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Content Guidelines

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  • Content Guidelines

    Hello Episode Community!

    You've been asking for more specifics on our content guidelines and clarity on many of the points. At the end of the day, it is not possible for us to provide a list of everything that is (or is not) allowed on the Episode platform as many scenarios are heavily context-based and will need to be reviewed on an individual story-by-story basis.

    What is or is not acceptable on the Episode Platform and in the Episode Community?

    Our Official Content Guidelines are as follows:

    If stories contain objectionable or offensive content, we may not be able to feature or host them on Episode. Stories must always be appropriate for readers ages 13 or older, which means content would be objectionable if it, among other things:
    • promotes or depicts excessive violence or assault, including but not limited to sexual assault, murder, and torture against humans or animals;
    • includes hate speech or content that promotes hatred or discrimination against individuals or groups, on the basis of race, ethnic or national origin, religion, marital status, disability, gender, age, or sexual orientation;
    • promotes suicide, self-harm, abuse, or bullying;
    • promotes excessive alcohol, tobacco or drug use;
    • promotes gambling, betting or casinos;
    • portrays adult themes, including pornographic content, nudity, or prostitution;
    • slanders or libels a person or third party;
    • includes excessive use of profanity or sexually explicit phrases;
    • advertises for outside products or services, including but not limited to website links, reviews, and promotional language;
    • excessively promotes the use of firearms, explosives, and ammunition; or
    • excessively promotes a political agenda.
    In addition, by publishing your story, you agree that it does not include any content that infringes the intellectual property rights or rights of publicity or privacy of any third party. This may include using any of the following without permission:
    • any works of authorship of other parties, including excerpts or passages taken from literary works, television or film;
    • any trademarks or references to corporate or business names; or
    • any references to real persons or places.
    To clarify, let’s break it down.

    Censor Bar Use, Nudity, and Sexual Content:
    • Depiction of sex (or anything suggesting that sex is occurring at that moment) in any form, including but not limited to, gyrating bodies, oral sex, or moaning/groaning is not allowed.
    • Explicit details of what is happening or has happened off-screen is also not allowed.
    • Any nudity on cover art is strictly not allowed.
    • Frontal nudity is allowed in a story if it is not excessive, only used in non-sexual situations, and always accompanied with censor bars or scenery to censor.
    • Posterior nudity in a story is only allowed in a tasteful and non-sexual context.
    References to Drugs & Alcohol:
    • No graphic / explicit / detailed descriptions or glorification of the use of drugs / alcohol.
    • Characters can consume alcohol, tobacco or marijuana as well as make references to these drugs.
    • Characters can make references to harder drugs (cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, etc.) but they cannot be depicted or consumed on screen.
      • If a story references characters consuming these substances, it cannot be glorified or encouraged.
    • Characters can be addicts or addicts can be referenced provided the representation is respectful, contextually appropriate and doesn’t glorify being an addict.
    References to Assault, Violence & Torture:
    • No graphic / explicit / detailed descriptions of rape / assault / violence / gore / etc.
    • Authors can give general descriptions or broad strokes, but not details.
      • Ex: they can say a rape / murder / assault happened, but cannot describe the details, injuries or physical sensations.
      • Physical or sexual abuse can referenced provided the representation is respectful, contextually appropriate and doesn’t glorify being a victim / survivor.
      Torture cannot be depicted on screen. References to torture, and evidence of torture are allowed, but cannot be explicit or gratuitous.
    Suicide & Self-Harm:
    • Themes of suicide and self harm are allowed on the Episode platform, but must be presented respectfully, maturely and in a non-glorifying way.
    • No graphic / explicit / detailed descriptions of suicide / self-harm / etc.
    • Authors can give highlights or broad strokes, but not details
      • Ex: they can say a suicide / self harm happened, but cannot have in-depth descriptions of the details, injuries or physical sensations.
        • Suicide and self harm cannot be depicted as feeling good, being a relief, or as a means of escape.
    • Creators cannot show blood, gore or bodies resulting from a suicide.
      • Ex: blood dripping down the wrists, cuts, gunshot wounds or a body hanging in a noose, etc.
    Hate Speech:
    • Hate speech - in any form - is not allowed. Specifically, references of -- including but not limited to -- any slur made on the basis of race, ethnic or national origin, religion, marital status, disability, gender, age, or sexual orientation.
    • References to persons who promote hate, and notorious political figures are only allowed in historical context and passing reference to communicate setting, era, theme, and / or time.
    • Promotion or honoring of hate symbols is not allowed at all.
    Advertising/Promotion:
    • Authors may promote their story, Episode related website and / or Episode social media account.
    • They may not advertise or promote other services or platforms on the Episode services.
    Songs, Brands, Celebrities and Children:
    • Songs and Brands
      • One-time use of a very limited amount of song lyrics may be allowed. Characters may sing these or they can appear coming out of radios, etc.
      • Passing references to brands are allowed. An example being: “I love Oreo cookies.”
      • Brands cannot be a plot point or drive the story.
    • Real People and Places
      • No celebrity images or illustrated likenesses are allowed on backgrounds, overlays or story cards.
      • References to celebrities are allowed in stories, e.g.,: “Taylor Swift is my favorite singer.”
      • Celebrities may NOT appear as characters.
      • Celebrities cannot be a plot point or drive the story.
    • Story cards, backgrounds or overlays cannot contain brand references or celebrity likenesses
    • Story cards, overlays or backgrounds cannot have children (under the age of 16) be the focus. A parent holding an infant is okay. The focus is the parent. Children playing on a playground would also be okay as the focus is the playground. A close up of a child on a swing would not be.
    • Copyright Policy & Take Down Requests
    If we find that a story does not conform to our Content Guidelines listed above, we will contact the author via their portal account email and may suspend and/or remove that story from the platform. Authors who repeatedly violate Content Guidelines may be temporarily or permanently suspended from all or part of our platform.

