Category Archives: Event

“Hello (again), World!” SF Party Tuesday June 15 6p – 8:30p

Don’t know how to celebrate the end of your quarantine? Come join us in commemorating the Re-Opening of California with a small-scale outdoor BBQ at the Internet Archive featuring music from the consciousness-expanding San Francisco Airship. FREE!

Let’s dance into a Summer of Love.

The San Francisco Airship – Susan J Weiand

Tuesday June 15 

6p – 8:30p (weather permitting)

300 Funston Side Yard (at Clement)

  • Hot Dogs, Veggie Dogs, Chips 
  • Tours of the Internet Archive
  • The Amazing Kraynork will amaze with walk around magic tricks
  • Masks and hand sanitizer will be provided
  • CDC guidelines can be helpful on mask use (but keep the distance you are comfortable with)

RSVP HERE

Burning the Books: A Conversation with Richard Ovenden & Abby Smith Rumsey

Please join us on June 14th at 11am PT for a virtual book talk with Richard Ovenden, about his book Burning the Books: A History of the Deliberate Destruction of Knowledge, which has been shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize.

GET YOUR FREE TICKET HERE

Richard is joined by Abby Smith Rumsey, writer and historian, as they discuss the history of intentional recorded knowledge destruction. The conversation will be followed by a Q&A.

Buy a copy of Burning the Books through our local San Francisco bookstore, The Booksmith.

Richard Ovenden is Bodley’s Librarian at the University of Oxford, the senior executive officer of the Bodleian Libraries, a position he has held since 2014. His previous positions include Deputy Head of Rare Books at the National Library of Scotland, the Head of Special Collections and Director of Collections at the University of Edinburgh, and he held the Keepership of Special Collections at the Bodleian from 2003 to 2011, when he was made Deputy Librarian. He has been active in both the worlds of rare books and the history of photography, serving as Chairman of the Rare Books and Special Collections Group of CILIP, and Secretary of the Scottish Society for the History of Photography. He is currently a Trustee of the Kraszna Kraus Foundation, and of Chawton House Library. He is the author of John Thomson (1837–1921): Photographer (1997) and co-editor of A Radical’s Books: The Library Catalogue of Samuel Jeake of Rye (1999) and has contributed essays to the Cambridge History of Libraries, The Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland, and the History of Oxford University Press.

Abby Smith Rumsey is a writer and historian focusing on the creation, preservation, and use of the cultural record in all media. She writes and lectures widely on analog and digital preservation, online scholarship, the nature of evidence, the changing roles of libraries and archives, and the impact of new information technologies on perceptions of history, time, and identity. She is the author of When We Are No More: How Digital Memory is Shaping our Future (2016). Rumsey served as director of the Scholarly Communication Institute at the University of Virginia and has advised universities and their research libraries on strategies to integrate digital information resources into existing collections and services. For over a decade, Rumsey worked with the Library of Congress’s National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) in the development of a national strategy to identify, collect, and preserve digital content of long-term value.

REVIEWS:

A call to arms to protect and preserve knowledge. A fine and moving book which ranges widely across time and acts as a reminder of the importance of libraries to our culture.” — Wolfson History Prize judges

Essential reading for anyone concerned with libraries and what Ovenden outlines as their role in ‘the support of democracy, the rule of law and open society.”―Wall Street Journal

[Burning the Books] takes a nightmare that haunts many of us―the notion of the past erased―and confirms that it is no fiction but rather a recurring reality. In the process, Ovenden stays true to his calling, reminding us that libraries and librarians are the keepers of humankind’s memories: without them, we don’t know who we are.”―Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

Chronicles how libraries have served as sanctuaries for knowledge under constant threat, and what that means for the present and the future…Shows that when knowledge in print is threatened by power, it’s people pledged to the printed page, rather than armies, who step in…Made clear to me just how vulnerable libraries really are. When we don’t properly fund them, we risk lies becoming the truth, and the truth becoming a joke.”―Slate

Game Not Over! Fireside chat and panel with John Carmack

On Wednesday, June 23rd, please join us for the special virtual event Game Not Over with John Carmack. For decades, gaming has been one of the central driving forces behind technological progress in the digital age—from increased storage and memory needs to advancements in graphic capabilities, and even how we interact with and socialize around media and each other. How has this medium morphed and changed, and more importantly, how do we preserve this reflection of our culture into the future?

