Does the Library of Congress Collect Porn?

I just know I read from a good source once, they are guaranteed two copies of every new book. I assume the same rule applies for movies and whatnot.

But what about porn? I am assuming they don’t collect Debbie Does Dallas. Although I could be wrong. But where to they draw the line?

Erotica? Mapplethorpe? Madonna’s best seller, Sex I believe was the name?

And consider just 40 or 50 years ago. Most x-rated films had a plot. I guess that was to throw off the prosecutors of porn. But now they don’t bother. Everyone knows it’s porn, and everyone knows why you are buying it. But where do the films with a plot, rated X, fall, as opposed to the XXX ones that you used to find on Times Square? (And the ones that you find on Woodward and 8 Mile where I live, in Detroit. Someone had to say it;).)

Where do you draw the line? And do you even do that, with the LOC’s large collection?

:):):slight_smile:

There was an old Daily Show segment about a guy trying to collect all adult movies so they could be submitted to the Library of Congress. He lived with his mom, I think, and he kept the tapes(it’s an old segment) in the basement or something.

At that point in time, they did not keep all the adult movies in the world.

Erotica probably, if it is considered “literature”. Not all the amateur dinosaur-meets-zombies porn bizarro thing that’s been going on lately, though.

They no doubt have complete collections of the major magazines too.

I don’t claim to know many porn titles, but I randomly searched theLOC catalog and found

Fifty Shades of Grey
Tropic of Cancer
Delta of Venus
several books with Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography

It doesn’t list Deep Throat, Behind the Green Door, or Debbie Does Dallas, although it does list the soundtrack for Debbie Does Dallas: The Musical

Not Fifty Shades, no, please, stop…!: https://www.theguardian.com/books/shortcuts/2016/mar/23/fifty-shades-grey-book-you-literally-cant-give-away

If it please the court; intended as a side note rather than a hijack:

When I was a student at the University of Texas School of Law in the late 1970s, the law library had a collection of “Litigated Literature,” the porn mags that had been the subject of various local obscenity cases in that era. I was obliged to spend one Saturday doing other research in the library’s Special Collections room, where I was left alone. At the end of the afternoon I naturally satisfied my prurient interest by browsing a subset of the materials.

I assume that the Library of Congress is a national repository library. Most national libraries usually are tasked with maintaining collections of:

  • all literature relating to their country, which could include porn

  • all books published or issued with ISBNs and serials with ISSNs issued in their countries, which could include porn

  • representative samples of other writing and media produced, which could include archiving TV adverts, blogs, election ephemera and which could include porn.

The idea is that, like dictionaries they do not judge but chronicle and collect so that future research has access to comprehensive sets of examples of contemporary media, without assuming they know what may be relevant or interesting, which could include porn.

It’s not a question of “collecting.” The LOC is not passing judgment on works and deciding which works are worthy of being in its collection and which aren’t.

To register a copyright on any work, you must send a copy (they used to require two) with the application form and fee to the LOC. It is therefore certain that the LOC possesses a copy of virtually every work of commercial pornography ever produced, because without registering your copyright you cannot be awarded statutory penalties (up to $150,000 per instance) when you go after infringers. This provides some deterrence to potential infringers and is what makes it worthwhile to sue actual infringers.

I suppose some porn producers don’t bother to register their copyrights (especially if they’re stealing someone else’s material), but I’d expect that most do.

That said, you can’t go down to the LOC and ask to borrow “Seymour Butts Vol. 5-8.” You have to be a “registered reader” to gain access to the LOC’s collections, and can view items only in the library’s reading rooms. Only members of Congress may borrow materials.

The collection includes 142 million items housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill and at several suburban storage facilities. I assume that the most important and popular items are stored on Capitol Hill and the dreck is kept out in the sticks. In this sense they curate their collection, but they certainly possess everything that has ever been registered for copyright protection, including porn.