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September 2019



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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.

cutting for details and brainstormingCollapse )

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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I think it's a fantastic idea, and I'd be keen to assist. I have few technical skills, but I can and would donate, fundraise, publicise and pimp promote, and I even have professional experience in some of those areas, being involved with the charitable and non-profit sectors. At the point at which a committee or community forms, I'm prepared to step up and pitch in.
i think this is an amazing idea. i would love this, and i would totally post there! all the ideas you listed sound awesome. i don't know what i could do to help since i have NO coding skills, but i would definitely donate some money or volunteer to do something non-technical.

i think allowing the poster to control their stories is key because most of the complaints i see about archives (from writers, not readers) are from people who can't get mods to take down their stories.

a thought: perhaps we could get some lawyers lined up, at least to write a coherent, detailed with citations statement for the archive about why fanfic is OK, and maybe even to agree to represent anyone who gets sued pro bono/for a reduced fee? some of us must be lawyers! i agree with cesperanza that what we do is NOT illegal and honestly, i don't really think anyone will sue. but i guess you can never tell, and even if not, it seems to be a big worry for a lot of folks.
No computer brainz or skillz, but would gladly donate money . . .
Thank you! Just - thank you.

God yes. Fandom - from those of us who call ourselves such to those of us who don't even know what the term is yet - needs something like this. I mean, ff.net came close but got bogged down in the wank, ditto fictionalley.org (not to mention it was solely HP).

I'd love to volunteer my time and skills and resources (I'm a web developer - php, mysql, xml, xslt and if I ever get to the end of that book, ajax).

The only thing I'd bring up is that of legality - not so much the question of whether or not fanfiction IS legal but rather content and exposure.

Forget morality, ethics and similar, I had to go through hell (and high water and other cliches) over chan because of a change in laws in Australia (not to mention several dozen other countries - when I last looked into this, I mostly focused on Commonwealth countries since there was a similarity in legal frameworks). In some countries (Australia for one, Canada and Germany I believe, several of the Asian countries etc) the definition of things that can be paedophilic includes fiction. There are the usual amount of loop holes (to allow for films like "Big" and stories like "Romeo and Juliet", "Lolita" and "Push") but it's really very clear when it comes to fiction, porn and underage participants.

I ended up skipping sleep for several days, had to nearly shut down all responses and the site to dig through all the legislation to show people visiting my site why we had to suddenly ban chan stories. There are already legal precedents in several countries (though I can only really name the ones in Australia given the scope of my research, the others were just named peripherally). More importantly, approximately two years ago a man was arrested for having paedophilic fiction on his computer - despite the fact that it was from a yahoo groups mailing list that dealt with all types of fiction and that the majority of the chan was in the deleted items folder. The court ruled that since it was in his inbox and that the ones that were had been marked 'read', he was guilty of paedophilia. This means that anybody coming from any country that has these sorts of definitions would be in danger of criminal prosecution. Not because they might or might not have read the stories but simply by using the site they could be assumed to have read such stories.

Creating a central place for the community - run by fans, for fans, created by fans is an incredible idea whose time, I really, really hope, has come. Something solid that we can all look to no matter what portion of the fandom we come from.

But - sorry to bring an unwelcome thought to the table - and if this does start god I hope I get to join the coders =)


the question of chan

I don't like chan myself. But in a way, that makes me more rather than less leery of tossing it -- because a lot of times we are happy to find excuses to block out the stuff we don't like, even when there is not all that compelling a legal argument. I don't know the law even in the US on it, and so can't really talk about that specifically in the absence of good concrete data (no offense -- but I am by default always skeptical about being cited fragments of horror-story test cases. I would want to see the text of the law and the actual decision, and ideally have it explained to me by a knowledgable lawyer).

