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The Pirate Preservationists

Reason – When keeping cultural archives safe means stepping outside the law “…Countless companies specialize in finding forgotten music, often released by regional or local labels that went out of business long ago, and repackaging it for modern listeners. Countless crate-diggers do essentially the same thing, but they post their finds on blogs, on YouTube channels, in Internet Archive collections, or as SoundCloud mixes. As streaming gradually displaced CDs, some reissue labels started posting playlists as well as publishing physical releases. This is not just true in the sense that, say, the Chicago-based Numero Group posts albums on Spotify. The same record label posts playlists on Spotify, the way any user can, which gives it a legal way to include songs it doesn’t have the right to reissue itself. At that point, the chief difference is that the labels usually make an effort to stay within the law while the bloggers and YouTubers are more likely simply to field the copyright takedown notices as they come. And even here there is a gray area…

The good news is that so many people have now joined the preservation fight, either deliberately or accidentally: The more distributed the effort, the less brittle and more resilient it will be. Like those music-swapping networks of the ’90s, this web of preservationists is neither entirely online nor entirely offline. That’s good too: If physical copies let you hang onto something when a stream is altered or removed, digital copies let you almost costlessly save and transmit items that otherwise would be scarce. I don’t know the best way to keep our collective cultural archive alive, but I’m pretty sure it will involve an intricate interplay between the physical and the digital, not just one or the other…”

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