    Hopefully this clarifies some of the questions and concerns we receive around what is appropriate in our app. As always, please reach out to our Support Desk with any questions you have about content within your story. We’re here to help!

    Thank you all for your understanding and for continuing to write for Episode!

    Love,

    The Episode Team

    **UPDATED 8/21/17** You can also find this in the comments section.
    Thank you for all your feedback! These are some of the points that we’ve received the most feedback on-

    1. While we appear “12+” on the Apple Store and “Teen” on the GooglePlay store, our platform is intended for teenagers 13+. In fact, players under the age of 13 are prohibited from using our service. If there is a case where you know about an underage player, please report them, and they will be removed from our platform.

    2. Additionally, we do not allow romantic stories about teenagers under the age of 16 and no stories that focus on children under the age of 13. If there are romantic stories about children under the age of 16, please report them to us.

    3. We do not have the ability to display a story before review, and a story after review without the author’s permission -- as every author owns their own written story. Additionally, we are committed to respecting the privacy of players accounts. We have also outlined the process of how we work with the author’s on this post, thispost and this post.

    4. As a platform we are not prepared to remove a story simply because it’s unliked or makes us uncomfortable if it doesn't violate our guidelines.
    Last edited by Liz; 08-22-2017, 01:25 PM.

  • #2
    What about strong language? Is it allowed if the warning of strong language exists at the beginning of the episodes which include it?

    Comment


    • Trinady
      Trinady commented
      Editing a comment
      Strong language is okay. I would say, think of what you'd say in the work place or at school and ask, "Does this sound like too much cursing?". If so, cut some of it out, if not, it's probably okay.

  • #3
    Thank you so much for clarifying some things!!!!

    You've created a perfect template of examples for us to look upon when writing our stories to ensure we never break any rules or guidelines in the future.
    Of course some situations will have scenarios or be written in a context in which you guys will have to take a unique opinion on it, but this has definitely answered a few questions of mine. This is the kind of thing we asked for and we've now got it!

    I've noticed you guys have been slamming down on stories that break guidelines so props to you guys for that!

    Comment


    • #4
      Awwwwww )))

      Comment


      • toriah
        toriah commented
        Editing a comment
        yikes is all i can think of.

    • #5
      Thank you for clarifying!

