What is Wayback Machine and why we need its access back
Governments all over the world have, from time to time, strong-armed telecom operators to block a number of websites, search engines and social media platforms. The Chinese government has restricted access to Google and Facebook while Twitter is blocked in Iran. Various torrent and porn sites were red-flagged by Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in August 2015 and were subsequently blocked by internet service providers (ISPs). In what is believed to be another case of internet censorship, DoT has reportedly asked ISPs to block an online archive called Wayback Machine, also known as archive-it.org, to prevent piracy of recently released Bollywood movies “Lipstick under My Burkha” and “Jab Harry Met Sejal.”
According to an official blog post by Chris Butler, office manager at Internet Archive, the non-profit organisation which runs Wayback Machine, two recent orders by Madras High Court were behind the block. The court orders identified a list of websites which includes Wayback Machine to be blocked for hosting a pirated copy of the two Hindi movies. However, it appears that the ban is yet to be enforced by all ISPs.
In the blog post, Butler points out, “Internet Archive has a well-established and standard procedure for rights holders to submit take down requests and processes them expeditiously. We find several instances of take down requests submitted for one of the plaintiffs, Red Chillies Entertainments, throughout the past year, each of which were processed and responded to promptly. After a preliminary review, we find no instance of our having been contacted by anyone at all about these films.” Wayback Machine or archive-it.org is an online library of webpages, ebooks, videos, audio, games and software. It was founded by a non-profit organization called Internet Archive in 2006. As of now, it has 15 petabytes of data in the form of 273 billion webpages from over 361 million websites.
It was developed to preserve digital content for research, educational purposes, and for the general public to access previous versions of an important website where a webpage which may have been changed or deleted by the publisher.
The webpages can be archived by any users by typing the website URL and browsing to specific page they want to be saved. The right to archive videos, or other content is available only to partner organisations and paid subscribers. The website has tie-ups for content with over 400 organisations in 16 countries and it includes university libraries, state archives, historical societies, NGOs and museums.
Blocking it will affect researchers or students who rely on the vast library of research work available on it. It is also a valuable tool for activists who want to archive articles, circulars, or government documents so they will remain available forever, even if the source webpage or link to it has been taken down.