Fade to black
December 2, 2007 9:25 AM   Subscribe

"One Paramount veteran compared the studio's vault to a teenager's chaotic bedroom. In fact, a visitor accidentally stepped on the negative of "Rosemary's Baby," which was unspooled on the floor."

Despite the good work being done at places like the Library of Congress, UCLA and Harvard, the task of preserving modern studio films is largely left to the studios themselves. But they can be surprisingly neglectful of their most valuable assets. (via)
posted by Horace Rumpole (51 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This was not my impression at all when I visited the Paramount vaults. Of course that was just one particular day, but it looked very meticulous to me.
posted by muppetboy at 9:32 AM on December 2, 2007

This sounds like a job for...DA DUN DAA...LIBRARIANS!

sorry, couldn't resist
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:38 AM on December 2, 2007 [5 favorites]

I don't really understand their worries about the longevity of digital. I assume when they say the digital copies were "fading", they were being metaphorical, but what kind of longevity problems are they discussing? A RAID for each movie pretty much guarantees the movie for all eternity unless there's an earthquake or fire.
posted by Bugbread at 9:39 AM on December 2, 2007

It seems like film is a really bad way to archive things. It burns, falls on floors and is stepped on. If only we had some medium which would allow for unlimited copies to be cheaply and easily stored in multiple places.
posted by stbalbach at 9:42 AM on December 2, 2007 [3 favorites]

I should have read the article before posting a snarky response about going digital. But now that I have read it, I am LOL.
"We discovered inadvertently that a lot of digital stuff was fading quicker than expected. We think it's safe forever on disc, but, in fact, it was actually fading."
If it's "fading" it's because of the storage medium, not because it's digital. That is why digital media is used to store multiple copies in multiple places with a system for transferring to new storage technologies every new technology generation or so. Nothing is safe forever on disk.

Over the years I transfered my 360k 5.25" disks to 1.4Mb 3.5" disks, then to a tape backup, then to CD, then to DVD, then to external hard drive. If I tried to access the original data on 360k disk it would be unreadable by now.
posted by stbalbach at 9:49 AM on December 2, 2007

I'd also cut back on visitors and ask them to not step on the negatives.
posted by Lord_Pall at 9:50 AM on December 2, 2007 [4 favorites]

Copyright, if I recall correctly, was the idea that a limited monopoly on a work would be granted in exchange for it entering the public domain at a later point, as part of the preservation of our culture. I'm not a lawyer and am easily confused about IP.

It's situations like this that makes me think that any drastic overhaul of the copyright laws should include a section wherein the glass masters, film negatives, and so forth automatically head to the Library of Congress after such and such a date, or the second something hits an arbitrary threshold where it is effectively "out of print" for any reasonable price. From there on in, the L.O.C. produces the new copies of the DVD, CD, whatever medium, and uses a portion of the monies from those sales to continue preservation. A royalty stream from this would also head to the original artist, writer, and so forth, as part of an unreassignable right that may not be passed to any studio, record label, and so on.
posted by adipocere at 9:52 AM on December 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

A RAID for each movie pretty much guarantees the movie for all eternity unless there's an earthquake or fire.

Well, you're suggesting (partially) the correct way to do it, but it's an expensive approach. The correct way (fully) is this:

#1: Make the best digital copy money can buy, from the best negative or print you can get your hands on;

#2: Copy the digital version to multiple disk arrays, in running servers that can monitor the health of the drives, in geographically separate, climate and access controlled conditions;

#3: Have a process and staff and funds to keep those disk arrays monitored, and swap drives in a local region as they fail, and replace complete arrays in a local region if they are damaged irreparably.

Now, think of the staff costs, facility costs, hardware costs...huge, just huge. But any other approach leaves the digital print(s) sitting there on disks that are not being accessed, subject to media deterioration that might not be discovered until it's too late to do anything about it.

You might do the same thing, but instead of RAID arrays use other media; the key things, however, are proper facilities in multiple locations with the media online and tested on a constant (or at least regular) basis -- and in this case, "regular" had better be quite often indeed.

