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, manyhavedescribed 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.
For more than 40 years, The Boston Phoenix was the city’s largest alternative weekly in covering local politics, arts, and culture.
“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.
“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.”
On January 20, 2022, the Internet Archive, Creative Commons and many other leaders from the Open world will honor the treasure trove of works published in 1926 that will enter the public domain next year. The public domain will grow richer with canonical works from authors like Hemingway, Faulkner and Dorothy Parker, silent film classics like Nanook of the North, and beloved children’s stories about Winnie-the Pooh and the Hundred Acre woods, becoming freely available to all.
Due to the recently enacted Music Modernization Act in the U.S., approximately 400,000 sound recordings from the pre-1923 era will join the public domain for the first time in our history. That’s why this year our theme is a Celebration of Sound.
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 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.
UPDATED JANUARY 10, 2022: We are pausing plans for in-person celebrations. Please celebrate with us online through the virtual event.
The Internet Archive will also host an in-person Dance Party on Thursday, January 20, 2022 at 6pm at 300 Funston Ave in San Francisco. There you can mingle with like-minded public-domain enthusiasts while sipping a Gin Rickey, a Hanky Panky or a Singapore Sling. Dine on shrimp cocktail, cucumber sandwiches or waldorf salad. There will be dance instructors to help you learn the 1920’s dance sensation – the Charleston. Period costumes encouraged. Let’s kick up our heels for the Public Domain!
You can register for the live, in-person event in San Francisco here.
The Internet Archive Canada will host an in-person event at their new HQ in Vancouver, BC, in the historic Permanent building at 330 West Pender Street on Saturday, January 22, 2022.
As well as celebrating The Public Domain, this evening of live music and 1920s inspired h’or d’oeuvres also acts as the official launch party of IAC’s new headquarters.
You can register for the live, in-person event in Vancouver here.
Matthew Shifrin is a musician, graduate school student, podcaster, rock climber, and comic book fan. The 24-year-old who lives in Newton, Massachusetts, is also blind. When he wants a book for a research paper or just leisure reading, he often needs more than what a campus library or local store can offer.
Shifrin has relied on Open Library to borrow digital books in formats that he can download for reading on his computer, which has a Braille display. As part of the Internet Archive’s program for users with print disabilities, he can skip waitlists for the ebook collection and download protected EPUBs and PDFs.
“The process is simple and efficient,” says Shifrin. “The Internet Archive has a huge amount of accessible books—Italian grammar books, children’s poetry—the most random things. It’s the best because you never know what you will come across. You can search for something specific, but also just wander the virtual shelves.”
Shifrin is in his first year of graduate school studying classical singing at the New England Conservatory, where he also got his undergraduate degree in music. Although audiobooks are useful, he prefers to read a book with his Braille computer because it’s faster and he can go at his own pace.
The Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) books are in a special encrypted format that makes them easy to navigate. Shifrin also uses library websites designed for blind people such as Bookshare and National Library Service for the Blind, but often finds older or niche music books through the Internet Archive.
For instance, he was recently able to download On the Track: A Guide to Contemporary Film Scoring and The History of Western Music, which were useful in writing an essay on music criticism. He was also able to enjoy a book of poetry by David McCourt that he says brought back “flickers of his childhood.” In addition to books, Shifrin uses the Archives’ wealth of videos, movies, and music in the public domain from all around the world.
Shifrin is currently writing a one-man musical and his creative outlets have included podcasting and essay writing. He recently produced the Blind Guy Travels podcast on PRX’s Radiotopia and had an article in the Boston Globe about how he is using technology to decipher facial expressions.
In all of his work, Shifrin said he values the Internet Archive’s collection: “It’s been a great resource for all the books and all the content that I couldn’t find in other places.”
From her home in Wellington City, New Zealand, Siobhan Leachman is devoted to doing what she can to make it easier for the public to access information about scientific discoveries. In particular, she wants to highlight the contributions of women in science.
