[Air-L] archiving writers' e-work (fwd)
Lois Ann Scheidt
lscheidt at umail.iu.edu
Wed Apr 8 10:31:58 PDT 2009
My response is US-centric, but yes, with current copyright laws as they are
anyone with intellectual property (self-produced multimedia archives of most
any sort) should be bequeathing that archive to someone else's control after
they are gone. I have mine setup to include all published and unpublished
work (including online work such as blogs) I should note there that I set up
a "literary trust" which is the actual holder of the artifacts...and then
has a trustee who manages them...and a stated process for assigning new
trustees as time goes on. As a side note, funding has been arranged so that
websites, etc can remain active into perpetuity...after reading this story I
should have included the recommendation to convert media too modern forms
The library world has been discussing this for some time, particularly in
relationship to orphan works. Orphan works are works covered by current
copyright laws but for whom no copyright holder can be identified. There are
also stories of families who theoretically hold their departed members
copyright but who refuse to allow the work to be used...something that could
easily happen unless the original copyright holder has taken moves to pass
on their advise for future use. In my case the trust documents say I want
the work used appropriately and widely...which gives the trustee license to
make decisions on appropriateness with the guidance that I don't want work
to die in a vault somewhere.
I'm not an attorney, so my endorsement is fairly shallow...but it looks like
Wikipedia has a pretty good entry on this issues. For Copyright see
http://tinyurl.com/8fsld for Orphan works see http://tinyurl.com/6zfuof
"The length of the term [of copyright] can depend on several factors,
including the type of work (e.g. musical composition, novel), whether the
work has been published or not, and whether the work was created by an
individual or a corporation. In most of the world, the default length of
copyright is the life of the author plus either 50 or 70 years."
After doing his research, my attorney was amazed at how little is actually
being said about copyright and academics or any other content producers. He
is planning at putting together some training for our local colleges, where
he is on faculty.
It may seem strange that a student has gone ahead and done this...mostly it
was just being thorough when I set up my estate. I have some publications
now--both academic and non-academic--and I plan to have many more in the
future. So it seemed prudent to address everything at once when I had my
estate reviewed during my divorce.
I should also note that your post was very timely as I was reviewing this
issue last week...it's part of my annual birthday review, so now I have some
additions to make to bring the trust up to speed.
Lois Ann Scheidt
Doctoral Student - School of Library and Information Science, Indiana
University, Bloomington IN USA
From: air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org
[mailto:air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of jcu
Sent: Wednesday, April 08, 2009 1:07 PM
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
Subject: Re: [Air-L] archiving writers' e-work (fwd)
Please forgive my rather large post to this list.
But I wish to share an article in full (see below)
for the sake of placing a question in context. I
hope this is alright to do ...
Has anyone heard of someone bequeathing
their 'cloud' of personal info to a loved one/
family member? In the world of computer forensics,
can a family member legally gain access to/take ownership
of a deceased family members' mobile me accounts
(the contents of it), for example?
Is anyone researching this aspect of e-writing?
thank you for your time,
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 2009 11:58:07 EDT
Subject: [vel] archiving writers' e-work
From the issue dated April 10, 2009
<Archiving Writers' Work in the Age of E-Mail
Digital preservation lets scholars learn more than ever about authors
By STEVE KOLOWICH
Leslie Morris is used to handling John Updike's personal effects. For
decades, Mr. Updike had been sending a steady stream of manuscripts and
Harvard University's Houghton Library, where Ms. Morris serves as a curator.
But in late February, several weeks after the iconic writer died, some
arrived with unexpected contents: approximately 50 three-and-a-halfand
five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy disksÂ â?" artifacts from late in the
when he, like many of his peers, began using a word processor.
The floppies have presented a bit of a problem. While relatively modern to
Mr. UpdikeÂ â?" who rose to prominence back when publishers were still using
Linotype machinesÂ â?" the disks are outmoded and damage-prone by today's
Ms. Morris, who curates modern books and manuscripts, has carefully stored
alongside his papers in a temperature-controlled room in the library "until
we have a procedure here at Harvard on how to handle these materials."
