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August 2014

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An Archive Of One's Own

**NEW ETA**: we're going to take a stab at putting this together. For more information and discussion, please join and/or watch otw_news.




ETA: If you are coming to the conversation late, xenacryst has helpfully collected up a bunch of links to a subset of noteworthy discussion threads, over here!




First, why fanfic is not illegal and why YOU should stop saying that it is even if you don't agree, by cesperanza. Please read it.

That said, the people behind fanlib (talked about many places, see astridv here) don't actually care about fanfic, the fanfic community, or anything except making money off content created entirely by other people and getting media attention. They don't have a single fanfic reader or writer on their board; they don't even have a single woman on their board. They're creating a lawsuit-bait site while being bad potential defendants, and they deserve to be chased out being pelted with rocks.

But even if they were, which I doubt is going to happen, because hey, they have people and money, we're still left with this problem: we are sitting quietly by the fireside, creating piles and piles of content around us, and other people are going to look at that and see an opportunity. And they are going to end up creating the front doors that new fanfic writers walk through, unless we stand up and build our OWN front door.

We need a central archive of our own, something like animemusicvideos.org. Something that would NOT hide from google or any public mention, and would clearly state our case for the legality of our hobby up front, while not trying to make a profit off other people's IP and instead only making it easier for us to celebrate it, together, and create a welcoming space for new fans that has a sense of our history and our community behind it.

I think the necessary features would include:
  • run BY fanfic readers FOR fanfic readers

  • with no ads and solely donation-supported

  • with a simple and highly searchable interface and browsable quicksearch pages

  • allowing ANYTHING -- het, slash, RPF, chan, kink, highly adult -- with a registration process for reading adult-rated stories where once you register, you don't have to keep clicking through warnings every time you want to read

  • allowing the poster to control her stories (ie, upload, delete, edit, tagging)

  • allowing users to leave comments with the poster able to delete and ban particular users/IPs but not edit comment content (ie, lj style)

  • code-wise able to support a huge archive of possibly millions of stories

  • giving explicit credit to the original creators while clearly disclaiming any official status

Other dream features of my own, which I throw out in a brainstorming spirit:
  • posting interface that would allow you to post to the archive, to your blog, to your personal lj, and to up to (say) three lj communities you specify

  • making it easy for people to download stories or even the entire archive for offline reading (thus widely preserving the work in case some disaster does take it down)

  • options for people to post podfic or ebook format versions, translations, links to fanart/fanvids, stories inspired by, the original story, all of which would automatically be linked back so you could see the kind of interconnecting 'web' of how our work is interrelated (with the original author able to delete any given link if she wanted to, but not the inspired-by work itself)

  • tagging

  • automatic rec lists (just click on a story to add it to your rec list)

  • charity auctions -- we could do an annual fundraiser and send whatever is left over to charity

  • mentoring: collect up writing advice, fannish history, acafandom, and create a simple FAQ (integrate a wiki?)

  • beta-editing: an interface where you could send your story to selected other readers without worrying if their email addresses had changed (like @livejournal addresses, except everyone would have them, not just paid users)


If I had thirty seconds more time I would just try to do it, but I don't right now, and so I am throwing out this plea into the ether. And I'm putting myself out here right now to say that I would help as any/all of an advisor, a fundraiser, a promoter, and I would archive my own stuff there. I would even take on coding parts; I just can't take on project management.

But I know we have project managers in our community -- and coders and designers -- can't we do this? Seriously -- we can come up with a site that would be miles better and more attractive to fanfic writers/readers than anything else out there, guys, because we actually USE the stuff.

I have to go offline to write now, but clearly the conversation is happening right now, thanks to the fanlib guys, and I really wanted to get this out there.

A couple of quick ETAs:
I don't allow anonymous commenting, but if you don't have an lj or OpenID account and would like to comment, you can get one really quick right here. ETA: sorry, OpenID doesn't work with anon commenting disallowed, oops.

Also, please have no hesitation to have conversations among yourselves in the comments; I never mind that anyway, but in this case would like to totally encourage it. You can use the lj thumbtacks to track everything being posted in a single thread even if you don't want to get inundated with everything posted to the entry.
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Comments

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This is a wonderful idea, and I think all your suggestions are excellent. Thank you for the timely post. Expect to be deluged with comments!
I have no skills of any kind, unfortunately, so I can't offer much in the way of help – but I think this is a fantastic idea, and long overdue. They think we need a board of male directors and some corporate sponsorship to do this for us? Fuck that. Let's show them what we're made of.
\o/!!!

