How data surveillance, digital forensics, and generative AI pose new long-term threats and opportunities—and how we can use them to make better decisions in the face of technological uncertainty.
Book Talk: The Secret Life of Data April 18 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET ONLINE Register now!
“I have been waiting a long time for a clearly written book that cuts through the hype and describes how data—big and small, old and new—actually operate in our lives. Neither utopian nor dystopian, The Secret Life of Data just tells it like it is.” —Siva Vaidhyanathan, Professor of Media Studies, The University of Virginia; author of Antisocial Media and The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry)
In The Secret Life of Data, Aram Sinnreich and Jesse Gilbert explore the many unpredictable, and often surprising, ways in which data surveillance, AI, and the constant presence of algorithms impact our culture and society in the age of global networks. The authors build on this basic premise: no matter what form data takes, and what purpose we think it’s being used for, data will always have a secret life. How this data will be used, by other people in other times and places, has profound implications for every aspect of our lives—from our intimate relationships to our professional lives to our political systems.
ARAM SINNREICH is an author, professor, and musician. He is Chair of Communication Studies at American University. His books include Mashed Up,The Piracy Crusade, The Essential Guide to Intellectual Property, and A Second Chance for Yesterday(published as R. A. Sinn).
JESSE GILBERT is an interdisciplinary artist exploring the intersection of visual art, sound, and software design at his firm Dark Matter Media. He was the founding Chair of the Media Technology department at Woodbury University, and he has taught interactive software design at both CalArts and UC San Diego.
DR. LAURA DENARDIS is Professor and Endowed Chair in Technology, Ethics, and Society and Director of the Center for Digital Ethics at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. Her book The Internet in Everything: Freedom and Security in a World with No Off Switch (Yale University Press) was recognized as a Financial Times Top Technology Book of 2020. Among her seven books, The Global War for Internet Governance (Yale University Press) is considered a definitive source for understanding cyber governance debates and solutions. Professor DeNardis is an affiliated Fellow of the Yale Information Society Project, where she previously served as Executive Director, and is a life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds engineering degrees and a PhD in Science and Technology Studies, and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from Yale Law School.
Book Talk: The Secret Life of Data April 18 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET ONLINE Register now!
Join us for a VIRTUAL book talk with author Joanne McNeil about her latest book, WRONG WAY, which examines the treacherous gaps between the working and middle classes wrought by the age of AI. McNeil will be in conversation with author Sarah Jaffe.
This is the first Internet Archive / Authors Alliance book talk for a work of fiction! Come for a reading, stay for a thoughtful conversation between McNeil & Jaffe about the labor implications of artificial intelligence.
WRONG WAY was named one of the best books of 2023 by the New Yorker and Esquire. It was the Endless Bookshelf Book of the Year and named one of the best tech books by the LA Times.
“Wrong Way is a chilling portrait of economic precarity, and a disturbing reminder of how attempts to optimize life and work leave us all alienated.” —Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire
For years, Teresa has passed from one job to the next, settling into long stretches of time, struggling to build her career in any field or unstick herself from an endless cycle of labor. The dreaded move from one gig to another is starting to feel unbearable. When a recruiter connects her with a contract position at AllOver, it appears to check all her prerequisites for a “good” job. It’s a fintech corporation with progressive hiring policies and a social justice-minded mission statement. Their new service for premium members: a functional fleet of driverless cars. The future of transportation. As her new-hire orientation reveals, the distance between AllOver’s claims and its actions is wide, but the lure of financial stability and a flexible schedule is enough to keep Teresa driving forward.
Joanne McNeil, who often reports on how the human experience intersects with labor and technology brings blazing compassion and criticism to Wrong Way, examining the treacherous gaps between the working and middle classes wrought by the age of AI. Within these divides, McNeil turns the unsaid into the unignorable, and captures the existential perils imposed by a nonstop, full-service gig economy.
JOANNE MCNEIL was the inaugural winner of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation’s Arts Writing Award for an emerging writer. She has been a resident at Eyebeam, a Logan Nonfiction Program fellow, and an instructor at the School for Poetic Computation. Joanne is the author of Lurking: How a Person Became a User.
SARAH JAFFE is an author, independent journalist, and a co-host of Dissent magazine’s Belabored podcast.
Book Talk: Wrong Way by Joanne McNeil February 29 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET VIRTUAL Register now!
Once upon a time, Liz Gotauco fell in love with fairy tales. That is, making videos while retelling them with some quirky twists.
