Organization for Transformative Works

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Screenshot of Organization for Transformative Works's LiveJournal community.
Buzz for OTW compared to Fanlib and Fan History for the past six months as of December 26, 2007

The Organization for Transformative Works is the name of an umbrella group that encompasses four separate projects: an archive entitled An archive of our own (which is slated to also be open-source software for others to use to build archives from), a legal defense fund for fandom, an academic journal, and a fandom wiki. Their organization's mission statement outlines their purpose as:

The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is a nonprofit organization 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. We believe that fanworks are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate.
The OTW represents a practice of transformative fanwork historically rooted in a primarily female culture. The OTW will preserve the record of that history as we pursue our mission while encouraging new and non-mainstream expressions of cultural identity within fandom.

LiveJournal user shrift clarified the purpose of the organization in the comments of a post to their LiveJournal news group:

The OTW is an organization created to advocate for female-dominated transformative media fandom and its artworks. That is its purpose.
The archive is one project of the advocacy organization, but is not the advocacy organization itself. [1]

The Archivists

There are no archivists in the traditional sense of individuals maintaining an archive. The power in this archive is not centralized around one or two people with a volunteer staff working under a maintainer and at the maintainer's discretion. Instead, OTW has a board of directors with the leadership listed here and a number of subcommittees handling specific tasks [2].

Site Policies

The archive is still in the process of discussing if users will be allowed to delete their own stories from the archive when it [3] [4] [5]

The archive has no policy regarding chan, allowing minors to be users and archiving adult content. [6]

On October 10, 2007, Organization for Transformative Works clarified their position on Real Person Fic; it is welcomed by both the archive and the organization. [7]

The organization had decided to help fan vidders who might find themselves in legal trouble: "Another good place to direct oversharing fans is to fandom_lawyers (LJ community) as well as the new group that is forming to help promote and protect fanworks )(both fanfic and fanvids) The Organization For Transformative Work." [8]

Organization History

On April 17, 2007, cesperanza posted about errors in the FanHistory entry on Due South and whether they were worth correcting or not.[9] This continued into a general discussion of FanHistory and perceived issues with the wiki, and discussion of beginning an alternative project in lieu of contributing to FanHistory.[10] astolat commented on making software and domain space available for such a project.[11]

The idea for An Archive Of Our Own was first put forth in May 2007 in response to FanLib and the idea of corporate control over fan fiction archives. Some parts of fandom found this repugnant and going against the history of the community. A community called fanarchive was created on LiveJournal for discussion of the project. Some members of fandom were concerned that it would draw increased legal attention to non-aligned, fan-run, non-corporate archives, hypothesizing that TPTB would crack down in response. There was a call for volunteers and update on the project by astolat on May 20, 2007[12].

On May 30, 2007, the domain name was registered by Rebecca Tushnet[13], as was[14].

On June 1, the maintainers of the fanarchive community put halted new top-level posts and "free-for-all discussion"[15]. This led to only three official updates from June 14th to August 4th. [16]

On September 21, the fanarchive community had been officially changed to otw_news, and the project would thereafter be referred to as The Organization for Transformative Works[17], created to "serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fan works and culture in its myriad forms."[18]

On September 28, it was announced that An Archive Of Our Own would be one of four projects. Other projects include a fan history wiki, an academic fan journal, and a legal defense fund.[19]

On October 5, 2007, in response to criticism regarding the lack of off-LiveJournal outreach, the board created a survey to help them improve their outreach.[20]

On October 10, 2007, the Organization for Transformative Works posted bios for their board members to the otw_news community[21]. The original board members include Naomi Novik, chair; Francesca Coppa, PhD (secretary); Cathy Cupitt, DCA, Susan Gibel, JD (treasurer); Michele Tepper, PhD; and Rebecca Tushnet, JD. While there will be board elections in the future, the original board was not elected.

On October 10 OTW stated that "media fandom" was "useful as a term for the outside world because it has most consistently been used by academics and the media to describe this community." [22] However, when the OTW website and mission statement were updated on December 11th, non-media fandoms were no longer grouped under the term "media fandom." "Transformative" remains as it has been used by courts to analyze right of publicity claims against creative works containing the names and/or likenesses of celebrities.[23]

In early November 2007, femmequixotic told the webmaster at FanWorks.Org that the fan fiction archive component of the Organization for Transformative Works would be in beta test by the end of the month. The site itself would be open in six months. The site did not have a list of features planned yet.[24] The website update on December 11 confirms this, with the archive being listed as launching in summer 2008.[25]

In addition to changing its use of the term "media fandom," the December 11, 2007 update of OTW's website and mission statement also added references to anime, Real Person Fic and vidding.