      I have a question: for the Haunted contest, the story I have in mind features a (deceased) character who got bullied, in some cases for her alleged disability. I plan to portray bullying and ableism in a very negative light, but I am unsure about what can and can't be shown on screen in regards to bullying. I assume I won't be able to reference slurs even in a negative lights. But as for flashbacks and reports on how people treated her, are those okay?

      Comment


      • Trinady
        Trinady commented
        Editing a comment
        We would most likely have to see it in it's context for the best response. If you build the scene, go ahead and send it into Support and they can let you know if it meets the guidelines!

      • Mary_Jane_Doe
        Mary_Jane_Doe commented
        Editing a comment
        Thank you so much! ^_^

    • #6
      Quick question: what about literary references that are public domain or have expired copyrights? For example, Jane Austen novels, Frankenstein, Shakespeare, etc. Is it wrong to use these as a plot point or use certain identifiable elements, such as setting a story up as a retelling, twist, or mash-up of public domain works?

      Comment


      • Liz
        Liz commented
        Editing a comment
        Stories that are pubic domain or have expired copyrights would not fall under copyright guidelines. Good question!

    • #7
      Is it ok if I add a background that has blood as writing? Life for example for the haunted contest, to have on a mirror background that has blood writing on it?

      Comment


      • Trinady
        Trinady commented
        Editing a comment
        That should be okay, but I'd also run it past Support, too! Showing them the image would be easiest.
        Last edited by Trinady; 08-17-2017, 06:05 PM.

    • #8
      Hi! I really appreciate the clarification on the guidelines. Some of it is a lot clearer now.
      Honestly, I think the biggest problem is that there appears to be an inconsistency in the application of the guidelines. I realise that the Episode team can't possibly go through every single episode of every single user story, but personally I would expect featured stories (and maybe stories with millions of reads) to have been reviewed to ensure they adhere to the guidelines.

      Story cards, overlays or backgrounds cannot have children (under the age of 16) be the focus. A parent holding an infant is okay. The focus is the parent. Children playing on a playground would also be okay as the focus is the playground. A close up of a child on a swing would not be.
      Is this new? There's a very popular story on the app (with a few million reads) that has a lovely piece of artwork at the end of the story depicting the MC's child (who's probably around four or five?). There are no other characters in this image- the child is the focus. According to the guidelines, this would not be allowed? Yet the image got approved.

      In relation to background approvals- I honestly feel that there is some inconsistency between the guidelines and the reviewers. A couple months ago my story got suspended. The reason was that in one scene you could vaguely see the Apple logo on the back of a computer. This background had obviously already been approved. I understand that oversights happen and it was an easy enough fix. I also understand why it's not allowed. However, about a week or two ago I was reading a featured story that had a background with the exact same logo on a computer (and if anything, bigger and clearer than mine). It seems that there's a bit of a miscommunication error between background approvers and story reviewers maybe? I'm not really sure how everything works on your end.

      There have been a few examples of inconsistencies with how the guidelines are applied and it makes it very confusing as a writer as I feel we get told one thing by some Episode staff members and another thing by other Episode staff members depending on who we happen to get when we email.

      Comment


      • Echo_D
        Echo_D commented
        Editing a comment
        I may be mistaken but I think this is about real-life photos, not about pictures of fictional characters drawn by an artist. Am I right?

        I agree about the inconsistency in background approvals. It would be nice to see something done with it.

      • Trinady
        Trinady commented
        Editing a comment
        "Story cards, overlays or backgrounds cannot have children (under the age of 16) be the focus. A parent holding an infant is okay. The focus is the parent. Children playing on a playground would also be okay as the focus is the playground. A close up of a child on a swing would not be."
        This is meant for real life photos. Children painted or drawn are okay.

        There are missed images sometimes that do have violations in them, and whenever you notice them, we are extremely grateful for you guys to let us know! We do our best to make sure that we catch them all, but upon occasion, we do miss a few. If you happen to remember which story it was you saw, please let Support know! Thank you!

    • #9
      Why is the wording in the substance abuse section "characters can be addicts or addicts can be referenced provided the representation is respectful, contextually appropriate and doesn’t glorify being an addict" while the wording in the abuse section is "physical or sexual abuse cannot be glorified or promoted?"
      The elements described in regards to respectfully portraying addiction are things that definitely need to be used when writing about abuse, so I'm confused about why the wording in one section is more explicit than the other.
      Of course, that's my opinion, but there are children on this app and misrepresentation could be a very bad influence.

