Category Archives: News

Join Us For A Celebration of Sound: Public Domain Day

1/21/22: Registration is now closed for the event. Watch the recording above or at https://archive.org/details/a-celebration-of-sound-public-domain-day-2022

Join us today for a virtual party at 1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern time with a keynote from Senator Ron Wyden, champion of the Music Modernization Act and a host of musical acts, dancers, historians, librarians, academics, activists and other leaders from the Open world! This event will explore the rich historical context of recorded sound from its earliest days, including early jazz and blues, classical, and spoken word recordings reflecting important political and social issues of the era.

Additional sponsoring organizations include: Library Futures, SPARC, Authors Alliance, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, Public Knowledge, ARSC, the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain, and the Music Library Association.

REGISTER FOR THE VIRTUAL EVENT HERE!

International patrons speak out: “Access to knowledge shouldn’t be for the rich and privileged.”

Last fall, we invited our patrons to share how you use the Internet Archive. The response was overwhelming, and gave us exactly the kinds of testimonials and messages of support we were hoping to gather.

As we worked through the responses, we were struck by the number of patrons from all over the world who use our collection. Here now, we’d like to share some of the powerful stories we received from our international users.

If you haven’t already done so, please share your story.

Editorial note: Statements have been edited for clarity.


Lisa M., Educator, England – “Internet Archive helped me help a student! I have students in one class that attend from around the globe. One student was unable to find the required texts and our university did not have digital copies that could be lent. If she were to order the book – not carried in any local stores – it could take up to 3 months for them to arrive, long after the course was over!”

Claudia G., Researcher, Romania – “Even before the pandemic, depending on the topic of my essay and thesis, it was difficult to find books on certain topics in local libraries or bookstores…Access to knowledge shouldn’t be for the rich and privileged.”

Ana S., Communications assistant, Brazil – “I borrowed a book about Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim’s story and body of work is definitely an inspiration for me as someone always trying to learn ways to exercise my creativity. I just wanted to browse one section, and it was really amazing. I’m really thankful you had it available, for anyone in the world, and the borrowing process was really easy to follow through.”

Mike D., Librarian, New Zealand – “I’m a Digital Librarian in a public library in the small town of Hokitika, New Zealand, whose job is making local history more accessible to the community – many of the New Zealand history works in our public library collection are rare or reference-only. It turns out many works of New Zealand history have been digitised by the Internet Archive from US collections”

Callum H., Yard operative, Scotland – “As a non-academic with interests in literature, history, and philosophy, the IA gives me access to books I can’t otherwise afford or access.”

Yuri L., Educator, Brazil – “I spent months of 2020 bed-ridden, and was able to view items from your digitized collection. I would not have been able to go to any physical place for my books, and the titles I was looking for were sometimes available only on the Internet Archive. There are no other means for me, in my part of South America, to have access to limited-circulation ancient newspapers of other continents without digitizing and digital libraries. Without the Internet Archive and other libraries like it, I would have no alternatives.”

Simay K., Researcher, Turkey – “Living in a developing country with so many political and economic turmoils, I believe that the Internet Archive provides a huge service and a unique platform for dissolving the injustice and inequality of [access] to knowledge between disadvantaged countries and classes.”

Lydia S., Student, Canada – “I’ve used materials from the Internet Archive many times throughout my time as an undergrad studying history…There are many primary and secondary sources on the IA that I was unable to find anywhere else online or in physical copies through my university’s library. Many of the books I’ve accessed through the IA have been out of print for many years, so it’s incredibly helpful to have [access] to titles that would otherwise be nearly impossible to track down.“

Kim C., Librarian, Canada – “I use the materials on the Internet Archive often on a personal and a professional level. I have been able to help patrons access books that we have not been able to procure for them in other ways, for reference material for every school level from primary to masters degree research. I have used the collection on many occasions to access local history or genealogical material unavailable elsewhere.”

Richard G., Poet, Canada – Richard used books within the Internet Archive’s library, “to reference other author’s prose and poetry for quotations and references.”