The virtual event will include a virtual fireside chat with John Carmack, independent AI researcher and Consulting CTO to Oculus/Facebook. A panel discussion will follow with Garry Kitchen, Industry Consultant and President/CEO of Audacity Games; Kelsey Lewin, Co-Director of the Video Game History Foundation; Kate Willært, Geek Culture Historian and Founder of A Critical Hit!; and Internet Archive’s Free-Range Archivist Jason Scott. Join us as they take a unique look at the past and present of the gaming industry, as well as why the Internet Archive is key to understanding its history.

This event is an Internet Archive fundraiser. Admission will go towards the long-term preservation of our software collection and our mission of providing universal access to all knowledge. Tickets will sell quickly, so reserve your spot today!

GET TICKETS

About the Speakers

John Carmack is an independent AI researcher and Consulting CTO to Oculus / Facebook. As a founder of Id Software in 1991, he built many of the pillars of today’s game industry—the first-person shooter genre, 3D accelerated rendering, network gaming, and user-generated content. In 2000, he founded Armadillo Aerospace, working part-time to design and build reusable rocket ships, both manned and unmanned.  In 2012, the modern era of virtual reality began with his demonstration of Doom 3 running on Palmer Lucky’s Rift prototype at E3.

John Carmack was inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame in 2001, awarded two Emmy® awards for his work in graphics technology in 2006 and 2007, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the GDC in 2010, and in 2016 was awarded the prestigious BAFTA Fellowship Award.

Garry Kitchen is a renowned entrepreneur and toy/video game designer. Kitchen’s hit games include Donkey Kong (Atari 2600), Keystone Kapers, Garry Kitchen’s GameMaker (1985), and Bart (Simpson) vs. the Space Mutants. Garry’s awards include Designer of the Year, Video Game of the Year, SPA Excellence in Software, and a Webby Award. His work is addressed in many documentaries, including World 1-1, Atari: Game Over, Batteries Not Included, The Artists, and Unlocked: The World of Games, Revealed. Kitchen serves on the Advisory Board of the National Video Game Museum (nvmusa.org).

Kelsey Lewin is a video game historian and the co-owner of retro game store chain Pink Gorilla Games in Seattle, Washington. She has been with The Video Game History Foundation since 2017, and currently serves as its co-director.

Kate Willært was born on the same day as the Famicom. Today she creates articles, infographics, and videos about geek culture history, with a focus on video games and comic books. She’s written for Polygon, VGHF, and Heidi MacDonald’s The Beat, but most of her work can be found on ACriticalHit.com.

Jason Scott is the Free-Range Archivist at the Internet Archive. Since 2011 he has assisted in the acquisitions of many different items into the Archive’s stacks, as well as being the Software Curator, in charge of the incoming vintage software items being added to the Archive. Besides his archiving work, Jason has also been a documentary filmmaker, interviewing hundreds of people across 15 years for three major documentaries (BBS, GET LAMP, DEFCON) and has also run a podcast of his own, Jason Scott Talks His Way Out of It, since 2018.

Event Recap: Why Trust a Corporation to Do a Library’s Job?

Although people are increasingly turning to Google to search for information, a corporate search engine is not the same as a trusted librarian. And while libraries are used to buying and preserving books, they are now often unable to buy and own digital materials because of publisher licensing restrictions.

The tension between the interests of business and the public was the focus of a conversation hosted by the Internet Archive and Library Futures on April 28. Wendy Hanamura moderated the event with guest panelists Joanne McNeil, author of Lurking: How a Person Became a User; Darius Kazemi, an internet artist and cofounder of Feel Train, a creative technology cooperative in Portland, Oregon; and Jennie Rose Halperin, executive director of Library Futures.

A recording of the event is now available:

Doing an online Google search can feel private because you are doing it alone at home, but corporations are accumulating your information and using it, said McNeil. The tools involved are imperfect and there are trade-offs involved.

“The experiences that a user has on the internet can be quite profound, creative, and very human,” McNeil said. “But to participate with a lot of the social media and websites, especially nowadays, you are dealing with corporations and you don’t have the elements of control.”

In Lurking, McNeil traces the evolution of the internet and how it has profoundly changed the way people communicate. She also examines concerns that people have online including privacy, safety, identity and anonymity. In the book, McNeil contrasts the short-term memories of companies with the preservation mission and public accountability of libraries.

Kazemi noted that working with librarians on research there is an understanding of privacy—something that is lacking when engaging online. “It’s a totally different accountability chain,” he said.