\o/!!! \o/!!! \o/!!! \o/!!!
Sounds all flavours of a groovy thing! I'm not sure there's anything I could do to help but I could ... wave pom-poms, maybe?
I think it's a great idea.
I love this. I really love this.

More dream features.

* Automated rec lists 2.0 - suggestions based on what's recommended by people who share tastes/interests

* Okay to remix? - allow posters to flag their fic as remixable or off-limits according to their comfort levels; then generate frequent remix challenges using whatever's remixable in a fandom, theme, tag, etc.

* Lots of insta-challenges in general - keep people coming to the site and exploring, not just sticking things in an archive, by using community data to identify good challenge ideas, underappreciated fandoms, or whatever else can be mined.

* An API.

* A pony.
These are all AWESOME. I love the okay-to-remix flag! And YES YES to the API -- let people build whatever clients they want!
This sounds like a dream come true and I haven't been writing much fanfic for years (long story).
Am rather internet-stupid these days, but I think it's something to be involved in.
I believe the slash city folks were trying for something like this years ago with SlashFanFiction.Com. Of course, it doesn't fit the "allow anything" requirement because it is/was slash focussed. Still, Robin and ZR have done a lot for facilitating fan-content (e.g., fanfic-friendly webhosting and journalfen), and might be willing to provide resources or advice.

(too busy with RL and the Fem SF BookSwap to work on this, m'afraid)
I would donate -- money and possibly services, if I could be of use.
Thank you!!!!

I really like that idea so so much!!! Since I started talking with "the guys," I've started to realize how we're simultaneously complaining that they don't know our stuff yet make it quite hard to find. Several of them told me that they'd love to teach it if it were more easily accessible, if they knew what to do with it.

And while we might answer that it's their responsibility, I still feel there's something to be gained by showing them the way :)

I just gave one of them a brief and dirty current interesting vids 101 just drawing from imeem, and it was marvelous. I could show him what was considered worthwhile and why, and didn't feel horribly guilty sending him to d'load in 15 different places (problematic for both sides).

And he used it that same day in his class and told me how well it had worked (after he initially had feared that teaching vids would be near impossible, not knowing the community, aesthetic, and all). So, speaking from my personal interest of how this stuff can be taught, I think it'd be a great thing to have a more central place that'd be easily accessible and usable without sending people to personal LJs, web pages etc.

As a user, I *miss* central archives with good search functions (damnit if I want that 300+ K AU epic with BDSM but without partner betrayal, I could find it :), and I especially *love* the interconnectedness sugestion (intertextuality all the way baby!).

We've already talked about the Wiki part, and I think that's definitely something to consider connecting. And I certainly am happy to help on organizational and anything aca sides (after this summer :). Just don't make me code!



I've been struggling more and more with the whole issue of publicity vs. hiding what we do. I spend a lot of time teaching people to remix and transform and appropriate (and vid, for that matter), but from a place of "these are incredibly culturally powerful tools, but I can't tell you where I learned them...."

Every time I see big shiny celebrations of fan culture that completely ignore 40 years of women's creative work, I want to not only let my freak flag fly, but march up and down the streets with it -- and then something else (lately fanlib, but it's far from the first) reminds me that getting out there without doing it on our own terms is only a small part of the battle. It seems like a fan-culture site that gets our culture while really making the most of the internet as it is now (as opposed to publicizing fan work just for the sake of ad dollars or eyeball-share or whatthehellever)... oh, yes.
I would be delighted to help out on something like this, but I don't think I'm qualified to handle the coding/setup. It's a brilliant idea, though.
When you want to start planning this, like actual nuts and bolts who-do-we-need-and-how-do-we-get-them stuff, just say the word, I'm so serious.
RSS feeds?

