Organization for Transformative Works

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Organization for Transformative Works
Formation17 May 2007; 16 years ago (2007-05-17)[1]
Main organ
board of directors, elected annually Edit this at Wikidata

The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is a nonprofit, fan activist organization. Its mission is to serve fans by preserving and encouraging transformative fan activity, known as "fanwork", and by making fanwork widely accessible.[3]

OTW advocates for the transformative, legal, and legitimate nature of fan labor activities, including fan fiction, fan videos, fan art, anime music videos, podfic (audio recordings of fan fiction[4]), and real person fiction.[5][6] Its vision is to nurture fans and fan culture, and to protect fans' transformative work from legal snafus and commercial exploitation.[3][7]

OTW has 1,010 volunteers, net assets of $2.5 million and at least 15,810 paying members according to its annual report in 2021.[8]

Services and platforms[edit]

The Organization for Transformative Works offers the following services and platforms to fans in a myriad of fandoms:

  • Archive of Our Own (AO3): An open-source, non-commercial, non-profit, multi-fandom web archive built by fans for hosting fan fiction and for embedding other fanwork, including fan art, fan videos, and podfic.
  • Fanlore: A wiki for fans from a wide range of communities whose published mission is to provide a platform "to record and share their histories, experiences and traditions"[9] in fandom and fanwork history.
  • Open Doors: Preservation of fannish historical artifacts, such as zines and Geocities websites, as well as transferring fanfiction to Archive of Our Own from other websites when they shut down.
  • Transformative Works and Cultures: A peer-reviewed academic journal for scholarship on fanworks and practices
  • Legal advocacy to the fandom community, addressing the legal issues with fan fiction and other fan works, including defending fans' fair use of copyrighted material.[10]
  • Vidding (2008): a series of six short documentaries on vidding, in combination with participatory-culture academic Henry Jenkins and the New Media Literacies project at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[11]
  • Fanhackers: A directory of information and resources to help fans, academics, and activists, including good metadata (information, analysis, and discussion about data).[12]

Legal activism[edit]

The OTW provides legal assistance to the fandom community, addressing the legal issues with fan fiction and other fan works. Rebecca Tushnet, a noted legal scholar on fanfiction and fair use in copyright and trademark law, works with the OTW's legal project. In 2008, the OTW (in coordination with the Electronic Frontier Foundation) successfully submitted requests to the Library of Congress for further exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to allow the fair use of video clips for certain noncommercial uses such as video remixes, commentary, and education, as well as to protect technology used for such purposes. The exceptions were also successfully renewed in 2012 and expanded in 2015.[13][14][15] The OTW, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and New Media Rights submitted a new petition for exemptions in 2018.[16]

The OTW has also submitted several amicus briefs to the courts in several cases involving intellectual property law:

  • In Fox vs. Dish, the OTW (in coalition with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge) submitted an amicus brief which argued in defense of digital recording methods used by Dish Network, claiming that "The popular fanwork genre of noncommercial videos ('vids') uses clips from television shows or film, reworking them in a way that comments on or critiques the original. The Copyright Office has held that substantial numbers of vids constitute fair uses. But the creation of fan vids requires intermediate digital copying and processing in order to produce the transformative final product. OTW thus believes that intermediate copying performed to facilitate fair use constitutes fair use."[17]
  • In the case of Ryan Hart vs. Electronic Arts, the OTW (in combination with the Digital Media Law Project and the International Documentary Association) submitted a brief arguing that Electronic Arts's use of factual information (such as the height, weight, and jersey number of football players) in creative works (in this case, video games) is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[18]

Fandom archival projects[edit]

The OTW has also instituted several projects for preserving fan history and culture. One such project was the creation of Fanlore, a wiki for preserving fandom history. The Fanlore wiki was first revealed in beta in 2008, with a full release in December 2010.[19] In June 2018, there were approximately 45,000 articles and 800,000 edits to the wiki,[20] and it passed a million edits in January 2021.[21]

The OTW also has several "Open Doors" projects dedicated to the preservation of fannish historical artifacts. These projects include The Fan Culture Preservation Project, a joint venture between the OTW and the Special Collections department at the University of Iowa[22] to archive and preserve fanzines and other non-digital forms of fan culture, and The GeoCities Rescue Project, which attempted to preserve content originally hosted on Yahoo's GeoCities by transferring that content to new locations on the Archive of Our Own or within the Fanlore wiki.[23] Other miscellaneous artifacts and collections are stored on the OTW's main servers in the Special Collections gallery.

