Author Archives: Caralee Adams

Public Domain Day Festivities Draw Global Audience of Enthusiasts

People from around the world — many wearing their best roaring ‘20s attire — came to the Internet Archive’s online party on January 19 to toast creative works recently added to the public domain.

The event was hosted in partnership with SPARC, Creative Commons, Library Futures, Authors Alliance, Public Knowledge, and Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

Watch recording

View table of contents & speakers

“We’re celebrating works published in 1927 becoming open to all in the United States where we can legally share, post, and build upon them without permission or fee,” said Jennifer Jenkins of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School. “You’re free to reimagine the characters, the events, the settings, the imagery, and use them in your own stories, musical plays, and movies.”

Librarians and archivists are eager to preserve these cultural materials, the vast majority of which are out of circulation. Now that they’re in the public domain, anyone can preserve them and digitize them — making them more discoverable.

“The public domain is important because it enables access to cultural materials that might otherwise be lost to history,” Jenkins said. 

Among some of the best-known works that entered the public domain in 2023 include books, such as To the Lighthouse by Virginia Wolfe and The Big Four by Agatha Christie; sheet music for The Best Things in Life Are Free and I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream; silent movies such as Metropolis by Fritz Lang, Putting Pants on Phillip with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

The first full-length film featuring synchronized sound was produced in 1927: The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson. 

Rob Byrne, a film restorer and president of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, explained at the event that previous films were not truly silent since every motion picture performance in the 1920s was accompanied by live musicians—from full orchestras in big cities to single piano players in small town theaters. The average American went to the movies more than three times every week, and international movies were accepted because there were no language barriers, Bryne added. 

Unfortunately, more than 80% of all the films produced prior to 1930 have been lost.

Even fewer films featuring Black casts made for Black audiences survived, said Cara Cadoo, associate professor of history, cinema and media studies at Indiana University. “Race has always been a part of the story of the American cinema,” she said. 

It was because she could easily view movies in the public domain that Cadoo said she was recently able to discover a clip from a lost Black film. Through some detective work, she identified footage from the 1917 film, “The Trooper of Troop K,” while studying another film from 2023. “This history is something that just in recent decades, people have taken seriously,” Cadoo said.

Interest in the public domain is global! The map above shows where our viewers watched the celebration.

Brigitte Vezina, director of policy and open culture at Creative Commons, explained that libraries, museums and archives still face big challenges simply to fulfill their mission in the digital world. (See report Barriers to Open Culture.) Institutions are working in an outdated framework and copyright policy reform is needed, she said. 

“We’ve been promoting open culture to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world,” said Vezina, citing its new call to action policy guide. “It’s based on this rich experience that our open culture program supports better sharing of cultural heritage globally.”   

Along with works celebrated from 1927, SPARC’s Nick Shockey talked about another important milestone in expanding public access to knowledge. In August, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued new guidance that requires the federal government set the default to open for all publicly funded research in the United States. 

“This will make over $80 billion each year in research produced with the support of U.S. taxpayer dollars immediately available to anyone online,” Shockey said. “The priority is part of a broader commitment to advancing equity in science and scholarship and recognizing the ways in which openness can be a powerful enabler of more equitable systems.”

The government has also set 2023 as the Year of Open Science. What is and is not publicly and openly accessible is a public policy question, said Shockey, noting the disappointing 20-year pause for the Canadian public domain.

“As we celebrate today, I hope the momentum that we generate can be channeled into ongoing advocacy to ensure that more and more of the knowledge that shapes our world is made available to everybody and to more fully realize the right of sharing knowledge,” Shockey said.

For an example of the value of free sharing of information from the federal government, Meredith Rose, senior policy counsel with Public Knowledge, highlighted NASA’s public posting of images from the Webb space telescope.

“Some things are born free,” said Internet founder Brewster Kahle. “Democracies around the world publish openly because they believe in education and they want it to be spread as widely as possible.”

Open does not always mean easily accessible, however. Kahle is working on Democracy’s Library, a project to gather government material from the U.S., Canada and around the world and preserve them in one place.

“This is the internet we’re dreaming of. Let’s go and make sure that it’s got all of the public domain materials publicly accessible – not just all those things that are from the classic era. Let’s go and celebrate the current public domain.”

Also presenting at the celebration was Rick Prelinger, an archivist, filmmaker, writer and educator. He began collecting ephemeral films (used for specific purposes such as advertising, educational and industrial films) in 1983. His collection of 60,000 films was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002. He partnered with the Internet Archive to make a subset of the collection — now more than 8,500 films — available online for free viewing, downloading and reuse in the Prelinger Archive

Throughout the program, students from the Snowden International School (Boston) and the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of The Arts (San Francisco) read poetry newly entered into the public domain from Caroling Dusk: an anthology of verse by Negro poets by Countee Cullen.

Jennie Rose Halperin, executive director of Library Futures, and Lila Bailey, senior policy counsel at the Internet Archive co-hosted the party.

[Cross-posted blog with SPARC / Internet Archive]

As the US Public Domain Expands, 20-Year Pause for the Canadian Public Domain Begins

Festivities are planned on January 19 to recognize Public Domain Day and embrace the possibilities of new works freely available from 1927.