Leachman is a volunteer Wikimedian, digital curator, and citizen scientist. She uses open content to create open content. Her mission in life: To connect everything. And in doing so, she relies on the Internet Archive—and adds to its resources.
The Wayback Machine is vital to Leachman’s work, which focuses on putting reference citations in Wikidata or Wikipedia. If she comes across a broken link in her research, the Wayback Machine is her go-to source to recover it. As Leachman edits an article and inserts the digital URLs, she also saves her work through the Internet Archive for others.
“It’s part of my workflow and just takes a couple of minutes,” she said of sharing the references she finds with the Wayback Machine. “It means the information is there in perpetuity. Five years down the road, what I was using as a reference is still there—rather than worrying about the link disappearing into the ether.”
Leachman got started as a digital volunteer for the Smithsonian transcribing journals. “I just fell in love with doing it,” she said. “I’d end up going down these research rabbit holes, finding out about the people and I’d want to know more.”
In her research, Leachman has gravitated to natural history, learning about different species and wanting to preserve knowledge about New Zealand’s biodiversity. She reviewed diaries of scientists collecting specimens and was spurred to do more research about their lives.
Leachman uncovered many women who had made contributions, but whose stories were not chronicled. One of the scientists she’s researched is Winifred Chase, an American who participated in a botanical expedition to the South Pacific in 1909 with two other women. Leachman helped trace lantern slides created by Chase on the journey to New Zealand, which she incorporated into her Wikipedia entry on Chase’s life.
To complete the profiles of the scientists she’s researching, Leachman tracks down information about their lives and work through genealogy sites, as well as year books and natural history society journals found in the Internet Archive and borrowed via her Internet Archive account. “It’s absolutely thrilling. I love the stories,” she said of her research. “It’s as if you are reaching across time.” Leachman pieces together details and writes articles about female scientists, and in doing so, has become an advocate for open access.
“I’m keen on showing that women have contributed to science forever. It’s just not well documented,” said Leachman, who found many of the subjects she’s covered were amateur botanists or entomologists. “They’ve done a lot of work, but it’s like me—unpaid, a hobby. But they still contributed to science.”
Although some did not have university qualifications, women played a role over the years, said Leachman, and it’s important they get the recognition they deserve.
She often links her findings to the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a worldwide consortium of natural history, botanical, research, and national libraries working together to digitize the natural history literature held in their collections and make it freely available online. The Internet Archive partners with BHL and its member libraries by providing digitization, storage and access for scanned books.
Closer to home, the New Zealand National Library recently faced a dilemma about what to do with low-circulating physical material it no longer had the space to store. Leachman applauded the Library’s initial plans to donate 600,000 excess books to the Internet Archive, but laments the announcement this week that the donation is on pause. Once digitized, the books would have been accessible to anyone through Controlled Digital Lending, and could have been linked to Wikipedia. In Leachman’s view, the donation and digitization of these books would greatly improve access to the knowledge held within these publications for the benefit of all—not just New Zealanders, but for the world. She is hopeful that this hiatus will be short-lived and that the National Library will soon be sending those books to the Internet Archive for the good of all.
Added Leachman: “The Internet Archive rocks my world. I just love it. It’s so easy to get what you need. I just think it’s amazing.”
The Internet has revolutionized everything from how we work to how we play—even how we do our holiday shopping. Although there’s a lot of advertising, spin, and flashy discounts crowding the Web, there are also hidden gems and common goods. This Cyber Monday, we’re celebrating the original promise of cyberspace: a place where anyone can share knowledge freely.
From the beginning, the Internet Archive was meant to be a Library of Everything for the digital age. Not only would it be a resource available to the entire world, but it would be a step forward into the future—smarter than paper and more accessible than a physical library. For 25 years we’ve been building the our collections, with help from our community every step of the way. Your support has always been crucial for our work.