By day, Gotauco is a full-time public librarian in Rhode Island. On nights and weekends, she creates content for TikTok, Instagram and YouTube under the name Cosbrarian (a portmanteau of “cosplay” and “librarian”). Gotauco takes a traditional fairy tale or folk tale, writes her own scripts, and films herself telling it — often wearing costumes and using props to make it come alive.
To find the original fairy tales, many of which are in books that are out of print, Gotauco often uses the Internet Archive. She lists her more than 100 stories and sources on her website.
“It has been invaluable to me to have an easily accessible resource like the Internet Archive at my fingertips,” Gotauco said. “Sometimes I’m writing my content on the fly—but I don’t want my time constraints to compromise my research. Being able to quickly find a reputable source is such a gift, especially to those of us without academic library access.”
In her saucy, darker, and wilder versions of fairy tales for adult audiences, she weaves in humor and commentary. Gotauco likes to feature lesser-known folklore from a variety of cultures for her series, “Around the World in 80 Folk Tales.” Many of these books are old and no longer on library shelves, but she often finds them at the Internet Archive.
“I was blown away that there was so much in the collection,” she said. Gotauco recently found Inuit folk tales and stories from Latin America that she adapted. Her online audience also requests stories from their home countries, and she is intentional about representation in her work.
Once she discovers books in the Archive, Gotauco said she then sometimes buys a copy to add to her collection at home.
Gotauco started as a freelance content creator in 2021. It has almost become a part-time job, as she produces about two videos a week, which are available for free to viewers.
“The responses I’m most happy to get are when I make people laugh,” she said. “Especially since I started during the early pandemic, some people were like, “Wow, I just really needed to smile today and this did it for me.’”
Gotauco is busier these days, but plans to continue producing new content and hopes material continues to be available through the Archive to support her endeavor.
“Fairy tales have always been a part of my life. It’s been nice to indulge in that interest and find other people whose interests are the same,” said Gotauco, who has enjoyed tapping into her love for theater. “It’s partially a performance piece, as well as storytelling. I’ve been able to merge my two personas: the theater kid Liz and librarian Liz.”
Hundreds of people from all over the world gathered together on January 25 to honor the thousands of movies, plays, books, poems and songs that recently entered the U.S. public domain.
Steamboat Willie, Walt Disney’s 1928 animated film featuring Mickey Mouse, had top billing at the virtual event. Literature now free from restriction for reuse includes Orlando by Virginia Woolf and Tarzan Lord of the Jungle by Edgar R. Burroughs. Sound recordings from 1923 (released on a different schedule) joined the public domain such as ”Down Hearted Blues” by Bessie Smith and ”Who’s Sorry Now” by Isham Jones Orchestra.
“There’s so much to rediscover and to celebrate,” said Jennifer Jenkins, director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School. For example, the release of The Great Gatsby into the public domain in 2021 inspired a creative flurry — new versions of the novel from the perspective of different characters, a prequel telling the backstory of Nick Caraway, a young adult remix, and song. “From the serious to the creative, to the whimsical to the wacky, these are all the great things we can do…now that [these works] are in the public domain and free to copy, to share, to digitize and to build upon without permission or fee.”
The winning film from the Public Domain Day 2024 Remix Contest was shown as well: “Sick on New Year’s,” by Ty Cummings. Every year since 2021, this contest has invited artists to remix works from its collection to showcase new and creative uses of public domain materials. Fifty films were submitted to this year’s competition, according to Amir Esfahania, artist in residence at the Archive. Learn more about the finalists or watch all the submissions in our recent blog post.
“Celebrating the public domain is not just about vintage references and period-appropriate clothing. It’s about understanding history to inform the present day,” said Lila Bailey, Internet Archive senior policy counsel and co-host of the virtual festivities. “We think there should be time set aside every year to celebrate the immense riches that free and open culture provides to everyone.”
While federal holiday recognition (like MLK Day or Presidents’ Day) for the public domain is unlikely, there was a discussion of an advocacy campaign for establishment of a commemorative Public Domain Day (more along the lines of National Data Privacy Day or National Whistleblowers Day).
“It only requires a simple resolution in the Senate with high chances of recognition,” said Amanda Levendowski, director of Georgetown Law School’s Intellectual Property and Information Policy Clinic. “Prospects for passage are way better than possible. About 80 percent of proposals are passed — and maybe next year, Public Domain Day will be among them.”
Experts said a successful drive for the designation will require a collaborative effort. A kickoff event will be held February 29 in New York City, hosted by Library Futures, executive director Jennie-Rose Halperin announced.
AI and the Public Domain
The online program also featured a panel discussion on generative artificial intelligence, copyright and artist expression. Experts weighed in on just what should be the copyright status of the outputs of generative AI.