In the United States, the recent declaration of the federal year of Open Science and the White House memo unlocking publicly funded research outputs has buoyed the open community and its outlook on knowledge sharing.

However, the celebration will be muted in Canada where librarians and educators are assessing the impact of a vast expansion of the copyright term. 

Canada’s copyright protection for artistic works was extended as 2022 came to a close from life of the author plus 50 years—to life of the author plus 70 years. The change was the result of international trade negotiations in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), requiring Canada to bring its terms closer to that of the U.S.

Once items are in the public domain, they can be republished or repurposed without seeking permission or paying a rights holder. This allows libraries, museums, and archives to use materials freely for research and historical purposes, as well as post online archives of the important documents and creative works.

The change in Canada means books, movies, plays, and songs that were previously scheduled to be free from copyright  will not be in the public domain until 2043.

“It’s a disappointment and a feeling of mourning,” said Andrea Mills, executive director of Internet Archive Canada, of the policy change that prompted the cancellation of Public Domain Day parties in the country. “It feels more like we should have a wake.”

(Others share similar concerns about the negative impact of the policy change. See Reconsidering the Copyright Bargain: by Adian Sheppard, director of the University of Alberta’s copyright office; A bizarre 20-year hiatus: Changes to copyright term in Canada by Jennifer Zerkee, Simon Fraser University library copyright specialist; and an article Interminable pause: Government must address harm caused by extension of copyright term by Mark Swartz, a scholarly publishing librarian an Queen’s University.)

Canadians used to feel good about the annual Public Domain Day, with its shorter copyright term than the U.S., said Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa. Now, the country is beginning to consider the ramifications of the new terms, including disruptions to digitization projects and the increased cost of materials that will remain under copyright for educational institutions.

“Not having an enriched public domain for 20 years creates some real harms,” said Geist, who is also a member of the Internet Archive Canada board. “The vast majority of works that have no commercial value at the end of their life will be locked down for an additional 20 years.”

The change will limit access to little-known Canadian authors whose works are often out of print, Mills said. (See her blog post: A Missed Opportunity to Revive Obscure Canadian Literature – Internet Archive Canada)

The policy change was buried in a budget bill and there was no public announcement, leaving many Canadians unaware, Geist said.

The extended protection was agreed to as part of closed trade negotiations, said Peter Routhier, a copyright attorney who is on the Internet Archive’s policy team. That kind of negotiation does not follow the same sort of open process as a democratic legislature. In these kinds of settings, commercial interests are often prioritized, and there are very few ways for the public to engage, he said.

Mills said these recent changes by the government have an “overall chilling effect” on copyright policy.

Before the copyright terms were extended, the Canadian government did hold hearings to consider registration solutions and exceptions to works entering the public domain. In the end, those proposals were not adopted.

When looking at thousands of works, there is value in the overall collective rights for the authors, Geist said. But, he noted, there are also education costs to acquire works and loss of creativity to revise works in new ways when materials remain under copyright.

“It’s hard to be optimistic,” Geist said. “But it’s in the realm of possibility the government could consider some [copyright exceptions], particularly for groups like librarians, archives, and museums. “The government has not shown a lot of interest in this issue. If anything, it has sort of done its best to try to keep it below the radar screen. We’ll have to wait and see.”

To advance the public interest, librarians in Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere are pushing for reforms to licensing agreements to e-books. With the pause for new works entering the Canadian public domain, advocacy to make knowledge open by default is even more important. 

The events in Canada are a reminder that what is—and isn’t—in the public domain is ultimately a policy decision and vigilance is needed to ensure the public interest is elevated in policy conversations about copyright.

Tune in to learn more about Public Domain Day at an event hosted by the Internet Archive in collaboration with partner organizations on January 19 at 4 p.m. ET. Register here. This year’s event will celebrate the theme, “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” and feature a host of entertainers, historians, librarians, academics, activists, and others.

[Cross posted with SPARC]

What Do Libraries Have To Do With Building a Better Internet?

When thinking about how to build a better internet—one that is focused on the public interest and promoting meaningful participation for everyone—libraries are key players. And to fulfill that role, libraries need to have policies that allow them to thrive online. 

Just how to achieve that was the focus of a webinar sponsored by the Internet Archive and the Movement for a Better Internet on December 8, moderated by Chris Lewis, president and CEO of Public Knowledge. 

Watch session recording:

At the event, library and internet policy experts discussed the recently released report, “Securing Digital Rights for Libraries: Towards an Affirmative Policy Agenda for a Better Internet.” Lila Bailey, senior policy counsel at the Internet Archive, and Michael Menna, policy fellow at the Internet Archive from Stanford University, coauthored the paper after consulting with thought leaders from libraries, academia, and civil society organizations.

“Libraries and the internet are both all about access and culture,” Bailey said. “They serve as democratizing forces in society, getting information to people and promoting robust and diverse participation in society.”

But libraries enjoy far higher societal trust in terms of providing access to reliable information, and the internet—and all who use it—could benefit from updated policies that support libraries operating more effectively in the digital space. Bailey said the library community and digital rights groups are worried about mandatory filtering proposals and publisher tactics that limit access to digital materials and lawful library functions like lending. “The seismic shift in the ecosystem is that publishers don’t sell ebooks to libraries, they only rent them on limited terms,” Bailey added.

