I read a great article from the creativeCOW magazine recently about film preservation and restoration. I think the author, Ken Weissman – Supervisor of the Film Preservation Laboratory at the Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, has the right idea in this. Most people would say to go straight to digital these days, but the simplicity of film can make it truly last forever. I think that there could definitely be a digital copy that people could access online, and under some kind of creative commons or open source copyright much like the Gutenberg project, for a lot of this stuff, though. Regardless, I like that someone is preserving this stuff and I think the United States Library of Congress is much like the great Library of Alexandria of old. Here are a few pull quotes from the article, which I highly recommend that you read in full here.
“These paper prints exist because of a vaguery in the copyright law at the time that motion pictures were invented.