Chloe J., Student, Canada – “It has given me access to material that I would not otherwise have access to.”

Shehroze A., Educator, Pakistan – “I am surprised that books pertaining to learning the Urdu language are available on archive.org, and those which were used for preparation in the civil services. These books are just not available in the country anymore and are immeasurably useful as far as the history of the colonized area is concerned. These are not published anymore, and finding a copy is exceedingly rare. This is why archive.org is important and we should endorse and support it.”

Stephen C., Graduate student, Canada – “The Internet Archive has been an invaluable resource for a research project I am involved in. We have been able to access numerous historical travel narratives that are essential for our project. We have been able to view books that we could not access in archives due to travel restrictions and lending policies during the pandemic.”

Simon H., Printing press operator, Switzerland – “I often find interest in old and niche books, sometimes from parts of the world far away from me. In those cases, I have two options for accessing such a book:
1.   I order a physical copy of the work and let it ship to my home. That is incredibly expensive, harmful to the environment and occasionally damaging to an old and fragile book, conserved for such a long time with care and passion.
2.   I’m lucky enough to find a digital reproduction of a work, which can be accessed for free and “shipped” eco-friendly through wires and antennas.
The difference between those two possibilities is so pronounced, that the latter almost seems like an utopian fairy tale. But it is not! It is 21st century’s technology at work.”

Imagining a Better Online World: Exploring the Decentralized Web

The World Wide Web started with so much promise: to connect people across any distance, to allow anyone to become a publisher, and to democratize access to knowledge. However, today the Web seems to be failing us. It’s not private, secure, or unifying. The internet has, in large part, ended up centralizing access and power in the hands of a few dominant platforms.

What if we could build something better—what some are calling the decentralized web?

In this series of six workshops, “Imagining a Better Online World: Exploring the Decentralized Web,” we’ll explore the ways in which moving to decentralized technologies may enhance your privacy, empower you to control your own data, and resist censorship. Join us to hear from experts in the leading peer-to-peer technologies, from identity to data storage. We’ll see demonstrations of how decentralized tech is being used in publishing, data management and preserving cultural assets. Learn how the decentralized web might yet create systems that empower individuals by eliminating central points of control.

This series is a partnership between Internet Archive, DWeb, Library Futures, and presented by the Metropolitan New York Library Council.

Sessions Include:

Colorful dashes dance across a black bacground. The Title "Decentralized Web: an Introduction" sits atop the image, in white text.

The Decentralized Web: An Introduction
What is the decentralized web, why is it important, and where is it along the path of development? What are the problems the decentralized web seeks to solve? Who are the players working to realize this vision? Why is the Internet Archive, a library, a leader in the decentralized web movement?
Thursday, January 27th, from 4:00pm to 5:00pm EST
Register

In an Ever-Expanding Library, Using Decentralized Storage to Keep Your Materials Safe
Libraries understand the headache of storing materials. How do you create room for an ever-expanding collection? What if you don’t want to weed materials to make room? Enter decentralized storage—a network of P-2-P servers that store materials across a global network of storage nodes. What problems does this solve? What problems does this create? Where is the state of decentralized storage today? We ‘ll see media collections and how they are preserved in Storj, Filecoin, and beyond.
Thursday, February 24th, from 4:00pm to 5:00pm EST
Register

Keeping Your Personal Data Personal: How Decentralized Identity Drives Data Privacy
Want your FedEx package? Now you must allow the company to scan your ID. Check into a hotel? Hand over your passport. Rent an e-bike? Key in your driver’s license, which includes your address, birthdate, and weight. What if you could maintain control over your personal identity and share only what is needed? Enter decentralized or self-sovereign identity (SSI). In the future, we believe each person will hold an e-wallet and control his/her/their own personal information.
Thursday, March 31, from 4:00pm to 5:00pm EST
Register