Rather than giving your personal information away on a social media network, Kazemi advocates having individuals or even libraries maintain small, independently-run online communities (see https://runyourown.social).

“Facebook can’t understand norms of what passes for civic discourse in every location on the planet. It’s impossible,” Kazemi said. “Libraries already spend time thinking about the norms of their communities,” making it natural to have content moderation at the local level.

Halperin said it’s important for public libraries to have autonomy to be able to fulfill their mission. Her work with the nonprofit Library Futures centers on advocacy for an equitable publishing ecosystem that serves authors, users and communities.

“Artificial scarcity that’s put on digital objects—as a way to create a market for digital books—is really hurting the public,” she said. “I think it’s one of the most important consumer protection issues right now.”

McNeil said the best thing to happen to her, as an author, is for people to read her book. Whether buying or borrowing from a library (in print or electronically), she wants to reach the largest audience.

The panelists said by working together, libraries can provide tools that reflect the public’s values and teach users smart digital citizenship. When corporations control what people have access to in searching, they are embedding bias into the distribution of information, said Halperin. “Libraries must engage in more than just individual information seeking needs, but also in the information seeking needs of communities.”

Calls Intensify to Allow Libraries to Narrow Digital Divide

Watch Video

At an event discussing disinformation and the digital divide, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon said he was committed to supporting a balanced copyright system that promotes fair use, digital lending, and the work of libraries.

“Libraries provide vital public services by making high quality resources available to everybody. And that’s true no matter what you’ve got in your bank account or your zip code,” said Wyden, noting he is the son of a librarian.  “If the system is filled with draconian copyright laws and digital restrictions that make it hard for real news to be read, shared, and discussed, that particular vacuum is filled with more misinformation and lies.”

Wyden’s remarks were part of the webinar, Burying Information – Big Tech & Access to Information, sponsored by the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown University, Public Knowledge and Library Futures on March 24. A recording of the event is now available.

Big special interests have always pushed for tighter restrictions on content, Wyden said, and now powerful corporations are trying to get a tighter grip on the internet. He cautioned that the proposed Digital Copyright Act is not the answer, saying he would fight for more balanced intellectual property laws and support libraries to provide easy, free access to reliable information from trustworthy sources.

“We’re seeing a change in the environment, which means you still need a card to get access to books, but it’s no longer a library card, it’s increasingly a credit card.”

Heather Joseph, Executive Director, SPARC

“We want a game with many winners. We want to have many authors, publishers, booksellers, libraries—and everyone a reader,” said Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle at the event. “The only way to do that is to have a level playing field that doesn’t have monopoly control.”

The pandemic has underscored the need for digital content to be readily available to the public. Libraries should be able to lend and preserve just as they have with print materials for years, however, many large publishers refuse to sell e-books to libraries and instead have restrictive licensing agreements.

“We’re seeing a change in the environment, which means you still need a card to get access to books, but it’s no longer a library card, it’s increasingly a credit card,” said Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC, a global advocacy organization working to make education and research open and equitable by design for everyone. “We really need interventions that work to combat that shift, to flip that dynamic.”

To expand access to knowledge, Internet Archive has been digitizing the materials and respectfully lending them one copy at a time through Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) since 2011. The widespread practice is embraced by more than 80 libraries as part of Internet Archive’s Open Libraries program, and is growing across the country in various implementations elsewhere as demand increases.

“If you actually take a look at how [CDL] operates, the lending function is really no more and no less than what libraries are able to do in print. It’s just changed formats,” said Michelle Wu, an attorney and law librarian who pioneered the concept of CDL. The practice can serve people who aren’t able to physically get to a library because they live in a rural area, have a disability that limits transportation, work odd hours, are ill or quarantined during a pandemic. Libraries want to reward authors for creating their works, but also ensure the public has access to those works, Wu said.

It would be a better use of public funds for libraries to be able to purchase ebooks, rather than paying repeatedly for licensing fees, said Wu. Also, a library that digitizes its collection ensures access in an emergency, such as a pandemic, and preservation in the case of a natural disaster, saving the government money in having to replace damaged materials.

To counter disinformation, the public needs reliable information—and libraries are at the center of this battle, said SPARC’s Joseph.

“We can’t amplify content that we can’t access. And that’s really at the root of what libraries do for society,” Joseph said. “We’ve always been the equalizer in providing access to this high-quality information.” Rather than libraries being a trusted and critical distribution channel, they are being treated by publishers as adversaries, which Joseph said is a dangerous trend.

