Why Archive.org

I have been archiving video for a good 10 years now. I don’t get as much time to do it as I once did and I now (2018) have a serious backlog of video and audio items to archive and share with the world.

Now the issue I often run into is the sharing part. Most of the video I share is copyrighted, and for that I am in theory breaking the law by uploading these items to any video streaming site or even my own website. However I am usually uploading videos and music that were produced independently or by small production teams from years ago (I try for a 10 year rule, but this doesn’t invalidate those people’s copyright status, and I am always happy to remove footage if the owner feels they do not wish for it to be shared; albeit slightly disappointed) however it does often mean that a lot of the footage and audio you see has been simply forgotten about, and so my aim here is to give it another lease of life in this new digital age.

Archiving is something very close to my heart, and I feel that it is very important that we document as much as possible. You can usually expect that most popular film and music has already been archived in every which way possible; which is the reason why I don’t bother sharing or achieving video from big production companies or audio from big record labels. Most of my focus are on small run, small time independent video and music recordings pre-2008. Why? Well I was alive in 2008 and to me it felt like this was the time that the Internet was really starting to mature to where we are today – most independent music and video was being produced and distributed by the creators online already. This doesn’t mean all of it is still available 10 years later, but most of it usually is around somewhere. Productions prior to this usually were made and then stored on physical media – recordable DVDs, recordable CDs, VHS tapes etc. These mediums are all susceptible to degradation to the point of destruction – so much so I have seen badly pressed home CDs from a mere 12 years ago that have already got so much disc rot no CD player in the world could recover data from them.

So with this in mind I wanted to choose a hosting platform who also shared this mindset – the mindset of preserving, not making money through advertising or gaining personal popularity. I also wanted to choose a company who were established in the scene of archiving, removing the fear of the hard work of mine and others being lost overnight simply because a company has gone bust. This is why I have chosen Archive.org as the video and audio host for not only this website, but for other projects including Advertopia and Computer Legacy.

Archive.org have been archiving all kinds of digital media for years now. TheWayBackMachine is a wonderful creation that helps researchers like myself to find and discover information that has simply been lost to time. They also have extensive amounts of books, texts, videos, audio and software items archived. The website is not easy to navigate however, and I feel this might be intentional – to stop the world and its vloggers from using the platform as the new YouTube. The website and company work on donations, with the goal of maintaining their data archives – they are not interested in making money from advertisers or becoming the next YouTube. From what I have read they are very fair when it comes to DCMA takedown notices from copyright owner’s, where instead of out-right removing content from their website – it is simply hidden until the copyright has expired and the media becomes public domain. However so far, I have not heard a peep from the site administrators about any of my content being flagged.

For this reason Archive.org is a much better platform for my archive content. I do not have to sit and worry about videos being removed because of incorrect copyright matches or internet trolls flagging videos for the sake of lulz. I would love to use a global service like YouTube and make use of the performance it provides for video streaming, but alas it simply doesn’t work. A part of me feels that Archive.org will still be kicking way after YouTube has fallen into the deep digital sea of bygone websites.

I try to overcome some of the issues presented to viewers and uploaders when using the Archive.org service here on this very website.

Firstly to overcome the convoluted and tricky metadata and navigation system provided natively on Archive.org I put my archive content into easy to find and read blog posts. This makes it quicker and easier to find videos you may be interested in. I also provide a section of information about the video along with a description in each post. For larger collections that follow patterns of metadata such as adverts, commercials and old computer software – these items have their own individual project websites powered by databases to make browsing even more smooth.

The second issue, which I am still tackling, is video performance. It is hard to say what causes the buffering and almost random slow-down of Archive.org. It is probably due to the nature of the company and that it is run on donations, for this reason people who exploit its features (such as uploading new big studio films) ruin it for those who want to utilise the website properly. You also have to consider latency, as I am in the United Kingdom sometimes I can experience buffering problems when trying to stream from US servers – there is no solution for this as of yet. As archiving the footage in the highest quality possible is one of my main goals, I avoid reducing the quality of the footage I upload. Footage is usually uploaded in a compressed MP4 format with an agreeable bitrate of around 1500kbps (or more). For audio it is usually uploaded in an uncompressed FLAC or WAVE format, or a high bit-rate MP3 (at least 256kbps). Reducing these qualities might improve video streaming performance, but it is not something I really want to consider. So what is the fix, or at least the workaround? DOWNLOAD! The wonderful thing about Archive.org is that they allow you to download any item from their service to your computer. On every page you should see a box headed ‘Download Options’, here you can choose a format of your preference and download the item for viewing offline. This may take some time for large video/audio items, but at least once this is completed you can then enjoy it without encountering any video performance issues.

I understand that at this point you could re-upload the content to another hosting provider, be it YouTube, Vimeo or Dailymotion – and I can’t do much to stop you. I do not own the archived content, so it will be the actions of the producer to prevent you from doing so. I agree that uploading the video or audio files to any of the big three hosters would probably reach a larger amount of people, but I simply do not want to take the risk – if you do, then go ahead. All I ask is if you do re-upload the video somewhere else, please let me know and I will be happy to provide links here to your re-upload.

Thank-you for taking your time to read this explanation for why I use Archive.org, all I can ask is that you consider donating to their cause as it is something I feel is very important.

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