and comics versions of a source. This is the kind of decision a creator is best suited to make and falls within our policy of deference to the creator.
A fandom tag may be removed where there is no relationship between the particular fandom itself and the work. E.g., a fanwork that discusses vampire physiology and uses only examples from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Vampire Diaries fanworks should not add in fifteen additional fandoms that also feature vampires (though it can use "various", "fandom", or "fandom-general").
Will you recategorize or remove other tags, such as relationship tags?
Because our Abuse and Support resources are limited, and because different people interpret tags in many different ways, we don't think that we can fairly define or enforce specific rules about relationship or other similar tags, including the additional/freeform tags. We encourage users to engage with each other on these issues. However, our general harassment and anti-spam policies apply to tags, as they do to all Archive content.
What should I do about recs/commentary on fanworks?
Our bookmarking feature is designed for your recommendations or commentary on specific works by other creators. You can bookmark fanworks hosted on the Archive or fanworks hosted elsewhere. Many creators also welcome discussion in the comments to the work, which is another appropriate place for such commentary. As always, while criticism of a fanwork is not itself harassment, content must comply with our other policies, including our harassment policy.
I would like to create a list of recommendations or a list of works that use certain tropes.
Please use our bookmarking and recommending feature for this purpose. Any user with an account can create bookmarks and mark them as recommendations if they so desire. Bookmarks and recommendations can also be tagged, and filtered by those tags, creating groups of bookmarks or recommendations that can be linked to by using the URL of the resulting filtered list.
What counts as a recommendation that should be in a bookmark versus a more general discussion or analysis of multiple fanworks?
Please use your judgment on the best way to categorize a commentary. Our general policy is to defer to creators.
How does the harassment policy apply to reviews?
The Terms of Service state 'When judging whether a specific incident constitutes harassment, the abuse team will consider factors such as whether the behavior was repeated, whether it was repeated after the offender was asked to stop, whether the behavior was targeted at a specific person, whether that target could have easily avoided encountering the behavior, whether the behavior would be considered unacceptable according to normal community standards, etc.' This policy applies to reviews. Again, criticism of a fanwork, even harsh criticism, is not itself harassment. Calling a creator evil, wishing harm to them, and repeatedly posting negative commentary in a manner designed to be seen by the creator are potential examples of harassment.
What about 'directors' cut' or 'commentary' versions of my own fanworks?
We consider those versions of your fanworks, so post them as you would any other fanwork, though we suggest that you distinguish them from non-commentary versions, for example by adding [Directors' Cut] in the title or tagging them to indicate the difference between the original and the 'DVD-style' version.
What about 'characters read' or DVD commentary-style/MST3K-style versions of other works?
If you have permission from the author or if the work is in the public domain, you're fine. In other cases, if you are reproducing a substantial part of the original (rather than just having your characters react to their reading or using occasional quotes) in a way that someone could just ignore your additions and read a substantial, continuous part of the original, then that's beyond what we're prepared to host.
I am looking for a particular story. Can I create a work explaining what I'm looking for?
Please use our search functions for this rather than creating a separate work.
What about a fanwork prompt?
Please use our challenge function for this rather than creating a separate work.
What about a letter to someone I've been anonymously matched with for a challenge?
Since this content is designed to be ephemeral/nonpermanent and directed at a particular person, please do not create a separate work for it. If the challenge is hosted on the Archive, please put them in the optional details for the challenge. If not, and these are your general preferences, you can put them in your profile.
May I post the full lyrics of a song or an entire poem that isn't in the public domain without the author's permission?
What about character playlists or fanmixes?
You may use streaming sites such as Spotify, 8tracks, or YouTube, but you may not provide links that could deliver individual music file downloads, or a single zipped file containing music files, unless you have the right to distribute downloads (for example, a fan song or filk you composed and sang, a work in the public domain, or a Creative Commons-licensed download). Please also keep in mind that you may quote lyrics as part of a transformative work, but you may not reproduce the entire song text unless you have the right to do so.
May I post someone else's fanworks, giving them credit?
If you are an archivist seeking to back up your archive of works submitted by other creators, you can do this, but only by using our Open Doors project, which can assist you with importing and/or backing up your archive within the Archive of Our Own. Importing others' works without the involvement of Open Doors risks suspension or termination of your account. If you are not an authorized archivist, you may not post another creator's fanworks without permission.
