Lawrence Lessig: Being a Citizen is a Public Office, too

In his latest book, Harvard law professor, Lawrence Lessig, issues a call to arms to fix our broken body politic–starting with “us.”

Why, you might wonder, is a famous Harvard Law professor and the founder of Creative Commons writing a book to wake us up to the fundamental problem facing our republic?

The simple answer:  Aaron Swartz.

Swartz, the free culture activist, and Lawrence Lessig were friends and collaborators. As Lessig recounted here in February, one day, Swartz came to visit him, challenging Lessig to combat the basic corruption of our political process. “But Aaron, it’s not my field, corruption. My field is internet, culture and copyright,” Lessig protested. Swartz countered, “As an academic? What about as a citizen?”

Photos by Patrick T. Power

That was in 2006. Thirteen years later on on a drizzly December night in San Francisco, Lawrence Lessig came to the Internet Archive where Swartz once worked, to frame the core flaw in our republic in a new way. It forms the central argument of Lessig’s latest book, They Don’t Represent Us. The “they” is of course our Congress—who aren’t representing our interests. “And Us. We the People. We don’t represent us,” he said to an audience of 300 listeners. 

Lessig began with a lesson in historical time. In Silicon Valley time, 20 years is an epoch—the Googlian Era one might call it. But in government, Lessig contrasted, 20 years can add up to nothing. Twenty years ago, he noted, climate change was acknowledged to be man-made and real; the Clinton administration proposed affordable health care; the mass shooters at Columbine killed 13 people. And two decades later, our government has passed not a single law that comprehensively addresses climate change, universal health care or gun control.  

Why? Because our elected representatives aren’t representing us. With the precision of a surgeon, Lessig took the stage to perform an autopsy on our body politic. Our diseases are well known: gerrymandering that empowers the political extremes, campaign funding that empowers the wealthy, the media that feeds us whatever sells best.

18 years ago, Lessig helped found the Creative Commons, a fundamental tool in making some creative works available for reuse—a foundation upon which of Brewster Kahle’s Internet Archive is built.

And yet, Larry Lessig says he is hopeful. “You know my brand.  My brand is pessimism. But I am optimistic.” In the coming election year, he reminds us that “being a citizen is a public office.” Even though the election will most likely be a “dumpster fire,” he told me, “We must steer the conversation beyond 2020, to more fundamental issues.” 

Lessig’s critique stands above party or personality. He urges us to challenge every candidate, blue or red, by saying:  “Tell me how you are going to fix this problem first, this corrupt system, first,” he said “If we are going to fix anything else, we have to take up that fight.”

To get involved, visit https://equalcitizens.us/

Read the New York Times review of “They Don’t Represent Us” here.

I’m Done Selling Sweaters. Instead I’m Selling a Vision I Believe In.

Jenica Jessen, Email Campaign Specialist at the the Internet Archive
Jenica Jessen, Email Campaign Specialist at the the Internet Archive

Eight months ago, I was miserable.

On paper, it seemed like everything should be going right. I was working long hours at a promising startup in a rapidly growing industry. My job was to use cutting-edge digital marketing technology to optimize email content; I worked to find the most compelling language possible, to tap into the phrasing and rhetoric that would inspire people and drive them to action. I was learning the craft of perfect subject lines and clickable links, honing my skill set, polishing my resume.

And I hated it.

My emails went to tens of millions of people, but I wasn’t really communicating with any of them. My carefully-tested copy drove thousands upon thousands of purchases, but I wanted to care about something more than some corporation’s bottom line. I was working with some of the most advanced communications tools in the world—and I was using them to sell sweaters.

That wasn’t me.

Let’s go back a decade or so. The high school I attended wasn’t especially distinguished. Our football team was mediocre; our debate team didn’t win championships. The one thing that Riverton High was good at—the thing that made us unique—was Silver Rush.

Riverton High School students caroling in 2010 (courtesy of Jenica’s yearbook).