Now, AI tools can turn text or simple descriptions into images that are genuinely new and often look like exactly the kind of things that people get copyrighted if a human made them, explained Matthew Sag, professor of law, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science at Emory University.
“The copyright office is quite clear that to get copyright, you have to have human authorship. So something created entirely by an unsupervised machine is not eligible for copyright,” Sag said, noting that the courts have recently agreed. “The interesting question is what about when humans are using AI as a tool and directing the output. This is where the controversy really is.”
Timm said she started using generative AI in 2021 and thinks the copyright office should cover works that have results from it. She has trained AI models on her own physical work and then created something new collaborating with the machine, as well as conceptualized how to blend different pieces of work in a collage or sculpture.
“I use it almost as a notebook,” Timm said. “If I have a concept or an idea about something on the go, I can immediately prompt that and have it as a placeholder to explore it later.”
As a filmmaker and musician, Maxximillian said she feels passionate about AI and it has saved her time creating animated characters and helping refine her text. “As a professional artist, I rely on copyright to keep viable the works that I produce for clients legally,” said Maxximillian. “It’s important to understand that copyright protection enables the creator to be a steward of that work. The question to consider: Who benefits by denying copyright on AI? I think nobody benefits.”
An open access publisher, Juliana Castro Varón, design director and founder of Cita Press, also addressed the issue. “I believe that AI may pose economic, power, and labor challenges, but I feel very confident that creativity will survive technology,” she said. All books Cita produces are in the public domain for everyone to download. “We are not at all against people using AI for their work, but we continue to hire humans…elevating the work of people is core to our mission.”
The event was co-hosted by Internet Archive and Library Futures with support from Creative Commons, Authors Alliance, Public Knowledge, SPARC and Duke Law’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain.
When Zeau Modig began as the graduate school librarian at the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) nearly a decade ago, many of the students lived nearby. They came to the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, campus to check out some of the library’s 1,500 print books and make photocopies.
Today, the majority of students live elsewhere in a dozen different countries from Brazil to Hungary—and instruction has moved online. This is driving up demand for e-books. Modig has found resources on the Internet Archive to fill the gap between what her physical library can provide and the needs of her community.
“The Internet Archive has been amazing for us to be able to get material into our students’ hands, and making it accessible, especially for the people overseas studying in less developed countries,” Modig said. “If you’re not in the United States it’s not as easy to get books because of shipping—it could take weeks to get there. The Internet Archive has really been a tremendous help to our students.”
The graduate program attracts students who are often mid-career, working in education, criminal justice, business or any field looking for strategies and scholarship to address conflicts, repair harm, and restore community among individuals and groups. To understand the foundational ideas behind restorative practices, the classes sometimes assign readings of theoretical models that are hard to find. Modig said students often turn to the Internet Archive to find obscure books or journals that have otherwise vanished.
Modig said she values the Archive’s collaboration with Wikipedia to turn reference links in Wikipedia articles blue, connecting citations to the original source content in Archive’s digital collections. This effort gives scholars single-click access to verify information for their research.
“It’s made my life as a librarian so much easier,” Modig said of the Archive. “The faculty, too, most of whom work remotely, really appreciate having books at their fingertips.”
Outside her job, Modig said she uses the Archive for genealogy research, leisure reading and entertainment. She recently discovered a commemorative family reunion volume from 1883 on her French Huguenot relatives that gave her insight into her family history. Inspired by the Netflix series, “The Queen’s Gambit,” Modig checked out the original novel on which the show was based.
Unfortunately, as a result of the publishers’ lawsuit against the Internet Archive’s lending library, “The Queen’s Gambit” is no longer available for borrowing.
When Modig learned that the book can no longer be checked out to one reader at a time, she paused. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to enjoy this book while I could,” she said. “I hope that the publishers involved in the lawsuit against the Internet Archive will come to realize the advantages that controlled digital lending holds for them as well as for readers, and allow the Internet Archive to restore access to their content.”
“Overall, the Internet Archive has become an essential information lifeline for my graduate institution’s students and faculty, and also for me personally,” Modig said. “It would be deeply disappointing for us if this rich trove of content is no longer available through the Internet Archive.”
Last week, Mickey Mouse and Elon Musk helped raise the visibility of library preservation and the Internet Archive’s mission across social media in an unexpected convergence of the public domain, popular culture and the publishers’ lawsuit against our library.
It started less than an hour into the new year. At 12:36am, we posted a 45 second clip from Steamboat Willie to X (formerly Twitter) with the iconic introduction of Mickey Mouse. By the next morning, the video had reached hundreds of thousands of views; by the end of the day, views had climbed into the millions. To date, the clip (above) has been viewed 10.2 million times.