Anything less, and you're either putting your collection at risk to earthquake, fire and theft, and/or you're running the risk of loading the "disk" one day only to find it's not readable.
posted by davejay at 10:04 AM on December 2, 2007

Something like this happened to a lot of early Doctor Who episodes (as well as a number of other BBC shows). The original 2" tapes were copied over because the Beeb is full of skinflints. Some have been recovered, as many of the tapes were telecined and sent to BBC-affiliated studios around the world for foreign broadcast, then were stashed away in the bottom of filing cabinets at the back of disused lavatories in the basements of the studios.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:16 AM on December 2, 2007


Actually a RAID for long term digital storage is one of the worst ways you could store data. In 100 years will that file system be even readable by whatever OS people are using? Will the drive bearings seized? By then, sure its great that you have redundant drives, but I don't know of many how many drives can live 100 years on the shelf, no one has had hard drives around to test them. Add to that fact that raids bring along a lot of extra stuff with the storage medium (controllers, power supplies, back planes) which increase the rate of failure.

A good option would be archiving to redundant LTO4 tape (800GB uncompressed) with extreme strict checksumming and error correction enable. Every 3 years you reinspect all the tapes and update them to the latest media format, and probably reprint a super high quality master film copy to hard copy archive.

If you want permanent (which will only die in the heat death of the universe) you would probably want to encode the data onto nickel plates, in a self decoding form, so future archeologists could easily understand and interpret the data, and look at it. What good is a raid (or tape) to a culture that 500 years from now that has been using quantum optical cubes to store their data? Or to the heirs of our ashen world who have just begun to redevelop alternating current?
posted by mrzarquon at 10:16 AM on December 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


A RAID for each movie pretty much guarantees the movie for all eternity unless there's an earthquake or fire.

RAID is not for backups.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:17 AM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd say the best archival method is to digitize and torrent it.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:24 AM on December 2, 2007 [7 favorites]

Interesting article. I found this, 'The result is half of all American films made before 1950 have been destroyed...' very saddening.
The discussion here reminds me of a friend from my days as a tape-ape and printer-monkey . He was fond of saying, 'If it ain't on two thousand sheets of green-lined paper, IT AIN'T BACKED UP'.
posted by punilux at 10:31 AM on December 2, 2007

C_D has just given me a good excuse to link to the fascinating Doctor Who Restoration Team page.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:31 AM on December 2, 2007

I wonder if it would be useful for preservation-minded groups to buy shares in the content-owners and then file shareholder suits arguing that the studios aren't doing due diligence to preserve valuable assets.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:51 AM on December 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

The best way to preserve the films is to encode them digitally on CD-sized media, and then sell them for $10-20 around the world. Essentially a massive distributed backup... the chance of all of them being lost is nil.
posted by smackfu at 10:52 AM on December 2, 2007 [3 favorites]

Backing this stuff up is actually a very hard problem and a disc raid seems like a particularly dumb way to store movies. A couple problems I can see just off the top of my head:

- 35mm movies have far, far more resolution than blu-ray. depending on the film speed, they probably even have more resolution than that experimental japanese ultra-high-def system i read about the other day (what is it 5000x7000 or something?). anyway, HOWEVER you digitized this right now, you would be losing TONS of information and creating a crappy copy of something really good. 35mm != digital.

- a disk raid big enough to store even a modest 5000x7000 digitization of a film would be pretty expensive right now. even dvd or tape storage of that kind of data without lossy compression (a bad idea for this kind of storage) would be fairly ridiculous.

- a disk raid presumes you can get replacement drives forever

- a disk raid would require continuous surface testing and monitoring

- with, say, a 0.5M movies in these vaults and drives that last, say, 10 years safely on average, you would need to buy and install 275 hard drives PER DAY just to replace them all before they wear out.

- LONG before you got all this material digitized (say 10 years to do that), technology would be changed completely. this leads to a highly heterogenous environment. equipment bought every 2-3 years will be completely different. now you need more tech staff and more relationships with companies to deal with equipment problems.

- all digital media are unstable. you MUST test it on a regular basis because it will eventually just die on you. i don't mean the bearings in the drive. the magnetic surface will deteriorate and stop working in some fairly small number of years (certainly within a few decades). my understanding is that even dvds are going to degrade and stop working in a modest amount of time.

