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!
Have you ever used the Wayback Machine and witnessed the magic of internet time travel? We want to hear your stories of how web archives have made a positive impact on your life! Whether it’s preserving a cherished memory, aiding in research, or sparking a meaningful change – your stories matter!
Your stories could inspire others and highlight the importance of preserving the web’s rich history. Let’s celebrate the incredible moments made possible by the Wayback Machine!
You may be wondering, “Will anyone actually read my submission?” YES! We appreciate your time in sharing your story. Submissions will be reviewed and may be included in upcoming social media posts and news stories. We put out a similar call last year and received hundreds of responses, which we turned into testimonials & blog posts to help people understand how our library is used.
Started in 2017, our Community Webs program has over 175 public libraries and local cultural organizations working to build digital archives documenting the experiences of their communities, especially those patrons often underrepresented in traditional archives. Participating public libraries have created over 1,400 collections documenting local civic life totaling nearly 100 terabytes and tens of millions of individual documents, images, audio/video files, blogs, websites, social media, and more. You can browse many of these collections at the Community Webs website. Participants have also collaborated on digitization efforts to bring minority newspapers online, held public programming and outreach events, and formed local partnerships to help preservation efforts at other mission-aligned organizations. The program has conducted numerous workshops and national symposia to help public librarians gain expertise in digital preservation and cohort members have done dozens of presentations at professional conferences showcasing their work. In the past, Community Webs has received support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Mellon Foundation, the Kahle Austin Foundation, and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
We are excited to announce that Community Webs has received $750,000 in funding from The Mellon Foundation to continue expanding the program. The award will allow additional public libraries to join the program and will enable new and existing members to continue their web archiving collection building using our Archive-It service. In addition, the funding will also provide members access to Internet Archive’s new Vault digital preservation service, enabling them to build and preserve collections of any type of digital materials. Lastly, leveraging members’ prior success in local partnerships, Community Webs will now include an “Affiliates” program so member public libraries can nominate local nonprofit partners that can also receive access to archiving services and resources. Funding will also support the continuation of the program’s professional development training in digital preservation and community archiving and its overall cohort and community building activities of workshops, events, and symposia.
We thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of Community Webs. We are excited to continue to expand the program and empower hundreds of public librarians to build archives that document the voices, lives, and events of their communities and to ensure this material is permanently available to patrons, students, scholars, and citizens.
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.
After sifting through a sea of talent and creativity, we are thrilled to present the cinematic achievements of three winners and two honorable mentions in our Public Domain Day 2024 Remix Contest. These winning entries not only captivated our imaginations, but also showcased the immense power of remixing, reimagining, and breathing new life into public domain works.
View the winning entries & honorable mentions below. Rick Prelinger, noted film archivist, helped judge the competition and offers why each film was selected for recognition.
Found-footage filmmaking is all about taking material that might have almost-sacred status and, well, bringing it back down to earth. We find this film worthy of our first prize because of its irreverent humor and skilled editing, its playful predictions of the future, and because it points to the limitless opportunities that a constantly-refreshed public domain offers makers in all media.
Second Place: “Keaton and Kaufman: The Cameramen” by Max Teeth
This film brings together two characters who will be familiar to people who love films, characters that lived and worked very far away from one another and did deeply different work, but might perhaps have more in common with one another than we might think. We see it as a poetic piece, a loving tribute to some of the people who put the motion in motion pictures.
Third Place: “Just Like a Hollywood Star” by Timothy Johnson
Our 3rd prize winner is a rich montage of sound and picture, focusing on images that model beauty, fitness, posture, proper behavior, and the laws of physics. We like this film’s uninhibited reach and its draw from wildly disparate material, often pretty predictable, to produce an unpredictable result.
Honorable Mention, Historical Perspective: “A Member of the Family” by Lizzy Tolentino
Combining government-produced films, family home movies and an unusual sponsored film by a world-famous company, this filmmaker makes a chilling statement about the gap between the promise of our society and the reality of 20th-century history. The public domain is a record of both proud achievements and disturbing histories, and we feel this film exemplified the potential of the public domain to reveal histories that some might prefer to be kept silent.
Honorable Mention, Quirkiest Film: “Domain” by Cullen J. Sanchez
Sometimes you just have to recognize the unusual. But this unusual film makes a critical point about the public domain — that WE are the public domain, and the public domain is us. Take it away! “It’s us. It’s all of us.”
In October of 2022, the DISCMASTER site arrived, providing amazing semantic search of thousands of shareware and compilation CD-ROMs at the Internet Archive. In the entry written on the blog back then, the advantages and features of this site were pretty well enumerated.
Unfortunately, the site went down in June of 2023, due to a number of factors, the most pressing of which was a need to switch hosting and administration duties. (It is not run by Internet Archive and is not hosted at Internet Archive’s datacenters.)
However, DISCMASTER HAS RETURNED!
Thanks to a set of generous donors and the efforts of multiple volunteers, the site is back running with all the data and functionality it had in its previous incarnation.
Last summer, Internet Archive launched ARCH (Archives Research Compute Hub), a research service that supports creation, computational analysis, sharing, and preservation of research datasets from terabytes and even petabytes of data from digital collections – with an initial focus on web archive collections. In line with Internet Archive’s mission to provide “universal access to all knowledge” we aim to make ARCH as universally accessible as possible.