As a result of that interest, people began looking at our profile and older posts. One key user posted a message of support about our blog post highlighting the amicus briefs filed in support of our appeal in Hachette v. Internet Archive, the lawsuit against our library.
That post, and presumably coupled with the visibility from the viral Mickey Mouse tweet, started a groundswell of support for the Internet Archive, with thousands of users sharing their thoughts on the importance of our mission.
In that chatter, a meme started forming: “Protect the Internet Archive – pass it on”
So many people were sharing this sentiment that “Protect the Internet Archive” started trending.
And then Elon Musk weighed in with “Support the Internet Archive!”:
With Musk’s enormous following on X, activity across our profile and posts skyrocketed, including our reply, but none more so than the post he shared about our appeal. To date, the post has been viewed more than 20 million times.
But it didn’t stop there. Because of the overwhelming level of support & visibility, we were getting dozens of messages from supporters asking how they can help our cause. In addition to telling our new followers about our mission, we also invited people to tell the publishers to stop suing libraries and sell us ebooks we can own and preserve.
And they did. Hundreds of users shared a message to the publishers with the hashtag #SellDontSue.
And then, like all viral moments, the attention faded. As of today (January 11, 2024), activity around our feed has returned to normal levels.
So what does it all mean??
While our time in the spotlight was brief, it was definitely meaningful. Now that we’ve had a little perspective and distance, we can point to three main takeaways from our viral week:
Takeaway #1: People love the public domain! Mickey Mouse moving into the public domain is a story decades in the making, so no surprise that there was an increased level of interest this year. However, we’ve noted an upswing in engagement for posts about the public domain every January, and excellent attendance at our public domain celebrations. We love the public domain, too, so we’re going to keep promoting the materials moving out of copyright year after year.
Takeaway #2: More people are armed with facts about the lawsuit against our library, and are voicing their support for library digital lending, digital ownership and preservation.
Takeaway #3: We helped more people understand the opportunities (preservation) & challenges (lawsuits) libraries face in the digital age. New people were introduced to our mission, to the legal challenges that libraries are facing in the digital age, and to understanding what’s possible when libraries are allowed to own and preserve materials for the long term.
So, a big thank you to everyone who shared posts, spoke out in support of the Internet Archive, or otherwise helped bring new visibility to our mission and work last week. We are committed to preserving materials in the public domain, fighting the lawsuits against our library, and continuing our mission of providing “Universal Access to All Knowledge”—onward!
This year we are welcoming many works from 1928 into the U.S. public domain (books, movies, images, etc.), as well as recorded sound from 1923.
Some of the big events from 1928 include the first machine sliced and wrapped loaf of bread being sold, the fatal Okeechobee hurricane, the failure of the St. Francis Dam in Los Angeles, the discovery of a moldy petri dish that would lead to the creation of penicillin, Amelia Earheart flying across the Atlantic, and a certain mouse making his public debut.
Everybody’s talking about Mickey. On November 18th, 1928 Steamboat Willie was published, the third Mickey Mouse film by Walt Disney and the first one to be published with sound. The prior two Mickey Mouse films, including Plane Crazy, had not been picked up for distribution so this was the public’s first introduction to the mouse. Steamboat Willie may have been named after another popular movie that came out in 1928, Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr., or perhaps the Vaudeville song, “Steamboat Bill” (popularized in 1910) which was included in the soundtrack (along with the 19th century song “Turkey in the Straw”).
The Jazz Age was really swinging, and 1923 saw the first recordings by King Oliver’s Jazz Band, including early work from Louis Armstrong on Dipper Mouth Blues. The first recorded example of jazz band boogie-woogie also came out that year, The Fives by Tampa Blue Jazz Band. And dancing the Charleston became a craze in 1923, thanks to Charleston from the 1923 musical “Runnin’ Wild.”
While the entrance to Tutankhamun’s tomb was found in 1922, it wasn’t until February of 1923 that the tomb was unsealed and of course the event was memorialized in song, including Old King Tut by Billy Jones and Ernest Hare, and Tut-Ankh-Amen (In the Valley of the Kings) by S. S. Leviathan Orchestra.
Some popular songs from 1923 that are have joined the public domain include:
Internet Archive drew more than 2,000 attendees to its popular book talk series in 2023, held in collaboration with Authors Alliance. The books and authors represented in this year’s series covered topics as varied as digital copyright, the persistence of history and culture through preservation, early personal computing history, and the harms of political control and corporate surveillance. Browse the full collection.
In tracing her family history, Taneya Koonce discovered stories about her African American ancestors in records going back to the late 1700s. Many were enslaved. She followed the path of some descendants from North Carolina to New York in the Great Migration.