Harvard isn't the only university puzzling over new media from oldÂ â?"
not-so-oldÂ â?" masters. Emory University recently received four laptops, an
external hard drive, and a Palm Treo personal digital assistant from Salman
The University of Texas at Austin recently acquired a series of Zip disks
a laptop containing Norman Mailer's files.
"Once we learned how to preserve paper, we were good," says Naomi L.
interim director of the manuscript, archives, and rare-book library at Emory
University's Robert W. Woodruff Library. "That really hasn't changed a lot.
With computers it's a whole different ballgame."
Still, three things are becoming clear. First, these trappings of the
digital age will transform the way libraries preserve and exhibit literary
collections. Second, universities are going to have to spend money on new
training for their archivists. And finally, scholars will be able to learn
more about writers than they ever have before.
In With the Old
Personal computers and external storage devices have been around for more
than a quarter-century, but only now, as the famous literary figures of the
century begin to pass away, are these technologies showing up on archivists'
According to Ms. Morris, the Updike papers will be the first in the
catalog to have a "significant magnetic-media component," and she realizes
that old floppy disks are just the tip of the iceberg. The great American
novelists of the digital eraÂ â?" the ones who own BlackBerrys, use Gmail,
and Twitter, and compose only on computer screensÂ â?" will soon begin
their hard drives off to university libraries.
What happens then is something much on the minds of Matthew G.
(The Chronicle, August 17, 2007) and Douglas L. Reside. Both Mr.
associate director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the
at the University of Maryland, and Mr. Reside, an assistant director at the
institute, possess the collection of skills that may eventually be required
all 21st-century curators. In addition to holding doctorates in English,
are computer experts.
The institute, located in an austere warren of offices in the basement of
the university's McKeldin Library, houses a mix of sleek new machines and
old ones. An easy office-chair roll away from his newest computer sits Mr.
Kirschenbaum's oldest one: a small, gray box known as the Apple II. Mr.
office contains similar artifacts, including a Commodore 64 gaming console.
Amid the institute's state-of-the-art machines, these ridiculous-looking
antiques are stark reminders of how rapidly computer technology has evolved,
producing one of the major challenges of preservation in the digital age:
The problem with the dizzying pace of computer evolution is that new
machines are often incapable of learning old tricksÂ â?" even if the tricks
really that old. For instance, most new computers don't come with
drives. And while Harvard will surely procure machines that can safely read
Updike's disk-based papers, what if those papers were trapped inside an even
older storage deviceÂ â?" say, something resembling a Commodore 64 game
Future archivists must have the skills to retrieve them.
Brave New World
Archivists must also know how to transfer their data to new machines,
old machines can survive for only so long before their circuits give out.
That, Ms. Nelson says, calls for people with intimate knowledge of how the
new stuff works, plus the resourcefulness to retrofit modernity's round
to accommodate antiquity's square pegs. "We're still going to need people
are experts in the history of the book, people who study handwriting,
paper collections, handle obsolete video formats, traditional photography.
We're going to do everything we've been doing, and then we're going to be
Ms. Nelson understands this better than most: While Mr. Updike's floppy
disks at Harvard probably contain simple text documents, the digital devices
Rushdie donated to Emory contain entire ecosystems of data.
Writers today do a lot more on computers than they used to, and modern
devices hold a lot more information about their users than old ones did. The
(and now the mobile device) has become the locus of social life as
correspondence has migrated from letters and phone calls to e-mail and text
Recreational reading and research have also increasingly moved to the Web.
Since a laptop logs basically everything its user does, preserving these
data environments will allow the scholars of the future unprecedented
into the minds of literary geniuses. "It's basically like giving someone the
to your house," says Mr. Kirschenbaum.