The Organization for Transformative Works's LiveJournal, otw_news, put out their first newsletter on December 11.[26]

On December 12, 2007, author Cory Doctorow stated that he wrote Naomi Novik a check for $500 on the spot after hearing about the organization at WorldCon.[27] In the same comments thread, Naomi revealed that he was officially the very first donor to OTW.

The first OTW Group Chat took place December 27, 2007 via IRC. A transcript of the chat was posted to the otw_news community the following day.[28]

The second OTW Group Chat took place January 3, 2007 via IRC. A transcript of the chat was posted to the otw_news community the same day.[29]

In May of 2008 the OTW decided to celebrate their organization's birthday & associated accomplishments by throwing an online convention on May 21, 2008 to celebrate all of fandom. This convention is to be hosted on livejournal[30] in a friends_locked community, and was not widely publicized.

On June 18, 2009, OTW announced the launch of the Fan Culture Preservation Project, where they would be involved in donating fanzines (over 3,000 to start) to the University of Iowa's Special Collections.

Criticisms of the Organization for Transformative Works

Although, as their volunteer numbers show, the Organization for Transformative Works has received a plethora of support from within fandom, the organization has also faced public criticism from people within fandom, which increased around September 28, in the comments of an announcement post on their LiveJournal community[31]. These criticisms were also posted in blow entries like this one. The organization has been slow to respond to these criticisms and concerns being expressed by people. The organization faced a new round of criticism around December 11 when they announced revisions to their mission that did not address all of the criticisms previously expressed by their potential user base. [32][33][34][35] They faced another round of criticism around January 4 when four anti-OTW posts were linked on metafandom and another round in mid-January 2008 in response to their 55+ posts supporting OTW campaign organized on their official LiveJournal community.

The following is a short list of criticisms aimed at Organization for Transformative Works:

The Archive

  • Archive may include chan [36] [37] [38] [39] [40]
  • Pro-real person fic slant is viewed as negative by some; [41] [42] [43]
  • Lack of a connection to the original mission spelled out early in the organizations inception; [citation needed]
  • Lack of planning for the physical architecture for the site; [44]
  • Not utilizing existing projects in fandom; basically reinventing the wheel; [45] [46] [47]
  • Reliance on volunteers to maintain the archive; [48]
  • May host materials that are illegal in Germany; [49]
  • Archiving works with out permission of the author; * [50]

The Board/The Committees

Gender Issues

  • Fandom may not be 'predominantly' female; [75][76][77][78]
  • Perceived feminist agenda demeans feminism; [79]
  • Classifying fandom as 'predominantly' female interferes with the organizations stated objectives; [80]
  • Gender is not relevant to the creation of fannish works; [81]


The Journal/The Wiki

  • Academic journal as part of mission highlights the disconnect from the majority of the fan community; [162] [163] [164]
  • Statements like "predominantly female community with a rich history of creativity and commentary" may bias the journal contributors to a certain type of research based on flawed assumptions; [citation needed]
  • The academic journal theories that it puts forth may jeopardize the credibility of those theories if the organization fails based on those same theoretical models; [citation needed]
  • Type of methodology used by OTW scholars may be questionable; [165]
  • Trying to present personal history as a whole history is wrong; [166]
  • Is not welcoming or easy to figure out how to edit in the right style.[167]


  • Concern that a fight to legalize fanworks may end badly for fans; [168] [169] [170] [171] [172] [173] [174] [175] [176] [177] [178] [179] [180] [181] [182] [183] [184] [185] [186] [187] [188] [189]
  • Copyright holders may lose legal control over their own works if OTW's legal views prove correct; [190]
  • "This bunch looks innocuous on the surface, but their underlying tenant is that an author's work/world isn't their proprietary legal right." [191]
  • The legal analysis proposed by the Organization for Transformative Works may be wrong; [192]
  • The fight for legality looks like people who have entitlement and privilege issues; [193] [194]
  • Legal concerns in Australia that may have a huge impact on Australian fandom are not being adequately addressed; [citation needed]

Copyright violations

  • Violating copyrights of fan artists and fan fiction writers; * [195]


  • A ten dollar fee to join the organization when such requirements on the parts of other sites have previously led to massive wank, and while Fanlib was harshly criticized for making money off of fanworks; [196]. [citation is locked] [197].
  • OTW's fight for legal status for transformative works can be read as advocating the right to profit from fanworks; [198]


  • Moving Yuletide to an Archive of Our Own; [199]
  • Banning people from Yuletide who disagreed or had reservations with the move; [200]
  • Telling authors that they could not remove their old works as they were gifts. Authors could instead orphan their stories by having their name stripped from the author field; [201]
  • Admins for Yuletide failing to answer questions; [202]
  • Deletion of posts on the LiveJournal community talking about Yuletide's hostin situation. [203]


