Wayback Machine

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File:Wayback Machine logo.png
Wayback Machine logo

The Wayback Machine is a digital time capsule created by the Internet Archive non-profit organization, based in San Francisco, California. It is maintained with content from Alexa Internet. This service allows users to see archived versions of web pages across time—what the Archive calls a "three dimensional index."

The name Wayback Machine is a reference to a segment from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in which Mr. Peabody and Sherman use a time machine called the "WABAC machine" to witness, participate in, and more often than not alter famous events in history.[1]


Growth and storage

Snapshots become available 6 to 18 months after they are archived. The frequency of snapshots is variable, so not all updates to tracked web sites are recorded, and intervals of several weeks sometimes occur.

As of 2009 the Wayback Machine contained about 3 petabytes of data and was growing at a rate of 100 terabytes per month,[2] as compared with the 12 terabytes/month growth rate reported in 2003. The data is stored on Petabox rack systems manufactured by Capricorn Technologies.[3]

In 2009, the Internet Archive migrated its customized storage architecture to Sun Open Storage, and hosts a new datacenter in a Sun Modular Datacenter on Sun Microsystems' California campus.[4]

Use in legal evidence

Civil litigation

Netbula LLC v. Chordiant Software Inc.

In a 2009 case called "Netbula, LLC v. Chordiant Software Inc.", defendant Chordiant Software Inc. filed a motion to compel Plaintiff to disable the robots.txt file on its web site that had been blocking the Wayback machine. ( An existing robots.txt that blocks the Wayback machine will be retroactively honored and block access to previously retrieved pages). Netbula objected to the motion on the ground that defendants were asking to alter Netbula's web site and that Defendants should have subpoenaed Internet Archive. Plaintiffs themselves will have to subpoena it from IA. Plaintiff also contends that it has exclusive rights to its copyrighted web content[5], implying that the Internet Archive had no right to copy and store its pages. An employee of Internet Archive filed a sworn statement supporting Chordiant's motion, stating that it could not produce the web pages "without considerable burden, expense and disruption to its operations." Magistrate Judge Howard Lloyd in the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, rejected Plaintiffs' arguments and ordered that "Plaintiffs shall, within three days from the entry of this order, disable the robot.txt file from its website and promptly advise defense counsel when that has been accomplished." [6]

Telewizja Polska

In an October 2004 case called "Telewizja Polska SA v. Echostar Satellite", a litigant attempted to use the Wayback Machine archives as a source of admissible evidence, perhaps for the first time. Telewizja Polska is the provider of TVP Polonia and EchoStar operates the Dish Network. Prior to the trial proceedings, EchoStar indicated that it intended to offer Wayback Machine snapshots as proof of the past content of Telewizja Polska’s website. Telewizja Polska brought a motion in limine to suppress the snapshots on the grounds of hearsay and unauthenticated source, but Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys rejected Telewizja Polska’s assertion of hearsay and denied TVP's motion in limine to exclude the evidence at trial.[7] However, at the actual trial, district Court Judge Ronald Guzman, the trial judge, overruled Magistrate Keys' findings, and held that neither the affidavit of the Internet Archive employee nor the underlying pages (i.e., the Telewizja Polska website) were admissible as evidence. Judge Guzman reasoned that the employee's affidavit contained both hearsay and inconclusive supporting statements, and the purported webpage printouts themselves were not self-authenticating.[8]


In October 2005, htpCompany was a defendant in a U.S. small claims case. The plaintiff of the case had purchased online advertising from the defendant and claimed that the ads had been pulled prior to the end of the paid-for advertising period whereas the defendant claimed in court that the ads had stayed up for the full period. The plaintiff produced printouts of archive.org showing that the ads had gone up and then had disappeared before their expiration. The judge allowed the printouts as evidence and decided the case in favor of the plaintiff. However, because this was a small claims case and the evidentiary rules were not as strict, it was considered unlikely to set any precedent for civil cases in Supreme Court.[9]

Patent law

The United States patent office and, provided some additional requirements are met (e.g. providing an authoritative statement of the archivist), the European Patent Office will accept date stamps from the Internet Archive as evidence of when a given Web page was accessible to the public. These dates are used to determine if a Web page is available as prior art for instance in examining a patent application.[citation needed]

Limitations of utility

There are technical limitations to archiving a website, and as a consequence, it is possible for opposing parties in litigation to misuse the results provided by website archives. This problem can be exacerbated by the practice of submitting screen shots of web pages in complaints, answers or expert witness reports, when the underlying links are not exposed and therefore can contain errors. For example, archives like the Wayback Machine do not fill out forms and therefore do not include the contents of e-commerce databases in their archives.[10]

Legal status

In Europe the Wayback Machine can sometimes violate copyright laws. Only the creator can decide where his content is published or duplicated, so the Archive would have to delete pages from its system upon request of the creator.[11] The exclusion policies for the Wayback Machine can be found in the FAQ section of the site. The Wayback Machine also retroactively respects robots.txt files.

A number of cases have been brought against the Internet Archive for its Wayback Machine archiving efforts. See Internet Archive controversies and legal disputes.

See also


  1. Green, Heather (February 28, 2002). "A Library as Big as the World". BusinessWeek. http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/feb2002/tc20020228_1080.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  2. Mearian, Lucas (March 19, 2009). "Internet Archive to unveil massive Wayback Machine data center". Computerworld.com. http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&taxonomyName=hardware&articleId=9130081&taxonomyId=12&intsrc=kc_top. Retrieved 2009-03-22. 
  3. Kanellos, Michael (July 29, 2005). "Big storage on the cheap". CNET News.com. http://news.zdnet.com/2100-9584_22-5808754.html. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  4. "Internet Archive and Sun Microsystems Create Living History of the Internet". Sun Microsystems. March 25, 2009. http://www.sun.com/aboutsun/pr/2009-03/sunflash.20090325.1.xml. Retrieved 2009-03-27. 
  5. Cortes, Antonio (October 2009). "Motion Opposing Removal of Robots.txt" (HTML). http://www.american-justice.org/index.cgi/Page/116/OPPOSITION-TO-MOTION-TO-COMPEL-REMOVAL-OF-ROBOT-TXT-FILE-FROM-WEBSITE/. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  6. LLoyd, Howard (October 2009). "Order to Disable Robots.txt" (PDF). http://www.american-justice.org/upload/page/123/69/docket-187-order-on-IA-motion.pdf. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  7. Gelman, Lauren (November 17, 2004). "Internet Archive’s Web Page Snapshots Held Admissible as Evidence". Packets 2 (3). http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/packets002728.shtml. Retrieved 2007-01-04. 
  8. Howell, Beryl A. (February 2006). "Proving Web History: How to use the Internet Archive" (PDF). Journal of Internet Law: 3–9. http://www.strozllc.com/files/Publication/fee98a34-d739-478b-a7db-6af37b757714/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/aae88469-9835-4fe4-ae5f-38637924314f/BAHPROVINGWEBHISTORY.pdf. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  9. Archive.org saves the day!.
  10. Debunking the Wayback Machine.
  11. German lawyer about the Wayback Machine in a law paper, Journal of Internet Law: JurPC.

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