      Comment


      • Margaret A. Knox
        Margaret A. Knox commented
        Editing a comment
        I am interested in this as well and would love an explanation Liz Cass Trinady

      • Trinady
        Trinady commented
        Editing a comment
        Thank you for calling this out! We've updated the guidelines!

    • #10
      Trinady Hi I have a question about the Halloween contest I do mention blood and heads in my story but I don't go into any detail of anything the mentioning if I did ask episode if this was ok by providing them with the script so they could look through it but they didn't awnser my question if it's ok or not.

      Comment


      • Trinady
        Trinady commented
        Editing a comment
        If you send your script in question to Support, they'll let you know if it's okay!

    • #11
      Episode,
      This is a genuine query that a lot of us have concerns about. I have in no way been disrespectful in any of the content I've written below and would immensely appreciate it if you address this and finish this now rather than deleting these comments and putting only yourself at risk later. Also, I really mean you're putting yourself at risk later. I kindly ask you to stop doing this to yourself. I love this app too much to see it go down for something so easily fixable.

      1. In reference to your guidelines on sexual assault:
      I understand that this is sometimes contextual and you would have to review the entire story to really help. But, what have you done about the existing stories that still "contextually violate" your very guidelines? I'm not even refering to just one story. I've been keeping tabs on multiple stories and have play-throughs of them before and after this review takes place and I still don't see significant change that removes the filth of promoting such grotesque acts.

      2. After placing said guidelines, it would be really helpful if you also show this community or at least the ones who report stories, the entire review process. Some users are genuinely disturbed by the things they read and they do require some sort of personal reassurance from the support team that the reviewers have ACKNOWLEDGED it in the first place and walk them through the reasons why the team chooses to keep/change scenes of a story. All users have ever received was most likely to be an auto-generated reply that does not give them reassurance or justify the elements of a story.

      3. Episode is available on an International platform. Please keep that in mind as well when you're responding to users, reviewing problematic stories and creating your guidelines. Some countries have stricter censorship laws so some users are naturally not exposed to many things that's deemed "okay" on this platform. Either tailor your guidelines to fit an International platform or simply keep it a local app. There have been apps that were banned for lesser and with lesser proof than what certain community members possess. Keep that in mind in mind too.

      4. This community does understand the difficulties of being short-staffed but does not take too kindly to ignorance that's been so frequently displayed by your members. Note:
      "Ignorantia juris non excusat"
      Translated legal maxim: Ignorance of the law excuses not.
      I am not at liberty to tell you what you need to already be knowing as part of your job. But I will enlighten you with the fact that some community members are well versed in all major loopholes and legal implications of them on this very app. Now, you can either choose to work with us(we are more than willing to help contribute) or take longer on your own. Regardless, please fortify this app from anything legally violative of both local and international platforms. This would cut the toxic stories spreading on the app as well.

      This message is in no means a threat or meant to insult the Episode team. It is simply highlighting key issues and loopholes in these updated guidelines.
      There are multiple cases, statutes, amendments and note that have been referred to while making this post. Please don't think we're trying to bully others here. We have NEVER done that and have plenty of proof that we were the ones being harrassed for taking a stand.
      Episode is a safe space for most of us as writers and readers here. Please don't take it away from us just because of these tiny things that can be corrected so very easily.

      Sincerely,
      A disappointed Episode author and reader,
      Anisha Sk

      Comment


      • MissLunaRose
        MissLunaRose commented
        Editing a comment
        I'm also concerned about this. I like the guidelines, and think they're much better. I would like to hope that they are actually applied, such as in stories that romanticize rape.