The discussion touched on a variety of remedies including legislative protections to enshrine practices like CDL, antitrust regulations, and building market competition. The work of Library Futures was highlighted as an avenue for concerned citizens to raise their voices and panelists underscored the need for action that reflects the best interest of the public.

“This is not just an inconvenience, it’s not just an additional expense to us as consumers. It’s creating an enormous divide in who can access critical knowledge,” Joseph said of publishers’ actions to restrict access to digital content. “The right to access knowledge is a human right. And a world in which one player—or worse a company—decides who’s in and who’s out is unacceptable.”

Register Now: A (re)Introduction to Book Scanning at the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive has been partnering with libraries to digitize their collections for more than 15 years. Following a recent viral video featuring our book digitization efforts, and increased demands for e-resources, we’ve had renewed interest in our book scanning partnerships, with libraries wondering how we might be able to help them reach their patrons through digitization. Join scanning center managers Andrea Mills and Elizabeth MacLeod for a virtual event to learn about the ways in which the Internet Archive can help turn your print collections digital, and the impacts that these digital collections are having on remote learners.

Registration for the virtual event is free and open to the public. The live session is being offered twice to accommodate schedules and flexibility; if you are interested in joining, you only need to register for one session:
March 24 @ 10am ET / 2pm GMT
March 25 @ 1pm ET / 5pm GMT

Register Now: New Developments in Controlled Digital Lending

Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) is growing in popularity, as is the community of practice around the library lending model. Next week, join Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries at the Internet Archive, for a one-hour session covering new developments in CDL. Attendees will learn how libraries are using CDL, the emerging community around CDL, and the impacts of the library practice.

Register now
Registration for the virtual event is free and open to the public. The live session is being offered twice for your scheduling flexibility; if you’d like to join, you only need to register for one session:

Watch ahead
If you’re new to Controlled Digital Lending and would like to brush up before the session, check out the short video, Controlled Digital Lending Explained.

Mythbusting Controlled Digital Lending: Community Rallies to Fight Misinformation About the Library Practice

Academics, legal experts, and authors explained the thoughtful reasoning and compelling need for libraries to engage in Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) at a webinar hosted by the Internet Archive and Library Futures on February 11. A recording of the session is now available.

The panel dispelled myths about CDL, the digital lending model in which a library lends a digital version of a print book it owns. Emphasizing the limited and controlled aspect of the practice, the speakers said CDL allows libraries to fulfill their mission of serving the public in the digital age. The global pandemic only underscores the importance of providing flexibility in how people can access information.

Isn’t CDL digital piracy? No, CDL is not like Napster, said Kyle K. Courtney, copyright advisor at Harvard University, referring to the music file-sharing service. Twenty years ago, the actions of Napster were ruled illegal because it made unlimited reproductions of MP3 music to anyone, anywhere.

“CDL uses technology to replicate a library’s right to loan works in a digital format—one user at a time,” Courntey said. Libraries are using rights they already have, leveraging the same technology as publishers to make sure that the books are controlled when they’re loaned—not duplicated, copied or redistributed.

“Libraries are not pirates. There is a vast difference between the Napster mission and the library mission,” Courtney said. “We can loan books to patrons. Only now we’re harnessing that right in the digital space.”

In laying out the rationale behind CDL, Courtney described the “superpower” granted to libraries by Congress through copyright law to serve the public. The “fair use” section of the law allows libraries to responsibly lend materials, and experts say logically includes both print and digital works.

The webinar featured the premiere of “Controlled Digital Lending Explained,” a short video that describes how CDL works.

The idea of “fair use” has been around as long as there has been copyright, and it applies to new technologies, said Michelle Wu, attorney and law librarian at the webinar. The Internet Archive did not invent CDL. Wu is the visionary behind CDL, developing the concept in 2002 as a way to protect a library’s print collection from natural disaster—an imperative she faced in rebuilding a library destroyed by flooding.

Just as libraries lend out entire books, fair use allows the scanning of whole books, said panelist Sandra Aya Enimil, copyright librarian and contract specialist at Yale University. The law makes no mention of the amount of material that can be made available under “fair use,” so for libraries to fulfill their purpose they can make complete books—whether in print or digital—available to patrons, she said.