Hypothetically, it is certainly possible that investigation (which I am all for having done) would show that this one particular category added so much additional legal jeopardy that it was not worth the risk of hosting it. However, we have to keep in mind that there are also many legality arguments to be made against many other categories (RPF, nc-17, etc), if we consider all the countries where readers may be located. Also we would have to figure out just what the legal boundaries of the disproportionately risky category was -- I think of chan as "adult-minor" relationships; there is also the question of stories about kids having relationships among themselves, the distinction between older/younger kids, explicit stories vs. G/PG rated ones etc.

On a practical level, the archive would want to ask authors to extensively label their stories anyway, for searching/sorting purposes, so it would be easy to create searches where individual users could avoid seeing any particular category of stories that might be illegal in their own country. It would also be good if people could set preferences in their profile so they automatically weren't shown stories of any particular types they just didn't want to see at all (hey, maybe we can get rid of pairing wars while we are at it! we can only dream *g*). The archive and the nonprofit running it clearly should be set up in a country with less restrictive laws, and which does not make site owners liable for content posted by users.

An Archive of One's Own

There's a lot that I love about this idea. A lot. Not the least is that it runs counter to FanLib's commercialized model of consumption - instead placing the archive solidly within the tradition of by-fen-for-fen-not-for-profit-interaction. I think that getting more folks to archive their fiction is a wonderful thing, whether it's in fandom specific archives or in your proposed mega multi-fandom archive. From a reader's perspective, I also appreciate your thoughts regarding length limits and WIPs. (Length limits are the main reason that I so dislike e-Fiction based archives.)

However, I have major reservations about your statement:
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

I despise chan for a multitude of reasons, both socio-political and personal. An archive that includes chan is one that I would not personally use or support - no matter how much other wonderful content is available. I don't subscribe to the belief, in fan fiction or in any other area, that you must allow everything to justify the existence of some things.

But regardless of my personal opinion on chan, I think that chan is in a category of its own in terms of being problematic for archives. Chan, by its very definition, involves a child under the age of consent in a sexual relationship. While chan fiction runs a gamut of ages and sexual explicitness, there is no denying that some chan stories and fan art can unequivocably be classed as child pornography by US standards; standards are even stricter in some other countries, such as Australia. And there will be those who deliberately archive such chan to make the point that "Hey, you said we could archive anything!" If you [generic you] think all authors will stay away from deliberately provocative actions that might put an archive at risk, then you have only to look at SkyHawke and how some writers decided to test the revised standards prohibiting chan to be quickly disabused of that notion.

For an archive that wants to position itself as a gateway to fan fiction for the larger public, with the intent to draw in new people with little or no previous exposure to fan fiction (as well as those fen already immersed in fan fiction circles) - for such an archive to say they welcome chan with no restrictions is a disaster waiting to happen.

Any perceived protection offered by requiring adult registration is illusory at best, in my opinion. I doubt that the adult registration for the proposed archive will rely on more than the good graces of registrants and the "honor code" when attesting to the user's age. Other ways to age verify (credit card verification for example) would likely be seen as too unwieldy or restrictive. And even if all adult users are indeed adults (highly unlikely going by the history of various age-restricted mailing lists and archives), that doesn't protect the archive from liability when it comes to hosting material that would be deemed child pornography.

So while setting no restrictions on content may, at first glance, seem less problematical than developing content parameters (which can be and likely would be a difficult process), I don't think that will end up being the case. For those who oppose content restriction not as a practical matter but as a philosophical issue, I would repeat myself: I don't subscribe to the belief, in fan fiction or in any other area, that you must allow everything to justify the existence of some things.

Re: An Archive of One's Own

I tend to agree. Especially since the Justice Department has taken the position that text-only explicit content that includes minors fits the definition of child porn. For that reason, it's the one thing we don't permit on mediafans.

A C&D letter I'm willing to risk... going to jail? Not so much.
I would help any way I can and donate to this.
Brainstorming ideas.

The archive would have to be international. Fandom is not an anglo-phonic phenomenon, and the archive would have to support all languages, including such things as Japanese, Arabic and Klingon.

For-profit entertainment produce new source every day. We need to keep up with that by making the archiving software extremely flexible. Adding fandoms, controlling our submissions, networking and yet a central interface for ease of use.