Goodbye Facebook, Hello Decentralized Social Media? Can Peer-to-Peer Lead to Less Toxic Online Platforms?
Facebook, Twitter… we’ve seen them go awry when faced with the scourges of misinformation and trolling. In authoritarian regimes, entire platforms are easily blocked. Would decentralized social media, where there is no central controlling entity, be better? How do you take down damaging posts when there is no central command center? We walk you through some of the top decentralized social media platforms, from Matrix to Twitter’s Blue Sky initiative. Demonstrations of how to get on some of these systems.
Thursday, April 28, from 4:00pm to 5:00pm EST
Register

Decentralized Apps, the Metaverse and the “Next Big Thing”
Why did Facebook rename itself for the Metaverse? What is the metaverse & how are people experiencing it? How are artists, nonprofits, even the NBA are racking up seven-figure payouts for otherwise mundane pieces of media called NFTs (non-fungible tokens)? Why are they so despised? In this session, we look at the crazy breakthrough apps and items populating decentralized web. Plus demonstrations of how people are working, trading & creating in the metaverse.
Thursday, May 26, from 4:00pm to 5:00pm EST
Register

Ethics of the Decentralized Web & Uses for the Law, Journalism and Humanitarian Work
Web 1.0 and 2.0 started out full of idealism, too. What is to prevent the decentralized web from being corrupted by profit, market domination, and bad actors? What is the normative or social layer we need to build alongside the tech?
Thursday, June 30, from 4:00pm to 5:00pm EST
Register

Welcoming Recorded Music to the Public Domain

Every January we feature works that are entering the public domain. And this year the big story is in recorded music.

Recorded Music from 1922 and earlier

Approximately 400,000 sound recordings made before 1923 will join the public domain in the U.S. for the first time due to the Music Modernization Act (read more at copyright.gov). You can peruse about 38,000 of them in our collection of digitized 78rpm records.

By 1922 we were solidly in the Jazz Age – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tales of the Jazz Age was published in 1922, and the term was already in popular usage. Jazz migrated from Black American communities in New Orleans into the rest of the United States, having evolved from its roots in rag time, blues and Creole music.  In fact, 1922 was the year Louis Armstrong left New Orleans to join King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band in Chicago.

Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1911) written by Irving Berlin and performed by Collins and Harlan

Peruse the collection to hear early jazz classics like Don’t Care Blues by Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds, Ory’s Creole Trombone by Kid Ory’s Sunshine Orchestra, and Jazzin’ Babies Blues by Ethel Waters.

Early recordings by Bert Williams (the first Black American on Broadway and the first Black man to star in a film), Fanny Brice (the real-life ‘Funny Girl’), Enrico Caruso (the legendary Italian operatic tenor), and so many others give life and flavor to our imaginings of the early 20th century.

Here are some of the top songs from 1922, to give you a taste:

But personally when I “flip through” these records I’m always drawn to the novelty songs

There’s a whole genre of sound imitations, like Violin Mimicry where a violin is used to imitate people talking, Jingles from the Marsh Birds with a man imitating birds imitating popular songs (just as confusing as it sounds), and A Cat-astrophe with people imitating rather catastrophic cats to music.

You can also skip the jokes and go straight to laughing just for the sake of it with these gems:  Laughs You Have Met, Gennett Laughing Record, and The Okeh Laughing Record, or choose to have a little music with laughing choruses like Ticklish Reuben, She Gives Them All the Ha-Ha-Ha, Stop Your Tickling, Jock! or And Then I Laughed.

And perhaps my favorite of the bunch is Fido is a Hot Dog Now which seems to be about a dog who is definitely going to hell.

Fido is a Hot Dog Now (1914) by Billy Murray

Other Media from 1926

As usual, we are also welcoming some new books, movies, journals, and sheet music – this time from 1926! (Read about 1925, 1924, and 1923 in previous posts.)

Some popular first edition books from 1926:

The Clothes We Wear (1926) by Frank and Frances Carpenter

Other interesting books from 1926 that you might want to explore include Show Boat by Edna Ferber which was made into the musical Show Boat in 1927 with music by Jerome Kern, The Clothes We Wear by Frank and Frances Carpenter which is a child friendly exploration of how clothes are made all the way from the field through weaving and into sewing, or The Art of Kissing by Clement Wood which is pretty self explanatory.