It’s a myth that librarians need author and publisher permission for CDL, explained Jill Hurst-Wahl, copyright scholar and professor emerita in Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. “Authors and publisher control ends at the time a book is published, then fair use begins,” she said. “Once a work is legally acquired by you, by a library, the copyright owners’ rights are exhausted.”

Library lending is viewed as fair use, in part, because it is focused on socially beneficial, non-commercial outcomes, like literacy, said Hurst-Wahl. Also, libraries loan physical books without concern about the market effect—so the same rules apply if a digital version of the book is substituted.

CDL does not harm authors or publisher sales, the panelists emphasized. Indeed, it can provide welcome exposure.

“The reality is that CDL can help authors by enhancing discoverability, availability and accessibility of their works,” said Brianna Schofield, executive director of Authors Alliance, speaking at the event. “It helps authors to spread their ideas, and it helps authors to build their audiences.”

Many of the books that are circulated by CDL are rare, out-of-print books that would otherwise be unavailable. This source material can be useful for writers as they develop their creative works.

“Digital and physical libraries contribute to a healthy publishing ecosystem and increase sales and engagement for creative works,” said Jennie Rose Halpin, executive director of Library Futures, a newly formed nonprofit coalition advocating for libraries to operate in the digital space. Research shows that leveraged digitization increases sales of physical additions by about 34% and increases the likelihood of any sale by 92%, particularly for less popular and out-of-print works.

Because digitized versions can be made more readily available, CDL can extend access to library collections to people with print disabilities or mobility issues, the panelists noted. CDL also allows libraries to preserve material in safe, digital formats with the best interest of the public—not profits—at the center of its work.

“People love books and will buy if they’re able. But we have to remember that paper books and even some ebooks do not serve the needs of all readers,” said Andrea Mills, digitization program manager at the Internet Archive and lead on the Archive’s accessibility efforts. “Accessibility is a human right that must be vigilantly protected.”

For anyone interested in learning more about how to get involved with CDL, the Internet Archive now has 2 million books available to borrow for free, and an active program for libraries that want to make their collections available through CDL. 

“The CDL community of practice is thriving,” said Chris Freeland, director of Open Libraries at the Internet Archive.  “We are in a pandemic. Libraries are closed. Schools are closed. CDL just makes sense and solves problems of access.”

 To learn more about CDL, and to show your support for the library practice, join the #EmpoweringLibraries movement.

Public Domain Day Short Film Contest Highlights Works of 1925

A still from the winning submission Danse des Aliénés (Dance of the Insane), featuring actress Greta Garbo.

Filmmakers responded with enthusiasm and creativity to a call from the Internet Archive to make short films using newly available content from 1925 in celebration of Public Domain Day. They discovered a new freedom in being able to remix film clips with Greta Garbo, magazine covers with flappers, and sheet music from standards like “Sweet Georgia Brown” – all downloadable for free and reusable without restriction.

For the contest, vintage images and sounds were woven into films of 2-3 minutes that conveyed a sense of whimsy, nostalgia, and humor. While some were abstract and others educational, they all showcased ingenuity and possibility when materials are openly available to the public.

 “The Internet Archive has spent  24 years collecting and archiving content from around the world…now is the time to see what people can do with it,” said Amir Saber Esfahani, director of special arts projects at the Internet Archive. He was a judge in the December short-film contest along with Carey Hott, professor of art and design at the University of San Francisco, and Brewster Kahle, digital librarian and founder of the Internet Archive.

The judges reviewed 23 entries and chose a winner based on creativity, variety of 1925 content (including lists of all sources), and fit for the event (fun, interesting and captivating). These new creative works may also be available for reuse, as indicated by the license term selected by the creator.

First place: Danse des Aliénés

Joshua Curry, a digital artist from San Jose, won first place for his submission, Danse des Aliénés (Dance of the Insane), in which he layers pieces of film on three panes with images rising and falling music to “Dance Macabre” (Dance of Death) performed by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. The format was inspired by the poem dramatized in triptych in the short film In Youth, Beside the Lonely Sea.  His creation included flashes of Greta Garbo, ghosts from Koko Sees Spooks and colorful designs flowing in and out of the frames.

Curry, who has been making experimental videos since the 1980s, says the project was a perfect fit for his artist techniques, where he likes to stress and transform film in new ways. His film had a glitchy, broken feel that is in line with the aesthetic he often uses (See his other work at lucidbeaming.com.)

