After companies shut down and collectors lose interest, the Library of Congress is supposed to keep our cultural history intact. But digital media has turned our understanding of preservation on its head.
Artists regularly register their work with the US Copyright Office and as part of the process, they send a copy, in some cases a physical copy to the registrars which is then stored by the Library of Congress. The physical copies aren’t the final storage method, just a way to get the file to the library, which then uploads them to its database. Delivering digital files on potentially lower-quality tapes and discs instead of transmitting them directly is an awkward stopgap. A pilot program is in process to allow studios to transfer files directly to the Library of Congress and the US Copyright Office.