V Access, control, and the law

The open-access spectrum: redefining the access discourse for the electronic editions of literary works

Setsuko Yokoyama


Our contemporary discourse concerning open access has long advocated for making scholarly articles publicly available. If researchers want their work to be searchable online and consulted without fees, they may publish their works through open-access journals or share their works through open-access repositories—practices known as Gold OA and Green OA, respectively. Publishing scholarly editions of literary works in an open-access manner, on the other hand, is less straightforward; so much so that even Peter Suber’s seminal works on open access avoid the matter.1 By and large, there is also a collective silence within the field of textual scholarship regarding the rationale behind access models for electronic editions. Based on passing remarks in published articles or hallway conversations with senior editors who are willing to share their behind- the-scenes stories, it appears as if the topic of access models is often considered too trivial, too managerial, or too sensitive to warrant serious debates.

In what follows, I argue that the access model of a scholarly literary edition ought to be a part of a self-reflective editorial discourse, especially since access advocacy has long evaded critical scrutiny in the humanities. Using the Digital Frost Project as a case study, I first examine the limitations of access advocacy discourse in order to demonstrate how some conceptual frameworks can be counterproductive when developing an electronic edition of literary works. In the second half of this article, I propose an alternative framework to the one that upholds open access as an ideal every editor must abide by, and suggest regarding open access as a spectrum. Throughout this article, I demonstrate how editors of literary works should consider the critical implications of access models and decide how to anticipate, encourage, and, at times, regulate the ultimate usage of their editions.

Digital Frost Project

Launched in 2015, the Digital Frost Project is a collaborative effort among literary scholars, archivists, Robert Frost’s families and friends, as well as his literary estate and publisher to build the poet’s online platform. The project is in part a continuation of primary Frost scholarship that has long provided the foundational resources for the poet’s readers, critics, and teachers by printing editions of Frost’s works. The project is also a part of the digital textual scholarship that, since the early 1990s, has started to tackle the implications of electronic editions of literary works. Working within these traditions, the Digital Frost Project is particularly interested in picking up where the most recent digital compilation of Frost’s works left off—a CD-ROM edition, Robert Frost: Poems, Life, Legacy (Sheehy 1997). Produced by Joe Matazzoni and edited by Donald Sheehv, this edition had long enabled Frost’s readers to see the poet’s working drafts, listen to his poetry readings, and witness through video his emergence as a national poet who playfully interacted with his audience. To Frost scholars’ dismay, the edition became increasingly incompatible with modern operating systems. In consultation with Sheehy and others, I thus joined the ongoing effort to reestablish a public platform for Frost, this time on the Internet.

The Digital Frost Project provides a fitting case study for my research into access discourse; it emblematizes a range of questions editors of electronic editions need to address when weighing whether to adopt open access. Some such questions include: what are the different open-access publishing models that are relevant to the electronic editions of literary works; what is the best means by which to negotiate interests of all involved parties, including literary scholars, special collections librarians, and copyright holders; and what are the editorial responsibilities when publishing literary texts online? The following analysis is in part an account of how I am currently navigating the access discourse as an editor and the project coordinator of the Digital Frost Project.

Complicating access advocacy

For many years, access advocacy in the United States has been discussed as a binary issue. Prompted by its call-to-action agenda, access advocacy is often about a dichotomy between two groups of people—those who function as gatekeepers of works and those who strive to liberate works for the public good. Software engineer Richard Stallman’s Why software should not have owners (1994) and hacktivist Aaron Swartz’s Guerilla open access manifesto (2008) are a few such examples that call out the lockdown culture in software engineering industries and university libraries. For Stallman, restricting modification to a software program in an effort to protect intellectual property means denying others the opportunity to engage with the program intellectually. Swartz, in a similar manner, opposes the privatization of knowledge through closed scholarly journal databases, a mechanism that privileges those who are affiliated with affluent research institutions. For both Swartz and Stallman, the access movement is a way to advocate for social justice, and a form of resistance against those who would regulate the possibility of a more democratic production of knowledge—something the emergence of the World Wide Web seems to have promised.2 Within such a conceptual framework, file sharing is a tactic to elude the system of The Man, and desktop publishing is a strategy to bypass the middleman.3