To address these challenges, the report concludes that libraries must maintain four rights: to collect digital materials, preserve them over time, lend them to users, and cooperate with other libraries to share digital materials through standard library practices. Learn more about the report & findings in our previous post.

“The rights that libraries have always enjoyed offline, which align with the functions that they have played, need to be translated, protected, and clearly delineated online,” Bailey said.


Here’s how you can help libraries build a better information ecosystem in the 21st century:

  1. READ & SHARE the report, “Securing Digital Rights for Libraries: Towards an Affirmative Policy Agenda for a Better Internet.”
  2. JOIN the Movement for a Better Internet.
  3. SIGN UP for the Library Week of Action in 2023.

Katherine Klosek, director of information policy for the Association of Research Libraries, said the library community is deeply concerned about the potential impact of mandatory filtering on removal of content, censoring, and erosion of fair use. There is clear alignment with the new report and the ARL advocacy agenda, particularly in regard to copyright, said Klosek, highlighting her association’s Know Your Copyrights resource for library leaders.

“A lot of the challenges that libraries and cultural heritage institutions face today is due to the fact that copyright laws haven’t kept pace with the evolution of how people like to share on the internet,” said panelist Brigitte Vézina of Creative Commons. “They’re outdated. They’re unfit for the internet and sometimes they are just unclear.”

If copyright laws are not balanced and don’t contain enough exceptions, the repercussions go beyond the walls of the library, Vézina said. Limiting educational use of content impacts the public’s ability to access their fundamental right to cultural heritage, partake in creative endeavors, and infringes free expression. Indeed, solving the world’s biggest problems such as climate change and health issues, requires access to knowledge and fostering collaboration, Vézina added. Equitable access is key to ensuring that everyone can participate in solving these grand challenges.

As to how library rights affect the rights of authors and creators, the panelists were clear that balance was needed. “Author rights and library rights are not oppositional…they have worked together for centuries,” Bailey said. Libraries buy books, whether they are popular or not, which supports authors and allows future authors access to the resources they need to become readers and then writers. The key is finding compensation strategies and policies that actually benefit artists, rather than just enriching the platforms that control access.

“Building a better internet that is focused on public interest values is going to require making sure libraries function and thrive online,” said Bailey. To move the positive rights agenda for libraries forward, Bailey encouraged anyone interested to download, read and share the free, openly-licensed report here; get involved in the  Library Week of Action planned in early 2023 and join the Movement for a Better Internet.

Recap: Data Cartels Book Talk

Sarah Lamdan was working as an academic law librarian at the City University of New York in 2017 when something concerning caught her eye. 

“I was really startled and confused because I didn’t understand how Lexis and Westlaw would be doing ICE surveillance,” said Lamdan, who wondered about the potential impact on the campus’ immigrant population and her role as a librarian in giving away data.

Lamdan and a colleague wrote a blog for the American Association of Law Libraries raising questions. However, within minutes, at the “advice of legal counsel,” the post was removed, Lamden said. She didn’t know why they were not allowed to raise the issue, and her quest for answers began.

“It made me really, really curious,” Lamdan said. “That started this five-year course of research to unpack what these companies really are, what they’re doing, how they can be the main legal information providers and also be building surveillance systems.”

She shares her findings in “Data Cartels: The Companies that Control and Monopolize Our Information” published in November by Stanford University Press. Lamdan talked about her book with SPARC Executive Director Heather Joseph at an online webinar November 30 sponsored by the Internet Archive and the Authors Alliance. [Recording available here

Watch Session Recording

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was building an invasive data surveillance system and journalists reported that Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis were interested in participating. She quickly realized that those were the parent companies of the gold-standard legal databases, Westlaw and Lexis, that Lamdan regularly taught students to use.

The book chronicles the unregulated underworld of a few companies that operate as “data cartels,” highlighting how selling data and informational resources perpetuate social inequalities and threaten the democratic sharing of knowledge.

In her research, Lamdan, who has a law degree and master’s in library science, said she was surprised to discover the scope of the enterprises and ways they leveraged users’ personal data without consent. 

“I saw Lexis and Westlaw as these little mom-and-pop legal information expert shops that gave us tote bags and helped sponsor our annual meeting,” Lamdan said. “I didn’t realize that they are actually parts of these multi-billion-dollar giant corporations that are basically like informational warehouses.”

The library community has been increasingly concerned about companies’ commoditization of research, said Joseph, and the book spells about the trend with a sense of urgency.

“We think of these companies as content providers, but they’re more than that,” Joseph said. “They have a multiplicity of companies that have different functions under the umbrella company name and what those divisions do is critically important. For example, having one company essentially, owning the legal corpus of the United States and then controlling the data of people who access that information and distributing it is unbelievable.”

Purchase from the publisher, Stanford University Press

Too often, people view legal or academic publishers as benign distributors of useful information, Joseph said, but it is big business driven by profit. Companies are increasingly seeing opportunities to expand their services and become data analytic brokers. With so much information in the hands of so few players, these companies have a stronghold over predictive platforms affecting people’s privacy, health and finances. 