We invite you to explore some of the other items dated 1926 in our collections to find your own fun items that may now be in the public domain.

Virtual Party for the Public Domain

Please join us for a virtual party on January 20, 2022 at 1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern time with a keynote from Senator Ron Wyden, champion of the Music Modernization Act and a bunch of musical acts, dancers, historians, librarians, academics, activists and other leaders from the Open world! (And yes, we DO have a book from 1926 about how to throw the world’s best party.)

 Event on January 20th, 2022

REGISTER FOR THE VIRTUAL EVENT HERE!

A Holiday Jackpot: The Lounge is Open

Continuing our tradition of releasing new sets of emulated items around the holidays, the Internet Archive has added a new collection: THE JACKPOT LOUNGE.

[screenshot]

Previous sets of items, including arcade machines, handheld toys, computer software and flash animations, all represent thousands and in some cases tens of thousands of individual items from history, all playable in the browser.

The Jackpot Lounge is much more focused and refers to one specific group of coin-operated games: Gambling Machines.

Not too soon after video games began replacing mechanical coin-operated games on the midway, bars and other locations, games with a gambling theme or straightforward gambling payouts began to arrive. The same arguments for video games taking over (cheaper maintenance, more dependable, easily upgradable) applied to these potential replacements for slot machines.

[screenshot]
“Super Twenty One”, a gambling machine from 1978. the same year as Space Invaders.

While such games would exist in a grey zone for a few years, Poker and Slot/Fruit machines of a video game nature quickly fell under the jurisdiction of gaming authorities in different countries. In some cases, however, it is clear looking through the code of these games that a select few cheated or ended winning runs quickly.

[screenshot]
“Cal Omega”, a 1981-era poker machine.

Still, there was little to compete with the complete automation and dependability of these machines, and over time they took over gambling houses and areas where games of chance were legal. Even the venerable and charming mechanical horse-racing games began to fall compared to a simple horse-racing videogame like Status Fun Casino:

[screenshot]
“Status Fun Casino”, a 1981 game for betting on various casino games, including horse racing.

As more and more pressure came down to ensure the slot and poker machines had dependable random number generation and payouts, the games became more homogenized, only reflecting changes in sound and visuals while letting the rules stay dependably the same.

From those early beginnings, the increase in quality of sound and video with videogames extends to gambling machines – the colors are bright, the sounds intense, and all are intended to catch your eye and bring you over to play “just a few rounds”.

[screenshot]
“Black Rhino”, a 1996 example of the advances in the look of video slot machines, including multi-line bets and amounts of payout.

Reflecting that we are now closing in on a decade of emulation at the Internet Archive, it seems a good time to bring in this class of machines, which have at the start of each game a very complicated start-up process. Reflecting that actual money could be involved with a machine and the tallies of what it was paying out for the day would be very important to a casino, these games have very complicated processes for starting up. By pressing these keys, you are simulating Audit and Jackpot keys being inserted, sign-off buttons are being pressed, and that the metal “cage” door of the machines were closed and locked. Thanks to a set of volunteers, however, these extremely un-intuitive keypresses have been documented for you.

[screenshot]
Slot Machines have become particularly graphically intense over the years, even though the legal restrictions of the games have caused them to stay with a very basic set of rules.

Because of the nature of this genre of machine, many of the 500+ machines will look rather similar: made by the same companies, with only minor modifications to the code to reflect different rules or providing compatibility with gaming commission chips (which would not be manufactured by the game companies, but supplied to them under authority of the commission). Others, however, will seem like strange one-off creations that you can’t imagine attracted anyone to play them – except they did.

One particular fascinating set of machines exists in this collection: Stealth Gambling Machines, meant to look like one kind of video game, but secretly playing another, based on when a secret switch (or secret coin slot) was used. In countries where hosting a gambling machine of any sort held severe penalties. For example, this game acts like Breakout but is actually a poker machine.

