Not All Information Wants to be Free: The Case Study of On Our Backs

Robertson, Tara . Not All Information Wants to be Free: The Case Study of On Our Backs., 2018 In: Applying Library Values to Emerging Technology: Decision-Making in the Age of Open Access, Maker Spaces, and the Ever-Changing Library (Publications in Librarianship #72). American Library Association, pp. 225-239. [Book chapter]

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English abstract

“Information wants to be free” is one of those slogans that I see on t-shirts and tote bags at library conferences. Generally, librarians advocate for open access to information. In this chapter, I will look at the digitization of On Our Backs (OOB), a lesbian porn magazine that ran from 1984–2004, as a case study of where digitization and publishing this content online is inappropriate. First, I will locate myself and explain why I’ve been critical of Reveal Digital putting OOB online. Second, I will examine why it was problematic for Reveal Digital to put OOB online and will also look at why the reasons they gave for temporarily removing OOB were also problematic. ird, I’ll look at some of the copyright issues associated with digitizing this collection and I will argue that we need to go beyond just looking at copyright. I’ll conclude with a survey discussion of some other digitization projects that are approaching tricky ethical issues from a nuanced and thoughtful perspective and describe best practices, including having clear contact information, using appropriate technology, and working with communities from a community development perspective.

Item type: Book chapter
Keywords: ethics, digitization, porn, feminist porn, Reveal Digital, the right to be forgotten,
Subjects: B. Information use and sociology of information > BZ. None of these, but in this section.
Depositing user: Tara Robertson
Date deposited: 02 Mar 2018 23:05
Last modified: 02 Mar 2018 23:05


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