The main difficulty I see with this type of site is social engineering. That is, there already is a highly-trafficked all-fanfic site--and it's a byword for badfic. (The current restrictions on adult content don't help, but they didn't give fanfic.net its reputation.) I think overall posting to archives is down these days, in favor of LJ. Whether that's good or bad, that's the way it is. People often don't seem to want to take the trouble to post to (or don't want to be associated with) sites that "everybody" doesn't post to/read. So, for this to be more than a shell, you would really need to reach out to opinion leaders in a number of big fandoms to get them to post there and thereby legitimate it. Now, you're one of the few people who has the social network to pull that off, but it's no small task.

archive engineering issues

I don't disagree, but I would say that much of the reason that fanfic.net is a badfic haven is because the interfaces and design are bad and not satisfying for the picky readers that most of us are, once we get through the first rush of "omg my fandom!" I know that when ff.net was first launched, I wasn't inherently avoiding it; I avoided it because it was just terrible to use.

I *do* think that in order to be successful, an archive has to be someplace where you yourself want to live -- it has to be a place where you want to read, or else you are not going to bother posting there, and that if you make a site that the most demanding readers are satisfied with, that is kind of the key. For instance, I feel that LJ has beaten out the fandom-specific central archives because it has MAJOR advantages for anyone who is multifannish or social, despite the lack of searching capabilities.

I don't want to try and duplicate the effort of LJ, but I think something like the "post here AND to LJ at once" tool would be a great way to keep people posting to the archive because it would have zero cost (possibly negative cost if you also add in automatic lj community posting) for someone posting a story to LJ. Especially with an API as gchick suggested above, so for instance someone could create a client that would support both LJ posting and posting to the archive.

I think this would qualify as a charitable activity. I'd make room in my budget to contribute if this can actually get off the ground.
You've put a lot of great ideas together here. anatsuno linked me to this post since we were just discussing what our dream fandom site would be like. Here's what I was telling her:

My vision for a fandom website is a fic-art-vid archive, where you could lock down posts to "only site members can see this" - "only people I put in my contacts group can see this" - "anyone can see this it's totally public". (I think making a level of locking that lets only site members see the post would help encourage people to write and share work that they might otherwise lock down to friends only or leave in the drawer. A lot of people would like to share their work with fellow fans but not with the whole wide world.)

The navigation would sort fic-art-vids into categories. All posts allow comments from a form at the bottom, comments can be either visible, or privately emailed to the author. Each post could also have a "Thanks!" button at the end, so that people shy about giving specific feedback could still say thank you very simply by hitting the button. Authors could choose whether to allow comments or the thanks button or both (some people might not want the thanks button, preferring to solicit feedback comments rather than the button's thank you).

The archive would have a recs bookmarking system built congruently to it, and the archive would track how many recs each story got, so when drilling down through categories to find things, you could filter results in each category by "most recs", by "most thanks", by "most hits", etc. Also "random" and "by author" as well as tags.

I think about this all the time-- I find your "piles of content" comment very apropos, I'm concerned that we're ripe for exploitation. When I posted about FanLib I brought up the fear that if someone manages to pull off commercializing fan fiction, the copyright holders may follow suit and try to bring us in to their own for-profit boards and websites-- and send C&Ds to all the non-sanctioned, non-profit sites. Maybe that's pessimistic, but I can't help worrying.

f-locking

Yes, I think locking is a very good option to allow (and also google-blocking) on an individual user basis, so the archive lets different people manage their own comfort level.

The problem with adding vids (other than vids as links -- which I think would be brilliant) -- is the massive bandwidth cost, and the bigger questions of legality.
Any time a movie, television show, or book has filed copyright and says "All Rights Reserved" that means that ANY portion of the material duplicated, reproduced, or transmitted without written permission from the copyright holders is illegal. Just because there's no legal ruling in a case against a fanwork yet doesn't mean that that clause doesn't have weight--there's a reason they put it in EVERY book and at the end of every credits roll.

John and Rodney are copyrighted characters, and when you make icons or write fiction about them, you ARE technically violating the original creators' copyright. Luckily, Sci Fi's not stupid enough to alienate fans by going after people like us, and as long as profit isn't being made, most movie, TV shows, and publishing houses are happy to not ask and not tell. However, just b/c fanficcers and fanvidders aren't making a dime doesn't mean that what they are doing doesn't violate the rights of the copyright holders--it does.