      • Erkia
        Erkia commented
        Editing a comment
        Aaaaand nobody responded

      • Grace Riverton
        Grace Riverton commented
        Editing a comment
        Same here. I have seen several stories which show moaning,groaning etc. Well,its been some time that I have read them,so I am not sure whether they have been removed or not. But as said,there ARE children on the platform and that includes me, I am fourteen year old. Hope you can resolve this problem episode

    • #12
      I've been ignored whenever I ask questions respectfully so I'm not sure what you guys constitute as 'civil conversation' anymore. But I can tell you what unprofessionalism and negligence is. According to Consumer Law, you guys are operating as a company (business) which means you are obligated to abide by the laws stated under consumer protection. As a company you are obligated to ensure that all complaints from your consumers are being handled professionally and that means by not ignoring them or deleting their comments when they speak out about an issue. We're also entitled to an appropriate remedy for the situation. You may produce stories but you do not come under the same category or power as media, you are a business at the end of the day whom caters to consumers. It is negligent when the app releases content that is not age appropriate for anyone under 18. Minors do not have contractual powers which means that explicit content can be damaging for them as they are still developing. This also means that parents are downloading the app while unaware of the misleading rating that the content is appropriate for their children. In our forums we have included legislation, scientific journal articles etc. to support our argument and how this impacts a lot of consumers drastically. I'm sure people have already informed you of the impact already but this is getting ridiculous. The Issue will only keep getting worse because many victims are being impacted by this on a daily basis. There are many stories that breach your guidelines but you continue to ignore it for profit? Because some of you are fans of the authors? Because of a falsely used excuse certain authors relied upon to justify their inhumane and wrongful actions? We're all trying to reach out to you before things get much worse and people start getting harmed by the content put out which is your responsibility to ensure it doesn't do damage! The author may not be held liable but you guys will. It's your company and your actions that decide the faiths of young kids, victims of abuse and every other readers out there.

      [Edited] I also just realised that a lot of your staff members are very sensitive so I'm going to clarify this now. I'm talking as a professional and experienced woman in the legal field. I am not attacking, harassing, or bullying anyone. I'm being assertive, professional and coherent. Please do not falsely accuse me or any respectful person on this forum of the above because It's a very serious accusation and can warrant legal action (obviously we do not want to succumb to that). We're all here to help make this better by pointing out the issues so that your employees are more educated on the matter and some remedy can actually be implemented.
      Last edited by Anna_Park; 08-18-2017, 06:28 AM.

      Comment


      • Anna_Park
        Anna_Park commented
        Editing a comment
        k.w.episode Episode's representative made a post about deleting the comments in Tees' forum.

      • joelyn
        joelyn commented
        Editing a comment
        They kept on deleting my comments, too

      • k.w.episode
        k.w.episode commented
        Editing a comment
        joelyn I was talking about your post..

    • #13
      I have a question about the Haunted story contest. In my story, there's a part where the MC gets lots of threats. Is that ok, or not?

      Comment


    • #14
      Sorry Trinady, I know you want to explain us, but thing is, this rules are so complecated, confusing :and contradictory. Explain me: creators cannot show blood, but they can show blood dripping down the wrists, cuts... (did I understand that correctly?)

      I have kids. The oldest is just 10 y old. My kids are allowed to watch sex scenes and naked people, because that's something normal and natural. I talk to them a lot, and I explain them, that hurting yourself (cutting wrists), taking drugs... it's not normal. And it's not normal to be inlove with your brother or to sleep with him. This is where you have to DRAW A LINE.

      I'm really trying my best to make a story acording to rules, but I can't understand half of it, because it is written too much. I wanted to write to support, but I don't know how to fill that form.

      So, I'm guessing, this background is not allowed because there is a wall picture of celebrity?

      Comment


      • Trinady
        Trinady commented
        Editing a comment
        "Creators cannot show blood, gore or bodies resulting from a suicide. Ex: blood dripping down the wrists, cuts, gunshot wounds or a body hanging in a noose, etc."

        Creators CANNOT show that.

        The celebrities in the background image--the black and white image on the left I am unsure about, but the 4 panel image and the right is a famous civil rights/Cuban revolutionary Che. Since Che is a public figure, his image is okay to use. If it is a celebrity in the image to the left, it will need to be replaced.

    • #15
      I have a question about a scene I have planned... but don't know if that's something I send to the support desk.
      It's not really a torture scene, but they end up cutting her hair in order to try to make her compliant. And maybe they rough her up a bit? I don't know..

      Comment


      • Trinady
        Trinady commented
        Editing a comment
        I would show that scene to Support. Context is important for us to understand.
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