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Re: [ARSCLIST] offlist archival question from ARSC list member

"Andes, Donald" <Donald.Andes@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:    ****I'd be interested to hear from those in other (maybe non-corporate) institutions, about the philosophies in practice there. No need to get detailed or give away guarded secrets, just an overview of what goes on in your archive.

  Having experience in a non-corporate archive and running a small record label it seems to me that there is indeed a philosophical difference between the two.  
  Speaking for myself, as a researcher, discographer and music lover, it is difficult for me to see recordings only in terms of a "product." They are, from my own perspective, often times, part of our cultural heritage. As a result of that perspective, the fact that the economics might limit access to that cultural history, can be seen as frustrating and problematic.
  In the US we are burdened with a copyright law that would seem to favor business over preservation and accessibility. From my perspective, the US laws inhibit reasonable access, preservation and even business models which could allow for a cost effective means to address these concerns. In some ways it can be problematic for an archive to devote the expense of preservation for something to which it cannot provide reasonable access to a researcher, a limitation imposed by the copyrights. And, as with my record company, there are performances I would love to issue (I have the rights at no charge) but cannot even afford to pay the pressing and mechanicals...and I do all of the restoration, mastering, layout, etc for no pay. I do need to look into a site where I can sell downloads and avoid the pressing costs...
  It has seemed to me that our notions of what constitutes our history are increasingly predicated on that which we consume. If those who create what we consume have ownership of, and can, by the virture of ownership, deprive us of access to what we consumed, our history, it would seem that, assuming we see the public good as being served by access to our history, we face a potential for a conflict of interest. Economics can, in a sense, control and rewrite our history and selectively preserve only that which it deems appropriate to satisfy its economic needs...all part of the basics of a free market society.
  Of course, then one could argue, that in a sense, economics created "history," so therefore economics might have the "right" to control that history. But that is probably a more complex philosophical issue...
  Taking it to an absurd extreme...say, for example, some company bought the rights to the history of the second world war, assuming it was up for sale and someone could prove ownership. So, if that company decided not to make that information available, or let that information self-destruct, we would be left with some major blanks in our history books. We also face similar problems with governmental ownership of information...let us not forget the "Nixon tapes."
  I am rather curious as to how all of this will eventually play out. But I doubt it will reach a critical mass in my own lifetime. For me, there is a conflict of interests in this scenario. I believe that we have had this conflict ever since we had the ability to own intellectual property. It becomes more of a problem when we have a longer ownership of intellectual property and when we have more information!
  There are many related questions which concern me. For example, once a recording (or any bit of our corporate owned history) becomes public domain, should the former owner have the "right" to destroy the master recording. From a corporate perspective, of course it has the right as it might be taking up shelf space. Further, should a musician have the right to destroy their old masters? I am reminded of some years ago when I reformatted some old tapes of Janis Joplin, when her voice was as clear as a bell. So, if she had known about those tapes, and then thought, "that isn't me anymore, destroy those tapes," we might not have that bit of history. Yet, is there not any notion of the "common good" or a right to access of history? And what right does the individual and or corporation have to rewrite or destroy history they own? Is it their history or does it belong to the public as in the "public's right to know."
  Further, who will be qualified to decide what should be maintained? While these questions are already answered in part by the "non-corporate" archives, their abilities to make these decisions and maintain the currently available information are already pushed beyond their abilities to deal with it. And as one considers the exponential growth of information...well it seems to me that the system has already broken down.
  For me, much of the time it seems like we have a case of "irreconcilable differences." Perhaps, in time, and given enough cause, government might choose to address these issues.
  I am no student of the US constitution, but I do wonder what provisions there might be regarding the "right to know."

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