Silver Rush was our annual holiday fundraiser. (The name was a play on “gold rush;” our mascot was the silverwolf.) Every year, we would pick a charity that helped underserved members of our community: newly-arrived refugees, homeless teens, domestic violence victims. The whole month of December was dedicated to raising money for them. And at that, we excelled.

The great thing about Silver Rush was that it brought the whole school together, and everyone found ways to help out. The choir had a benefit concert. The food science class sold baked goods. The track team did a “fun” run in 20-degree weather. I shoveled snow in exchange for donations, and sang holiday songs outside the local grocery store, and gathered spare change. There were so many events and volunteer opportunities that most nights, I didn’t get home until 8 or 9 PM (and that was before homework). For me and my classmates, the whole month of December dissolved into a cocoa-fueled haze of sleep deprivation, caroling, and the camaraderie that comes from advancing a good cause.

A lot of other schools in the area tried to emulate Silver Rush. Our biggest rival, Bingham High, had a perennial goal of raising more money than we did. But the attempts to create a rivalry missed the point entirely, because the thing that made Silver Rush great was that we weren’t competing with anybody.

Our slogan was “It’s not about the dollars, it’s about the change.” Everyone took it to heart—and the first proof was that nobody knew how much we’d raised until after the fundraiser was over. We weren’t trying to show off; we weren’t trying to prove anything; we were trying to make the world a better place. My senior year we set a new record, raising over $129,000 for children who needed wheelchairs.

A Riverton High School student seeing the final amount Silver Rush raised in 2012.

But it wasn’t the numbers that made Silver Rush the highlight of my high school years. It was the feeling of making a difference.

So by the time 2019 rolled around, as I was working for that digital marketing firm, I couldn’t help but feel that I’d lost my way somehow. I was creating campaigns that earned millions of dollars at a time, but each big win felt a little empty. I couldn’t shake the sense that there was more that I could—should—be doing to give back to society. And I was so sick of writing subject lines about sweaters.

So seven months ago, I applied for a job at the Internet Archive.

What I found at the Archive was something radically different from the world of marketing startups. It was a team with a vision—not of venture capital funding and IPOs, but of a great library for all. It was work with a purpose—not synergy or hypergrowth, but preservation, education, accurate information. And it was an organization that survived not on e-commerce but on people’s goodwill—the dedication of countless volunteers, archivists, librarians, and programmers, as well as thousands of donors big and small.

December at the Internet Archive is a busy time. We launch our end-of-year fundraising drive right around Thanksgiving, and chaos ensues. Everyone is scrambling to make sure that our donation systems work and our banners are up to date, that the letters are sent and the events are organized, that the checks are counted and the newsletter goes out on time. The days are a haze of coding, camaraderie, and—yes—sleep deprivation. This month, I’ve been working long hours; I’ve been trying to craft perfect subject lines; I’ve been looking for ways to inspire people and drive them to action. And I couldn’t be happier.

Just a few of the Internet Archive team members who’ve pitched in to help with fundraising this year.

If you’ve seen an Internet Archive email in your inbox lately—a newsletter or an event announcement or a donation request—I’m the one who put it there. I’m done selling sweaters. I’m selling a vision instead.

It’s a vision of a world without disinformation, a world where verifiable facts are just a click away. It’s a vision of a great library for all, where the best that humanity has ever produced is freely available. It’s a vision of universal access to all knowledge.

So far this year, thousands of people have joined in supporting that vision, chipping in a few dollars to keep the servers running and the lights on. And it’s a privilege to read your comments, and hear your stories, and see the direct impact that your support has on the mission of the Archive.

My favorite moment, so far, came near at the beginning of our fundraising drive, when I happened to check the donations tally. The number is constantly changing, but for one brief moment, I saw it hit exactly $129,000. The same amount we raised for Silver Rush during my senior year of high school.

And for that moment, it felt like the entire world had lined up just right—like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.


If you’d like to contribute to the Internet Archive, please visit archive.org/donate. You can also show your support by getting the word out on social media or telling your friends and family about our work. We’re grateful for everyone in our community—we couldn’t do it without you.