“I wanted it to be evocative and for people to appreciate it as a stand-alone piece of art,” says Curry, 49. “My visual goal was to produce something challenging that a wide variety of people could connect to – despite being mostly abstract and sourced from 95-year-old content.”

Filmmaker Joshua Curry.

While Curry’s studio is modern and full of electronic equipment, working with the 1925 content and hearing music with cartoonish voices making novelty, popping sounds their cheeks was a welcome break. “One day when I was choosing the music, I was driving around the city listening to songs and felt like I was transported back in time,” Curry says.

He says it was also a pleasure to have easy access to the public domain content without commercial gatekeeping or legal obstacles, which he often encounters with digital material he wants to remix. As it happens, Curry just completed a class in multimedia copyright. He says he works hard to operate within the rules because he wants his video creations to survive online and not be taken down because of copyright infringement allegations.

Having the works for this project in the public domain meant less time trying to get the content and more time to focus on the creative process. “It was like being a little kid who was told he couldn’t have cake and then one day saying: ‘Dive in!’,” Curry said of the access to the 1925 material in the Internet Archive.

Receiving the contest’s top honors was particularly meaningful, says Curry, because he works in Silicon Valley where the Internet Archive has “great nerd cred” and is a library that people revere.

“I was proud to win with weirdness,” Curry says. “My piece was abstract, without narration or titles, and an authentic tribute to the pioneering work of the experimental films I made use of.”

To learn more about Curry’s inspirations and to hear from him directly, watch the director’s commentary that was captured during the Public Domain Day event.

Second place: Vanishing Ink

Second place went to Alaro Brandon for Vanishing Ink, a film with a montage of clips from 16 movies including The Last Laugh and Hold My Baby and four songs: “Norwegian Dances,” “Song of the Vagabonds,” “I Want to be Happy” and “Hawaiian Ripples.”

Third place: Fashion of the 1920s

Arden Spivack-Teather, 12, and Sissel Ramierz, 13, both of San Francisco, won third place for their short film, Fashion of the 1920s. It traces the evolution of women’s clothing from tight-fitting styles that required corsets to drop-waisted, loose dresses popularized by flappers. “Women could finally be chic and comfortable at the same time,” the film notes. “Every time you notice a fabulous flowing frock, thank the 20s.”

Watch Fashion of the 1920s.

Arden found out about the contest through her mom, Cari Spivack, a staff member at the Internet Archive, and decided to partner with her friend, Sissel, a classmate since kindergarten who she had collaborated with for a winning science fair project in fifth grade. On Zoom and FaceTime, the girls looked through old McCalls magazines and decided to focus on the changing style of women’s clothing.

From left, filmmakers Arden Spivack-Teather and Sissel Ramirez.

“It was really fun to use our creativity and find things that would look good together,” said Arden, who had never before made a film. Although the research, script and editing were a challenge, she says she hopes to do it again.

Spivack said she enjoyed seeing her daughter explore the material in the Archive, giggling and musing at the kitchen table about the tonics and ads she discovered. “It was exactly what I was hoping would happen — that they would be gripped by fascination of a time period that was long gone. They could travel back and learn on their own, paging through a magazine just like someone their age would have in 1925.”

The diversity of approaches people had with the films was impressive, added Spivack.

“It’s a good introduction to what can be done with old materials. You can use them to learn and to educate others. Or you can reuse them to make something that’s completely unexpected or never seen before,” Spivack said. “As archivists everything is important. But you don’t know why until you see what it can turn into or what it informs in the future.”

Honorable mentions

  • Yo Hey Look! by Adam Dziesinski, which pieced together film clips where something caught an actor’s eye, from a baby in a wicker stroller to a woman with a bob haircut dancing to a man in a Bowler hat laughing.
  • Michaela Giles made a time-lapse film of her using oil pastels, pencils, paints, and pens to draw a profile of a woman gracing the front of a vintage publication in 1925 Magazine Cover Recreation.
  • Public Domain Day by Subhashish Panigrahi explained the basics of how copyright works with text interspersed with cartoon clips, colorful paintings, and magazine covers.
  • 25 Dad Jokes from 1925 by Anirvan Chatterjee was a compilation of jokes gathered from vintage middle school and high school yearbooks from Iowa, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Oregon, California.  Among the corny humor: “Why is the ocean so angry? It’s been crossed too many times,” and “What are the three most often words used in school? I don’t know.”