How do I report a violation of the Terms of Service?
Please use the Report Abuse form and provide the specific link, as well as any other information required to investigate the violation. You can report a violation both anonymously and under a email address, but take into account you will not be contacted about the case if you report it anonymously.
Do you have a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice and takedown policy?
Yes. Please read our DMCA policy carefully.
Tags and Warnings
Authors must choose at least one of these tags. The default is "choose not to use Archive warnings."
- choose not to use Archive warnings
- none of these warnings apply
- graphic depictions of violence
- major character death
Additional (Optional) Tags
Creators may also choose to add additional tags to their work. These tags can be serious or humorous. They can be warnings or promises, or whatever else the creator chooses. Tags may be made synonymous for purposes of filtering by our Tag Wranglers, but your tags will continue to appear in their original form on your work.
Assorted Specialized Policies
What do you mean by "collections"?
Collections are groups of works collected together under one heading. Collections can be fic or art fests, exchanges, 'big bangs' matching artists, authors, and/or podficcers, or other types of creative challenges, as well as simple collections of fanworks chosen by the collection maintainer. Learn more about collections.
What information can a challenge maintainer see about participants?
A challenge or gift exchange maintainer can see prompts as well as the username and email address that participants use to sign up, in case the maintainer needs to communicate with participants. Other collection maintainers cannot see email addresses by virtue of having a user's work in their collections.
How can I start a collection?
Please consult our Tutorials. Please note that participants may provide information to the maintainer for purposes of participating in a collection or challenge. Any use of this information other than to manage the collection or challenge is a violation of our Terms of Service and can result in the termination of the maintainer's account.
How do these rules apply to bookmarks?
Internal bookmarks are for keeping track of/recommending works on the Archive. External bookmarks are for keeping track of/recommending works not hosted on the Archive, but whose content would be appropriate for the Archive. Bookmarks are therefore also subject to the Content Policy, including the policies against harassment and requiring fandom content. Because external bookmarks are links described by users, their actual content may differ from the descriptions offered. Users proceed at their own risk when following external links, including external bookmarks.
What does "fannish next-of-kin" mean?
The Archive allows you to choose someone to manage your fannish works if you die or are permanently incapacitated.
What does my fannish next-of-kin get to do?
We will transfer control of your Archive account to your next-of-kin. After that, they can follow whatever guidelines you set for them. You might ask them to leave all of your fanworks alone but transfer control of any challenges you were running to people of your or their choice. You might ask them to orphan all of your fanworks and close your account.
How do I choose someone?
That's up to you. It should be someone reliable, someone you trust to make decisions about your fanworks.
What do I do once I've chosen someone?
Both you and your fannish next-of-kin need to send a message to our Abuse team, which handles next of kin requests, indicating that you want to have them as your fannish next-of-kin and that they agree. This doesn't open an Abuse case. You need to provide your Archive usernames for our records. When we receive matching requests, we will confirm that a fannish next-of-kin arrangement is in place.
If they're my next-of-kin, am I theirs?
The relationship can be reciprocal if you want, but it doesn't have to be. However, you can only have one person as your fannish next-of-kin at a time.
Why can't I have more than one fannish next-of-kin?
We want to know who has the final say. This arrangement exists precisely so that we don't have to mediate disputes over what you would have wanted.
What happens if my fannish next-of-kin also dies?
You would need to choose a new person. Your fannish next-of-kin can also designate someone else as their own fannish next-of-kin. If A designates B as a fannish next-of-kin, then dies, and B designates C as B's fannish next-of-kin, when B dies C can control all the accounts that B controlled, which at that point would include A's.
What if my fannish next-of-kin decides they're tired of being my fannish next-of-kin?
Either party can revoke a fannish next-of-kin agreement by sending a message to our Abuse team (this will not be an Abuse case, but our Abuse team handles the process). We will inform the other party that the agreement has been ended. Please include your username and the username of the other person involved in the agreement so we can find the right record.
When a fan is dead or incapacitated, the fannish next-of-kin will have control of the account and can make any decisions about it, including handing it off to someone else; the Archive cannot control whether or not anyone shares password information with anyone else. If the fannish next-of-kin lets us know that s/he wants to stop managing the account, we will permanently suspend the account, which means that all existing content will stay in place, but nothing may be changed or added.