- it just goes on and on... i'm sure there are dozens of more really difficult problems here.

summary: stuff just wears out. digital is just another media format and doesn't stop that from happening.
posted by muppetboy at 10:55 AM on December 2, 2007

the fascinating Doctor Who Restoration Team page

Yeah, the Wiki entry I linked to has some pretty good background on the whole saga. Personally, what I find most fascinating is where the recovered "lost" tapes have come from. For example:
  • Most of the 1st Doctor episodes:
    Discovered in the back of the vault at the BBC Enterprises by Sue Malden
  • The War Machines (2):
    Rescued by a fan in Australia from a rubbish bin at ABC TV
  • The Abominable Snowman (2):
    Recovered from a British film collector
  • The Claws of Axon (1-3), The Mutants (1, 2), Death to the Daleks (1):
    "Found in Canada"
  • The Ice Warriors (1, 4-6):
    Found in a disused cupboard in Villiers House
  • The Daleks' Masterplan (5, 10):
    Discovered in the basement of a Mormon Church in Clapham, South London
  • The Time Monster (6), Frontier in Space (1-3, 6):
    Found in the vaults of ABC TV Australia
  • The Time Meddler (1, 3, 4), The War Machines (1, 3, 4):
    Discovered at Nigerian TV stations
  • The Reign of Terror (1-3):
    BBC recovered from a Cypriot (Crete) TV station
  • The Tomb of the Cybermen (all):
    Discovered at Asia TV in Hong Kong
  • The Faceless Ones (3), The Evil of the Daleks (2):
    Returned by Saeed Marham after Gordon Hendry, a film collector from Oxfordshire, England purchased them at a car boot sale in Buckinghamshire.
More here...
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:57 AM on December 2, 2007 [6 favorites]

smackfu, I reasonably sure that we're not at the point that the full information of a film-length 35mm negative can be stored on CD-sized media. And even if it could, I continue to believe in the value of preserving the original medium (or as close as possible to it if the original simply can't be saved).

On preview, what muppetboy said about resolution.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:58 AM on December 2, 2007

only a massively distributed, co-operative, highly redundant storage system running on the network would really solve this problem, because you basically have to continuously put more energy into the system to fight entropy. millions of monitored PCs storing pieces of movies all over the planet could accomplish that with reasonable certainty. but then that's not the problem they're trying to solve. they don't WANT their movies stored all over the planet.
posted by muppetboy at 10:59 AM on December 2, 2007

You all do realize that every word above about storage of movies applies to your precious home movies and photos. Years from now your grand children will have nothing. No scrap books, no photo books unless you also make silver or other archival pigmented copies on paper or film. Good photographic media will last 50 to 100 years.
posted by Gungho at 11:08 AM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well it seems that any backup effort would be an improvement over what is going on now. High resolution, say 4000 dpi, 24 bit color scans of the individual frames stored on multiple Verbatim gold archival DVDs or Blue-Ray discs. Checksum the individual files and distribute the sets to multiple data storage vaults. Automate the reviewing of the checksums every few years. This seems to me to be a fairly affordable, practical and reasonably reliable plan.
posted by well_balanced at 11:17 AM on December 2, 2007

Years from now your grand children will have nothing. No scrap books, no photo books unless you also make silver or other archival pigmented copies on paper or film.

Hogwash. Each iteration of storage is approximately an order of magnitude faster and an order of magnitude bigger than the previous.

Transferring photos to CDs? Scan... edit... burn. Transferring CDs to hard drives? Copy... (slowly). Transferring hard drives to... I don't know... holographic media? Maybe a couple of seconds.

What's way, way more important than the media is consistently refreshing the media every 5 years or so to whatever is fastest and cheapest (and thus, most plentiful). Nowadays, you can't beat hard drives. I'm sitting on ~4TB right now, and let me tell you, it took weeks to transfer all my CDs and DVDs over. But to backup the entire file structure it would take ~20 hours.

That means more memories for my grandkids. Shit, they're going to have so many terabytes of memories to sort through they won't have time to go and get their own.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:20 AM on December 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

Back in the day, The Library of Congress set their library of film on fire because they didn't have the storage facilities and the right management. We lost so much stuff. I watched a documentary of this during the Black Maria Film Festival and I
posted by doctorschlock at 11:24 AM on December 2, 2007

Embrace the decay.
posted by tkchrist at 11:27 AM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

the only thing that will be left is the stuff that's out on the torrent networks.

This is what happens when stuff never enters the public domain. The studios just let things rot.
posted by empath at 11:48 AM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

The question is really this: in 100 years, will anyone really care to see the digitally-preserved print of "Groundhog Day"? We'd like to think so, but the reality is probably far more depressing. We live in a society that collectively has a very short attention span, and at the rate of the proliferation of media, they'll be swimming in stuff that we literally cannot imagine right now. Our movies today will probably seem quaint and antiquated, with little public interest or concern.