It looks like Breakout – but put your money into the secret coin slot and the game will play poker instead.

And finally, let’s just remember that sometimes, the game is out to get you. The game Tetris Payout will wait until you are winning a bit too much, and then intentionally throw the worst pieces at you to ensure your game comes to an end early.

So go ahead, check out the lounge, and walk through decades of electronic coin-operating casinos. You can’t win real money…. but you can’t lose it, either.

A very large thank you to Xarph and others, who played through these hundreds of machines to learn the by-machine instructions for getting them into a standard playing mode. The process was weeks of work and incredibly appreciated.

If coming into contact with gambling machines causes stress or issues for you or your family, contact Gamblers Anonymous.

The Internet Archive Supports Maryland’s Library eBook Fairness Law

Maryland’s modest Library eBook Fairness Law requires publishers that make digital products available to residents of Maryland to also make those same resources available to libraries on reasonable terms. Some publishers have not treated libraries reasonably in the past. Instead, they have arbitrarily raised prices, imposed draconian limits on how libraries can use digital materials, and in some cases, refused to license digital materials to libraries at all. Under these conditions, libraries have had difficulty providing access to essential resources and services for their communities at a time when they are most in need. This is the wrong that Maryland’s law seeks to right, and it is set to go into effect next month.

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) is a powerful Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group that has pushed for ever more power and market control for their billion-dollar publishing company members. In its lawsuit to block Maryland’s Library eBook Fairness Law, the AAP asserts that states are powerless to step in when its members abuse their market power in contractual relationships with libraries. This does not seem right in law or practice–states can and should defend their libraries from predatory practices.

The Internet Archive is defending a lawsuit against four of the world’s largest publishing companies–all members of the AAP–over the most fundamental service that libraries provide, lending books. It is beyond disheartening that the AAP has chosen to go on this attack on libraries during a global pandemic, when schools, teachers, and students are most in need of digital resources. We urge the court to stand with libraries and dismiss the AAP’s lawsuit against the State of Maryland.

The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit library for the digital age, with a mission to support universal access to all knowledge. Libraries serve communities by providing necessary educational and career materials and other civic services. We appreciate states like Maryland that are working to update laws so that libraries can serve their essential societal function in the digital age.

2021 Empowering Libraries Year in Review

This year the Internet Archive continued to reach our patrons, supporters, and library partners through virtual events and programming. As we close out 2021, let’s look back at some of the highlights of the year:

Events

The video that captivated the internet

Milestones

Policy

Donations

  • The Internet Archive has continued its donations program, receiving media that libraries can no longer house for preservation and digitization. Learn more about the donations program through an informational webinar.
  • The Internet Archive is now the preservation home of the Michelson Cinema Research Library, the collection curated by famed cinema librarian and researcher Lillian Michelson.
  • Libraries struggle to find a home for collections that no longer fit their collection development priorities. That was the case with Hamilton Public Library in Ontario, which donated a fantastic collection of American and British theater books for preservation and digitization.
  • As education continues to use and explore hybrid learning models, colleges and universities are reviewing their physical collections and considering how best to serve their students. Some schools, like Bay State College, are making a full move to digital.

Book talks

  • Brewster Kahle sat down with authors Deanna Marcum and Roger C. Schonfeld for a discussion of the history of library digitization described in their book, Along Came Google.
  • Catherine Stihler, CEO of Creative Commons, talked with author Peter B. Kaufman about his book, The New Enlightenment.
  • Historian and author Abby Smith Rumsey discussed the history of intentional knowledge destruction with librarian Richard Ovenden, as featured in his book, Burning the Books.
  • Internet Archive’s Wendy Hanamura talked with author Joanne McNeil (Lurking) and technologist/artist Darius Kazemi about the rise of Google in the 1990s and the impact on libraries and society in Why Trust a Corporation to do a Library’s Job?

