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To read comments to this article, go here
Do You Want Groklaw to Be Included in the Library of Congress's Historic Internet Materials Collections?
Tuesday, April 06 2010 @ 02:59 PM EDT

Groklaw has been selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in its web archival project, in the category of Legal Blawgs. I feel incredibly honored and validated by this invitation. We have created a collection of materials that has recognized value to researchers and historians.

We have to give permission, though, and Groklaw isn't just me. It's you and me, so I thought I'd ask you how you feel about it. We have several choices. I can have them archive just the articles, or, if you grant permission, the articles with your comments. And we can decide who can access the collection, the public at large or just the Congress and on-site researchers and historians.

You can say no to everything related to your comments, absolutely, but this is offering to make us part of what researchers and historians will have access to, so they can tell the history of this time period with accuracy. And my personal feeling is that your comments are part of this history.

I know in general, the last time we discussed it, the majority by far did not wish comments included in Google or other search engines. So that is a factor to consider. On the other side, your comments are very much part of the Groklaw research project, and it's not fully Groklaw without them. If you remember our Bilski coverage, which we worked on with future historians very much in mind, your comments were vital and in one case, a comment led to an article that I consider one of the most important contributions to the discussion about software patents that Groklaw ever published, An Explanation of Computation Theory for Lawyers. I could not have written that article, and it's just one example of you contributing the technical knowledge that makes Groklaw complete.

As another example, when it comes to our coverage of hearings and trials, I couldn't really cover them at all until much later, based only on transcripts, without you. It would be a loss not to include the comments, because in some cases questions were asked and answered in the comments, and your contributions there will certainly be of real interest to historians, not just because of the coverage itself, but also as an early example of this new kind of journalism Groklaw represents.

Let me show you the email from the Library of Congress, so you can give this your consideration:

The United States Library of Congress has selected your Web site for inclusion in its historic collections of Internet materials related to Legal Blawgs. The Library's traditional functions, acquiring, cataloging, preserving and serving collection materials of historical importance to the Congress and to the American people to foster education and scholarship, extend to digital materials, including Web sites. We request your permission to collect your Web site and add it to the Library's research collections. We also ask that we be allowed to display the archived version(s) of your Web site.

The following URL has been selected:

www.groklaw.net

With your permission, the Library of Congress or its agent will engage in the collection of content from your Web site at regular intervals over time. The Library will make this collection available to researchers onsite at Library facilities. The Library also wishes to make the collection available to offsite researchers by hosting the collection on the Library's public access Web site. The Library hopes that you share its vision of preserving Internet materials and permitting researchers from across the world to access them. If you agree to permit the Library to collect your Web site, please click the following link to signify your consent. This link also includes a separate consent for permitting the Library to provide offsite access to your materials through the Library's Web site.

[PJ: Link redacted.]

For several years, the Library of Congress has collected Web sites within certain themes or topics for which we were required to seek permission for each new collection developed by the Library, even if permission had been granted in the past. As our collections have grown, we have had to contact some Web site producers repeatedly. To reduce this duplication and to save site owners from having to respond to multiple requests for information, we are now requesting permissions for the Library to collect, over time and in varying frequency, sites of research interest. Your site has been identified as a Web site of interest related to Legal Blawgs. If you grant this permission, we will capture your site for inclusion in our Legal Blawgs Web Archive and may also include it in any future collections. If in the future you no longer wish to be included in the Library's Web archives, please contact us and we will cease collection of your URL.

Our Web archives related to government and law are important because they contribute to the historical record of national events, capturing information that could otherwise be lost. With the growing role of the Web as an influential medium, records of historic events could be considered incomplete without materials that were born digital and never printed on paper.

For more information about our Web Archive collections please visit our Web site at (http://www.loc.gov/webarchiving/).

As you can see, we have choices, and if down the road we don't wish to continue, we can even opt out. My guess is that they wish to preserve the history of the SCO litigations, for one thing, and I very much love that idea. It's exactly what we have been trying to do, create a complete historical record of these important events we are living through.

So, not to pressure you in any way, in that I can give permission just for my work without any issues, but how do you feel? I will abide by your choice on your own contributions. And if you worry at all that you'd be reluctant to contribute in the future if you know it might end up archived for all time, so to speak, I understand that. I feel it a bit myself. So I really mean it when I say you can choose whatever feels right to you. We have miles to go before we sleep, to paraphrase Robert Frost, and the SCO coverage will be ongoing for quite a while, so if you break out in hives at the idea of being preserved in the Library of Congress, it would be better to pass at least until the SCO saga is at an end.

One possible middle road would be to allow the comments only in the collection available only to Congress, but not to the offsite public. Here are the two choices:

Acceptance to archive Web site

"I hereby grant permission to the Library of Congress to archive the Web site identified above for inclusion in the Library's collection of Web materials."

Acceptance to provide offsite access

"I hereby grant permission to the Library of Congress to provide public access to the archived versions of my website to researchers and patrons via the Library's public Web site."

After you think it over, I'll abide by the majority feeling, unless one of you brainiacs thinks of something that makes this a bad idea, period, because of some factor I have not thought of myself.

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