Information is a unique commodity, Lamdan said, because one information product cannot be replaced with another similar product. Libraries can’t merely unsubscribe to these services or journals because students and attorneys rely on the unique informational products they provide. This has created a classic monopoly problem where consumers have little choice about which products they use, which Lamdan said should be addressed.

“Together, these companies are pivoting from publishing, towards data analytics. They are changing the way our information systems work and the way their markets work,” Lamdan said in the online talk. “They are acting in a way that drives us from information access to these closed walled garden data analytics systems that exploit our personal data and limit access to certain types of information.”

Lamdan is clear that there is no one fix to address the concentration of power in these information companies. She does, however, suggest that federal antitrust laws be revisited and revised to better address digital and data problems. Regulators could intervene to say that companies should not be allowed to be in both the business of providing critically important information to the public, and the business of selling personal data products to the government simultaneously.

Joseph said the broader community can break its dependency on these companies by expanding open access and creating an infrastructure that does not rely on commercial enterprises for information. Approaching knowledge as a public good, rather than a private commodity, can also shift the framework for how information is disseminated.

To find out more about Lamdan’s book or to purchase a copy, click here.

Community Turns Out to Celebrate Promise of Democracy’s Library

Friends and supporters of the Internet Archive gathered October 19 at the organization’s headquarters in San Francisco to celebrate the launch of Democracy’s Library.

Plans to collect government documents from around the world and make them easily accessible online were met with enthusiasm and endorsements. Speakers at the event expressed an urgency to preserve the public record, make valuable research discoverable, and keep the citizenry informed—all potential benefits of Democracy’s Library. 

“If we really succeed — and we have to succeed — then Democracy’s Library might become an inspiration for openness in areas that are becoming more and more closed,” said Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle. 

The 10-year project aims to make freely available the massive volume of government publications (from the U.S. and other democracies), including books, guides, reports, surveys, laws and academic research results, which are all funded with taxpayer money, but often difficult to find. 

To kick off the project, Kahle announced the Internet Archive’s initial contributions to Democracy’s Library:

  • United States .gov websites collected since 2008; 
  • Crawls of the U.S. state government websites;
  • Digitized microfilm and microfiche from the U.S. Government Publishing Office, NASA and other government entities;
  • Crawls of government domains from 200 other countries;
  • 50 million government PDF documents made into text searchable information.

It will be a collaborative effort, said Kahle, calling upon others to join in the ambitious undertaking to contribute to the online collection.

The need for Democracy’s Library

“We need Democracy’s Library. The Internet Archive’s work leading this project represents a critical step in the evolution of democracy,” said Jamie Joyce, executive director of The Society Library and emcee of the program. “Archives and libraries, as they’ve always done in the past, will continue to change in their scope, scale, and capabilities to be of critical use to society, especially democratic societies. Tonight is about witnessing another transformation.”

Although there is more data available than ever before, Joyce said, society’s knowledge management system is badly broken. Misinformation is rampant, while high quality government data is buried and scattered across different federal, state and local agencies. 

Having public material consolidated, digitized and machine readable will allow journalists, activists, and others to be better informed. It will also make democracy more transparent and accountable, as well as protect the historical documents. “We will not be able to compute in the future what we do not save today,” Joyce said.

At a time when polarized politics can put information at risk, the event highlighted the need to safeguard public data.

Gretchen Gehrke, co-founder of the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, has been working in partnership with the Internet Archive to track changes in federal environmental websites. 

“People should be able to know about environmental issues and have a say in environmental decisions,” she said. “For the last 20 years, the majority of this information has been delivered through the web, but the right to access that information through the web is not protected.”

Gehrke described how public resources and tools related to the federal Clean Power Plan, a hallmark environmental regulation of the Obama administration, were taken down from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website under President Trump’s tenure. 

“There are no policies protecting federal website information from suppression or outright censorship,” Gehrke said. “This case serves as an example of why we need Democracy’s Library to preserve and provide continued access to these critical government documents.”

When statistics are being cited in policy debates, citizens need to be able to have access to sources of claims. For example, Sharon Hammond, chief operating officer of The Society Library, said documents related to the environmental impact of California’s Diablo Canyon power plant should be easily available. There are nearly 5 different government bodies that have some role in monitoring the plant’s ecological impact, but the agencies house the reports on their own websites. 

“Finding governmental records about public policy matters should not be a barrier to becoming an informed participant in these collective decisions,” Hammond said. “When we connect evidence directly to the claims and make that information publicly accessible as a resource, we can improve the public discourse.”

Hammond said a searchable, machine readable repository of government documents, with active links and a register of relevant government agencies, will dramatically increase meaningful access to the public’s information.

An international vision

The effort is an international one, and Canada has stepped forward as an early partner.

Canada has contributed crawls by the Library and Archives Canada of all the country’s government websites, as well as digitized microfilm and books from the Canadian Research Knowledge Network, Canadiana, and the University of Toronto.

Leslie Weir, librarian and archivist of Canada, spoke in support of the initiative. 

“We know by making our collection and work of government openly accessible, we will create a more engaged community, a community that participates in elections, school board meetings, in public consultations, and yes, even and especially in protests,” Weir said. “Access is the key to understanding. And understanding is the underpinning of democracy.”