While the liberatory rhetoric of access advocacy undoubtedly helps popularize the cause, not every intermediary involved in the development of an online platform is a gatekeeper or subscribes to the axioms of access advocacy. Worse, when a just cause starts to behave dogmatically and loses its critical nuance, it can do more harm than good. Consider the case of Kimberly Christen, the Director of Plateau Peoples’ Web Portal, who was met with reactionary criticisms for her content management system Mukurtu after its coverage in a BBC radio program in 2008. Developed collaboratively with members of Warumungu, an Indigenous community in Australia, Mukurtu (2007) adopted the community’s cultural protocol to manage access to their ancestral collection. That meant access was determined in accordance with Warumungu custom, and by such factors as the individual’s age, gender, and kinship. To Christen’s dismay, BBC’s online forum was soon filled with anti-censorship and anti-digital rights management arguments, reverberating the talking points associated with access advocacy. While the notion of “control” meant curation for the Mukurtu development team, the connotation interpreted by the BBC audience was the abuse of power that denies the world’s access to Australia’s cultural heritage. In her crucial article Does information really want to be free? (2012), Christen argues that even a seemingly benign concept such as “public domain”—a notion commonly celebrated among the anglophone access advocates—has been used to exploit Indigenous communities. When employed uncritically, notes Christen, the concept of public domain would further perpetuate the legacy of global colonialism.4

That self-appointed access advocates can be oblivious to their own biases shows why the access model of an electronic edition needs critical assessment, and how the existing access discourse based on the dichotomy between gatekeepers and hackers might prove too limiting for some literary projects. As for the Digital Frost Project, the concept of “piracy” defies the project’s easy alliance with the access advocacy discourse. Today, when used by those who wish for more stringent intellectual property regulations, piracy means copyright infringement. Such a negative connotation of the term is often used to denounce access advocates.5 In response, an academic access advocate such as Gary Flail seeks to reclaim the term by revisiting its etymology, so that the term might mean “trial”, “attempt”, and “test” rather than a theft (Flail 2016, p. 16).

For Frost, at the onset of his career as a published poet, the threat of piracy had neither of these implications. In 1914, his soon-to-be American publisher Henry Holt and Company purchased 150 sets of sheets of a poetry book North of Boston from Frost’s British publisher David Nutt, so that the book could be published in the United States with a new title page.6 Having seen enough orders to exhaust the initial 150 books, Holt requested 200 more sets of sheets from Nutt. As fate would have it, there was a delay in response to this cross-Atlantic communication, presumably owing to the turmoil of the Great War. Having waited for about a month, Holt ended up setting and binding a fresh American edition without Nutt’s explicit permission (Alger 2014, pp. 299—300; Crane 1974, pp. 15-18). In a letter to Nutt. Holt justified their action as a precaution against piracy:

We published “North of Boston” on February 20th, and our first supply was immediately exhausted. Now we find ourselves without any supply for a month, and piracy threatened. So to protect your interests and those of the author, we are forced to reset both of Mr. Frost’s books [A Boy’s Will and North of Boston] here in order not only to forestall piracy but also to take advantage of the present interest in Mr. Frost’s work.

(cited in Crane 1974, p. 17)

The story, of course, can be told from multiple perspectives—-just as how the implications of control meant different things to the BBC audience and to the Mukurtu development team. Seen from Nutt’s standpoint, Holt’s move itself could be interpreted as an act of piracy, justified to prevent others from practicing piracy. From Holt’s perspective, it was a matter of precaution. For Frost, who was traveling back to the United States from war-struck Britain at this time and was not directly involved in the negotiation, the incident marked an end to his defunct relationship with Nutt and the beginning of a partnership with Holt.7

For the Digital Frost Project that will inaugurate its pilot edition with North of Boston as its focal point, therefore, the notion of piracy is not simply a matter of good or bad. Rather, it is indicative of the historical circumstances that defined the publication of Frost’s first American poetry collection, the twenty- first century concerns for the unauthorized reproduction (and the possible abuse) of digitized archival artefacts, and the necessity of a trial run for the long-term development of Frost’s digital platform.8