The Public Domain Line is Moving Again – One Year Later

Guest post by Professor Elizabeth Townsend Gard

When I was about 20, I fell in love with the love of Vera and Roland, British youth that loved to chat and write about books, Oxford, and love. Roland would go to war. Vera would go to Oxford. They would meet a few times, kiss a few times, and get secretly engaged. He had leave at Christmas 1915. She waited by the phone. His sister called instead. Roland had been killed a few days earlier. Vera was never the same. She became a nurse, and she would write about Roland, her brother, and their two friends, along with her own experiences for the rest of her life. For a long time, she was the only woman recognized as writing about the Great War. I sought to find other women’s stories and compare them to the stories of men. And I did. But I also ran into copyright issues that drove me to law school, to study duration of copyright, and to wait. The wait took over 20 years, but the opening of the U.S. public domain will now be in its second year. Books from 1923 came into the public domain last year, and books from 1924 come into the public domain as of 2020.

Scholars, and especially biographers, have choices: get permission from the families of copyrighted works, rely on fair use, or use public domain works. When I started my dissertation, most of the works I was using as a World War scholar, looking at the war generation writing throughout the 20th century about their experiences (although I didn’t know it), were in the public domain. But before I filed my dissertation, the world had changed. In 1996, foreign works that had previously been in the public domain were suddenly restored by the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, including most of Vera Brittain’s works. In 1998, the Copyright Term Extension Act was passed, freezing the public domain for 20 years. I would be hooded in the Spring of 1998.

When I started my work, many of the books from the 1920s had come into the public domain because they didn’t have proper © notice, or they weren’t renewed in their 27th year. But as of 1996, that was no longer true with the foreign works that were still under copyright in their home country. This included Vera who had all of her works restored, even the ones no one really cared or knew about. Most who were writing about the war had survived through 1918, and many of the great artists and authors lived until the 1970s. All of their works were restored automatically. For a European historian, the world was quite bleak. All of our source materials for the most part were restored and therefore not easily included in scholarly articles and dissertations.

Now, as of 2019, the world is moving again. Works from 1923 were released into the public domain last year. That included Vera Brittain’s The Dark Tide (1923), published in England. And now, her second novel, Not without Honour (1924) comes into the public domain in 2020. The war generation books, generally published 1925-1932 will soon be flooding our public domain. And this matters tremendously.

While Internet Archive has many books that are available through their lending system—books that we have access to and read, and while Section 108(h) allows libraries to copy and disseminate non-commercially available books in the last twenty years of their term, this does not allow scholars the freedom to use the books without fear of threats, or use of more than a judge might think acceptable under fair use. This is particularly problematic for biographers, who tend to rely on some sources in ways that families may threaten with a lawsuit (think the Schloss case with the Joyce estate) or publishers that may feel uncomfortable relying on fair use.

In the last twenty years, fair use has developed into a robust tool. Maybe that was partly because the published public domain was frozen? And we’ve taken strides in Best Practices and other means to make fair use vibrant and usable. Much of the work that I was doing would clearly be covered under fair use today. The world is very different from when I was writing about Vera Brittain and her ghosts in the 1990s. I would probably not have gone to law school. But it is still important that works come into the public domain, and that’s the story we are here to tell.

And so, on the second anniversary of the opening of the public domain again, I am re-reading The Dark Tide and Not Without Honour, and looking forward to the books that should shortly come into the public domain in the future. I’m also very excited to sift through the Internet Archive collection for hidden gems – books written in 1923, 1924, and even anticipating the new additions in 2021 from 1925. Oh, the possibilities!

Here’s some of the works I’m particularly excited about, that are part of the war generation, Vera’s generation that I studied so long ago:

  • Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit (1924) and Poriot Investigates (1924) (she learned about poisons while working as a nurse in the war, and her husband, Archie Christie flew planes);
  • Winifred Holtby (Vera’s best friend), The Crowded Street (1924),
  • A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young (1924) and we get the first appearance of Pooh in the poem “Teddy Bear” (1924) (Milne was also in the Great War), and
  • The first novel of Ford Maddox Ford’s Parade’s End series, titled Some Do Not, to name a few.

