Fold3 HQ

Finding the right balance

Last week Justin and I had a nice conversation with historian and blogger Dan Cohen, who has some expertise in digital history. When Footnote launched last month, Dan had some concerns about details in our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, so he contacted us to get more information.

We really appreciated him calling to talk to us about his concerns. He asked good questions about issues that need open and candid discussion, and we were glad to have a chance to respond. You can read Dan’s summary of our conversation here.

Our goal is to provide easy access to historical documents that people can use to tell the stories of individuals, communities, nations and the world. It’s a difficult and expensive process and we need to find the right balance between, among other things, the content that we can reasonably and responsibly share freely, the content we need to charge money for to keep the business viable and the content that can appropriately be included in a collection for school children.

We appreciate people like Dan who have thought about these issues and are willing to discuss them. We hope that as Footnote develops we’ll be able to continue the conversation and find the right balance.

If you have comments or questions, please feel free to reply to this post or use the contact form here to send them to us.


  1. Nancy Bosch says:

    Thought you might be interested in my new blog. After years of doing workshops and presentations on using primary sources I decided to blog about it. Check it out:

  2. […] Surprisingly, everyone I spoke to at both NARA and Footnote emphasized that despite the seemingly set-in-stone language of the legal agreement, there is a great deal of latitude in how it is executed, and they asked me to spread the word about how historians and the general public can weigh in. It has received virtually no publicity, but NARA is currently in a public comment phase for the Footnote (a/k/a iArchives) agreement. Scroll down to the bottom of the “Comment on Draft Policy” page at NARA’s website and you’ll find a request for public comment (you should email your thoughts to [email protected]). It’s a little odd to have a request for comment after the ink is dry on an agreement or policy, and this URL probably should have been included in the press release of the Footnote agreement, but I do think after speaking with them that both NARA and Footnote are receptive to hearing responses to the agreement. Indeed, in response to this post and my prior post on the agreement, Footnote has set up a web page, “Finding the Right Balance,” to receive feedback from the general public on the issues I’ve raised. They also asked me to round up professional opinion on the deal. […]