Archive controversy: Archival preservation vs. blogger control and limitations of fair use

Over the past few days, a controversy over copyrights erupted between AVEN and many bloggers of the asexual community, much of it documented here, because as of the past few weeks, several posts from blogs have been copied, and reposted in their entirety on AVEN’s World Watch archives.

I’m late to this issue because real life life has been getting in the way over the past few days as this issue was erupting, but I’ve been catching up. Being part of AVEN’s Project Team, but also a blogger myself, I don’t want to pick sides. This isn’t anything official, and I’m just speaking for myself here, although an official announcement from AVEN was released earlier today, and AVEN wants to work with content creators to come to a solution to this issue.

I greatly appreciate AVEN’s efforts at archiving asexual history, and I appreciate the enthusiasm of some members to find articles and posts to add. When AVEN posts articles and copies them into the WW archives, it is a good faith effort to preserve them for educational and historical purposes, because much of the asexual community’s history is online and changes so quickly. Many websites have come and gone, and copying articles is to preserve them if the article’s website goes defunct or changes URL. However, there are two more immediate concerns:

  • The impact this has on bloggers, including control over one’s own content, and how this impacts their ability to retain readers.
  • Copyright infringement, and whether AVEN’s archiving efforts fall under fair use or not.

Under the first clause of fair use, AVEN’s status as a nonprofit that archives information for nonprofit educational purposes is in its favor.

On this page that that further elaborates on what counts as fair use, it says that a project that non-commercial, and has a benefit to the public, are two points that fall in favor towards fair use, but there are limitations.

One of the points mentioned is “Nonprofit educational uses — for example, photocopying of limited portions of written works by teachers for classroom use.” This ties right into the third clause of fair use, which is “the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole…”, which places a limitation on how much information can be copied. The guideline is usually quoting one or two paragraphs.

The fourth clause “…the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.“, may or may not apply. Few, if any of us ace bloggers get any revenue from our blogs, but if people can just read the whole article on AVEN, then they have no incentive to click the original link, which diverts traffic away from the original blog. I haven’t been impacted by this myself, but other bloggers have. Redbeardace explained that he, and some other bloggers are dependent on traffic and visitor stats to guide them, and what they write.

Another concern is bloggers’ control over their content, especially since some of the blog posts that were reposted on AVEN were personal stories written for the author’s blog, being re-posted to a much wider audience than they may have intended, or if the blogger removed their post for whatever reason.

Personally, I think it’s fair if a couple of paragraphs are quoted, the post summarized, and linked to. That still gives someone the incentive to click the link to see the rest, and give the original blog traffic. It is also important to consider the nature of the post, respecting the difference between posts that are more about general information vs. more personal posts. Privacy should be respected.

In light of all of this, will other bloggers be stating their stances on their posts being reposted on AVEN so that this incident doesn’t happen in the future? I’d like for a balance to be struck, so that AVEN’s archives can continue to grow, while respecting bloggers’ wishes.

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7 thoughts on “Archive controversy: Archival preservation vs. blogger control and limitations of fair use

  1. onlyfragments

    Is it so hard for someone from AVEN to obtain permission to repost the article, either partially or in full? It should be assumed until otherwise noted that you DON’T have permission to repost something in full, especially if you don’t link to the original. I’m happy if something of mine is linked to – IF I have knowledge and have given my consent. If not, I have no control over how that item is then used, either on AVEN or somewhere else. Likewise, I can’t respond to any questions or criticisms that arise.

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    1. Aqua Post author

      I don’t know why that wasn’t considered. With most, if not all of the blogs, someone could comment without having a WP account, and could just ask for permission in the comments. I agree that it makes a difference on whether you were informed about being linked to or not.

      Isn’t being linked to a double-edged sword, because we may get a lot of our traffic from other asexuality blogs that happen to link to our posts in theirs? I think that’s different from this though. I’m guessing the difference is that because how many of the asexual blogs are somewhat interconnected, in terms of viewers, topics, and discourse, being linked to by other blogs’ posts is expected and necessary.

      There’s a different dynamic at play when a post is copied to a much larger audience like AVEN. The AVEN announcement already has a few replies, though I still haven’t replied yet.

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  2. Tristifere

    hi Aqua, I hadn’t seen your post before posting my recap. Will add your post. I think this is a fair and balanced view of what has happened and what seems to be a decent policy.

    Though I do want to weigh in on the archiving project. I’ve already send a (very long) pm to ithaca about this and I won’t recap everything here (I’m considering reworking it into a more general blog post on archiving ace history. Also, I’m more than happy to send you what I sent Ithaca if you’re interested in the issue of ace history conservation).

    What is currently the archiving project is – from my own perspective and experience with archiving and historical work – highly insufficient to serve as a long-term and sustainable archive. It’s not just the copyright issues, it’s also that forums are not a suitable way to store your archive + a huge amount of data is lost when you only post the bare text (no lay-out, no meta-data, no comments, no ability to view different versions, etc. plus some bloggers have already pointed out that the full-text copies of their posts were attributed to the wrong person… so you really have no way of knowing if the info you’re seeing in the AVEN archives is correct once the link is dead).

    Right now, the world watch archives are nothing more than archives of “this is what AVENites happen to notice with media coverage and off-AVEN ace communities”. If you want to have a workable, sustainable archive of ace history that will be actually useful to future asexuals and historians, it will need a complete overhaul: different type of storage, conserving more data than just the plain text, working within the legal framework (and thus having a quick policy when people want their stuff removed) and having clearly defined selection criteria (what is and isn’t included? how do you go about obtaining the content of your archive? etc.)

    I’m sorry if this is a rambling story. I’m completely drained by the drama. Anyway, the long and short of it is that I think the AVEN archiving project falls woefully short of what the set goals are.

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    1. Aqua Post author

      Great points! The comments to posts are often as important as the post itself, and it’s unfortunate that they, and other data get lost in the archiving process. How do you think it’d be possible to have an archive that both preserves more data than just raw text, while also working within the legal framework. Asking for permission to copy all that data would just be part of it.

      Something that did concern me about the archives is that it throws everything together. I can definitely see publications from news sites, radio appearances and TV appearances being included in the archives, but I wasn’t sure if blog posts or vlogs should be included (unless they had permission at least) because those are more likely to be personal.

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      1. Elizabeth

        If the archive project could find a library to sponsor it, then the archivists working at the library could provide an appropriate place to store the data, while making it available to anyone who wants to look it up for historical research. Contributors could also submit their work, but keep it unavailable to the public until after their death, or until a specified date.

        I have experience processing historical archives, so this whole thing is really frustrating to me on a professional level, as well as a personal level.

        I really don’t understand why a forum is being considered an appropriate place to archive historical data. The AVEN forums have gone down multiple times over the years, and lost items in their database. It is far less secure than they seem to think.

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  3. Pingback: After “Archiving” on World Watch is Adjusted, Still Asking Why | Demisexual and Proud

  4. Pingback: Archive controversy part 2: Working towards a solution | Cake at the Fortress

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