Celebrating heroes

The festivities concluded with a tribute to Carl Malamud, recipient of the 2022 Internet Archive Hero Award. Corynne McSherry, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, presented the award. “Carl has always seen what the internet could be. He has dedicated his life to building that internet,” she said. “He is a true hero.”

Malamud said government information is more than just a good idea. “It is about the law. It is about our rulebook. It is the manual on how we, as citizens, choose to run our society. We own this manual,” he said. “We cannot honor our obligations to future generations if we cannot freely read and speak and even change that rulebook.”

Malamud urged the audience to get involved to realize the vision of Democracy’s Library and guarantee universal access to human knowledge. 

“This is our moment. We must build a distributed and interoperable internet for our global village. We must make the increase in diffusion of knowledge our mutual and everlasting mission,” Malamud said. “We must seize the means of computation and share their fruits with all the people. Let us all swim together in the ocean of knowledge.”

For more on Malamud’s career and contributions, read his profile here.

Introducing Democracy’s Library

Democracies need an educated citizenry to thrive. In the 21st century, that means easy access to reliable information online for all. 

To meet that need, the Internet Archive is building Democracy’s Library—a free, open, online compendium of government research and publications from around the world.

“Governments have created an abundance of information and put it in the public domain, but it turns out the public can’t easily access it,” said Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, who is spearheading the effort to collect materials for the digital library. 

By having a wealth of public documents curated and searchable through a single interface, citizens will be able to leverage useful research, learn about the workings of their government, hold officials accountable, and be more informed voters. 

Too often, the best information on the internet is locked behind paywalls, said Kahle, who has helped create the world’s largest digital library.

“It’s time to turn that scarcity model upside down and build an internet based on abundance,” Kahle said. There is a need for equitable access to objective, historical information to balance the onslaught of misinformation online.  

Libraries have long played a vital role in collecting and preserving materials that can educate the public. This mission continues, but the collections need to include digital items to meet the needs of patrons of the internet generation today.

Over the next decade, the Internet Archive is committing to work with libraries, universities, and agencies everywhere to bring the government’s historical information online. It is inviting citizens, libraries, colleges, companies, and the Wikipedians of the world to unlock good information and weave it back into the Internet.

Democracy’s Library will be celebrated at the October 19 event, Building Democracy’s Library, in San Francisco and online. 

Watch the livestream of Building Democracy’s Library:

The project is part of Kahle’s vision to build a better Internet—one that keeps the public interest above private profit. It is based on an abundance model, in which data can be uncovered, unlocked and reused in new and different ways. 

“We know there’s an information flood, but it’s not necessarily all that good,” Kahle said. “It turns out the information on the Internet is not very deep. If you know a subject well, you find that the best information is buried or not even online.”

Democracy’s Library is a move to make governments’ massive investment in research and publications open to all. 

Kahle added: “Democracy’s Library is a stepping stone toward citizens who are more empowered and more engaged.“

The first steps of Democracy’s Library are available online at https://archive.org/details/democracys-library.

2022 Internet Archive Hero Award: Carl Malamud

Photo by Kirk Walter.

Carl Malamud is a man with a mission: To make public information freely available to the public.

For more than three decades, Malamud has not just talked in theory about why government materials should be online—he has taken action to digitize and upload massive amounts of data himself. He is the reason many laws and judicial opinions, corporate filings and patents, Congressional hearings and government films are at the fingertips of the American people. 

“Our democracy, particularly today, depends on an informed citizenry, with so much misinformation and disinformation,” said Malamud, 63, founder of the nonprofit organization Public.Resource.Org. “We have to learn how our government works, what our fundamental values are, and we have to communicate that with our fellow citizens.”

Malamud is a disrupter for the public good.

His effort to unleash government data behind paywalls has put him at odds with many trying to profit from dispensing public records. Yet in case after case, Malamud is winning and adding to the body of open knowledge freely available online.

In recognition of his relentless work on behalf of the public interest, Malamud has been honored with the 2022 Internet Archive Hero Award.

The annual award is given to those who have exhibited leadership in making information available for digital learners all over the world. Previous recipients have included copyright expert Michelle Wu, librarians Kanta Kapoor and Lisa Radha Vohra, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and the Grateful Dead. His contributions will be celebrated the evening of October 19 at the Internet Archive’s Building Democracy’s Library event.

“Carl has spent his career getting public access to the public domain, bringing government information to everyone with no restrictions,” said Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle. “He’s been unwavering in his vision, seeing how the works of governments can be leveraged by everyone using this digital technology.”

Although he’s not in the civil service, Kahle said Malamud acts as a civil servant. He sides with advancing the public interest over corporate profits, and has been a pioneer in how to operate a nonprofit in the internet space. Malamud’s tenacity and drive is at the essence of what it means to be a hero, said Kahle: “Somebody who puts themselves at risk or in harm’s way to get their vision built.”

Early work

After studying the convergence of computers and communication in college, Malamud went to Washington, D.C., to work in public policy. Malamud developed an expertise in databases, networking, and technology to broadcast audio and video over the internet. In 1993, he started the nonprofit Internet Multicasting Service and ran the first radio station on the internet out of an office in the National Press Building. (An archive of his broadcasts from 1993-95 are available here.) 