And it’s not just novels and poetry, its art. Käthe Kollwitz’s War series, 1923 also came into the public domain last year.

A Chasm: US versus the rest of the world

Because of our nutty U.S. system – for works first published before 1978, the term is 95 years from publication, many foreign works will be in the public domain for many years in the United States before they are out of copyright in their home country. Take, David Jones’ “The Garden Enclosed” (1924).

Currently the photograph of David Jones’ painting found on the Tate website has the following copyright information: © the estate of David Jones/Bridgeman Images. You have to license the use. But as of January 1, 2020, the work is in the public domain in the U.S., and so you do not have to get permission to use the painting or an image of the painting. It will remain under copyright in Great Britain through 2044.

But the joy of the public domain in the U.S. is more than the great works; it is also the ephemera – the photographs in newspapers, postcards, films and so much more that have been locked up because they were restored as foreign works. All of these works are now coming into the public domain, and it is glorious. As of January 1, 2020, any work published anywhere in the world before 1925 is in the public domain in the United States.

One of the best features of the Internet Archive is that you can add a filter to any search of the publication year. So, as you search, check “1924”. It doesn’t matter whether the works were published here or in the US, whether they were renewed or had proper notice. They are now in the public domain in the U.S. for all to enjoy unfettered and without restriction.

So, I encourage you to go play on the Internet Archive site and around the world in search of new public domain treasures. Just remember, these works are in the public domain in the U.S. They may be (and likely are) still under copyright in other places around the world.

Elizabeth Townsend Gard holds a Ph.D in European History from UCLA, and is a Professor of Law at Tulane University, where she focuses on the intersection of law and culture, and in particular the role of law in creativity in copyright and trademark. Her work includes the invention of the Durationator, and the host of the popular research podcast, Just Wanna Quilt, exploring the art, craft and copyright of an industry. She is currently a Lepage Entrepreneur Faculty Fellow at the A.B. Freeman School of Business, and the Greenbaum Fellow at the Newcomb Institute, both at Tulane University.  For more information on the Durationator and determining copyright can be found at www.durationator.com.

Preserving the legacy of a library when a college closes

I feel that, sadly, the College is closing, but the library is not. It is re-emerging in a different form.” —Mary Kickham-Samy, Director of Geschke Library, Marygrove College

In June of this year, Marygrove College announced that the graduate college, located in Detroit, would close on December 17. 

Original entrance to Marygrove College Geschke Library

Founded in 1905 by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary congregation (SSIHM, or IHM for short), the college has operated out of its Detroit campus for 92 years. Facing financial difficulties in 2017, the college closed its undergraduate programs, but continued to offer its graduate programs in education, human resource management, and social justice. Unfortunately the college was unable to attract the additional students required to keep programs in operation, and the decision to close was made this spring.

Beyond the challenges of what would happen with the grounds and buildings (which will continue to be used for educational purposes), a key question for administrators was “What will happen to the library?” With more than 70,000 books and nearly 3,000 journal volumes, the Geschke Library is a well-curated, world class collection with strengths in the humanities, education, and social justice. The collection reflects the strong historical and cultural influences of the city of Detroit, bringing a uniquely African-American perspective into the light. After a thorough review of possible options, Marygrove College President Dr. Elizabeth Burns and college administrators decided that the entirety of the library’s collection would be donated to the Internet Archive so that the materials could be digitized and made available to students and researchers all over the world.

View of Marygrove College Library Research & Technology Commons

I had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Burns and Mary Kickham-Samy, Director of Geschke Library, by email about the work they are doing to ensure that the legacy of Marygrove College will live on.  What follows is a poignant reflection on the library’s closure with an optimistic view towards its digital future, and what it means for the local Marygrove College community and scholars across the globe.

Chris Freeland: Dr. Burns, how did Marygrove College determine that Internet Archive was the best home for the collection?