Another ill-equipped concept based on the dichotomous nature of access advocacy is the notion of “gatekeeping”, a concept designed to call out whoever gets in the way of access. Given that no literary platform can be developed in a vacuum, the adversarial access advocacy framework seems to have little use in fostering the necessary collaboration between scholarly editors, special collections librarians, literary estates, and other stakeholders. Take, for example, the current inaccessibility of audio recordings of Frost’s nearly five decades of public talks and readings.9 Contrary to the access advocacy discourse, the neglect of Frost’s talks as a genre is not so much a result of gatekeeping, but rather a combination of personal, technological, and financial obstacles that have conglomerated over the past 80 odd years.

First and foremost, Frost was hesitant to have his talks published in print during his lifetime. Based on his remarks in personal correspondence, Frost scholars have long speculated his reluctance had to do with either a strategic plan to first establish himself as a poet—rather than a writer of prose—or a disinclination to engage in the daunting process of transforming the transcription of talks into publishable prose.10 In any case, literary scholars are accustomed to respecting the preferences of the author, and it is not too difficult to imagine how the Frost Estate might wish to cite the poet’s reluctance if it so chooses to deny any publication attempts of talks in print.

Another challenge my editorial predecessors have faced is the growing technological inaccessibility of Frost’s talks recorded on reel-to-reel magnetic tapes. Since the early 1940s, many of Frost’s talks were recorded by host institutions on wires and reel-to-reel magnetic tapes, and kept as a part of their institutional records.11 In 1959, with a letter of authorization from Frost himself, his friend and student Jack Hagstrom started to collect copies of sporadically located audio recordings for Amherst College (Hagstrom 1996; Kelly 2012). These Amherst copies on reel- to-reel tapes went through reformatting in the 1980s in order to provide cassette copies for use by researchers. By summer 2018, however, these cassette tapes became warped and are now themselves a challenge to researchers.12 Given both the conditions of the cassettes and the lack of equipment to replay reel-to-reel audio recordings, researchers who wish to listen to Frost’s talks today need to first request digitization, sometimes at their own expense of $75-100 per reel.13

Finally, in addition to technological inaccessibility, there are now financial obstacles—both for institutions and for researchers—to making Frost’s audio recordings a feasible object of study. Given that there has never been a systematic study of Frost’s talks, researchers can only speculate which audio recordings are relevant to their work based on sporadic transcriptions incorporated in various scholarly articles, monographs, biographies, and letters. As a result, a researcher might pay for digitization only to find out that a recording is irrelevant.

Once it becomes clear that the current inaccessibility of Frost’s audio recordings cannot exactly be explained within the binary framework of gatekeeping and its countering hacktivism, there emerges room for more grounded solutions based on the unique conditions of the Digital Frost Project. For instance, thanks to financial support from the non-profit organization Friends of Robert Frost, a pilot project of the Digital Frost Project launches with the digitization of entire Frost audio collections held at Amherst College and Dartmouth College. This solution is a fruit of collaboration—rather than adversarial posturing about access issues—and serves multiple fronts. For special collections, a batch digitization is not only cost-effective but also helps develop their institutional digital repositories. For Frost scholars, it facilitates work that assures Frost’s contribution to American culture and literary history is brought to life for contemporary readers. Ultimately, the collaboration benefits the audience. Once finished, the pilot audio edition of Frost’s talks will provide a public platform for Frost’s students, critics, and teachers to cross-examine, analyse, and augment the scholarly arguments made thus far, and for readers of all levels to enjoy and be edified by the poet’s famously engaging manner of presentation.

The open-access spectrum among existing electronic editions

I hope it is clear by now that my intention is not to caricature or demonize access advocacy. Rather, I am hoping to illustrate how to remain vigilant and mindful about access advocacy, especially when it is presented as a monolithic ideal or is based on the dichotomous discourse that promotes abstract, liberatory talking points devoid of local contexts. For the remainder of this article, I entertain a possible antidote to the quickening advocacy discourse by proposing open access as a spectrum rather than something that is or is not. As a hermeneutic for the future editors of electronic editions, I argue this alternative framework offers a more productive reading practice than much of the current open-access discourse enables.

