Thursday, April 15, 2010

Library Of Congress will archive every tweet ever tweeted

[1] Long story short: The company twitter Inc. (twitter) is outsourcing its "backups" to the Library Of Congress (LOC). Apparently this includes all the tweets ever tweeted and also those yet to come.

What is the current situation like with the intellectual rights on the messages you have tweeted? According to their terms of service [2] you still own the rights to your tweet (provided you had them to begin with of course). But you allow twitter to publish them (royalty-free of course) in whatever way they can think of and make them available to who ever they want or sub-licence them. So even if they wanted to print a tweet compendium of all the tweets for the library...they could do it (provided there are enough trees left). At least according to my understanding (no I am no lawyer and no, I am not daring to be one).

The vision statement of the LOC reads: [3]
"We will foster a free and informed society by building, preserving and providing resources for human creativity, wisdom and achievement. We continually strive to place these resources at the fingertips of the American people, their elected representatives and the world for their mutual prosperity, enlightenment and inspiration."

(I especially like the first line of this quote for numerous reasons about which I won't go into detail here.)

In other words: never has it been easier to sneak your works into the LOC as an author. Just try to fill those 140 characters and hit send. Ashton Kutcher got it done, Justin Bieber, Iranian protesters, politicians, Viagra salesmen,... They are all part of the library now. Is all of this necessarily a cultural enrichment to the people of US? I doubt it. But it might be of some value to future historians and the people of Iran among others.

More fascinating to me is the fact that a basic idea behind Web2.0 -that everybody can create content- found its way out into the archives of this world. Not only accredited journalists, publishers and known artists can contribute to the official keeper of cultural heritage of the US... You and me as well (and I am not even American nor living there). That is quite impressive.

Maybe our facebook footsteps will also find their way into the LOC one day...

In any case I will try to keep this in mind next time I tweet or write something like this on facebook.


And we know some tasks take librarians a little longer from time to time ... here's a quote from today's post on the LOC blog:

"Expect to see an emphasis on the scholarly and research implications of the acquisition. I’m no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data. And I’m certain we’ll learn things that none of us now can even possibly conceive." [5]

To top it off they could have added " boldly go where no man has gone before"... just kidding, I share the enthusiasm with you guys.

One thing is certain: analyzing and retrieving a message or motive out of 140 characters is a lot more straightforward than trying to do the same with a 400 page book. Not to forget the value of the social connections manifested within those tweets (yes those weird names with an "@" in front of them)



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