LJ has done a lot for fandom the past couple of years. It's grown into the biggest outlet for fanfiction that we currently have, and there's a reason for that. People like the social part. The new archive, while perhaps allowing cross-posting to LJ anyway, should certainly make it easy to connect to other authors and/or readers. But the one thing that LJ lacks (oh does it ever -_-) is a concise and powerful search tool. The new archive has to make it easy for people to find exactly what they want, even in very specialized areas.

It itches in my fingers to just throw myself headfirst into this project, but, eh, I know myself enough to know that I couldn't deliver. I want to *so much*. I want to build this thing, and boss people around. And part of me thinks that I could. The rest of me goes *rollseyes* and smacks that part *hard*.
But the one thing that LJ lacks (oh does it ever -_-) is a concise and powerful search tool.

FYI, this will be fixed by the end of '07 (current launch target: august).

Just throwing this out there

The main reason I rarely post on ff.net has nothing to do with it being "The Pit" and everything to do with jumping through hoops.

First, log in, because we at ff.net think you're a moron who can't manage your own account security, so we log you out after 3 days.

Now, upload your document. No, you can't format scene breaks the way you want; suck it up.

Now, click new story. Oh, first read the guidelines we haven't changed since 2005, because you're a moron who can't be trusted not to break our precious guidelines which we don't enforce anyway.

Now, pick your document. Write a summary without access to the primary bit of punctuation fanwriters use to denote pairing. Post.

Ooops, you found a problem? Well, you can't edit the chapter; delete it and start the hell over.


Easier by far to just post to my own website.

Re: Just throwing this out there

yeah, that's why i don't post there either. (i used to, for laughs. reviews from the pit are hilarious.) but it's also why i don't post to skyehawke, ye olde great arbiter of quality. pages and pages of crap to enter. it's all i can do to maintain my website.
The more I think about this, the more I like it, I have to say.

Disjointed thoughts:

1. Money, of course. Can you really support something this size on donations? My gut says no -- and I'm not a project manager with budget experience, but my reflex was to say "it'll never fly" and walk on; even if it would work on donations, are enough people going to have faith in that to build a userbase?

1a. The immediate models for supporting a community site like this are livejournal and AMV.org, which are supported mostly by two levels of user, one free and one giving money. Perhaps have free users able to post and edit stories (no limitations on that!), read everything (no limitations on that either!), post comments, have most of the search options, have most of the reccing options...?

1b. Dear god, no ads. No "plus" level for users. No.

1c. The problem with paying for their accounts is that people might expect to be treated like customers, though. I know LJ has this problem, but I'm not familiar enough with AMV.org to know how they deal with it.... AMV.org also takes a lot of care to describe payment as donations, whereas LJ has had more of a payment-for-services from the beginning.

2. Legality. What's going to happen when a C&D comes in? Who's going to pay for it, who's stand up in court for it, and are there any big-pocketed foundations out there that would be interested in joining in on something like that?

3. Good project management is key (she says, as someone who's been badly managed before)! Also people with training in designing high-volume websites -- it's almost certainly going to have to involve some fen with industy experience in this. Ye Olde MySQL won't do. :)

3a. Possible sources of non-pro experience: TWOP? Some of the biggest HP news sites? LJ itself? SlashCity? AMV.org, of course, one hopes.

3b. Support staff. I'll bet a lot of volunteers turn up for this!

3c. Fen love filling out polls. The usability studies are going to have more work handling the volume of responses than soliciting opinions, I'm sure!

3d. This is going to need to be an ongoing project. I'd think -- again, not a manager here -- that you could get away with a small dedicated dev/QA group to build the thing, a smallish dedicated beta user group, and then a wider pool of occasional dev/QA/beta volunteers for upgrades.


*wanders away, pondering*
Can you really support something this size on donations?