First of all, understanding an access model as a spectrum invites reading each edition in its own terms and resists the imposition of a notion that freer means better. For example, the first iteration of the Dickinson Electronic Anilines (1994) adopts what we call today Gratis OA, an access model that is free of charge and encourages fair use (Smith & Vetter 1994). Just as any scholarly edition of literary work in print, the Dickinson Electronic Archives operates under the familiar assumptions that—as far as the current US copyright law is concerned—readers can use copyrighted resources for the purposes of “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research” without a permission from the editor or needing to pay for reproduction.14 According to its original editors, Martha Nell Smith and Lara Vetter (Smith et al. 1997), the Dickinson Electronic Archives is in part designed to shed light on the traditionally opaque editorial process, so that scholarly interpretations, as well as editorial interventions that inform the representation of Emily Dickinson, are open for public cross-examination. Together with the digitally reproduced empirical evidence, editors of the Dickinson Electronic Archives solicit critical textual inquiries from their audiences. Questions readers might entertain include: how do we come to regard Dickinson as a recluse, what roles did her posthumous editors play in concretizing the poet’s certain image, and why is the literary contribution of Susan Dickinson—Emily’s sister-in-law—seldom discussed? (Flart & Smith 1998). By removing the financial barrier to enable consultation of manuscript images, the Dickinson Electronic Archives opens up the kinds of inquiries that have previously been reserved to a few Dickinson experts (Smith 2004).

Since open-access vocabularies entered the humanities discourse in the 2000s, interpreting the Dickinson Electronic Archives as Gratis OA might be ahistorical. For the purpose of this article, however, the Dickinson Electronic Archives serves as a reminder of the significance of free access to archival resources, especially when the current open-access discourse often treats Gratis OA as something less desirable in comparison with another possible model, Libre OA. Such a subtle yet pervasive notion of hierarchy among access models is seen even in Suber’s passing description of two access models: “Gratis OA is free of charge but not more free than that. Users must still seek permission to exceed fair use. Gratis OA removes price barriers but not permission barriers. Libre OA is free of charge and also free of some copyright and licensing restrictions” (Suber 2012, p. 66). As the example of the Dickinson Electronic Archives suggests, Gratis OA can be a most appropriate option especially when its affordance aligns with the rationale for the edition’s publication. Whether freer means better needs to be determined situationally.

Treating open access as a spectrum is also a way to question the assertions about the field’s so-called best practices. Reading “where” in the spectrum of open access an edition might fall and “to what end” is especially useful when editors are less explicit about their access model compared to those of the Dickinson Electronic Archives. Regardless of the editorial intentions, the access model of an edition does signal—however inadvertently—underlying research interests of the edition as well as its anticipated readership. The current iteration of The Rossetti Archive is one such example that adopts Libre OA, a model that is both free of charge and some copyright restrictions (McGann 2000, 2008). Specifically, The Rossetti Archive defines its terms of use by using a Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 2.5, a license that supports the transformative use and redistribution of works for non-commercial purposes.13 The biggest difference between Gratis OA and Libre OA is that the latter proactively defines how readers may exceed fair use while the former encourages it. Today, computational processing for research purposes increasingly falls within fair use—thanks to a legal case spearheaded by Matthew Jockers, Matthew Sag, and Jason Schultz on behalf of other humanities scholars in 2012.16 By joining in on the copyright infringement dispute between Google and the Authors’ Guild over the Google Books project, Jockers et al. ensured that some digitally enabled research methods such as text mining millions of digitized books “to extract information from and about them to sift out trends and patterns” are considered fair use (Jockers et al. 2012b, p. 30). However, anything beyond such “non-expressive” usage—as Jockers et al. strategically characterized—still falls into a fair use grey zone. As a result, if users wish to download files in their entirety and modify them for the purpose of self-expression, they still ought to navigate the intrinsic vagueness of statutory standards for fair use on their own.

