Archive don’t decommission

The Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy that directs government agencies on conforming to the WCAG 2.0 is available now at: http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/wcag-2-implementation/index.html

This easy decision table workflow gives some guidance.
workflow for an agency to determine whether content should be upgraded to WCAG 2.0 or be archived

However it also is a bit of a worry, with the option to Archive or Decommission. The temptation for many agencies confronted with upgrading their content to conform to the new requirements (even though they do not have to conform under Single A until end 2012) will be to decommission the website.

Before doing so they hopefully will abide by this AGIMO advice.

Options for retaining public access to out of date web content:

  • preserving key electronic resources in the National Library of Australia’s Pandora Web Archive;
  • creating a publicly accessible archive for out of date web content, on their websites (e.g. AGIMO Archive); or
  • publishing information on how to obtain out of date content that is no longer available through their websites.

and this:

AFDA requirement that also states that:

Publications produced only in an electronic format on an agency’s public website – Retain as national archives

Agencies should understand that a publication is anything published, a publication is not just those types of electronic documents that conform to a print type (such as e-book, e-journal) but includes any public (therefore published) web content and therefore should be retained.

That retention is best served not just by the content being stored on a disk in the agency (and at the NAA) but also by retaining it in an online archive (whether institutional or PANDORA).

Too often web publications are deemed no longer relevant and decommissioned and removed from websites and thus lost from public access. Before decommissioning and removing content, web managers should make an effort to check whether the content is safely held elsewhere (IA, PANDORA) and if not, arrange for archival.

A Guide to Web Preservation

Launched today by JISC-PoWR

jisc-powr A Guide to Web Preservation cover image – Click on the image for access.

This Guide builds on the work of the JISC-funded PoWR project which was published in the PoWR: The Preservation of Web Resources Handbook. The Guide provides a practical guide to web preservation, particularly for web and records managers.

The text similar to the handbook seems somewhat harsh on old PANDAS.

The law and web archives

I have noticed the growing number of commercial web archiving services springing up in the US. One of the drivers of this is the need to preserve and provide websites/pages as legal evidence. Citing a webpage in a legal case requires the need to prove that a webpage existed as stated at a time as stated.

Each page is time stamped with an ANSI X9.95 compliant Time Stamp Authority securely synchronized with the certified atomic clocks of a Stratum-1 Time Server. This trusted, non-refutable time that cannot be altered without detection provides legal proof when the page was actually archived. – http://pagefreezer.com

The Iterasi Page Notary tool provides a powerful way for you to save any webpage you can view. Even webpages requiring a username and password (e.g., Facebook) pose no problems to the Page Notary tool. – http://www.iterasi.net/legal-services/

Many commercial organisations need to be able to show what they said on their or others websites, or their staff or others said in social media, to protect them from litigation or to provide evidence for suits. Individuals in libel or other legal cases need to prove what was said about them, or indeed what they said. All of these are growing concerns as the Internet continues to replace all other media as the main communication platform. When a print publication was published it materially existed and copies were potentially (like a book or newspaper) held by numerous individuals and organisations, it could not then be un-published. And to make sure that the provenance of the published work was authoritative it was historically illegal in Australia to publish without a printers imprint.

On the Internet however it is possible to publish totally anonymously and to un-publish by removing all trace of a document (at least on the host site). It is also possible (as has been shown by numerous hackings) to publish content on someone else’s webspace, to create false identities mimicking someone else, or to mimic a whole website or webpage.

FIFA World Cup website fake image

One issue I would think problematic with the type of commercial archiving mentioned is that it does indeed archive a page, and provide a date stamp, but what are the protocols for storage, who can access the archived files and what evidence do we have that the page was produced at the location stated or by the stated publisher. There is a lot more to evidentiary value surely than a date stamp.

The Internet Archive has been called on many times to provide evidence in court cases and even has an preformed Affidavit to cope with the load. But it acknowledges that it can say nothing of the authorship and I would suspect that there would still be issues with dynamic content which could mislead.

I would contend that one would need evidence from both the computer that the content was uploaded from and from the webpage/site before one could be sure of ascertaining certain proof.

A very good legal article at http://lawyers-law.com/authenticating-web-pages-as-evidence/ from the US talks more about this subject expanding on US evidence law.

There does not seem to be much case law in Australia that has involved webpages/sites as evidence and there has been no call on the PANDORA Archive to provide archived documentary evidence. This unfortunately may mean that courts are allowing webpage evidence without securing any substantiation.

There have been the Gutnick case and various criminal cases involving posts within facebook (however in the facebook examples the evidence was provided by facebook to Police and is not a substantial part of criminal proceedings evidence).
But it seems likely a case and evidence request will come eventually, but how webpages/sites (archived or live) will be treated under the Evidence Act 1995 is seemingly yet to be fully tested. The Evidence Act does not mention the Internet and talks only of ‘electronic communications’. The Act was written when email and the internet were in their infancy and seemingly relates more to faxes.

