Reading Archives

With this blog, I am planning to offer, as regularly as possible, critical observations on the scholarly and popular literature analyzing the nature of archives or contributing to our understanding of archives in society. I hope this blog will be of assistance to anyone, especially faculty and graduate students, interested in understanding archives and their importance to society.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Remix


Most archivists understand that intellectual property has become a real battleground for them, where they engage in a war where it is sometimes difficult to ascertain just who the enemy is and what the objective may be. Lawrence Lessig, who has produced some of the most compelling examinations of the copyright battles, writes in his most recent work, “Copyright is, in my view at least, critically important to s healthy culture. Properly balanced, it is essential to inspiring certain forms of creativity. Without it, we would have a poorer culture. With it, at least properly balanced, we create the incentives to produce great new works that otherwise would not be produced” (Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy [New York: Penguin Press, 2008], p. xvi). Since archivists certainly desire for their materials to be used effectively by scholars and citizens alike to contribute to our understanding of the past and an enrichment of our culture, it is important for them to read and reflect on the insights of commentators such as Lessig.

Lessig describes, in sufficient detail and his easily readable style, the impact of the digital technologies on popular culture, noting how the main driver has come to be access, not necessarily free, but access enabling new forms of use in ways we could not imagine a generation or two ago. Lessig believes everything will be on the Web, enabling all kinds of new and innovative remixing, as well as generating new kinds of challenges regarding intellectual property. Everyone can have greater access to more information and material than ever before, while also potentially increasing control over how this stuff can be used. Some of Lessig’s commentary will be of interest to archivists, noting that digital technologies make it possible to preserve nearly everything, although he notes that the technical costs are “trivial” while the “legal costs . . . are increasingly prohibitive” (p. 262). Archivists always should read Lessig’s work on intellectual property, and try to imagine how to relate his ides to their own work.

2 Comments:

At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RC wrote: ..."Lessig describes, in sufficient detail and his easily readable style, the impact of the digital technologies on popular culture, noting how the main driver has come to be access, not necessarily free, but access enabling new forms of use in ways we could not imagine a generation or two ago. Lessig believes everything will be on the Web, enabling all kinds of new and innovative remixing, as well as generating new kinds of challenges regarding intellectual property..,"
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Such basic advocacy for equal access to all information can also be referred back to the ALA Library Bill of Rights - does SAA have a similar mission? Irregardless of format, the core values have been already in place for libraries and must continue to guide the profession.


http://www.ifla.org/faife/ifstat/alabill.htm

American Library Association

Library Bill of Rights

Adopted June 18, 1948. Amended February 2, 1961, and January 23, 1980, inclusion of "age" reaffirmed January 23, 1996, by the ALA Council.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfilment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

 
At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Robert Presutti said...

Hi Dr. Cox. I hope you are doing well in Pittsburgh. I thought I'd swing by and see how your blog is going...

I haven't yet read Lessig's new book. I assume when he refers to "trivial" technical costs he is referring to the storage of born-digital records and not to records needing analog-to-digital conversion.

Assuming he is only referring to born-digital electronic records, I find his proclamation that everything will be available on the Web intriguing. What role would archival appraisal play in this new world of unlimited storage? Or, is Lessig, who is undeniably a scholar , a bit outside of his understanding on this point? Obviously, Nicholson Baker was soundly rejected by the archival community for his similar argument concerning analog materials. Does this argument become more acceptable when recast with concern to electronic records?

This may have already been debated and resolved in the professional literature, so I apologize if I haven't come across it specifically yet in my own study.

Thanks,
Bob

 

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