What if I decide I don't like my fannish next-of-kin agreement?
Send an e-mail saying that you want to terminate the agreement. Please include your username and the username of the other person involved in the agreement so we can find the right record. The Abuse Committee will e-mail the parties involved in the agreement to let them know. Either party in an agreement can terminate it. You are free to choose a new fannish next-of-kin.
What if my fannish next-of-kin does something I wouldn't like?
Please choose someone you trust. It would be difficult or impossible for the Archive to enforce the exact terms of your agreement. All we will do is verify your status and transfer account control to the appropriate person.
How can my fannish next-of-kin get control of my fanworks?
A fannish next-of-kin can activate the agreement by sending a message to our Abuse team that you are dead or permanently incapacitated (this will not be an Abuse case, but our Abuse team handles the process). The Archive will send a message to the email address associated with your account. If we do not receive a response from that address within ten days, we will transfer control of your account to your fannish next-of-kin. The Archive will not do any independent investigation into whether you are dead or incapacitated.
Why won't the Archive check to see whether I am really dead or incapacitated?
We don't want to be in the position of collecting and possessing personal information of the kind that we'd need to confirm what your fannish next-of-kin says. It is your responsibility to choose someone you trust. If you want a custom arrangement, we suggest you make private arrangements with someone you trust to handle your passwords and accounts in the event of your death or incapacity.
What happens if I die before choosing someone?
Your account will remain just as you left it. No one will be able to delete, orphan, or modify your fanworks except in response to a ToS violation.
Why should I bother choosing someone?
It can be useful to have someone you trust as a fellow fan to make decisions about your account.
Help! Something went wrong: control of my account has been transfered, but I'm still hale and hearty!
If rumors of your death were greatly exaggerated, please contact our Abuse team right away. Whether you've turned up after being lost in the Amazon for a decade or whether someone is just trying to pull a fast one, we'll do our best to get you your account back ASAP.
You mention that an orphaning request might come from someone who doesn't have an active account. How could that happen?
Someone whose account has been permanently suspended, or someone whose fanworks are archived in a collection that we are preserving through Open Doors, might submit an orphaning request. In that case, we'd attempt to verify their identity according to the procedures set forth in the Orphaning policy.
Can orphaning be reversed?
Usually not. Orphaning is irreversible in most cases, so please use this option carefully.
What's up with anonymous works?
Anonymous works are different from orphaned works. This function is designed to allow anonymous challenges/exchanges to be hosted on the Archive. A collection can have rules about anonymity, and if you submit a work to be part of that collection, the collection maintainer would be able to apply those rules to your work. So, for a typical challenge, you might sign up to respond to a prompt by a certain deadline; you'd submit a story to the challenge collection, where it would appear anonymously for a certain period of time; then, on the reveal date, the collection maintainer would reveal everyone's identity, including yours. If you want to orphan an anonymous work, you can do that too.
Anonymous, non-orphaned works don't have strong anonymity: the collection maintainer, as well as Archive staff, will be able to see your pseud even during the anonymity period.
Refer to our Open Doors FAQ.
What is tag wrangling?
User-provided tags may be subject to tag wrangling. Tag wrangling is the process of moderating the tags and in general trying to tame them so the tags are more useful.
What we do is create organization among all those tags by creating 'Canonical' tags and then adding synonym tags to the Canonical tag. This helps in the media listings, filters, searches, the tag cloud and possibly other areas, as the Canonical tag is used in preference to the synonyms.
By creating synonyms, when a canonical tag is filtered, it will bring up all fics using both the canonical term and the synonym term. By doing this, we give the authors the freedom to use what tags they choose, but still create order in the Archive so that the tags are actually 'useful'.
Tag wrangling is about form, not content. Form includes disambiguation (where a fandom name is the same as a character name, for example: Doctor Who or Harry Potter) and similar issues such as spelling, capitalization, and typographical conventions (for example, we may wrangle tags so that a search for wing!fic also retrieves works tagged wingfic). Form does not include, for example, the difference between rape and nonconsensual sex. The Abuse team will handle disputes about tag wrangling to the extent that they implicate other aspects of the Terms of Service, such as harassment. Tag Wrangling handles general tag disputes, such as country classification or character identity.
Please Note: Tag Wrangling is an experimental feature. It is likely to have odd glitches. If you notice any, please report them using the feedback link at the bottom of every Archive page.