I myself, as an Editor, have had to put our Legal team after several fansites that scan/ retype/ reproduce our novels and manga in some part, or use images without permission, or translate and put up works that we hold the copyright to but haven't released on the market yet. Whether they make a profit or not, that can damage OUR sales. I assure you, there's a whole bunch of legal jargon that gets emailed or snail mailed to the person violating copyright. If they don't comply, legal action will be taken. Actually, I know for a fact my company has gone down that road in the past. Just b/c it doesn't make the papers, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

Again, I really don't think what we fans do is wrong, so long as we aren't damaging sales for the original creators or trying to turn a profit off of someone else's work. I've written over 50 fanfics and host them on my own website, and if anything, I've had readers tell me they'll BUY products based on how interesting canon sounded. So the argument that it can be transformative is a good one. But the notion that there's no real legal weight to copyright is... kinda crizazy. ^_^
But the notion that there's no real legal weight to copyright is... kinda crizazy

No, really, in this context, it's not. Please see Rebecca Tushnet, "Legal Fictions: Copyright, Fan Fiction, and a New Common Law," 17 Loy. L.A. Ent. L.J. 651 (1997), available here.

This area of law is not settled, and I respect anyone who doesn't care to incur the risk involved. I also do not necessarily think an author (or, more realistically, the media congolomerate who took over said author's rights) who sues is behaving inherently unreasonably or evilly. But there is a perfectly good argument that fanfic is not infringement. Blanket statements like "John and Rodney are copyrighted characters, and when you make icons or write fiction about them, you ARE technically violating the original creators' copyright" are far from indisputably true.
.... having just come off my own fanfic related kerfuffle, may I request that this archive, should it come about, is able to post epic-length fic? Because I am so TIRED, y'all.

Length limits and WIPs

I think without question, no length limits! Adding more brainstorming things:

- checkbox to be notified automatically when a WIP is finished;

- checkbox to be notified automatically when a new chapter in a WIP is finished.

- option to read a long story in a single HTML page or split up across pages (regardless of whether it was posted in chapters or as a single file originally)

- option to read "everything posted so far" in a single HTML page

I would (and will) donate money, but you know I have the computer skills of an illiterate starfish! I can now after four years update livejournal without penknife helping me! *is proud*

I think one of the big issues unfortunately concerns authors like Anne Rice who view fanfic as copyright infringement, and who say so in very public forums. To my mind, this is like Springsteen threatening to sue people who grab a guitar and play Born in the USA at the bar on Friday night, but there it is. I fear that test cases are likely to involve one of these pros, and that concerns me. Fortunately, JKR, who would have the biggest leg to stand on involving HP yaoi, seems incredibly reluctant to put any kind of limits on fanfic at all.
She said it must not be pornographic, heh.
My personal version started as a fantasy for a good, central rec site - because of my frustration with the lack of commenting/reviewing space on delicious, which is a great but insuficcient reccing tool. I was influenced by what epinions had done back in the day, the possibility to click a "I trust this person" little thumb-up button, which would build, in time, trust-networks, and allow newcomers to find popular reccers as well as popular fics (two different things, right?).

Plus, at the time - and still somewhat now - I was thinking that though fics are something we're not allowed to "make a profit from" perhaps, recs and reviews definitely are not something it's illegal to profit from. (though FFN and others do put ads on fic after all, so why not).

So anyway, yes, Trust networks for recs I think are good. The 'remixable' button is a definite plus.
Oh, man, a digg.com approach to reccing could definitely work. del.icio.us comes close, but I bet it could be done better.
I think this is needed and long past needed.

There are of course huge fanfic archives out there like ff.net, but the bigger and more public the site, the more restrictive it is, the more stuff around the edges gets cut off. I don't WANT the public face of fanfic to be only the most easily palatable stuff, with the smut and the kink and the controversial subjects marginalized and hidden under the table.

And I particularly don't want to see us all sitting around feeling frustrated while this fabulous community is commodified out from underneath us.

I'm not fit to be a project manager, but I'm great with details and general organizational work. If someone takes this and runs with it, I'd love to help.
I'm in.

Not that I can code or anythiing, but I'll still help however I can.
YES. Awesome. Can't code, but definitely support the idea.
\o/!

I have no coding skillz (hello, have you seen my website? I'm partying like it's 1999!) but I will gladly, um, offer ficlets and backrubs and support to people who can actually build things. :-)
It sounds like a cool idea...but I'm thinking you'd need a dedicated server and a lot of donations to offset the cost of that to pull this idea off.

If you think about it, you're proposing something that would be akin to the size of 'The Pit' (fanfiction.net), if not larger. And even they can't survive without advertising revenue...

But damn, it's a great idea. I want that site like...NOW!
I did mean to add, I could probably spare some time for coding or maintenance should you go for this.
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