Archive controversy part 2: Working towards a solution

A follow-up to my last post, about the archive and copyright controversy that interrupted between AVEN, and the bloggers of the asexual community. The official thread and announcement by AVEN has escalated quite a lot, especially on the second page, but now it looks like some agreement is being reached. Some of the admins posted stating that being on good terms with content creators is more important than the completeness of the archives.

Keep in mind I’m still just speaking for myself here with this post, but I agree. I value the archives, but making them complete isn’t worth it if content creators are going to be alienated, and that would discourage us from creating more content.

Demiandproud proposed ideas for an asexuality community library as possible solutions to this problem, as something complementary to the World Watch archives, not a replacement.

This example has to do with retrocomputing and archiving old software instead, but one possible idea that comes to mind is following the approach used by World of Spectrum. Many of the other home computer systems, and game consoles from 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s have their own archives of software for them, but they fall under a legal gray area because: almost all were uploaded without the publisher’s permission, and are still under copyright, therefore it’s illegal, but the copyrights often aren’t enforced, or can’t be, hence the gray area. Some archived software are “orphaned works“, works that are still copyrighted, but the copyrights can’t be enforced. For others, the publishers or copyright holders don’t see a point in taking action if the abandonware archives aren’t profiting off of it.

With old computer software and video games, the justification used to archive it under this legal gray area is an understandable one: that physical copies of old software, and the computers themselves, aren’t expected to last long enough before the copyrights expire. Tapes, cartridges, floppy disks and CDs are all fragile formats. These “abandonware” sites exist to keep old software from vanishing off the face of the earth if there are no physical copies left that work.

Abandonware sites as a whole operate under this legal gray area, but WoS is one that stands out for operating in a fully legal manner, and shows how it’s possible: by tracking down the publishers, or current copyright holders, and asking for their permission to make copies of their software available. Most of the publishers contacted, agreed to it, and the site itself is officially endorsed by the owners of the Spectrum IP.

Under their header of “What are we after exactly?”, WoS states they want permission from the copyright holders without them having to relinquish their copyrights, and have a list of publishers and individual programmers who did or didn’t give them permission.

It’s not a perfect comparison since archiving blog posts or articles is different from archiving old software. There is a parallel in that there is an emphasis on preservation, since websites might not last long; many that go defunct either have no trace of their existence or only survive as incomplete fragments on the Wayback Machine. In general, there are challenges to preserving data, whether it’s a piece of software, or a website that partly, or completely disappears.

Archiving blog posts has its own set of concerns though, like posts that are more personal, or are edited or removed by the author for whatever reason. Another difference from the abandonware situation is that the publishers of blog posts in the asexual community can be easily found, their and our posts and blogs clearly aren’t abandoned. Many are still active bloggers, and some are actively in contact with AVEN right now. We’re here, and many of us want permission to be asked before being reposted on AVEN.

Otherwise, I think that same approach used by WoS can be taken by contacting publishers, and asking for permission, and also posting a list of publishers of asexual media, including bloggers that did or didn’t give permission for their content to be reposted on AVEN.

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2 thoughts on “Archive controversy part 2: Working towards a solution

  1. demiandproud

    Wow, that’s a really neat example, thanks for sharing! Asking for permission would definitely be a key component. My own example is AO3, who spends a lot of time tracking down authors and more importantly, giving them access to edit or delete content even through their old log-ins when they import old archives. It’s not a perfect system, but it leaves enough avenues of communication.

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  2. Pingback: Linkspam: August 7th, 2015 | The Asexual Agenda

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