The Future of Digital Preservation

Digital preservation is a thorny problem–how do you preserve items that are born digital, and how do you guarantee that those items will be accessible in the distant future, when people are trying to access…say, an old song, formatted as an MP3, on their holo-gadget, or whatever people are using 20, 30, 50 years from now?

What, you don’t have a holophone? C’mon. It’s 3018, join us in the future, won’t you? 

It seems like an obvious enough problem: floppy disks used to be all the rage, but now how many of us actually have a computer with a floppy drive? Same with tapes and CDs–granted, people still have CDs, but more and more people just have songs on a digital library. And the information that was on floppy disks? Saved to hard drives, or uploaded to the Cloud.

The problem isn’t that people are unaware of the need for digital preservation, the problem is that it’s hard to get people to understand just how vitally important digital preservation is. David Anderson, in a paper titled “The Digital Dark Age” talked about just that problem. As he said:

“I have attended a number of conferences where participants debated whether the best approach to getting preservation taken seriously was to deploy somewhat apocalyptic tales of the dangers of losing large slices of our cultural heritage as a result of inattention to preservation, or to encourage better digital custodianship by more positive means. It probably needs a little of both, but the uncomfortable truth is the messenger is often more important than the message, and whether the approach is to scare the world at large into taking preservation seriously, or to provide less dramatic encouragement, the messenger needs to be able to cut through the noise and be heard (Anderson, pgs. 20-21).”

Anderson has a very valid point–we can talk all we want about how important and vital it is to preserve this song, or this e-book, or this digital file, but until we get someone important, someone with power, to listen, it won’t do any good.

Okay, so say you get Mr. Moneybags to listen, and to help fund your quest–how do you go about ensuring your item will be accessible in the far future?

He has reluctantly agreed to fund you instead of charging 400 gems to lower a bridge

The simple answer is to say that you just upload everything to the cloud, and Mr. Moneybags helps ensure that you have enough cloud storage for your digital museum or library or whatever you’re trying to preserve. But, as Lena Roland and David Bawden ask, “what happens to your family’s photo collection if it’s held in the cloud and your password goes to the grave with you (Roland, pg. 224)?” Same issue with a functioning museum or any place that is working to digitally preserve items–how do you ensure access after you die, while also guaranteeing the safety of your digital items? You can’t password protect your archives and share your password with just anyone; that makes the password completely redundant.

The cloud, then, is only good as a short-term solution to a very pressing problem. It’s not easy, finding a solution that works. The web is constantly being updated, and programs like Wayback Machine, can only capture so much information. There’s also the problem of too much information: “Just as in the past, not everything can, or should be preserved. And, just as in the past, there must be careful purposive selection, while allowing for some more speculative element (Roland, pg. 226).”

Digital preservation isn’t easy, not by any means. People have to listen, to recognize how important it is, and we also have to find a method that works. It’ll take time, and a lot of effort, but it is essential if we want to avoid a digital dark age, where people in the future are unable to know what happened, and unable to access the information we saved.


Anderson, D. (2015). The Digital Dark Age. Communications of the ACM58(12), 20–23.

Moneybags. (2018). Villains Wiki. Retrieved 1 December 2018, from

Top 5 Futuristic Technology & Inventions ▶ This Will Change Our Future # 1. (2018). YouTube. Retrieved 1 December 2018, from

Roland, L., & Bawden, D. (2012). The Future of History: Investigating the Preservation of Information in the Digital Age. Library & Information History28(3), 220–236.




Copyright and the Mouse

By Sofia Thomas

Copyright. The very word makes some people (me included, if we’re being honest) automatically stop paying attention. It’s a confusing topic, and Disney is doing it’s best to repeatedly change the terms, so it isn’t easy to become more confident with the topic, or more well rounded. In our second week of class, we did a deep dive on the subject, and spent three hours discussing it. Our readings for the week also attempted to help clarify the subject, as well. I was very interested in the topic, since I was unclear on the copyright status of my tentative digital library project idea, so I was listening attentively in class.

What is copyright, exactly? According to Merriam-Webster, copyright is defined as “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work).”[1] Books are copyrighted, Disney’s famous Mouse is copyrighted, and on and on. It means that a person cannot slap said Mouse on a notebook and sell it—Disney would sue them faster than they could say, “cheese!” Thanks to Disney, the terms of copyright keep getting changed. Now, a copyright is extended to “95 years after publication date”[2], and with Mickey’s 90th birthday fast approaching, you can bet our mousy overlords are scrambling to extend copyright yet again.

Disney doesn’t want just anyone to have the rights to Mickey or Steamboat Willie, who first appeared in the 20s, and is in serious danger of being freely available in the public domain as soon as 2023 arrives. The phenomenon has a name, and copyright extensions can be seen on “The Mickey Mouse Curve” when plotted on a graph, as shown below.[3]

The Mickey Mouse Curve

            Why is Disney so afraid of the public domain? They own almost everything, from ESPN to Marvel and Disney Princesses galore, so why is the possibility of losing one Mouse so frightening to them? Well, they’d lose money. First it’s Steamboat Willie and the Mouse, and the Mickey’s friends, all one by one entering public domain, free for anyone to use. The horror! So Disney’s keeps extending the copyright, every time copyright expiration draws near.

This year, 2018, the Mouse was more subtle, dropping an extension into a bill placed before the Senate. The protection they won in 1998 (and in 2003) is about to expire, and they want to save Willie before 2023 draws near. The CLASSICS act would extend copyright to a total of 144 years, keeping the Mouse and Willie safe until 2067 draws near and Disney has to extend copyright again. The CLASSICS act is mainly aimed at music, but copyright extension of any form benefits the Mouse. [4] The act, however, has yet to pass the introductory stage, and has neither been passed or refused by the Senate.[5]



So what does this mean for people like you and me? People who are against Disney and other major companies extending copyright year after year argue that “the aggressive copyright regime…has allowed giant media conglomerates like Disney to monopolize our creativity.”[7] After all, “profound creativity requires sufficient exposure to others’ works and substantial freedom to reuse them.”[8] Disney could be seen as stifling creativity and profiting off of it at the same time. In 1998 alone, according to one paper, Disney made $3.8 billion in sales and the parks raked in over $1 billion.[9] 20 years down the line, with a vastly successful superhero franchise down the line, and several new parks in development, sales have only gone up.

Disney is more and more invested in extending copyright, and me? Well, I can’t post my collection of Disney memorabilia as a digital library project without running the risk of being sued by my favorite Mouse overlord. Time to switch gears and use something else—hmm…graffiti seems straightforward enough!

[1] Copyright. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2018, from

[2] Hirtle, P. (2015). Copyright term and the public domain in the United States.

[3] How Mickey Mouse Keeps Changing Copyright Law. (2018). Art Law Journal. Retrieved 21 September 2018, from

[4] Lessig, L., Lessig, L., Simonite, T., Lee, K., Finley, K., & Dreyfuss, E. et al. (2018). Congress’ Latest Move to Extend Copyright Protection Is MisguidedWIRED. Retrieved 21 September 2018, from

[5] S.2393 – 115th Congress (2017-2018): CLASSICS Act. (2018). Retrieved 21 September 2018, from

[6] When You Are the Senate I Am the Senate | Star Wars Meme on (2018). Retrieved 21 September 2018, from

[7] Mun, S.-H. (2004). The Public Domain Trapped by the Mouse: Walt Disney and Ramifications of the Copyright Term Extension Act. Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1. Retrieved from

[8] ibid

[9] ibid