Libre OA, therefore, makes it an editorial responsibility to clarify fair use’s legal ambiguity on behalf of the readers, so as to encourage expressive reuse and remix of the works. Incidentally, one of the generative analyses conducted by Jerome McGann, the editor of The Rossetti Archive, is a research method called “deformation”. As a hermeneutic, deformation presents a familiar text in a new light (McGann & Samuels 1999). For example, by distorting the digitized image of Rossetti’s painting using Photoshop, McGann (1997) investigates formal and compositional implications of Rossetti’s painting “The Blessed Damozel”. While McGann has not published the rationale for shifting the edition’s original Gratis OA status to the current Libre OA model, the edition’s ultimate access model nevertheless gestures towards facilitating digitally enabled exploratory research methods—a reason why an edition might want to “assert the highly recommended Creative Commons Attribution license” in the first place.17 For too long, critics and editors have either treated open access as a matter of fact, subsequently naturalizing assertions that come with it, or have been willing to experiment without fully articulating the expectations for adopting a certain access model.18 After decades of use that treats access in various ways, critical discourse should refrain from simply adopting open access for open access’s sake, and consider what form of access is the most responsible for the textual condition of the works at hand.

Another benefit of treating open access as a spectrum, and subsequently discussing specific access configurations of an edition, is educational. Given an online scholarly edition is uniquely situated to serve both readers within and beyond academia, it is an opportunity to invite readers for critical textual inquiries. Or, as Julia Flanders put it, the editorial design question ought to shift from asking “what the user wants (which is essentially a marketing question)” to “what kind of relationship with the text we think we should encourage (which is a question about the social and institutional function of texts)” (1997, p. 302).

Take, for example, Folger Digital Texts, edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine. Designed to encourage reuse of Shakespearean texts, Folger Digital Texts adopts Libre OA and uses a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 3.0) that allows the transformative use and redistribution of works for non-commercial purposes.19 Unlike other electronic editions that are largely designed to facilitate viewing, Folger Digital Texts encourages downloads by offering texts in different formats: XML, HTML, PDF, DOC, TXT, and TEI (Mowat & Werstine 1996- 2020a). Their treatment of the plain text, in particular, warrants careful reading. Folger Digital Texts’s decision to include the plain text format seems to gesture towards digitally enabled research methods such as computational text analyses. Scholars who conduct a large-scale textual analysis (such as distant reading) have long relied on plain text, aggregated from Project Gutenberg, Google Books Project, HathiTrust, and other online corpora.20 Though these corpora are largely devoid of individual texts’ material histories—specifically versioning records, typographical marks, and notes of editorial emendations—the loss of such granular details has long been considered a necessary trade-off for a larger statistical insight. Indeed, computational textual analyses often seek to examine non-canonical works that have been neglected by scholarly editors in order to study the very constitution of canons. While there is a gap in what text analysis scholars need and what editors of Folger Digital Texts offer, the edition nevertheless cautions against the tendencies to present findings based on text analysis as evidentiary rather than a moment of reflection on the hypotheses that were set to be tested in the first place.21 When Folger Digital Texts nudges users to think twice about the implications of plain text, the edition makes it an editorial responsibility to inform the nature of plain text. Despite its benign semblance, note the editors, plain text is but one way of representing the text of a particular literary work, and its limitations must be taken into consideration:

Folger Digital Texts provides .txt format files for projects and applications where simplicity and/or stability is the highest priority. These ASCII 7-encoded files are the most likely to render properly in the widest number of applications and the least likely to present conversion errors when being incorporated into text analysis tools. However, they also lack formatting, critical editing marks, and special characters. It is important to note that because special characters are not present, accents on words will be missing, which will change the meter of those lines. It is recommended that you use one of the other formats offered via Folger Digital Texts unless using a completely unadorned text is a priority.

(Mowat & И/erstine I996-2020b)

Here, the editors share their editorial dilemma in wishing to accommodate creative usages of text while being wary of flattening its historical and material specificity. By informing the audience about their unease, the editors help their readers develop a critical perspective on plain text, perhaps even for the first time.