On top of that, this planet is going through a very difficult and unpredictable time of political and natural upheaval, my guess is that the folks walking around a century from now will have much bigger issues facing them than how to watch "Joe Dirt".
posted by dbiedny at 11:49 AM on December 2, 2007

my understanding is that even dvds are going to degrade and stop working in a modest amount of time.

Your points are well-taken, but this reminds me a bit of all the scare stories from 20 years ago about those newfangled CDs. I remember at least one "expert" at the time saying that every CD produced would be degrading within 10 years.

So, I've just popped downstairs and grabbed a CD produced in 1986, and bought by me in 1987, the first CD I ever bought, a recording of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto K.622 by the Liszt Chamber Orchestra of Budapest. (Recorded long enough ago that they might have still had a statue of Lenin in the square.) Still sounds great.

How long will it last? I have no idea (although it's trivially easy for me to rip anytime I want if I'm worried).

Coupla followups:

--There are people who love to predict disaster. It's fun, and it gets attention. But in the last many years, I haven't been struck by an asteroid, I haven't died from SARS, and my CDs haven't deteriorated into noise (although some probably deserved to).

--On the other hand, people don't always consider how much "stuff" in general has been lost throughout history. We have records that were written in stone, stored in dry climates, or were valuable enough to decisionmakers to be intentionally copied and not intentionally destroyed. Whole great chunks of human history, from Spanish missionaries burning Maya books to Javanese scribes writing on lontar palm leaves that rotted away, are more gaps than narrative. It's sad, but a lot of history is the history of losing other bits of history.
posted by gimonca at 11:51 AM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Civil_Disobedient writes "they're going to have so many terabytes of memories to sort through"

Good for them...or not so much ? Terabytes, I don't see them as a good unit of measure for memory. One could, in theory, reproduce a 35mm shot with a bit matrix so dense even silver molecules imperfection could be recorded and would require, what, iottabytes of memory ? But that would make sense for a picture, a multilevel representation of "something" under different kinds of "lights" , recording more details that may constitute data and help produce more or better information.

Still, that wouldn't make the plot of the movie , its story better or more or less relevant, meaningful, revealing or tough inspiring.

So while I enjoy the idea of personal inexpensive storage, theoretically infinite for all practical purposes, I wonder how we should record the exquisite details and meaning of ancient books such as Dante's Divine Comedy, whose allegories and references are lost to a contemporary reader, who simply doesn't know what is the author talking about even if the images and the emotions evoked by the text remain valid and vivid today.

For instance, the greeks partially address the problem of meaning , as far as I know, by forming words there were composed of other words, such as : demos (δημος), "people, the many"and kratos (κρατος) "rule" or "power" , which is democracy.

By remembering demos and kratos one could imagine that "people power" , but today the word "democracy" requires the memory of the concept "people rule" because the words demos and kratos are meaningless unless one is fluent in ancient greek.
posted by elpapacito at 11:56 AM on December 2, 2007 [3 favorites]

posted by muckster at 12:08 PM on December 2, 2007

"my CDs haven't deteriorated into noise"

Apparently my kids' CDs have, and just in the time it took them to be distributed and sold.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:19 PM on December 2, 2007 [2 favorites]

A lot of the various lot archives are, unfortunately, a bit like forgotten children. Film often gets locked up and forgotten in vaults the same way people do with their own personal garages or storage lockers. And when the people who worked on the film or cared about it move on to other projects or retire or die, things often are just left to gather dust indefinitely. Especially since for every great film sitting in a vault in dire need of preservation, there are about 100 crap films. And many people don't agree which is which, either. So time passes and stuff disappears.

It's not just film vaults either. I remember a million years ago wandering into a wardrobe department archive on the Burbank Studios lot with nobody in sight. When I first got access to the movie studio lot (I was only 19) I used to always explore every open door and empty building I could. Anyhow, the wardrobe find just blew me away... there was stuff just everywhere, it was like I'd walked into some crazy haphazard abandoned consignment shop in an alternative universe. It was like having Disneyland to myself... it was the absolute most exciting and surreal 15 minutes of my young life. (I explored the room until I thought I heard someone coming. Then I ran back to my job, and waited for a studio security guard to show up at my desk to take me to jail for trespassing or something.)

The main thing I vividly remember is that at the time I really wanted to buy a leather jacket but I couldn't afford it. So I saw a men's leather jacket and pulled it off the rack and tried it on. It had what I thought was supposed to look like a bullet hole and fake blood on it. When I took it off I looked at the tag on the neck, and in sharpie pen it said "Lethal Weapon - Gibson." I WANTED TO STEAL THAT THING SO FREAKING BAD. I didn't. My good-girl conscience wouldn't let me. Sooooo, it very probably ended up in a dumpster somewhere.