Right now we’re in the middle of our End of Year fundraising campaign. Thanks to a generous anonymous donor, all gifts received through December 31, 2021 will be matched 2-to-1, tripling the impact of your generosity towards this valuable resource. If you find our website useful, please consider donating to help us continue to expand and grow.
The Internet Archive is home to billions of webpages; millions of books, videos, audio files, and images; and hundreds of thousands of software programs. Making that much data freely available to our more than 1.5 million daily users comes with a cost. Your donations will ensure that our servers can keep running, our storage can grow, and our staff can continue to maintain our systems and infrastructure.
If you can’t imagine a future without access to our vast collections, please make a tax-deductible donation today. Big or small, we promise to put your donation to good use as we continue to further Universal Access to All Knowledge.
In her powerful essay “The Sacred Geometry of Respect, Trust and Equity,” Ehmke suggests a new way forward. She challenges us to go beyond a begrudging nod to leveling the playing field. “To effect meaningful change, those whose authority and privilege are sustained by inequity must yield power and distribute agency to those who are most impacted by systemic disparities.”
At the meetup, Coraline discussed what it would mean to build a new decentralized web centered on the values of respect, trust and equity. She explored how centering the values of mutual respect, trust, and equity can help us address the challenges of promoting justice and human rights in the code we create.
Watch Coraline’s talk here:
Lightning Talk Speakers
Jenny Ryan, Project Manager at eQualit.ie for the CENO Browser. enabling you to route around censorship with a peer-to-peer web browser. Jenny is passionate about connecting grassroots communities and global initiatives. She has co-founded and stewarded three Oakland, California nonprofits: Sudo Room, Omni Commons, and Sudo Mesh.
Watch Jenny’s talk here:
Eyal Ron, Co-founder of Esteroids, the search engine for dWebsites. Eyal received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the Free University of Berlin. He was also a co-founder of Almonit (discontinued) and Alpress projects, a former member of the Bisq-core team, and the main author of a couple of DIN (German standard institute) blockchain specs.
Watch Eyal’s talk here:
Savannah Lee, Brand Director of Mysterium, an open-source Web3 project creating a censorship-resistant layer of the internet. She plugged into the Web 3.0 matrix four years ago, now focusing on R&D and strategies to grow P2P communities. Her goal is to help builders and users defend their digital rights and protect access to free information.
Watch Savannah’s talk here:
Suji Yan, Founder of Mask.io which is building a decentralized web on top of the current giant platforms. Mask helps protect users’ privacy on social media by encrypting users’ posts right before sending them out, so users control their data autonomy with their own keys.
Watch Suji’s talk here:
Mauve Signweaver, Creator of HyperGodot, a set of tools for the Godot game engine which enable developers to create local-first peer to peer games based on the protocol handlers in the Agregore browser. Mauve is a Canadian tech enthusiast with a passion for decentralization. Their main project for this is Agregore, a web browser that combines different peer to peer protocols together.
Watch Mauve’s talk here:
Joy Zhang, Founder of Quark. Quark is a Web 3.0 browser x social platform that shows you paths across the internet. Joy is an award-winning designer, engineer, and entrepreneur specializing in human-computer interaction. She has led projects at Apple, IDEO, and four early stage startups, two of which were her own. Joy was featured on Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards for her sustainable online shopping plugin, shADe.
Watch Joy’s talk here:
Bernhard Borges, Ph.D, Research scientist at the Fluence Project. Fluence is a peer-to-peer application platform which allows the creation of applications free of proprietary cloud providers or centralized APIs. His areas of expertise are Web3, IoT, enterprise integration, and privacy. Prior to Fluence, Bernhard was the Chief Scientist.at Dock Systems and an IBM Distinguished Engineer.
Watch Bernhard’s talk here:
You can register to attend the Holiday fair on December 8, 2021 at 10am PT here.Visit GetDWeb.net to learn more about the decentralized web. You can also follow us on Twitter at @GetDWeb for ongoing updates.