What a spectrum means for the Digital Frost Project

As for the pilot audio edition of the Digital Frost Project, regarding open access as a spectrum enables the invention of an interdependent open-access model based on the multifaceted copyright conditions with which special collections, the Frost Estate, Henry Holt and Co., and I work. The interdependent model represents the Digital Frost Project’s practical and theoretical undertakings. Theoretically, the model complicates the success narrative of open-access advocacy: free access to works would generate exposure and excitement, and may help consequently to promote the work.22 To date, Frost’s public talks are said to have contributed to “the creation, cultivation, and expansion of his audience” and that the payment for his talks increased exponentially from his first performance in 1915 to the end of his life (Sheehy et al. 2014, p. 10; see also Seale 2014, p. 318). There is a seemingly convenient alignment between Frost’s success narrative and that of popular open-access advocacy’s unfounded claim, that is, the public exposure—not to mention the quality of work—will accumulate fame and fortune (Doctorow 2014, p. 39). The idea is not new. Indeed, a March issue of Publishers Weekly in 1950 observed that the sales of poetry books were affected by publicity, quoting Frost (and noting his four Pulitzer Prizes) as their prime example. Following TIME magazine coverage of Frost in 1959, moreover. Holt’s sales manager sent out a memo to the company’s stockholders, stating that TIME’S coverage would stimulate sales and that it was a good time buy more stock (Henry Holt and Company, no date).

This narrative around exposure—or the idea that open access acts as effective free advertisement—presents an uneasy tension. That is, the emphasis on publicity flattens the managerial efforts the poet and his associates put into the making of Robert Frost as a vocational poet, and naturalizes a romanticized notion about the poet as a genius who just needed enough exposure. In reality. Frost’s becoming a popular poet was supported by a network of people, including Alfred Har- court at Flolt, who arranged a monthly stipend to support the poverty-stricken Frost family in 1915; Elinor Frost’s foresight in ensuring copies of her husband’s books were available in a local bookstore in Colorado prior to his talk in 1931; literary critic Richard Poirier, who shed light on the complexity of Frost’s works in 1977; the head of Jones Library Charles Green, who was the first to invest in the development of a Frost collection in a public library; and so on.23 It is not only the quality of Frost’s work or the frequency of press coverage that made him a household name, but also a network of people who supported and celebrated the poet every step of the way.

Adopting the interdependent access model is one way of acknowledging such stewards of Frost’s legacy. As a matter of fact, the Digital Frost Project has been informed by the collaborators’ respective priorities since its conception. Frost scholars Donald Sheehy and Mark Richardson first voiced their concerns for the lack of Frost’s digital presence in a 2014 MLA panel, and special collections librarians Mike Kelly and Jay Satterfield had been discussing the need to reformat Amherst and Dartmouth’s Frost audio collections long before my launching the project in 2015 as a coordinator of existing interests. Additionally, under the leadership of Carole Thompson, the Friends of Robert Frost has set up a fund to support the Digital Frost Project in 2017, as the non-profit organization announced retirement from its decades-long management of the Robert Frost Stone House Museum in Shaftsbury, Vermont.

In terms of practicality, the interdependent open-access model also leverages collaboration among the project’s partners with different capacities to publish the audio recordings of Frost’s talks. With financial support from the Friends of Robert Frost, Amherst College and Dartmouth College have digitized their entire audio collections. In doing so, the colleges acted in accordance with the current US copyright law Section 108 that enables libraries to practice their duty by reproducing copies of their holdings, regardless of the copyright status of their collection items. Once their collections are digitized, special collections can circulate their digitized copies internally as well as support an external research project such as the pilot audio edition I am developing. For the pilot audio edition, the Frost Estate needs to green-light the overall project, and Holt must approve the textual reproduction of individual poems. The permission request process necessitates that my editorial labour includes a systematic listing of bibliographic information of Frost’s public talks and readings. Fortunately, such work can also double as cataloging, which participating libraries can use as they produce metadata of their collections. To cement the mutually beneficial work relationship, the pilot audio edition is designed to serve as a cross-institutional platform that sits on top of individual digital repositories. That way, the pilot edition can render audio files via direct embedding, ensuring the provenance of each audio recording and accrediting the special collections that have worked to

Digital Frost Interdependent Open-Access Model

FIGURE 12.1 Digital Frost Interdependent Open-Access Model.

preserve these recordings. Additionally, the permissions for my pilot audio edition from the Frost Estate and Holt will trickle down to the participating special collections, enabling them to release a part of their digitized collection for external circulation on the web.