  • Lack of identifying the proposed organization's target demographic and how to market to it; [204]
  • Is trying to "centralize" fandom (particularly on LiveJournal at the moment), which has always been de-centralized and may best be served by de-centralization; [205] [206] [207] [208]
  • Fans don't feel they need "legitimacy" or "mainstream recognition" for their works; [209] [210] [211][212]
  • Transformative Works, as a term, has not been adequately defined or has been defined in such a way as to exclude works which people believe are transformative; [213][214]
  • Conflation of LiveJournal with all of fandom; [215]
  • Supporters comparing the protection of fan fiction to GLBT rights is off putting and offensive; [216][217][218]
  • The activities of romance writers are legal but for many people, that genre still doesn't have legitimacy. OTW's goal of legality equaling legitimacy is probably going to run into the same hurdle. [219]
  • Conflation of media fandom with all of fandom; [220]
  • Fandom doesn't need a spokesperson; [221] [222] [223]
  • Confusion over whether OTW is going to represent fanworks in all fandoms, by all fans, or just a segment of fandom (predominantly LJ-based media fandom); [224] [225]
  • Copying the fanworks of others when permission has been denied and not offering fanartists a method to get the content removed; [226]
  • Ignoring the concerns of members of the fan community about how their works will be used by the Organization for Transformative Works when permission was denied by fan artists, fan fiction writers and fanzine publishers to use their content. [227]

Supportive Statements for the Organization of Transformative Works

  • The confrontation is coming whether there's an OTW or not; [228] [229] [230] [231] [232] [233] [234] [235] [236] [237] [238] [239] [240] [241] [242] [243] [244] [245] [246]
  • Fanworks deserve respect and protection; [247] [248] [249] [250] [251] [252] [253]
  • Better a fan-run project than a corporate-run project like FanLib; [254] [255] [256] [257]
  • Archive will be tied to an organization that won't cave to DMCA notices or C&Ds; [258]
  • Archive will be tied to an organization rather than just one person, so it's likely to have more permanance; [259] [260] [261]
  • Archive won't be at the mercy of advertisers or people who demand that materials they deem offensive be removed; [262]
  • Archive will preserve fanworks--no more dead links or rummaging through the Wayback Machine; [263]
  • Archive will be more inclusive than current multi-fandom archives; [264]
  • OTW offers security; [265]
  • OTW will do a better job representing fandom than journalists, etc., outside of fandom will; [266] [267]
  • Members of the board instill confidence in people; [268] [269] [270] [271] [272] [273]
  • Attempts to be as inclusive as possible are reassuring. [274]
  • Language about "predominantly female community" acknowledges that particular types of fannish activity have historically been practiced mostly by and for women. [275] [276]


In 2009, Escapade announced that their charity would no longer be the (now-defunct) Good Hearted People but instead the Organization for Transformative Works.[277] This announcement lead to some criticism of whether this was truly a good decision, or just a case of self-promotion, given the economic crisis in America and the number of humanitarian and animal-welfare charities in need of support.[278],[279]

When the Organization for Transformative Works was asked why they didn't turn down this offer and fans comparing them to FanLib, they responded by saying:

It wasn't our decision, but we're certainly grateful that Escapade chose us as this year's recipient.
For what its worth, they said they chose us partly because we've been working to set up a zine preservation project, focusing on many of the zine collections in and around Escapade. And you're right--preserving zines and zine culture may not be as important as, I dunno, Prop 8 or feeding children, but not all nonprofits can have the same mission. And Fanlib isn't a nonprofit at all; as a commercial, for profit entity, their own profit was their number one goal, and they closed the minute it wasn't worth it to them. So its not really a fair comparison. [280]

Archive Funding

Organization for Transformative Works is incorporated as a nonprofit in the state of Delaware and have filed for the 501-(3) status required for tax-deductible donations in the United States. [281] They are using a donation driven model. The organization accepts donations through their website[282]. In early 2008, the organization expects to open the doors for membership (with a donation of $10)[283].

Archive Size

Membership to Groups Run By the Organization for Transformative Works:

As of December 11, 2007, the LiveJournal community had 1,058 members, the GreatestJournal community had 7 members, and the InsaneJournal community had 22 members.

As of December 17, 2007 , the archive portion of the OTW was planned to be launched in summer 2008.

As of December 25, 2007, the InsaneJournal community had grown to 33 members. The LiveJournal and GreatestJournal community membership had remained the same.

As of April 10, 2008, there are 1,265 members on the LiveJournal community. [284]

See Otw news (LiveJournal) size for daily statistics regarding the number of new posts, new comments, new members and new watchers to the organization's LiveJournal group.

Traffic information

External Links




An Archive of Our Own


See also

New posts to otw_news via live rss feed


Below is a partial list of articles and academic sources to help you continue to learn about this fan fiction archive.

  • What Businesses Learned in 2007 About the Digital Race. Steve Cody and Sam Ford, Christian Science Monitor: 28 Dec 2007 Internet Edition [285]

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