As a teenager in the 1940s, Ben Smith became a huge fan of swing and big-band music — especially the masterful Duke Ellington, known for the classics “Mood Indigo” and “Take the ‘A’ Train.”
Smith started collecting Ellington records in 78rpm format in high school and continued during World War II when he served in the Air Force stationed in various U.S. cities before being deployed to the Philippines and Japan. “That was my band, I was crazy about them,” he said of Ellington and his Orchestra, a centerpiece of his early swing jazz collection along with Benny Goodman, Woody Herman and other greats.
Now, the 95-year-old is sharing some of the music he collected and curated over the years with the world. Smith recently donated 300 of his beloved CDs, LPs and 78s to the Internet Archive, including a mix of classical, jazz, western swing, country, folk, and blues. A first set of the 78s is now online, and the remaining collection is queued for digitization.
“I thought somebody else should have access and be enjoying them,” said Smith, who lives in Austin, Texas. “I’m just thrilled. I’m the winner here.”
When Smith was in the hospital earlier this year, he talked with his family about what would happen to his music someday. His son, Mark Smith, recently retired as director and state librarian at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, suggested the Internet Archive could digitize the items and provide a permanent home.
“My dad isn’t a big Internet guy, so I took my computer over and showed him how it would work, and how people could listen to his music,” said Mark. “He was excited and thought it sounded wonderful.”
Mark then contacted Liz Rosenberg, donations manager at the Archive, who gave him instructions on how to ship the records and media to the Archive. He brought the CDs and records to the UPS store, where they were boxed up and sent. “It worked out great. It was easy,” said Mark.
Growing up, Mark says he was more into rock and folk music, but he understands how his dad’s generation loved the swing era and admired the musical genius of legends such as Ellington. Ben met Ellington once at a show in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1947. After the concert, he approached Ellington for an autograph, but his pen didn’t work. “He was so cordial and in his mellow voice said, ‘I have a pen’ and reached into his vest pocket and took out this beautiful pen and wrote his very ornate signature,” Ben recalls.
Born in Orange, Texas, in 1926, Ben was a staff artist at the University of Texas for 38 years. In his donation to the Archive, he included an illustration of Ellington he drew in the 1940s and a watercolor of longtime Ellington alto sax soloist Johnny Hodges.
Mark says he’s pleased to have his father’s collection featured alongside other digitized items available to the public.
“I think the Internet Archive is one of the coolest things on the whole internet – the Wayback Machine and all of the spoken word recordings, not to mention the vast Grateful Dead recordings,” said Mark Smith. “I’m very grateful to the Archive for taking in my dad’s collection, making it available and making my dad very, very happy.”
From Texas to Virginia to Pennsylvania, there is a growing movement to challenge books in schools that some suggest are inappropriate for students. Concern goes beyond explicit content; it now includes opposition to LGBTQIA material, the history of racism, and material that may cause discomfort to readers.
While efforts to ban books are not new, the solutions to counter censorship are—thanks to technology that is used to create access for all.
The Internet Archive’s Open Library (https://openlibrary.org) does not face the same local pressures that many school districts or school libraries do. At a time when students and teachers may be encountering limited access to content in their local community, the Internet Archive acquires and digitizes material for its online library, and lends a wide array of books for free to anyone, anytime.
For example, the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books in the past decade are available in a curated collection. Among the titles: The Glass Castle by Jennette Walls, banned for offensive language and sexually explicit content; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, cited as being insensitive, anti-family and violent; and Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin, challenged for its LGBTQIA content and the perceived effects on young people who would read it.
Books dealing with gay and trans rights have long been targeted in school libraries. There are more than 1,800 titles in Open Library’s LGBTQ Collection—sorted, searchable and available to borrow online for free. Many of the novels, memoirs and works of history are not otherwise accessible to people who live in rural areas or places where those materials are explicitly banned.