Computational research and education cannot remain solely accessible to the world’s most well-resourced organizations. With philanthropic support, Internet Archive is initiating Advancing Inclusive Computational Research with ARCH, a pilot program specifically designed to support an initial cohort of five less well-resourced organizations throughout the world.
Organizational access to ARCH for 1 year – supporting research teams, pedagogical efforts, and/or library, archive, and museum worker experimentation.
Access to thousands of curated web archive collections – abundant thematic range with potential to drive multidisciplinary research and education.
Enhanced Internet Archive training and support – expert synchronous and asynchronous support from Internet Archive staff.
Cohort experience – opportunities to share challenges and successes with a supportive group of peers.
Demonstrated need-based rationale for participation in Advancing Inclusive Computational Research with Archives Research Compute Hub: we will take a number of factors into consideration, including but not limited to stated organizational resources relative to peer organizations, ongoing experience contending with historic and contemporary inequities, as well as levels of national development as assessed by the United Nations Least Developed Countries effort and Human Development Index.
Organization type: universities, research institutes, libraries, archives, museums, government offices, non-governmental organizations.
We’ve heard you loud and clear since January 1—you love the public domain! We do, too, so let’s celebrate together…
Next week we have two events to help welcome the new works of art that entered the public domain (in the US) on January 1. We hope you can join us in-person or online:
Wednesday, January 24
Public Domain Day Party in San Francisco! Celebrate 1928 In-Person at the Internet Archive 6pm – 8pm PT $15 registration – Register now!
Step into a time capsule of creativity as we celebrate the release of new cultural treasures into the public domain. Join us for an unforgettable evening filled with period tunes, classic cocktails, and a cinematic journey into the past. These works, once bound by copyright restrictions, will be released into the wild, opening up new opportunities for artistic expression, adaptation, and innovation.
Thursday, January 25
Weird Tales from the Public Domain: Freeing Culture from Corporate Captivity Online 10am PT – 11:30am PT Free – Register now!
The mouse that became Mickey is finally free of his corporate captivity as the copyright term of the 1928 animated Disney film, Steamboat Willie, expired along with that of thousands of other cultural works on the first day of 2024.
Join us for a virtual celebration with an amazing lineup of academics, librarians, musicians, artists and advocates coming together to help illuminate the significance of this new class of works entering the public domain!
Remix Contest – Deadline for submission is January 19
There’s still time to register for our Public Domain Day Remix Contest. 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! Read the contest guidelines.
One of the Internet Archive’s most viral tweets/toots/skeets happened at the start of 2024, with the announcement/reminder that the Disney short “Steamboat Willie” had entered the public domain just moments before. We have a copy of the film online for everyone to play or download.
Within a short time, even as the hour of midnight of January 1st moved across the earth, countless creations based off the Steamboat Willie character, ranging from the sublime to the profane, rocketed into the Internet.
Along with the flood of images have come a flood of articles and overviews of the legal and other ramifications of a public-domain Mickey Mouse. These are written by very smart people who have spent a lot of time considering these issues.
There’s no point is restating what these and many others are describing (Only Steamboat Willie’s design is public domain, Disney may utilize trademark law like a large hammer to enforce as firmly as they did their copyrights, etc.)
Instead, a few words about the creative ecosystem.
As a variety of slasher movies, costumes, crypto tokens, fan-fiction creations and general meme images of Steamboat Willie cascade into the first parts of 2024, it’s worth noting how the entire situation will feel unusual or a controversial subject to a number of folks.
What it is, however, is a too-long-delayed part of a natural process of works and copyright. The implementation of universal involuntary copyright that then lasts longer than the vast majority of human lifetimes means a disconnect, a vast gulf between the life of creative works and when they become a part of culture at large in anything other than a consumption relationship.
Copyright in the US (and via the Berne Convention and other lobbying, worldwide) has been increasingly extended over the years, often following the impending expiration of the Steamboat Willie copyright, and it has done so in the face of a 20th century that knew much shorter terms (and which led to works such as Pinocchio being used by companies such as Disney after they expired into the pubic domain). As a result of this, we’ve lost the rich ecosystem that creative works grew from, the back-and-forth, parody and reference and re-imagining that existed in previous generations.
The time extension of copyright, from 14 to 28 to “75 years or life of the author plus 50 years” to the current “95 years or life of author plus 70 years” has been a rapid expansion that has swallowed many creative works, and, combined with automatic copyright, has effectively ended a long-rich and held system of creations that could reference near-contemporaries in their works beyond the scope of parody or (often disputed fair use). What was a rich environment is now a rather dry landscape.
The ramifications of this have been many, but one of the most striking has been preservation – with works whose corporate or anonymous creators are undetermined, there is very little incentive to invest in their upkeep and maintenance, meaning that many early works tend to disappear in percentages that are heartbreaking for their size: half of all American films made before 1950 and over 90% of films made before 1929 are lost forever [cite].
That excellent copies of Steamboat Willie still exist are owed mostly to Disney’s own efforts to keep their materials under control and locked down for nearly a century. Steamboat’s fellow members of the Class of 1928 will not, ultimately, be so lucky. Each successive year of items released into the public domain will have a few “stars” to make the news and receive the artistic references that Mickey is getting this month – but hundreds, maybe thousands of works from the same year may never again see the light of day.
So, let us celebrate this temporary oasis in a truly barren landscape, and work, through preservation and protection for libraries and archives, to ensure each year is a more exquisitely complete and maintained ecosystem.