25 Years of Making The World A Better Place

He drove a 1970’s Chevrolet Chevelle Concours station wagon, complete with faux-wood paneling and a rooftop luggage rack. Every summer, he’d drive our family up to our cabin in Northern Michigan to get us, as he’d say, “out of the house and into the woods.”

It was an endless adventure of learning with my father. He especially loved teaching us about animal habitats, ecosystems, and species of trees.  

His National Geographic magazine collection up on bookshelves in our living room was always a treasure trove of information. He always enjoyed spending evenings reading in his favorite chair. I’d sneak into the room after he left for work, just to get my hands on the magical picture books filled with pages of exotic animals and far away places.

Those magazines spanned a lifetime of important information that opened up my father’s world—and eventually mine. He took from his books and magazines an expansive knowledge of nature and geography, and transferred that knowledge and love of the outdoors back to me.

Then, there was my mom.  

For as long as I can remember, my mom always enjoyed giving back. She always was the first to notice needs in the community. It was during the holiday’s where I saw this gift demonstrated most. She always said, “to whom much is given, much is required.” 

This is why she packed us kids into that same wood-paneled Chevrolet station wagon and drove us downtown to volunteer at the Salvation Army. It’s a Holiday tradition I practice to this day. 

We’d spend the morning together sorting clothes and packing boxes full of canned food and toys, to make sure other little girls like me would have something special for Christmas. My mom told me that she was once one of those girls growing up in the projects of Detroit. This childhood experience motivates her today to pay it forward.

On weekends, she used to drive us to the local hospital in Rochester, where we volunteered as candy stripers. Adorned in pink and white hospital uniforms, we passed out flowers and books to eager patients looking for a good read and a kind word to pass the day. Sometimes these books were the only thing that helped sick patients escape the pain, loneliness, and longing for better days ahead. 

It was during those times that I became aware of the welfare of others and what our shared humanity could look like. About not only being open to the differences we all share, but to love and value those differences.

From my father’s passion for nature and knowledge and my mother’s generous heart, I learned that the pursuit of knowledge and generosity are inseparable.

And it’s at this intersection of knowledge and philanthropy that I have found myself.

As the Director of Philanthropy at the Internet Archive, I lead a team that educates millions of people all over the world about, well, everything. Including why it’s so important to preserve humanity’s knowledge—to preserve our collective footprint of culture and history.

And now, thanks to the Internet Archive, every day more than 1.6 million people access our nonprofit digital library. Accessed by genealogists, gamers, scientists, teachers, students, journalists and poets. The Internet Archive stores curated collections of more than 6 million books, 240,000 concerts, 5 million videos, 32 million magazines and other texts, 25 million scholarly research materials, 625 billion web pages—about everything in the world. Literally. For free. You can even access my  favorite collection from the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Internet Archive. A celebration of 25 years of fulfilling the mission of providing Universal Access to All Knowledge.

Personally, I am celebrating my 25th year in philanthropy.

After 25 years of leading philanthropy departments at some of the largest nonprofit organizations in the world with missions providing access to education, clean water, medicine, gender equity, and innovation, I now find myself serving over 100,000 contributors from all over the world. I’m grateful to be part of a vision that’s creating an online repository of knowledge—for keeping a record of history that can’t be erased, and is accessible to millions worldwide. 

Knowledge, as we know, is the foundation of everything.

Now, I invite you to take your own journey by exploring an endless reservoir of information—explore the Internet Archive for yourself.  

You never know where that journey will take you.

Please visit us at archive.org/donate and consider making an end-of-year donation by December 31st. We have a generous 2:1 match that triples your impact. Please share your own personal journey with us on social media (twitter, FB, Insta links). Most importantly, we are deeply grateful for your continued generosity and support.  

Wishing you a happy and healthy Holiday season! 

—Joy


Joy Chesbrough is the Director of Philanthropy at the Internet Archive. When she’s not reading books and magazines about biodiversity or endangered species, you can find her serving on the Board of Directors at the What If Foundation, which educates and serves school children of all ages in Haiti. She also enjoys sailing,  traveling, and volunteering in her community with her French bulldog, Napoleon.

