John Drabinski has written a post reflecting on memory, property, and digitized materials responding to Readex’s announcement of the availability of a trove of newly digitized materials documenting slavery and abolition between 1820-1922. While Drabinski is excited about the availability of this material on his desktop, he also raises concerns about the paywall and the politics of ownership around this material, which is in the public domain:
Readex is making something really amazing available. And they are making it a commodity. To ask it plainly: what does it mean to make the archive of African-American history and memory into a commodity, and to put it behind a paywall? That has to be a real question. It has no simple answer, but most tentative and partial answers, I suspect, go to really troubling places.