Archive of Our Own[edit]

Created by the OTW, the Archive of Our Own (often shortened to AO3) is an open-source, non-commercial, non-profit archive for fan fiction and other transformative fanwork. The Archive is built and run entirely by volunteers, many without previous coding experience.[24] The Archive was publicly launched into open beta on 14 November 2009,[25] and has been growing steadily since.[26]

Time magazine included Archive of Our Own on its list of "50 Best Websites 2013". Time said that AO3 "serves all fandoms equally, from The A-Team to Zachary Quinto and beyond", and also called it "the most carefully curated, sanely organized, easily browsable and searchable nonprofit collection of fan fiction on the Web...".[27]

Fans post, tag and categorize their own works on AO3.[28] Volunteer "tag wranglers" link similar tags so readers can search for works in the categories and types they want.[29] The tagging system allows easy compilation of statistics (stats).

Fan fiction ranges in length, from fewer than one thousand words (flash fiction, or one-hundred-word drabbles) to novel-length works, up to millions of words in length. According to an article on fandom statistics published on The Daily Dot newspaper in 2013, AO3 hosts more very short works than long ones, but readers prefer the longer works. The average very short story received fewer than 150 hits, while novel-length works are more likely to receive around 1,500 hits.[30]

A writer who posts a story on AO3 can record its word count on the story's header, along with other information such as the story's fandom, ships, and other tropes. Some fan works are 'crossovers' that draw on two or more universes or characters. Writers can also note if their story is finished or a work in progress (WIP).[31]

As of 2018, the archive hosts more than 4.2 million works in more than 30,000 fandoms.[32] Destination Toast, fan and statistician,[33] compiles and analyzes fandom statistics, especially stats from Archive of Our Own, which she says is "the most easily searchable archive I know of."[34] In January 2016, she posted "2015: A (Statistical) Year in Fandom." It includes statistics from two other large fan fiction archives, FanFiction.Net (FFN) and Wattpad as well as the popular microblog platform Tumblr. The post shows that the most active fandoms on AO3 in 2015 were (largest first) Supernatural, Dragon Age, Harry Potter, The Avengers, Teen Wolf, and Sherlock.[35] Other media sources include movies, television shows, and books including The Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, and The Hunger Games.

Statement against Racism in Fandom[edit]

In June 2020, 1,663 fans[36] signed an "Open Letter to the OTW on Racism in Fandom"[37] to "express [their] deep unhappiness with the OTW’s inaction on combating racism within fandom" and "strongly urge the Board to take immediate steps to help make fandom a space where all fans, particularly Black, Indigenous, and ethnically marginalized fans from all over the globe, can thrive". OTW released a "Statement from the OTW Board of Directors, Chairs, & Leads"[38] on June 24, 2020, affirming their stance "against racism and discrimination in all its forms", apologizing for their "inaction in making the OTW and AO3 a better environment for Black fans and fans of color" "who, due to this very inaction, have felt unwelcome on AO3", and vowing to "do better in the future".

Three years after OTW's statement, a group of fans of color and allies organized #EndOTWRacism,[39] a call to action to "protest against the lack of action from the OTW on addressing issues of harassment and racism on AO3 and within the organization" from May 17 to 31, 2023. 5,602 fanworks[40] on AO3 were renamed or published with "End OTW Racism" in the title during this period. OTW has not yet publicly responded to #EndOTWRacism. On June 12, 2023, OTW published "An Update from the OTW Board and Chairs[41]" updating what they have done so far and what they are working on to make OTW "more welcoming and inclusive to fans of color, and preventing and combating racist harassment on our platforms".