Link Taxes: A Bad Idea for Journalism and the Open Internet

For many years, some of the world’s largest news publishers have been seeking ways to expand their power online. In Australia, they were able to do so through an unusual form of mandatory arbitration. But underneath these kinds of proposals, whether based in arbitration or otherwise, is a claim to a new sort of copyright right. Often styled as an “ancillary” copyright, such a right could—as described in a recent Copyright Office document—require payment to news publishers from any “online service that collects links to and sometimes snippets of third-party articles and makes them available to its readers.” In other words, this new right would allow big news publishers—and only news publishers—to extract fees from webpages that include links. Unsurprisingly, many have described this as a link tax. And it is now under study at the United States Copyright Office.

We believe link taxes are a bad idea. At a basic level, they are inconsistent with a free and open internet, which relies on the ability of any website to freely link to any other website. But we also do not see that they would achieve the stated goal of protecting journalists against unfair competition. Link tax payments wouldn’t actually go to journalists—instead, under current proposals, they’d go directly to publishers like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. This would only make it harder for small, independent, and innovative journalistic upstarts to compete; big companies like News Corp would get this new payment, while small independent journalists would not. Indeed, for these and a variety of other reasons, many have questioned not only whether such proposals support the public interest, but whether they are even consistent with the US Constitution. Supporting quality local journalism is something we can all stand behind, but imposing a link tax on the open web is not the way to do it.

As we have often mentioned, even well-intentioned changes to copyright law can have wide-reaching and negative effects on the online information ecosystem. That is why Internet Archive was proud to voice these concerns in a recent submission to the US Copyright Office and at a public roundtable on December 9, 2021.

Boston Phoenix Rises Again With New Online Access

For more than 40 years, The Boston Phoenix was the city’s largest alternative weekly in covering local politics, arts, and culture.

The Boston Phoenix, Volume 2, Issue 44 – October 30, 1973

“It was really a pretty legendary paper. The style of the writing and the quality of writers were nationally known,” said Carly Carioli, who started at the newspaper as an intern in 1993 and became its last editor-in-chief.

With the advent of online advertising, it struggled like many independent newspapers to compete. In 2013, the Phoenix folded.

After the publication shut down, owner Stephen Mindich wanted the public to be able to access back issues of the Phoenix. The complete run of the newspaper from 1973 to 2013 was donated to Northeastern University’s special collections. The family signed copyright over the university. 

Librarians led a crowdsourcing project to create a digital index of all the articles and authors, which was helpful for historians and others in their research, said Giordana Mecagni, head of special collections and university archivist. Northeastern had inquired about digitizing the collection, but it was cost prohibitive. 

As it turns out, the Internet Archive owned the master microfilm for the Phoenix and it put the full collection online in a separate collection: The Boston Phoenix 1973-2013. Initially, the back issues were only available for one patron to check out at a time through Controlled Digital Lending. Once Northeastern learned about the digitized collection, it extended rights to the Archive to allow the Phoenix to be downloaded without controls.

Read The Boston Phoenix at the Internet Archive

“All of a sudden it was free to the public. It was wonderful,” Mecagni said. “We get tons and tons of research requests for various  aspects of the Phoenix, so having it available online for free for people to download is a huge help for us.” 

Inquiries range from someone trying to track down a classified ad through which they met their spouse, or an individual looking up an article about a band. The paper was a leader in writing groundbreaking stories about the LGBTQ community, the AIDS crisis, race and the Vietnam War—often issues not covered in the mainstream press. “Making that coverage public is adding an immense amount to the historical record that would not be there otherwise,” said Carioli. He said he appreciates the preservation and easy access to back issues, as do other journalists, researchers and academics.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Carioli of the Internet Archive’s digitization of the newspaper. “The Phoenix was invaluable in its own time, and I think it will be invaluable for a new generation who are just discovering it now. It was a labor of love then and the fact that it’s online now is huge for Boston, but also for anyone who’s interested in independent media and culture.”