Electronic communications
(1) If a document purports to contain a record of an electronic communication other than one referred to in section 162, it is presumed (unless evidence sufficient to raise doubt about the presumption is adduced) that the communication:
(a) was sent or made in the form of electronic communication that appears from the document to have been the form by which it was sent or made; and
(b) was sent or made by or on behalf of the person by or on whose behalf it appears from the document to have been sent or made; and
(c) was sent or made on the day on which, at the time at which and from the place from which it appears from the document to have been sent or made; and
(d) was received at the destination to which it appears from the document to have been sent
(e) if it appears from the document that the sending of the communication concluded at a particular time–was received at that destination at that time.

The section ‘unless evidence sufficient to raise doubt about the presumption is adduced’ would obviate almost all electronic communications as evidence given the ease of proving that almost any page or online communication can be either created at will, or be tampered with.

Twitter archive questions answered

The Library of Congress has decided to put those burning questions to rest. Why are they archiving Twitter? What’s going to be included in the archive? And what is the Library going to do with all of that information anyway? Can we access it? Read their FAQ and find out.

Library of Congress to archive the Twitterverse

The Library of Congress have just announced that they are going to archive Twitter, and they used their own Twitter stream to make their original announcement. Starting with its inception in 2006 and with around 50 million tweets being added daily to the Twitterverse, that’s a lot of ground to cover!

Russell Trood speech

Speech on the National Library delivered by Liberal Senator Russell Trood in Parliament on 2 February

Available at: http://www.senatortrood.com/CurrentIssuesBlog/LatestNews/tabid/71/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/327/Adjournment-Speech-National-Library-of-Australia.aspx

Highlights -

But it would be misleading to suggest that, for all the distinguished work that the library is undertaking, it is not facing some enormous challenges. The NLA, like the National Film and Sound Archive and the National Archives of Australia, requires additional funding to ensure that the work that it does is preserved to share with future generations. The digital age has certainly arrived. As a result, digitisation has become an increasingly important medium for Australian government agencies, authors, researchers, film makers, musicians and creators. Australia’s ability to maintain a permanent and accessible record in this area is therefore linked to a national capacity to cope with this digital tidal wave of images and sounds.

The reality is that the national collecting institutions are not resourced to cope with this digital tidal wave. The NLA certainly has the commitment, skills and vision to embrace the digital world. But currently it lacks the resources to undertake the task effectively. There is little doubt that saving Australia’s digital cultural heritage will require significant funding. In this context, I was delighted to see that the 2009-10 Rudd government budget provided some funding for a business case to be set forth for comprehensive funding for digitisation into the future. I very sincerely hope that the government will see fit in the forthcoming budget to further fund this important national activity. Investing in Australia’s digital heritage is an investment for the future. I therefore trust that, despite the difficult budgetary situation, this will be a serious priority in relation to the NLA’s activities.

A press release on the 2009 budget allocation referred to is here. The business case plan is nearing completion and we remain hopeful.

Australian author seeks copyright amendment

Leading Australian author John Birmingham has weighed in to the copyright debate with an article requesting that the government amend the 1968 copyright act to include digital works under legal deposit see: http://blogs.brisbanetimes.com.au/thegeek/archives/2009/12/get_off_yr_lzy.html

Mr Birmingham would like to see archiving of Twitter pages that currently aren’t being gathered. Some Twitter pages for individuals such as the Australian PM  have been archived in Australia with permission, but the archiving of large swathes of Twitter on a theme or tag cannot currently occur as it would entail, as Birmingham says, contacting numerous authors.

Legal deposit is enshrined in most if not all countries laws, and it requires that a nominated National Library (and in some cases also some State or university libraries) recieve a copy, or have rights to recieve a copy of every work published in that country. The legislation in Australia only refers to paper works and so there is no requirement for digital works to be deposited.  Given that today a vast amount of material is published online only, there would appear to be a need to amend the legislation, if an adequate record of Australia’s cultural, intellectual and government activity is required.

2 sites worth watching

Two websites worth looking at.

1.  Government 2.0 Taskforce http://gov2.net.au/ -

“In particular the Taskforce will also identify policies and frameworks to assist the Information Commissioner and other agencies in:

  • developing and managing a whole of government information publication scheme to encourage greater disclosure of public sector information;
  • extending opportunities for the reuse of government information, and considering the terms of that use, to maximise the beneficial flow of that information and facilitate productive applications of government information to the greatest possible extent;
  • encouraging effective online innovation, consultation and engagement by government, including by drawing on the lessons of the Government’s online consultation trials and any initiatives undertaken by the Taskforce.”

2.  UK Web Archive Technology Watch http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/ukwebarchive_techwatch/

“This blog is the first stage in providing a monitoring function – otherwise known in digital preservation circles as a ‘technology watch’ – to keep track of changes to technology that supports use of material in the web archive. It is maintained by British Library staff in the Digital Preservation Team and Web Archiving Programme, and is made public so that others with an interest in tracking changes to technology for preservation purposes may benefit from the information recorded here.”