You really can't; every site I know of that's tried it has moved to either a subscription model or an advertising-based model once they get past a certain size. There are problems inherent in both, obviously, but the subscription model (or a combination of subscription + ads) scales a little better; there's a valley in the middle of activity/pageviews vs. systems resources cost where the amount of pageviews doesn't generate enough revenue to back up the system resources necessary, even if you squeeze every last penny out of your systems architecture.

Problem is that the psychology of humans, particularly internet-equipped humans, is geared towards not paying for things unless they get something out of it. (And sometimes not even then.) Most sites targeting a specific interest group, like this would be, can raise money to cover startup costs but go under within the first year.
Wow. This would great. I can help fund it. I have no web programming skills -- I still code html by hand, but I do know a think or two about project management and would suggest a formal board of advisers rather than one or two people running the whole thing.
You're such a pioneer. You're a hero of mine.

I would donate to it.
I just want to put my two-cents in here as saying search by most recc'ed/most comments - yes, formal "quality" gate keeping - no! With an easy interface (like an LJ comm), it takes me all of 15 seconds to determine that a story is an un-beta'd, ungrammatical mess.

That said, I agree with harriet_spy that some form of outreach to great authors will be worthwhile. Probably getting way out ahead of ourselves here, but what I'm picturing is a massive auction for start-up costs with as many popular writers as possible participating and agreeing to post the stories they write for the auction exclusively to the archive for a significant period of time.

I guess this is where I see the skills I have to offer coming in. I can't code, but I can organize.

ad revenue is not all of teh evol

Donations are great, but they're not self-perpetuating. I think we should take ad revenue, with all ads being reviewed by an advertising review board. None of the crappy ads that most sites host, but I might like to advertise my new book. You might, too. Members might want to know that a new SGA book has just been released, etc.

What about the media? An ad for a movie or the release of a new DVD would hit its target market bang on if it were on our site. Surely Paul Gross and David Hewlett can't be the only people in media who are clever to mine fandom while treating us with respect.

Once we have numbers and memberships, numbers, etc., organizations will pursue us and offer discounts, etc., as they do for other large organizations and associations.

We've just lacked a cohesive physical presence up till now.

Re: ad revenue is not all of teh evol

Good point. I'm in the process of putting together a resource site for my small fandom (since it's a video game, research isn't as simple as, "Pop in the DVD and watch an episode"), and I wouldn't be opposed to paying to advertise the site to the very people who might find it useful.

First: work out ownership

I've operated a not for profit website used by millions for nearly a decade. It has a fatal flaw: I own it, the community doesn't. Any time I want, I can take my toys and go home, leaving everyone in the lurch.

Before any money is spent on a fanfiction archive, before a domain name is registered, something needs to be done so the archive can be owned by a group, not an individual. Possibly an LLC? I know nothing about this topic. Only enough to know it can be a problem.

Example: www.henneth-annun.net. It's run by a committee, but one person owns the domain name and the servers. Let's just say it's not a democracy.

So the first step is figuring out how ownership will be structured, and then putting it in place. Only then should everything else go forward. This isn't terribly sexy, but it is vital.

Re: First: work out ownership

Yes, this is key.

One wacky idea for brainstorming: maybe we could grant "shares" in an archive LLC/nonprofit to people based on how much work they put into building it and supporting it -- shares for posting and commenting, for coding or doing support work or either donating/buying stories in fundraisers -- all sorts of stuff like that.

People could vote their shares annually to elect a board of directors/advisors, which would then be responsible for oversight on one person in active charge, who would have final decisionmaking power on a day-to-day basis, but could be replaced by the board if necessary, if they gafiated, died, quit in a huff, started abusing power, etc. (Really, that person in active charge should probably be a paid position, when/if funds would allow.)

Shares could "age out" over time maybe -- so someone who gafiated five years ago with a million shares couldn't suddenly come back in and start dragging things over to their liking. Possibly just through being diluted? I am speaking without enough real knowledge of corporate setup and processes, but I am pretty sure mechanisms like this *could* be set up.
I'm willing to help at the best of my capacity (I don't know coding, though), including donating.
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