The films were shown at the December 17 Public Domain Day virtual party, where the creators were asked to discuss their projects in breakout room discussions. You can view a livestream of the event here.

Internet Archive Celebrates Public Domain Day

Leaders in the open world, intellectual property & social justice came together with hundreds of supporters to celebrate the works moving into the public domain in January 2021. Livestream available.

Professor Kevin J. Greene offered an “Ode to the Public Domain” during last week’s Public Domain Day celebration. Watch the full stream now.

The Internet Archive celebrated the upcoming release of works created in 1925 for unrestricted use, from the jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown” to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic The Great Gatsby, at a virtual party December 17.

The gathering marked Public Domain Day, January 1, when copyright will be lifted from an array of movies, books, and other works of art produced 85 years ago. A quartet played a medley of songs that will enter the public domain in 2021; the winning entry of a short film contest was shown, paying tribute to works from 1925; and a panel of copyright experts and open advocates discussed today’s information sharing landscape. Watch the celebration now on the captured livestream.

“Why openness? To make the world more equitable, promote social justice, and to find answers in times of pandemic,” said Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. “Public domain gives freedom to enjoy, freedom to share, freedom to fly. It is the gold standard of openness.”

A robust public domain is essential for the future free knowledge, said Katherine Maher, chief executive officer of the Wikimedia Foundation and guest panelist. More than just artifacts of the past (old movies, painting, and books), the public domain includes government works, 3D models of asteroids, and massive data sets to help people better understand the world.

 “We all benefit when work enters the public domain and when people choose to dedicate things to the common good – whether it’s art or research or data,” Maher said. “When these works become available for public access and use, everyone can participate in culture and knowledge and we can begin to address vast inequities.”

The recent release by the Smithsonian of nearly three million images and data into public domain was a “big win,” noted Catherine Stihler, chief executive officer of Creative Commons. However, the community needs to remain vigilant.

“We still have to fight the good fight and push back against misguided proposals to extend copyright and ways that lock up our shared cultural heritage,” Stihler said.  

We all benefit when work enters the public domain and when people choose to dedicate things to the common good – whether it’s art or research or data…

Katherine Maher, Wikimedia Foundation

Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) said the fastest development of a vaccine in history demonstrates the value of open.

“Access to knowledge is a fundamental human right,” Joseph said. “There has never been a moment in time when the need to promote and protect our ability to quickly and freely share science has been more urgent…For all darkness of 2020, to witness this amazing progress powered by openness has provided some really welcome light.”

The public domain was designed to empower everyone – regardless of economic or political status – to give access to knowledge and all of its building blocks from data to facts, ideas to theories to scientific principles, said Joseph.

Still, there is a history of copyright being used to exploit African Americans and other marginalized communities, as opposed to a tool of benefit and empowerment, said Lateef Mtima, professor of law at Howard University School of Law, and founder and director of the Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice.

“For the intellectual property system to work properly, it has to adhere to social justice obligations, principles of equitable able access, inclusion and empowerment for everyone,” said Mtima. “The way we get to create new works is to make sure everyone has an opportunity to be exposed to as many works as possible in the first place, because then they become inspired to produce new work.”

The Public Domain Day celebration reflects a positive inflection point in the social justice trajectory of copyright. With digital technology, there is a way to make the rich harvest of public materials available to everyone. But in order to do this, Mtima emphasized the need for broad societal investment in conquering the digital divide.

Amplifying some of the inequities, Kevin Green, chair and professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, shared an “Ode to the Public Domain” that he wrote for the event. 

As part of the celebration, Amir Saber Esfahani announced the winner of the Public Domain Day Short Film contest: Danse des Aliénés (Dance of the Insane), an entry that incorporated music and images into a video collage paying tribute to works of 1925.

“A Toast to the Pubic Domain” by Martin Kalfatovic, Smithsonian Libraries & Archives. Watch the livestream now.

Wrapping up the evening, Kyle K. Courtney, a copyright lawyer and librarian at Harvard, mixed a Gin Rickey, a cocktail mentioned in The Great Gatsby. Then, Martin Kalfatovic, associate director of digital programs at the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, offered a toast:

“Here’s to the progress of science and the useful arts, the explosion of creativity remixed in multiple formats. And as the new year passes again and again, we replenish the cup of our public domain.”

Added Kahle: “Public Domain Day is a fabulous holiday that should be enshrined forever. Long live the public domain and the community that supports it.”

A full livestream of the event is available for viewing.