Elizabeth Burns: The College explored several options for the disposition of the collection. We wanted to preserve as many books as possible and also be true to the IHM ideal of sustainability and care for the Earth (IHM is our sponsoring order of Catholic nuns, based in Monroe, MI). We didn’t want the majority of the volumes to end up in a landfill. The concept of both preserving the collection and having it available to all was endorsed by the Board. While some are grieving the removal of the book and materials, most welcome the idea of online availability. In this way, the collection that was carefully built over the years by Sisters Claudia and Anna Mary, along with other library directors, will live on. We are pleased to have this as a legacy.

What does it mean for students anywhere in the world that the library will continue to be available online?

Burns: Marygrove College has always been committed to education and outreach.  Our sponsoring congregation, the IHMs, have started schools all over the world. Our graduates have also taught in many parts of the world. To have the collection available to students means that the Marygrove mission will continue.  We hope that our collection, especially the Detroit collection and the Social Justice collection will be of use to scholars and to students of all ages.

How about from your perspective as a librarian, Mary? What does it mean for researchers that the library will still be available?

Mary Kickham-Sandy: Students everywhere will not only gain free access to a wealth of information and resources, but they may also gain a greater awareness of the legacy of Marygrove College, as well as the culture and history of Detroit.  Also, many local libraries in Michigan do not have the scope of books about Michigan that Marygrove has. So, by digitizing the Marygrove Library collection, Michigan students will have greater access to resources about their state.

Mary, as a fellow librarian myself, it’s difficult to consider closure.  What’s it like to close a library? 

Kickham-Samy: When I began my career as a librarian in 1998, I did not imagine that one day I would be responsible for closing a library, especially one as mature, robust, and cherished as the Geschke Library of Marygrove College. I feel that, sadly, the College is closing, but the library is not. It is re-emerging in a different form.

What considerations were you making about the collection?   

Kickham-Samy: I had two main concerns: the legacy of Marygrove College and the cultural importance of the Library to the neighborhood and the larger community of Detroit. A couple [of] community members expressed discomfort with the idea that the Library would be removed from the neighborhood and from the city.  I consulted with librarians at Wayne State University (WSU) about the possibility of housing the Detroit and Michigan books in the WSU library system. However, after some discussions, we reached a consensus that the collection would be more accessible in a digitized format.

Dr. Burns, I’m sure that Marygrove College’s closing was extremely difficult news for your alumni. What does it mean to alums that the library will continue to be available online?

Burns: When this possibility was announced at the all-class reunion in September, they were overjoyed. They feared that the collection would be lost forever. The fact that it will continue to be available as a living legacy is important to them.

Finally, to both of you, what is your hope for the collection?

Burns: My hope is that it will be useful for scholars and for students across the globe. I also hope that some will be curious about the College and the IHMs and will read the College’s history and understand the work done in Detroit for over 90 years. The work of education goes on and I’m grateful to the Internet Archive for allowing us to participate in this important endeavor.

Kickham-Samy: My hope is that the Internet Archive will elegantly display the depth, breadth, and beauty of the Marygrove College Library collection. I hope that those who view our collection will not only find the information they seek, but will also witness and appreciate the College mission to promote social justice through activism, a theme that runs through the development of the collection from its early days until its final one.

Postscript

A portion of Marygrove College Library received at Internet Archive

Last month a crew organized by the Internet Archive packed and moved the contents of the library into 5 shipping containers and sent them to our Physical Archive facilities in Richmond, California.  Yesterday the first container of books was sent to be digitized in our scanning facility, with the resulting digital books appearing online in 2020. While we mourn the closure of Marygrove College, we are grateful to play a role in preserving the legacy of Marygrove College and the Geschke Library for generations to come

Lawrence Lessig : “They Don’t Represent Us” – Conversation & Book Signing — Tuesday, December 17 at 6pm

Please join us at the Internet Archive’s San Francisco Headquarters on Tuesday, December 17th at 6 pm to hear a titan of Internet law, political reformer and “the most distinguished law professor of his generation,” Lawrence Lessig discuss his new book They Don’t Represent Us.