The Internet Archive is among the many sources that Koonce has relied on in her research. From her home in Tampa, Florida, she regularly accesses the collection’s online yearbooks, newspapers, location histories, and government records to piece together her family’s story—and has also contributed material in hopes of helping others.
“As a genealogist and family historian, the breadth of digitized materials in the Internet Archive is essential to my research and an invaluable source of information in my family history quest,” said Koonce, who works as an information scientist at an academic medical center.
Koonce began to record stories in her family by interviewing her grandmothers nearly 30 years ago. She learned about several siblings of her maternal grandmother who died in infancy and the hardships they faced in life. Rediscovering her notes from those conversations after they died, Koonce began to dive into genealogy in earnest in 2005.
Having found so many historical items on the Internet Archive, Koonce teaches others how to use the collection in their own research. She’s active in genealogy societies, frequently presenting to others about the wealth of materials online.
Koonce applauded the Archive for preserving New York voter lists that helped her find one of her ancestors. After researching slaveholders by the name of Koonce, she connected with a man in Wisconsin who had published a “Koonce to Koonce” newsletter on the family’s history. With his cooperation, Taneya digitized and uploaded the newsletter to the Archive to preserve it for others. She always documents her findings, should they be of interest to others pursuing their family history.
“I specialize in helping family historians be very cognizant about planning for the future and leaving a legacy,” said Koonce, who has presented about the importance of saving family history research for the next generation. “One strategy is sharing material on the Internet Archive. I want to help educate people that it is a library. It’s dedicated to preserving content for the future. If we can contribute information to the collection, we can spread the word about what we’re doing and make sure it’s long lasting.”
We are looking for filmmakers and artists of all levels to create and upload short films of 2–3 minutes to the Internet Archive to help us celebrate Public Domain Day at our celebrations on January 24 (in-person screening & party) & January 25 (virtual celebration), 2024!
Our short film contest serves as a platform for filmmakers to explore, remix, and breathe new life into the timeless gems that have entered the public domain. From classic literature and silent films to musical compositions and visual art, the contest winners draw inspiration from the vast archive of cultural heritage from 1928. We want artists to use this newly available content to create short films using resources from the Internet Archive’s collections from 1928. The uploaded videos will be judged and prizes of up to $1500 awarded!! (see details below)
Winners will be announced and shown at the in-person Public Domain Day Celebration at the Internet Archive headquarters in San Francisco on January 24, 2024, as well as our virtual celebration on January 25. All other participating videos will be added to a Public Domain Day Collection on archive.org and featured in a blog entry in January of 2024.
Here are a few examples of some of the materials that will become public domain on January 1, 2024:
Make a 2–3 minute movie using at least one work published in 1928 that will become Public Domain on January 1, 2024. This could be a poem, book, film, musical composition, painting, photograph or any other work that will become Public Domain next year. The more different PD materials you use, the better!
Note: If you have a resource from 1928 that is not available on archive.org, you may upload it and then use it in your submission. (Here is how to do that).
Your submission must have a soundtrack. It can be your own voiceover or performance of a public domain musical composition, or you may use public domain or CC0 sound recordings from sources like Openverse and the Free Music Archive.
Note: Music copyright is TRICKY! Currently sound recordings published up to December 31, 1922 are public domain; on the upcoming January 1 that will change to sound recordings published up to December 31, 1923. Sound recordings published later than that are NOT public domain, even if the underlying musical composition is, so watch out for this!
Mix and Mash content however you like, but note that ALL of your sources must be from the public domain. They do not all have to be from 1928. Remember, U.S. government works are public domain no matter when they are published. So feel free to use those NASA images! You may include your own original work if you put a CC0 license on it.
Add a personal touch, make it yours!
Keep the videos light hearted and fun! (It is a celebration after all!)
All submissions must be in by Midnight, January 19, 2024 (PST) by loading it into this collection on the Internet Archive.
Link all your sourced materials from 1928 in the upload description
1st prize: $1500
2nd prize: $1000
3rd prize: $500
*All prizes sponsored by the Kahle/Austin Foundation
Judges will be looking for videos that are fun, interesting and use public domain materials, especially those from 1928. They will be shown at the in-person Public Domain Day party in San Francisco and should highlight the value of having cultural materials that can be reused, remixed, and re-contextualized for a new day. Winners’ pieces will be purchased with the prize money, and viewable on the Internet Archive under a Creative Commons license.
Amir Saber Esfahani (Director of Special Arts Projects, Internet Archive)
Rick Prelinger (Board Member, Internet Archive, Founder, Prelinger Archives)
BZ Petroff (Director of Admin & HR, Internet Archive)