My Copy of The Times

When we cut each other off from access to knowledge, we may preserve our copyright, but we run the risk of endangering our copy's posterity.

In days or yore, I would have spoken of ‘my copy of The Times.’ After all, it is a hard copy, I paid for it and I can port it around. It is, for all intents and purposes ‘mine.’ But in the digital age it isn’t ‘my copy,’ rather it is my temporary access so long as the subscription lasts.

Of course, in the era of ‘my copy’ there was not assertion to a copy(right), much less copy(left), over the printed work. Just the joy that it was ‘mine’ to possess for as long the ink remained indelible.

To wit, used here in the sense of knowledge and stemming from the Latin videre (to see) by way of the Old English witan, my mind has begun rotating further on the notion of creating a personal archive of articles so as to preserve a modern equivalent of ‘my copy of The Times’ for posterity.

Mike Stone put me, or did I put him?, onto the notion of using Zotero for note taking. The snapshot feature is invaluable for grabbing and cataloguing articles from the web, creating a local copy for an ongoing reference long after the site has been taken offline or a subscription has expired.

That the clippings are offline, in the sense of private, also saves the legal challenges associated in this day and age with creating a Memex online. As I discovered recently when I received a DMCA removal request following an article I wrote based on a BoFA report on Bitcoin. Although the original research material was posted publicly, it seems Bank of America changed their mind, pulled the report and had my re-publishing of it flagged as infringing.

Thankfully I have worked extensively in the copyright industry and after a brief email exchange, had my site whitelisted. So no harm done, but it was a reminder that while I may wish to preserve things for posterity, not everyone shares my archivist beliefs. Causing me to turn increasingly to offline, or at the least encrypted online systems for the storage of materials I wish to preserve.

To some extent this is a shame as while a Memex can be, and often is, a very private resource, it is important to remember that thought and scholarship is always a group effort. As Isaac Newton had it in a letter to Robert Hooke: ‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.’ When we cut each other off from access to knowledge, we may preserve our copyright, but we run the risk of endangering our copy’s posterity.

Good night and good luck.


The front page of the London Times for December 4, 1788 is licensed under Public Domain.