I coulda probably bought a house if I sold that thing on ebay now. Dammit.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:23 PM on December 2, 2007 [4 favorites]

As someone actively involved in managing the archives at one of the major studios, I can talk a little to this.

The technology involved is fairly straightforward. We use various methods to preserve digital versions in various locations, some literally in salt mines.

The issue is the sheer magnitude of the amount of content there is to be digitized.

We are not talking about 10-12 movies a year. We are talking about all the footage shot, but not used in a movie release. We are talking about thousands of hours of television programs each year, thousands of hours of news footage, local programs, daily morning & late night shows, and even pilots of things never seen by the average viewer. We are talking about scripts, call sheets, production notes, conceptual artwork, storyboards, marketing materials, etc.

Storage costs have dropped dramatically. In 1995 our first video capable server cost ~$400k for 180 GB of storage to store 11 hours of broadcast video. Today we get a lot more for our money, but at the same time that best datarates to store content have increased as well.

Datarates for high end production can be upwards of 1.5 Gigabits/second. That eats up drive space rapidly. Even with the petabyte capacity storage devices, we are still not in a position to have enough storage to hold everything currently in a digital fashion. Television content can be stored at much lower data rates, but even that capacity if hard to come by.

Another huge factor is the cost to digitize. Like it or not, in a publicly traded company things have to make good financially sense. It's easy to decide to digitize feature films and anything current (that is already done), but it's harder when you look at lackluster TV shows of the 70s, morning shows of the 60s, and B-movies of the 50s.

While the Long Tail does exists, there are some serious problems with it when you look at the costs involved to put some of this content out there for the public to consume. Studios still need to track down and pay residuals to everyone involved in programs. This is complicated when the initial contracts had no concept of a secondary market for programming that could possibly exists.

Look at soap operas from the 70s like Ryan's Hope. All the talent deals were cut based on airing on network television a limited number of times. No one ever envisioned playing them again three decades later or putting them on the internet. To do so, studios need to track down musicians, actors, writers, etc. to get new deals in place to allow the new uses. All of that costs a lot of time & money. It cannot be undertaken without a financial upside.

Lastly, it's all about the metadata. Without good metadata, the video files become much less valuable. Who are the actors? What is the weather? What year does this news take place? Who are the politicians in the background of this speech? While there is some automated metadata generation possible, we've come to the conclusion that humans need to be part of the process. We have archivists, librarians, and taxonomists all working these issues. Again, this raises the costs. Don't even get me started on the lack of standards in the media world for metadata schema.

Believe me, there is an enormous amount being done to preserve the archives, contrary to the Variety article, at least at my studio.
posted by Argyle at 12:29 PM on December 2, 2007 [16 favorites]

BBC recovered from a Cypriot (Crete) TV station

posted by quite unimportant at 12:33 PM on December 2, 2007

demos (δημος), "people, the many"

Yeah, but Ancient Greek is a varied beast. And the Greeks used other words to describe "the many".

'oι πoλoι is the words used by a particular Ancient Greek philosopher to describe the seething masses that are the public. That was the words used to separate them from the pentacosiomedimnio, or the highest class of Athenian society.

That Attic Greek there is pronounced, directly, hoy poloy. It is a direct cognate to when folks say "the hoy poloy". Which is really silly, because the "hoy" bit is the plural masculine definite article in greek.

So what people are saying is "the the people".
posted by YoBananaBoy at 12:41 PM on December 2, 2007

pentacosiomedimnio, which one could roughly translate: an estate that produced five hundred medimnio of grain in a year.


posted by YoBananaBoy at 12:44 PM on December 2, 2007

Star Wars and The Godfather still look great...on my harddrive.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:58 PM on December 2, 2007

YoBananaBoy writes "pentacosiomedimnio"

Which was also a social class under Solon (thanks, wikipedia!)
posted by elpapacito at 1:11 PM on December 2, 2007

posted by orelius at 2:04 PM on December 2, 2007

I wonder how we should record the exquisite details and meaning of ancient books such as Dante's Divine Comedy, whose allegories and references are lost to a contemporary reader, who simply doesn't know what is the author talking about even if the images and the emotions evoked by the text remain valid and vivid today.