One of Malamud’s early projects was putting corporate information from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission — the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system (EDGAR) online. This allowed investors, journalists and citizens to download information about SEC filings for free, rather than pay a fee to a private company.

The work was funded with a grant from the National Science Foundation, and with money left over from the project, Malamud put the databases from the U.S. Patent Office online. In each instance, Malamud had to first purchase the database from.

“I got a grant from the American people, to buy the data from the American people, so I could give it back to the American people,” said Malamud, who often uses such plain language in his arguments for unlocking information into the public realm.

Demonstrating by doing

Getting the SEC data online was a seminal event, said Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media, noting he and others were inspired by Malamud’s fearless “hacktivism” approach. “It was the beginning of the open government data movement,” he said. “I’ve always called Carl an unsung hero ever since that, because he’s the guy who started it all in motion.”

Faced with pushback from entities that say it’s too hard or it will take too long to put information online, Malamud moves forward and demonstrates it can be done affordably—and the public will use it. It was Malamud who set up the first internet demonstration in the White House during Bill Clinton’s presidency. He advised the administration, and others that followed, on technology policy and identified opportunities to make government records available online—and demonstrated it’s possible.

“Carl has an unwavering commitment to the core principle that citizens should have access to the law and to government documents….and he’s establishing an important legal precedent,” said Tom Kalil, former White House aide to President Clinton and President Obama. “He’s not just a public intellectual writing op-eds, but actually getting things done.’

A passion for changing systems

Malamud has also been a prolific writer. He is the author of nine books, including “Exploring the Internet,” all composed in long hand on paper. 

His writing caught the eye of John Podesta in the early 1990s, who was working for President Clinton and figuring out how to move from paper to digital archiving.

“Carl and I had a passion for [the idea] that public records should be public and electronic records should be preserved,” said Podesta. “Carl was both a pioneer and advocate for the power of the net as a democratic tool.”

Podesta said Malamud was a force on Capitol Hill trying to shape legislation, and when he started the Center for American Progress, in 2003, Podesta hired Malamud to be chief technology officer of the progressive think tank. “Carl is friendly and funny, but what really makes him effective is that he’s dogged and passionate. He wears that on his sleeve,” Podesta said. “He just gets right to the point, and I really admire that in him.”

From pushing for access to material from the Smithsonian Institution to the House of Representatives , Podesta said his single-handed influence is clear. “He’s really changed systems,” Podesta said. “He just won’t accept the status quo.”

Podesta said Malamud has had the most impact going right to the source of the data, trying to convince the entities to put information in the public domain.

“It’s extremely valuable in a democracy to make sure that people have not just theoretical access, but real access,” to information, Podesta said. “Oftentimes, the burdens are either bureaucracy or ridiculous charges to get public documents. No one challenges that, but Carl does.”

A battle for the ages 

In 2007, Malamud started Public.Resource.Org, based in Sonoma County, California. He has 18 people on contract and numerous collaborators, and works with a dozen pro bono law firms to advance the mission of the nonprofit. The organization operates with a grant from Arcadia (a charitable trust of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin) and donations from individuals. He appeals to players across the political spectrum with a variety of tactics: writing letters, making speeches, talking to officials in person, and, when necessary, filing lawsuits to challenge claims of copyright.

Recently, Malamud had a big win with a U.S. Supreme Court case (Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org) after he posted the Official Code of Georgia and was sued for copyright violations—a decision that has had a ripple effect across the country. For nearly a decade, he’s been embroiled in a legal fight to put building, electrical and other public safety codes with the force of law online.

“I look for things that should be available and are not,” Malamud said, then simply lays out why information should be free with clear, defensible reasons. “You have to have a story that makes sense.”

Malamud has worked at this cause like no one else, determined to make sure the public realizes what’s at stake when powerful people are concealing the world of knowledge, said David Halperin, a Washington, D.C., attorney. Halperin was with the Clinton administration and has been counsel to Public.Resource.Org since 2012. “He puts it on them to have to explain why their special interests are more important than global progress and democracy,” he said.

Halperin said Malamud is effective because he is relentless and shares his infectious love of democracy. “And, he is willing to be the person who, when everyone else says, ‘Shut up and get along,’ says: ‘No, this still isn’t right. I’m not going to be cuddly here. It’s time for me to be the moral voice, to be the energy in the room that says, Okay, everyone else may now feel it’s time to be collegial. I feel like it’s time to be just.’”

Corynne McSherry, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has represented Malamud in several cases and said he knows how to adjust his strategy to persuade others and be creative in his messaging.

“He tries to help people understand what it is he’s up to, because it’s not always clear to everybody,” McSherry said. “When you can’t see the world that the person is building towards, that person has to imagine it for you—and that’s the thing he does.”

Since Malamud was involved in the early days of the internet, he embraced the potential promise of the technology to open up knowledge, McSherry said.

 “We live in a nation of rules, and we should have the ability to actually know what they are,” McSherry said, although for a long time those rules were only available to experts with special access. “That changed. Pulling our governmental structures and all our laws into the 21st century is not a small task, but that’s what Malamud took on.”