As scholarly editors have long examined the sociocultural formation of texts, a similar level of care should be applied to the editorial judgment regarding the configuration of access models. In The human touch software of the highest order, Martha Nell Smith makes a critical suggestion concerning collaborative editorial labour. She notes that editors working on a single edition need not agree on interpretations of literary works, rather they should showcase the very disagreements themselves and invite readers to see what kinds of editorial judgments are at play in the making of an edition (Smith 2007, pp. 13-14). In thinking about the adoption of open access, I add to Smith’s process-oriented editorial approach a self-reflective analysis of the open-access advocacy discourse. As I have demonstrated in this article, idealistic access advocacy can highly influence the interpersonal relationship among collaborators. If the discourse should reduce collaborators to adversarial terms or efface the necessary process of listening to all involved parties, editors might wish to recognize that different perspectives inevitably result in different opinions and seek how best to use such differences as strengths. Understanding open access as a spectrum is but one way to make room for dialogues among collaborators, because every edition needs its own access model based on its unique conditions. The topic of access models is neither too trivial nor too managerial, or too sensitive to warrant critical debates. Rather, by treating open access as a spectrum, we can expand and transform the need of copyright permission to a process of collaborative and critical inquiry, and invite our readers to recognize how different particulars of each edition inform different degrees of access.


  • 1 Peter Suber has been leading the academic discourse on open access largely within the context of academic journal publishing practices. For a history and basic concepts of open access, see his Open access (2012). For a collection of his essays—through which he refutes common misconceptions of open access publishing—see Knowledge unbound (2016).
  • 2 For a fuller analysis of digital utopianism, see Turner (2006). For instance, Turner credits the origin of digital utopianism—a notion that a rise of the Internet would lead to a revolutionary social movement—to the rhetoric of New Communalists in the 1960s.
  • 3 Wark (2004) illustrates such a relationship as an interclass struggle. On the one hand, there is a “vectoral” class that profits off of the theoretical concept of the work, on the other, hackers who seek to subvert such a class structure.
  • 4 For another example of how uncritical adaptation of open access could lead to the reproduction of unjust power relations, see Robertson (2018), who discusses how a lesbian porn magazine On Our Backs (1984—2004) was digitized and published on the Internet without the consent of models who had either never agreed to be published in the magazine or only consented to the limited circulation of their images at the time of the magazine’s original production. Needless to say, the power relations among the Digital Frost Project collaborators fundamentally differ from those instances Christen and Robertson illustrate. By my comparison, I do not mean to discuss questions around Mukurtu, Oti Our Backs, and Frost s archival artifacts on an equal footing. Rather, I hope to extend the type of mindfulness Christen and Robertson practice to where the access advocacy discourse remains largely unquestioned.
  • 5 Concerning early vilification of hackers, see Stallman (1994). For analyses of class structures concerning the intellectual property discourse, see Wark (2004). For observations of the US political discourse concerning intellectual properties, see Halbert (2014, pp. 25-81).
  • 6 According to Alger (2014, p. 299), Holt originally inquired of Nutt about the publishing right arrangement but Nutt only agreed to the sales of sheets. For Frosts biographical account of this incident, see Parini (1999, p. 156).
  • 7 According to the account of Alger (2014), after the publication of A Boy’s Will in 1912, Frost signed the contract that promised his first five books to be published by Nutt. However, their relationship soon went south as Frosts newer poems (later to be collected in his 1914 North of Boston) started appearing in periodicals. Nutt considered Frost to be violating their contract and refused to send Frost a proper account for royalties generated from the sales of A Boy’s Will.
  • 8 As a new media theorist Lev Manovich notes in his Software Takes Command (2013), one of the most unique features of digitized and digital artifacts is their “remixability” (Manovich 2013, pp. 267-277). Today, many cultural institutions embrace such possibilities of remixing and other reuse of artworks. For instance, Europeana, Digital Public Library of America, Digital NZ, and Trove (the National Library of Australia) annually host gif-making competitions in order to incentivize creative reuse of their collections’ digital surrogates (see Digital Public Library of America, “GIF It Up”). The basic premise of reuse for the Digital Frost Project, however, differs fundamentally from that of cultural institutions with numbers of works in the public domain. Seen from the copyright holder’s perspective, moreover, it is a just concern that the remixed works might not always align with their understanding of the integrity of the author and his works.
  • 9 Frost delivered talks and readings from 1915 until 1962, that is, since the year he returned from England until the final year of his life.
  • 10 The most famous anecdote is an aborted 1936 Harvard lecture series. Despite the contract that bound Frost to prepare the transcriptions of talks into publishable essays, the project never saw the light of day. See Parini (1999, pp. 301-304) and Thompson (1970, pp. 444-447) for more detailed accounts. Another instance that did not materialize is a collection of prose edited by Robert S. Newdick, a professor of English at Ohio State University. According to Mark Richardson’s account, Newdick was in earnest correspondence with Henry Holt and Co. but Frost caused the edition to be held back. See Richardson (2007, pp. ix-xii) for more detail.
  • 11 Recordings discussed in this article particularly concern those of public talks delivered for live audiences (rather than studio recordings). The earliest recording of a public talk known to date is from 1941, and is currently held at the Library of Congress.
  • 12 Camlot (2015) writes about how the audio resources require continuous reformatting.
  • 13 Some institutions cover the cost of digitization, as reformatting has become the only way to enable consultation. There is, however, a limit to the number of digitizations a researcher could request for an in-house reformatting, preventing, as a result, a systematic study of Frost’s audio recordings.
  • 14 Library of Congress (2016), “The Copyright Law of the United States”, Section 107. For more on the interpretation of fair use from a special collections perspective, see Association of Research Libraries (2012) “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for

