Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The race to preserve disappearing data

The race to preserve disappearing data. Bina Venkataraman. Boston Globe. May 17, 2015.
"American feature films made before 1950 faced about 50/50 odds of surviving into this century. Many independent and documentary films from the first half of the 20th century, and about 80 percent of the mostly silent movies made in the 1910s and 1920s have been lost." The cloud isn’t yet robust enough for long-term archival of complex datasets and gigantic master movie files. Nor can it keep up with predicted demand.

Three out of four feature movies screened in American cinemas are independent films, Yet most independent filmmakers have neither a plan nor budget to preserve their films. At risk is the archival footage of the future.  More than 60 percent of movie makers do not migrate their digital files to new formats. Rather than dealing with this, people want to pass the responsibility to others. This problem is not unique to the film industry but includes all areas: photos, music, documents, and including scientific research data.A crucial part of science is that researchers must be able to reproduce findings or correct them over time by re-evaluating the original data. Some of the datasets require records that span decades or longer.

A 2013 study of Supreme Court decisions  found that Nearly half of all Supreme Court decisions up to that date and more than 70 percent of law journals from 1999 to 2012 referred to Web pages that no longer existed. While the Library of Congress can preserve digital films if filmmakers share their unencrypted files, less than a dozen filmmakers and studios have done so, and the library has yet to preserve a single born-digital feature-length film. Some groups however are working on this, and digital technology can offer more automated ways to save the digital materials.

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