New Challenges, New Responses
The new efforts to ban books are taking a much broader view of limiting access. Across the country, some objectors say books like Beloved by Toni Morrison, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, should not be discussed or available in schools. As these lists are made public, Open Library’s volunteer team of Open Librarians take action to ensure that these books remain accessible to all.
Recently, Open Library created a collection of books removed from circulation in the Goddard School District in Kansas. It includes The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Fences by August Wilson, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1987. A small collection of banned books from Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley features Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitgerald.
Open Library’s lead community librarian, Lisa Seaberg, is curating a collection of 850 books that have recently been challenged in Texas. Among the books targeted are ones that mention human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, contain material that might make students feel uncomfortable or distressed because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive.
What’s become caught up in this “wide net,” said Seaberg, are books about health education, teen pregnancy, civics, philosophy, religion, anthropology, inventions, encyclopedias and, ironically, a novel about book censorship in a high school. Those who favor removing certain books see an opportunity and momentum, she said, but the difference in this moment is that libraries are able to provide access to titles regardless of where the reader is located.
One reason books get banned is because political forces within an area become stronger than the populace, said Mek, who leads the Open Library team for the Internet Archive. “Open Library is trying to bridge these inequity gaps across geographies and social classes. We invite the populace to come together and participate in a digital sanctuary where our rich and diverse cultural heritage isn’t subject to censorship by the few with special interests.”
At the most basic level, banning books is about restricting access to knowledge, said Lisa Petrides, chief executive officer and founder of the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME).
“The impact of this on schools means that students are exposed to a limited set of world views, which is extremely detrimental to critical thinking, reflective analysis and discussion,” said Petrides. “Perhaps even more importantly as we are seeing today, this means that educators and librarians are increasingly put in difficult situations, having to face the threat of reprisal from administrators or school boards, who are themselves increasingly less willing to stand up for the First Amendment rights of their teachers and learners.”
The Path Forward
Everyone’s perspectives should matter and be represented in the democratic process. A library must offer diverse materials so people can draw their own conclusions, said Mek. He embraces the oft-cited quote from librarian Jo Godwin: “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”
“It’s important for informed members of society to share their opinions,” he says. “But there’s a difference between sharing an opinion and robbing someone of the opportunity to form their own. To change hearts and minds, write a compelling book—don’t take authors you disagree with off the shelves. The Open Library community is honoring these values by giving contested titles their spots back on the shelf.”
Seaberg says, hopefully, recent book challenges will ultimately fail and access to a range of books will be restored. “If students walk into a library and they have books that only present one side of an issue, or are only relatable to a certain group in a culture, it excludes a lot of people,” she says. “They might not even know this other content exists.”
Join Library Futures, Internet Archive, and the Georgetown Intellectual Property and Information Policy (iPIP) Clinic for a panel on copyright, licensing, accessibility, and the law. We’ll be discussing new scholarship from legal experts Michelle Wu (retired Georgetown University Law Center) and Blake Reid (Clinical Professor at Colorado Law).
The Corruption of Copyright: New Scholarship in Libraries, Technology, & the Law Monday, November 15 12pm PT / 3pm ET
Wu’s “The Corruption of Copyright and Returning to its Original Purposes” (Legal Reference Services Quarterly) looks at how some industries have redirected the benefits of copyright towards themselves through licensing and other activities, which impacts author remuneration and upsets the balance of the public interest. This paper focuses on the book, music, and entertainment industries, examines how copyright has been used to suppress the uses it was intended to foster, and explores ongoing and proposed avenues for course correction: https://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/facpub/2410/
Reid’s “Copyright and Disability” (forthcoming in California Law Review) discusses how recent progress toward copyright limitations and exceptions continues an ableist tradition in the development of U.S. copyright policy: centering the interests of copyright holders, rather than those of readers, viewers, listeners, users, and authors with disabilities. Using case studies, Reid explores copyright’s ableist tradition to discuss how it subordinates the actual interests of people with disability. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3381201
The panel will be moderated by Amanda Levendowski, Associate Professor of Law at Georgetown Law.