Drawing inspiration from history

To make his case in the court of public opinion, Malamud has used humor and tapped into his artistic side. He produced a video about making building and electrical codes open, “Show Me The Manual,” and a short movie about his philosophy, “Open Access Ninja.” He speaks at conferences and universities, tailoring his message to attorneys, government workers, students, or fellow open advocates to advance his cause. The Internet Archive hosts a collection of his videos, texts and other materials online, as well as FedFlix, which includes government films Malamud uploaded and curated.

Malamud has expanded his efforts internationally, working with organizations in India to scan government and cultural information. His Public Library of India collections on the Internet Archive are some of the most popular India resources on the net.He’s become an Indian food expert, of sorts, too, said McSherry, and often expresses his gratitude to her and other attorneys working on his behalf by gifting them with Indian spices.

Since he began working in this space, Malamud said he’s encouraged to see more forward thinking about open data. Still, barriers exist. Most often, he said, he’s up against money and control. While Malamud said he’s making inroads in the power struggle, he said it’s “sort of Whack-A-Mole” with every win followed by another challenge popping up.

When he needs a little inspiration himself, Malamud said he reads from his library of writings from early American feminists and civil rights leaders. Sometimes he quotes Martin Luther King Jr. (“Change only comes with continuous struggle”) or Gandhi (“A public worker has to learn to endure with fortitude.’) 

A recurring lesson he’s gleaned from others in history who had fought against the establishment: “You can, in fact, change the way the world works—but you have to be patient. It takes time.”

Library Leaders Forum Recap

This year’s Library Leaders Forum kicked off on October 12 with news of promising research, digitization projects and advocacy efforts designed to best shape the library of the future.

The virtual gathering also called on participants to take action in sharing resources and promoting a variety of public interest initiatives underway in the library community.

Watch session recording:

Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries, moderated the first event of the 2022 forum with librarians, policy experts, publishers and authors. (A complete recording of the virtual session is available here) The second session will take place Oct. 19, live in San Francisco and via Zoom starting at 7 p.m. PT. (Registration is still open).

Libraries have a vital role to play in educating citizens, combating misinformation and preserving materials that the public can use to hold officials accountable. To help meet those challenges, Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle gave a preview of a new project: Democracy’s Library. The vision is to establish a free, open, online compendium of government research and publications from around the world.

“We have the big opportunity to help inform users of the internet and bring as good information to them as possible to help them understand their world,” said Kahle, who will launch the initiative next week and invited others to join in the effort. “We need your input and partnership.”

The virtual forum covered the latest on Controlled Digital Lending (CDL), the library practice that is growing in popularity in the wake of pandemic closures when physical collections were unavailable to the public. Freeland announced the 90th library recently joined the Open Libraries program, which embraces CDL as the digital equivalent of traditional library lending, allowing patrons to borrow one copy at a time of a title the library owns.

As librarians look for ways of safeguarding digital books, Readium LCP was highlighted as a promising, open source technology gaining popularity. Participants were encouraged in this same space to spread the word about the advocacy work of the nonprofit Library Futures, and recognize many authors who have recently offered public support for libraries, CDL and digital ownership of books.

Lila Bailey reported on an emerging coalition of nonprofits working on a policy agenda to build a better internet centered on public interest values. A forthcoming paper will outline four digital library rights that without which it would be impossible to function in the 21st century. They include the right to collect, preserve, lend and access material. This encouraging collaboration is the result of two convenings earlier this year, including one in Washington, D.C. in July.

CDL Community of Practice

A panel at the forum discussed projects within the CDL community of practice.

Nettie Lagace of the National Information Standards Organization gave an update on an initiative, funded by the Mellon Foundation, to create a consensus framework and recommendations on CDL. Working groups are focused now on considering digital objects, circulation and reserves, interlibrary loans and asset sharing. Public comments on the draft will be welcome in the coming months, with a final document likely released next summer.

Amanda Wakaruk a copyright and scholarly communications librarian at the University of Alberta, announced a new paper exploring the legal considerations of CDL for Canadian libraries. She is one of the co-authors on the research, along with others in the Canadian Federation of Library Associations. The preprint is available now and the final paper will be published soon in the journal, Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research.

Working with Project ReShare, the Boston Library Consortium is leveraging CDL as a mechanism for interlibrary loan. “BLC really believes that CDL is an extension of existing resource sharing practices, both in the legal sense–the same protections and opportunities afforded to interlibrary loan also apply to CDL,” said Charlie Bartow, executive director, “but, also in a services sense–that existing resource sharing systems and practices can be readily adapted to include CDL.”

Also, speaking in the session was Caltech’s Mike Hucka. He described efforts on his campus to provide students with learning materials when the pandemic hit by creating a simple model they named the Digital Borrowing System (DIBS).

In Canada, a large digitization project is underway at the University of Toronto, where 40,000 titles in the library’s government collection are being scanned and made available online for easier public access.

Take action

In the final segment, Freeland announced that Carl Malamud is the recipient of the 2022 Internet Archive Hero Award for his dedication in making government information accessible to all. Malamud will receive the Hero Award onstage at next week’s evening celebration, “Building Democracy’s Library.”

Freeland concluded the event with a final call to action: To join the #OwnBooks campaign. People are encouraged to take a photo of themselves holding a book they own that has special meaning, perhaps something that has influenced their career path or has sentimental value. As the Internet Archive fights for the right for libraries to own books, this is a chance to bring attention to the issue and build public support.