The influence of authors' environments on their writing has always
interested scholars. Marcel Proust, for example, is known to have been
influenced by the paintings he surrounded himself with when he penned the
Remembrance of Things Past, between 1909 and 1922. Imagine if Proust had
writing 100 years later, on a laptop: What else we might be able to learn
The implications for scholarship are tremendous, Mr. Kirschenbaum says.
a great digital-era author: "You could potentially look at a browser
see that he visited a particular Web site on a particular day and time," he
says. "And then if you were to go into the draft of one of his manuscripts,
could see that draft was edited at a particular day and hour, and you could
establish a connection between something he was looking at on the Web with
something that he then wrote."
In some cases, computer forensics can even hint at an author's influences
beyond the screen. Mr. Reside recently mined data from old equipment
to Jonathan Larson, the late composer and playwright who earned a Pulitzer
Prize posthumously for the musical Rent. In an early draft, Larson had a
suggest that the moonlight coming through the window is really "fluorescent
light from the Gap." In the final draft, the lyric was "Spike Lee shooting
"From the time stamp on the digital files," Mr. Reside says, "I learned
the lyric was changed in the spring of 1992 ... when, I believe, Spike Lee
was shooting Malcolm X in New York City."
A Deluge of Data
That is really just scratching the surface. Imagine how mapping the
of an author's Facebook profile, MySpace page, Flickr account, or Twitter
might help scholars dissect that author's life and letters. The social-media
generation has developed a habit of casually volunteering biographical
information. When the great authors of that generation emerge, scholars may
pleased to find plenty of fodder for study already on the public record.
But that is where things get tricky. Information that lives inside a
writer's personal hardwareÂ â?" like the data on Mr. Updike's floppy disks
or Mr. Rush
die's hard drivesÂ â?" may not have physical dimensions, but it is at least
attached to a single device that is owned by somebody. "It's physically
Mr. Kirschenbaum, gesturing toward a shelf of Apple Classic computers,
to the Maryland institute by the poet Deena Larsen. "I can wrap my arms
Not so with e-mail and social-media content. These are not programs run on
individual computers; they are Web-based services, hosted remotely by
like Facebook and Google. The content exists in an ethereal mass of data
known in information-technology circles as "the cloud." There, Mr.
says, "you get into this wilderness of competing terms of service."
With more and more information being stored on the Web, it is no longer
clear who owns what.
For example, in February, Facebook rewrote its terms of service to stake a
claim on all content that users put on their profiles. After a backlash, the
company hastily backed off and reiterated that users own their own profile
content. But the case is a reminder of the fluidity and ambiguity of
in the dawning era of shared media.
"Consumers don't really know their rights here, and many are so wowed with
the convenience that they aren't asking themselves the tough questions yet,"
says Susan E. Thomas, digital archivist at the University of Oxford's
Library. "Right now we can collect boxes from the attic, but if the family
request a cloud service to transfer the archive of their loved one to the
Library, will that happen? We haven't tried it yet, so I can't tell you."
"That's sort of the brick wall that every archivist knows they're hurtling
toward at 100 miles per hour," says Mr. Kirschenbaum.
Many other questions also remain unanswered. For example, how much
information is too much? A 20th-century author's personal papers might be of
quantityÂ â?" say, what she was able to store in her attic. Digital storage,
the other hand, is cheap, easy, and virtually unlimited. Mining, sorting,
archiving every bit of data stored an author's computers could become a
of paralyzing tedium and diminishing value.
At present, researchers are wary of discarding anything. "The work of an
author over their entire lifetime is such a fraction of the space you have
server hard disk, so there's no reason to throw any of that away," says Mr.
Kirschenbaum. However, he added, unless scholars are able to find what they
in that sea of data, it is not worth archiving in the first place.
The good news is that as computers are logging more data, reference
technology is growing more sophisticated. And Ms. Nelson suggests that the
for interacting with born-digital artifactsÂ â?" including a wiki
that could allow researchers to annotate materials and share their insights
othersÂ â?" may not be too far away.
New tools and new training, however, mean new money. Richard Ovenden,
associate director of Oxford's Bodleian Library, says the speed at which
universities adopt digital curation may depend on their willingness to
divert funds from
more traditional areas. And that could be at a slower pace than the speed of
technological invention itself.
Section: The Faculty
Volume 55, Issue 31, Page A1
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