That's not entirely true. I look back on my days studying Latin, and it seemed as if every other word had a footnote attached to it with a paragraph of explanation. The words don't have the same meaning for us because we don't have the same shared history--except that, for the most part, humans haven't changed much since the start of recorded history. We still despise our leaders, idolize the rich, fear the unknown, fall in and out of love, &c. So, while the specific cultural references may change from civilization to civilization and we might not "get" specific references, once put into our current context we realize we're not so different after all.

The Library of Congress set their library of film on fire because they didn't have the storage facilities and the right management.

Please tell me you're kidding.

(Crete) (Cyprus)

[Smacks head!]
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:10 PM on December 2, 2007

"Embrace the decay."

Who's hot tonight? Strindberg's hot tonight!
Who's hot tonight? Strindberg's hot tonight!
posted by muppetboy at 3:29 PM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Argyle: makes sense. but couldn't your studio get funding from an interested institution to /sample/ all those bad only 60's tv shows? they are not economically interesting, but i bet they would be a gold mine for future historians.
posted by muppetboy at 3:34 PM on December 2, 2007

all episodes of Doctor Who are lost on me.
posted by ianaces at 4:11 PM on December 2, 2007 [3 favorites]

muppetboy: Yes, that has been considered. Intellectual property laws make it difficult though. Actors, writers, musicians, directors, etc. would all have to go along with any plan for rights to be given to a third party, even a university.

As we can see from the current writer's strike, it is not only the fabled studio tycoon that is interested in profiting from their IP.
posted by Argyle at 5:29 PM on December 2, 2007

Those who fail to fully archive history are doomed to sanity.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:52 PM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

If we had perfect archives of all speeches, plays, books, poems, music, and etceteras of the past thousand years...

Would we really care? Seriously, the filter of history can be a good thing. Mozart's works are around because they're way better than the dreck the milling masses spewed into existence.

God forbid, imagine if our parents had kept blogs that we could now access. The horror.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:55 PM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

In reply to Civil_Disobedient: It's true. Most of the early Edison films and a major amount of unknown films were destroyed.
All that remain are the year the film was made, who directed it,
a small description of the film and sometimes a cast listing.
A library technician in the 60's complained and somebody actually listened. Not before 1000's of films were destroyed.
posted by doctorschlock at 6:07 PM on December 2, 2007

I've thought about this problem. My suggested solution? A worldwide distributed file system. Kinda like bittorrent, except only one tracker for the entire thing and the ability to add content dynamically (new tags for existing content and new content).

Bittorrent isn't that reliable anyway. You have thousands of seeds for basically the same thing, and most of those things aren't seeded indefinitely. Imagine every library in the world acting as a repository for at least a part of the global archive. At least two copies of every byte separated geographically so as to prevent against natural or, shall we say, unnatural disaster. An extensive tagging system would be needed to sort and search the content. The general public probably shouldn't have unlimited access to adding to the archive as it would get cluttered over time with many duplicate copies tagged incorrectly so only authorized people will be able to do this for public data.

I think libraries are perfectly suited to this task. Librarians already have extensive experience with categorizing data intelligently. Heck, they're already doing much of this work with OCLC, I believe, but I'm not sure how well they're doing with the distributed aspect of it or with media.

You know you like the idea of going to the library, putting in a blank disc, and being able to get access to every public domain film ever created absolutely free, easily searchable. With well categorized tags. Or just going to the website for the project and getting it online. Should you think the media should have another tag, you'll be able to suggest some.

Problems: global copyright differences. You could probably deal with that by restricting access geographically. Or change copyright laws.
posted by Green With You at 6:28 PM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

And I see that another problem is actually being able to add the content in the first place as it is under copyright for so long it could be forgotten by then...
posted by Green With You at 6:31 PM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and DiscourseMarker? I'm assuming you're joking, but no, definitely not a job for librarians. They get training, but not as much as their fellows in the field, archivists. At UCLA, we have a moving image archive graduate degree. Go bug them about it ;)
posted by librarylis at 10:01 PM on December 2, 2007

this planet is going through a very difficult and unpredictable time of political and natural upheaval, my guess is that the folks walking around a century from now will have much bigger issues facing them than how to watch "Joe Dirt".

True. On the other hand, the mid-14th to early 17th centuries ie. "The Renaissance", was a period of great natural disaster (Black Death) and political upheavals (100 Years War, Thirty Years War, etc..) - it's in the times of disorder and crisis that room for cultural innovation is created. So long as things don't fall apart completely.
posted by stbalbach at 6:41 AM on December 3, 2007

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