Internet Archive to Honor Carl Malamud with 2022 Hero Award

Carl Malamud, founder of Public.Resource.Org and a champion for making government information accessible to all, will receive the 2022 Internet Archive Hero Award. He will be presented the award at next week’s evening celebration, “Building Democracy’s Library.”

The Internet Archive Hero Award is an annual award that recognizes those who have exhibited leadership in making information available for digital learners all over the world. Previous recipients have included librarians Kanta Kapoor and Lisa Radha Vohra, copyright expert Michelle Wu, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and the Grateful Dead.

This year, the Internet Archive is honoring Carl as a tireless advocate for free access to government information. Some highlights of his work include: 

  • In the early days of the internet, Carl was a pioneer in pushing for public materials to be available online. Over three decades, he has digitized and uploaded thousands of documents from Congressional hearings, government films, and worked with the executive branch to shape public policy on information sharing.
  • He is to thank for EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system) Online, the free Securities and Exchange Commission database of corporate information and putting the database of U.S. patents on the internet. 
  • Carl is relentless in his ongoing quest to have detailed codes for buildings, product safety, and infrastructure available to the public on the internet.
  • He founded Public.Resource.Org, a nonprofit based in California in 2007. Several contractors and pro-bono attorneys work with him to unleash public information from behind paywalls—sometimes landing him in court to defend his actions, all done in the name of the public good.
  • Carl is known as a dedicated, passionate, principled individual whose creative strategies—and, at times, dose of humor and flair—have fueled his success in opening up access to public knowledge.

Carl has been a supporter of the Internet Archive since its inception. Much of his work appears in the Internet Archive collection including his book, “Exploring the Internet,” a movie, Open Access Ninja, about his philosophy with Public Resource.org and a video, “Show Me the Manual,” about making building and electrical codes available.

Join with us in celebrating Carl at Building Democracy’s Library on October 19.  Register now

Stay tuned for a full profile on Carl’s work and impact next week here on the Internet Archive blog.

New eBook Protection Software Gaining Popularity Among Publishers and Libraries

A new digital rights management (DRM) technology that is open source—and embraced by publishers—is gaining traction in the library eBook world. 

Readium LCP was developed five years ago to protect digital files from unauthorized distribution. Unlike proprietary platforms, the technology is open to anyone who wants to look inside the codebase and make improvements. It is a promising alternative for libraries and users wanting to avoid the limitations of traditional DRM. 

“It’s important to have a decentralized, open source system for lending and vending eBooks,” said Brewster Kahle, Internet Archive founder. “LCP is a new generation of software protection that is proving popular with both libraries and publishers.” 

LCP is a flexible, vendor-neutral, low-cost solution against over-sharing of content for eBooks, as well as audiobooks. The codebase is open source with the exception of an algorithm that protects the files.

“LCP was developed in conjunction with publishers to make sure it would meet their criteria to safeguard the content of their books,” said Brenton Cheng, senior engineer at the Internet Archive. “Yet, it’s an open format, and not tied to one particular company or commercial entity. In that spirit of openness, it’s available to anyone who wants to protect their content.” 


A number of leading publishers, libraries and book distributors have adopted LCP, including:

  • HarperCollins integrated LCP into its Harlequin Plus subscription service. 
  • Academic publisher John Libbey Eurotext has adopted LCP for its 2022 publications.
  • Stockholm Public Library has incorporated LCP into its Bibblix mobile app for young readers.
  • Numilog has deployed LCP for more than 500,000 eBooks in French & English.
  • BiblioVault adopted LCP in 2021, serving more than 90 scholarly presses & 40,000 books.
  • The Palace Project has integrated LCP into its mobile apps.

Source: LCP adopters


It’s a simple system that allows readers to access eBooks and audiobooks—and does not limit the selection of titles from a single source (as with Amazon or Apple). 

It offers a large freedom in the choice of a reading solution, keeps intact the accessibility of digital publications and does not leak personal data, says Laurent Le Meur, chief technology officer, with EDRLab, the open source software development laboratory which develops LCP and receives funding from publishers, eBooks distributors, libraries and public bodies.

With LCP’s structure, there is no need to go through a third-party source to be authorized to download a protected book. Therefore, there is no threat of personal information being compromised. LCP is interoperable by design and socially engineered to be a sustainable, nonprofit DRM solution. 

“Open source technologies like LCP protect authors and their works,” said Maria Bustillos, editor at The Brick House Cooperative, a publishing platform designed, owned and operated by journalists. “As a publisher committed to preserving traditional library rights, The Brick House looks forward to exploring the integration of LCP into our forthcoming projects.”

As a new technology, LCP is being used around the world with Europe and Canada leading the way. For organizations working on accessibility, LCP is the natural solution they have been waiting for, said Le Meur. In 2025, the EU Accessibility act will require all distributors of digital publications to offer accessible services and LCP is a DRM format that complies with the mandate. 

“LCP is appealing because it’s not locked,” Cheng said. “There’s a greater sense that it might last. It has more transparency and accountability because the source code is out there and available for anyone to see.”


Image by Freepik