RSVP Here Free, but Donations Welcome

Lawrence Lessig won’t be coming home, exactly, when he appears at the Internet Archive for a talk about his latest book, They Don’t Represent Us, on Dec. 17th. The Harvard professor will be coming to a place, however, where he should feel extremely comfortable. He has made defining the rules of the internet one of his life’s causes, and that nicely intersects with the Internet Archive, which exists as a treasure trove of the internet’s history that sits at the intersection of technology, law and culture.

Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, has seen many distinguished visitors drop by at his organization’s San Francisco offices, but Lessig’s evening promises to be special. Kahle says he is honored to have Lessig stop by to provide insights into his latest book. “Lawrence Lessig, a hero of mine, brings clear messages of what needs fixing and how we might do it, and do it by working together,” Kahle said. “I am looking forward to his new book.”

Lessig’s history in print is as an author who doesn’t waste time getting to the point. Before his publishers intervened, he’d wanted to title the book An Essentially Unrepresentative Representative Democracy. Briefly a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, he wasn’t able to gain sufficient traction in his goal of instituting campaign finance and electoral reforms.

With the publication five weeks ago of They Don’t Represent Us, he tackles those subjects again. He has particularly harsh words for gerrymandering, the process by which federal and state representatives manipulate the boundaries of electoral constituencies to maximize the benefit of those crafting the boundaries and to suppress minority votes.

One complaint is that only about a dozen so-called swing states are ever in play in presidential elections, that these states get upward of 90 percent of candidates’ time and money, and that these states, being mostly older and whiter, don’t well represent the nation as a whole. He points out that there are 7½ times as many people working in solar energy as there are working in mining coal, but you don’t hear about those solar energy jobs much during presidential campaigns because those people are from non-swing states like Texas or California. The coal mining jobs are in many of the swing states.

Lessig says representatives in safely gerrymandered districts are more in danger of defeat from members of their own party in primaries. And that, Lessig argues, leads to the extremes in both the Republican and Democratic parties being amplified.

He proselytizes for modifications to the Electoral College, which recently has put two men, George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016, into the presidency despite losing the popular vote. His suggestion is to ditch the winner-take-all systems used by most states in presidential elections in favor of proportionally allocating electors.Doing so, he says, would make winning votes in Utah equally important as winning votes in California despite the difference in populations, making presidential candidates need to care about all states instead of what Lessig calls “Swing State America.”

Doors will open at 6pm. The discussion will start at 7pm and will be followed by a reception. Signed copies of book will be available for sale.

Date: Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Time: 6:00-9:00 pm
Where: Internet Archive
300 Funston Ave. SF, CA 94118

Schedule:
6pm – Reception
7pm – Conversation
8pm – Reception/Book Signing

GET YOUR FREE TICKET HERE

Top 10 Reasons to Support the Internet Archive

DONATE NOW TO SUPPORT THIS NON-PROFIT LIBRARY FOR ALL

Today, the Internet Archive launches is End of Year Fundraising Campaign. We’re lucky to have a 2-to-1 Matching Grant for the next few weeks, so your impact will be tripled if you give today. Of the 1.1 million people who use the Internet Archive each day, only a tiny percentage donate. Why give? Here are ten great reasons to support the Internet’s non-profit library for all:

#1. The Wayback Machine has fixed 11 million broken links in Wikipedia, making the web more reliable.

#2. We’re home to the live recordings of the Grateful Dead. (And 7800 other bands!)

#3. The Internet Archive is working with the people of Bali to keep their culture and language alive by scanning and transcribing the world’s largest online collection of Balinese Palm Leaf manuscripts.

#4. In our Music Collection, you can now read the liner notes for John Coltrane’s album with Johnny Hartman and many LPs and CDs.

#5. Readers! You’re borrowing half a million books each month with complete reader privacy. That’s among the 3.8 million online books we have to choose from.

#6. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Only the Shadow knows…along with listeners of our Old Time Radio collection.