  1. ^ Organization for Transformative Works (2007), Annual Report 2007, vol. 1, p. 4, retrieved 2 October 2021
  2. ^ Organization for Transformative Works, Official website for the Organization for Transformative Works, retrieved 8 February 2016
  3. ^ a b "What We Believe | Organization for Transformative Works". Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  4. ^ "Wiki editors debate audio fiction's place in fandom". The Daily Dot. 25 September 2012. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  5. ^ Ulaby, Neda (25 February 2009). "Vidders Talk Back To Their Pop-Culture Muses". NPR. Retrieved 28 November 2009.
  6. ^ Hill, Logan (12 November 2007). "The Vidder". New York Magazine. Retrieved 28 November 2009.
  7. ^ Lieb, Rebecca (28 March 2008). "Transformative Fans Transform Brands". ClickZ. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
  8. ^ Organization for Transformative Works. "Annual Report 2021".
  9. ^ "Fanlore:About - Fanlore". Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  10. ^ "Legal Advocacy | Organization for Transformative Works". Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  11. ^ Jenkins, Henry (5 December 2008). "Fan Vidding: A Labor of Love (Part One)". Retrieved 28 November 2009.
  12. ^ "About". Fanhackers. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  13. ^ Estavillo, Maricel (November 2012). "US Makes New Exemptions To Digital Millennium Copyright Act Provision". Intellectual Property Watch. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  14. ^ Staff. "EFF Wins Renewal of Smartphone Jailbreaking Rights". Kansas City InfoZine. Archived from the original on 27 March 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  15. ^ Mao, David S. (20 October 2015). "Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies" (PDF). United States Library of Congress. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  16. ^ "Comments of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, New Media Rights, Organizational for Transformative Works on Proposed Class 1 – Audovisual Works – Criticism and Comment" (PDF). United States Copyright Office. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Fox vs. Dish Amici Brief" (PDF). Organization for Transformative Works. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  18. ^ "Ryan Hart vs. Electronic Arts Amici Brief" (PDF). Organization for Transformative Works. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  19. ^ "Our Projects: Fanlore". Organization for Transformative Works. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  20. ^ "Main Page". Fanlore. 12 May 2018. Retrieved 9 June 2018. 45,229 articles, 793,761 edits
  21. ^ Jess H (18 January 2021). "Fanlore Celebrates One Million Edits". Organization for Transformative Works. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  22. ^ "ArchivesSpace at the University of Iowa, Public Interface | University of Iowa Special Collections | Organization for Transformative Works Fanzine and Fan Fiction Collection". Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  23. ^ "Open Doors Projects". Organization for Transformative Works. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  24. ^ Torkington, Nat (19 May 2009). "Four short links: 19 May 2009 -- Recession Map, Gaming Psychology, Charging For Unwanted Content, and Two Great Projects". O'Reilly Radar. Retrieved 28 November 2009.
  25. ^ "Announcing Open Beta". AO3 News. 14 November 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2009.
  26. ^ Organization for Transformative Works. "Site Stats: A Look at 2013 and Beyond, Part 1, Archive of Our Own". Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  27. ^ Grossman, Lev. "50 Best Websites 2013". Time. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  28. ^ Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (15 July 2013). "Unpacking the unofficial fanfiction census". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  29. ^ Works, Organization for Transformative. "Show Wrangling Guideline | Archive of Our Own". Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  30. ^ "Unpacking the unofficial fanfiction census". The Daily Dot. 15 July 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  31. ^ Riley, Olivia (2015). "Archive of Our Own and the Gift Culture of Fanfiction: Analysis of an AO3 Fic Header" (PDF). University of Minnesota Libraries: Digital Conservancy (Author's Thesis). pp. 44–58. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  32. ^ Works, Organization for Transformative. "Home | Archive of Our Own". Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  33. ^ Romano, Aja (30 January 2016). "Is it possible to quantify fandom? Here's one statistician who's crunching the numbers". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  34. ^ "Fandom stats". Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  35. ^ "2015: A (Statistical) Year in Fandom". ToastyStats. January 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  36. ^ Close, Samantha (30 June 2020). "I emailed the Open Letter to the Organization for Transformative Works, urging them to address racism in fandom, to the OTW Board today. At final count, 1663 fans signed the letter during the week and a half that it circulated". Twitter. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  37. ^ "Open Letter to the OTW on Racism in Fandom". Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  38. ^ Organization for Transformative Works (24 June 2020). "Statement from the OTW Board of Directors, Chairs, & Leads". Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  39. ^ end-otw-racism (10 May 2023). "End OTW Racism: A Call To Action". Tumblr. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  40. ^ end-otw-racism (1 June 2023). "What's Next". Tumblr. Retrieved 11 June 2023.
  41. ^ Organization for Transformative Works (12 June 2023). "An Update from the OTW Board and Chairs". Retrieved 13 June 2023.

External links[edit]