Academic and Research Libraries”. For the fair use best practices among different disciplines (e.g. journalism, software engineering, performance arts), see “Codes of Best Practices” prepared by the Center for Media and Social Impact. For the general pro-fair use argument, see Aufderheide &Jaszi (2011).

  • 15 The versioning history of The Rossetti Archive suggests it has not always been licensed under the Creative Commons terms. Just as any other early electronic editions. The Rossetti Archive adopted the Libre OA model through its multiple iterations. See its original status captured by Wayback Machine screenshots.
  • 16 Nowviskie (2012) and Jockers et al. (2012a, 2012b). Also see Ketzan and Kamocki’s argument for a legal reformation as well as Friedmans analysis of complex copyright status of unpublished works in this volume.
  • 17 Helmreich (2018). The language is from one of the most recent reviews of The Rossetti Archive written for the CAA Review (2018). Granted, CAA Review emphasizes the history of digital artwork rather than the access critique. For the purpose of this article, however, the review illustrates how access model discourse often asserts itself, presenting itself as a given.
  • 18 One exception might be Bethany Nowviskie s blog post “why, oh why, CC-BY?” (2011). She discusses her reasons for changing the licensing terms of her blogging platform and Flickr account from CC-BY-NC to CC-BY.
  • 19 Unlike The Rossetti Archive that requires the derivatives to be shared under the identical licensing terms, Folger Digital Text enables derivatives to adopt their own licensing terms.
  • 20 Moretti (2000), Jockers (2013), English (2016), and Underwood et al. (2018).
  • 21 For instance, Fleming (2017) examines how Moretti fails to examine his own biases even when met with a seemingly conflicting computational result.
  • 22 When popular science fiction writer and anti-DRM advocate Cory Doctorow speaks about the benefits of open access, he notes how fame and fortune present a chicken- and-egg situation. That is, especially if one wishes to make financial gains from her artwork, “lb]eing famous won’t—in itself—make you rich. But if nobody knows about your work, nobody’s going to buy it” (Doctorow 2014, p. 39).
  • 23 For the financial arrangement made by Harcourt, see Alger (2014). Elinor’s letter to Henry' Holt and Co. on 14 July 1931 is housed in Princeton (Frost 1931). Poirier (1977) discusses how—in contrary to the seemingly straightforward language of Frost’s poetry'—the poet exercises complex linguistic philosophy'. As for the account of Green, whom Frost named as the first collector of Frostiana, see Special Collections Jones Library “Background Note” as well as Alger (2014, p. 303).


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