#7. Super Munchers and 2500 other MS-DOS games you can play in your browser.

#8. What was the sound of America from 1898 to 1960? Just listen to our 150,000 78rpm recordings. Including 4172 polkas to dance to!

#9. The superpowers of Free-range archivist, Jason Scott.

#10. Information you can trust has never been more important. Our mission is to preserve the best knowledge of humankind and share it with everyone.

If you listen to music and radio, read books, play vintage video games, or reference past web sites at the Internet Archive, we ask that you chip in and help keep us going strong in 2020! Don’t forget, we have a 2-to-1 matching grant, so if you donate $5 it becomes $15 for the Internet Archive today.

DONATE NOW

Archiving Online Local News with the News Measures Research Project

Over the past two years Archive-It, Internet Archive’s web archiving service, has partnered with researchers at the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of Minnesota and the Dewitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at Duke University in a project designed to evaluate the health of local media ecosystems as part of the News Measures Research Project, funded by the Democracy Fund. The project is led by Phil Napoli at Duke University and Matthew Weber at University of Minnesota. Project staff worked with Archive-It to crawl and archive the homepages of 663 local news websites representing 100 communities across the United States. Seven crawls were run on single days from July through September and captured over 2.2TB of unique data and 16 million URLs. Initial findings from the research detail how local communities cover core topics such as emergencies, politics and transportation. Additional findings look at the volume of local news produced by different media outlets, and show the importance of local newspapers in providing communities with relevant content. 

The goal of the News Measures Research Project is to examine the health of local community news by analyzing the amount and type of local news coverage in a sample of community. In order to generate a random and unbiased sample of communities, the team used US Census data. Prior research suggested that average income in a community is correlated with the amount of local news coverage; thus the team decided to focus on three different income brackets (high, medium and low) using the Census data to break up the communities into categories. Rural areas and major cities were eliminated from the sample in order to reduce the number of outliers; this left a list of 1,559 communities ranging in population from 20,000 to 300,000 and in average household income from $21,000 to $215,000. Next, a random sample of 100 communities was selected, and a rigorous search process was applied to build a list of 663 news outlets that cover local news in those communities (based on Web searches and established directories such as Cision).

The News Measures Research Project web captures provide a unique snapshot of local news in the United States. The work is focused on analyzing the nature of local news coverage at a local level, while also examining the broader nature of local community news. At the local level, the 100 community sample provides a way to look at the nature of local news coverage. Next, a team of coders analyzed content on the archived web pages to assess what is being covered by a given news outlet. Often, the websites that serve a local community are simply aggregating content from other outlets, rather than providing unique content. The research team was most interested in understanding the degree to which local news outlets are actually reporting on topics that are pertinent to a given community (e.g. local politics). At the global level, the team looked at interaction between community news websites (e.g. sharing of content) as well as automated measures of the amount of coverage.

The primary data for the researchers was the archived local community news data, but in addition, the team worked with census data to aggregate other measures such as circulation data for newspapers. These data allowed the team to examine the amount and type of local news changes depending on the characteristics of the community. Because the team was using multiple datasets, the Web data is just one part of the puzzle. The WAT data format proved particularly useful for the team in this regard. Using the WAT file format allowed the team to avoid digging deeply into the data – rather, the WAT data allowed the team to examine high level structure without needing to examine the content of each and every WARC record. Down the road, the WARC data allows for a deeper dive,  but the lighter metadata format of the WAT files has enabled early analysis.

Stay tuned for more updates as research utilizing this data continues! The websites selected will continue to be archived and much of the data are publicly available.

7th Annual Aaron Swartz Day at the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is hosting a FOIAPOLOOZA to celebrate Aaron Swartz and to provide a yearly showcase of his many interests. Aaron’s work focused on civic awareness and activism and we will spend Saturday together keeping his prescient vision alive.

Doors are open for the hackathon and the daytime programming on Saturday at 10 am. The reception will be on Saturday evening at 6:00 pm with the main program starting at 8 pm with a music and dance party afterward.

