We, the undersigned, call on Flickr and Internet Archive to reinstate the recently deleted “Internet Archive Book Images” account, a collection of 5.2 million searchable book illustrations covering 500 years of print culture.
This is a unique resource of societal and cultural significance, and its disappearance will be deeply felt by the many historians, artists, researchers, and others who regularly used the collection.
Through the years it has been explored and cared for by a community of users who believed they were contributing to the preservation and enrichment of a lasting commons.
By shutting down the account, Flickr and Internet Archive are undermining the trust that users have placed in them when tagging and enriching the collection. In addition, they are undermining their own longer term role and responsibilities as infrastructure for the cultural commons.
Reinstating the collection is not just a question of account management, but of trust, community, and the safekeeping of culturally significant material.
Given their longstanding commitment to the commons, we hope that Flickr will work with the Internet Archive to bring back this invaluable collection.
Flickr have agreed to reinstate the collection (though they are suggesting to do so in a way which will keep it separate from The Commons).
See this message from George Oates on the Flickr forum communicating their regret around what happened and outlining their future plan: https://www.flickr.com/help/forum/en-us/72157720510495566/#reply72157720613909345
Thank you all so much for taking the time to lend your support to the campaign! And thanks to Flickr and Internet Archive for their quick response. After just a few hours of this open letter going live we had both parties talking openly about this on Twitter. It seems the deletion was Flickr's idea, but they've now said they will put it back online — though their idea is for it to be separate from the Commons.
We're very grateful for any home for the account, but do feel it's detrimental to have it siloed from others in the Commons. It seems Flickr's chief concern was that the Internet Archive images were drowning out others in searches (not something we experienced, but appreciate others have different use cases). But couldn't this be solved with a simple filter? The option to include Internet Archive images could be turned off by default, so they were only seen by those who chose to see them.
Both Internet Archive and Flickr have been in touch directly, and this idea of the filter is something we hope to talk to Flickr about in more detail over the coming days.
The Public Domain Review.
Blog post on The Public Domain Review: https://publicdomainreview.org/blog/2022/04/5-million-book-illustrations-deleted-from-flickr
Library of Congress post about the collection from 2014: https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2014/12/unlocking-the-imagery-of-500-years-of-books/