In the quest to create a universally accessible online archive, individual humans’ downloads and printouts, hoarded offline, are the only things that can complete the catalog.
Read the full story from Wired for a fascinating example of the fragility of the digital scientific record, the value of dispersed and privately held copies, and the essential awesomeness of digital preservation wizards like my friend Leslie Johnston (a UVA Library expat now working at the National Archives). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: digital artifacts are easier to copy and share, but also much easier to lose and destroy, and preserving them is a long-term commitment that spans institutions. Community-run organizations like the Software Preservation Network and community-owned infrastructure like the APTrust are more crucial now than ever. And a firm grasp of fair use and other legal rights that empower software preservation will be essential.