FOIAPALOOZA:  Aaron filed many FOIA requests and inspired lots of journalists, including the now-legendary Jason Leopold, to use them as a tool for evidence-based journalism. So we decided to focus on FOIA and public records requests at this year’s San Francisco event. We aim to not only teach folks how to file their own requests but also to let them dig into the information we have received back from the 200+ requests we filed this last year with our Police Surveillance Project. FOIAPALOOZA speakers include Tracy Rosenberg & Mike Katz-McCabe from Oakland Privacy — an organization that just won an EFF Pioneer Award! — as well as Freddy Martinez from Lucy Parsons Labs, Ryan Shapiro from Property of the People and Brewster Kahle and Tracey Jaquith from the Internet Archive.

Get Tickets Here

Saturday, November 9, 2019
10:00 am Doors Open for Hackathon and Daytime Programming
11:00 am Programming starts
6:00 pm Reception
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Internet Archive
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For the Love of Literacy–Better World Books and the Internet Archive Unite to Preserve Millions of Books

Better World Books

Announced today, Better World Books, the world’s leading socially conscious online bookseller, is now owned by Better World Libraries, a mission-aligned, not-for-profit organization that is affiliated with longtime partner, the Internet Archive.  This groundbreaking partnership will allow both organizations to pursue their collective mission of making knowledge universally accessible to readers everywhere. This new relationship will provide additional resources and newfound synergies backed by a shared enthusiasm for advancing global literacy. Together, the two organizations are expanding the digital frontier of book preservation to ensure books are accessible to all for generations to come.

This new relationship will allow Better World Books to provide a steady stream of books to be digitized by the Internet Archive, thereby growing its digital holdings to millions of books. Libraries that work alongside Better World Books will now make a bigger impact than ever. Any book that does not yet exist in digital form will go into a pipeline for future digitization, preservation and access.  According to Brewster Kahle, Founder and Digital Librarian at the Internet Archive, “The Better World Books origin story is inspiring, and the service they provide to libraries is invaluable. These are our kind of people. We share their values, and we are proud to partner with Better World Books and libraries around the world to promote the goal of universal access to all knowledge.” 

Better World Books was born in 2003, when a group of recent college graduates sold their used textbooks online. Their success eventually led to the creation of a revolutionary new business model where used books are collected primarily from libraries, booksellers, colleges, and universities in six countries and then are either resold online, donated or recycled. To date, Better World Books has donated almost 27 million books worldwide, has raised close to $29 million for libraries and literacy, and has saved more than 326 million books from landfills. With the backing of the not-for-profit Better World Libraries, Better World Books will enhance these valuable services to libraries and readers. 

According to Jim Michalko, former president of The Research Libraries Group, Inc., and a Better World Books board member, “This new relationship is a win for the library community. One of the biggest challenges facing libraries today is responsibly removing materials from their shelves so they can bring in more desirable materials or repurpose space to fit community needs. Better World Books has always been a trusted partner in this activity. Now, libraries can provide books to Better World Books knowing that a digital copy will be created and preserved if one doesn’t yet exist. That’s responsible collection management.” 

The Internet Archive has long been committed to digitizing books and library materials so they can be accessed by users all over the world. Through digitization, these materials can be used by researchers in large-scale, data-driven computing investigations, preserved in both digital and physical form, and where appropriate, loaned to readers. 

Dustin Holland, the newly appointed President and CEO of Better World Books, underscores, “We exist to make a difference in the world, and our customers make that possible. We are honored to join the Internet Archive family, and our partnership allows us to extract the maximum value out of every book we collect at scale, while continuing to delight readers all over the world.”

Better World Books remains the bookstore that customers know and love, with its operations now enhanced for the services it offers to libraries and readers alike. Shop with confidence and help us celebrate this exciting new partnership with a 10% discount on purchases made through the end of the year using discount code “BWBIA”. At checkout, you will have an opportunity to round up your purchase amount to benefit the Internet Archive and directly support our mission.

For more about the Internet Archive click here. For more about Better World Books click here.