What Are Digital Rights, and How Can Design Help Protect Them? | | Eye on Design

“When Castro joined Access Now in 2018, she came to the organization through her interest in open access, the movement for free and open information online. In graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, Castro realized that while most classic literature enters the public domain after the copyright expires, many books remain inaccessible because they aren’t reprinted or available in a readable format online. She found the problem to be especially prominent with books by women, whose work may have more easily fallen into obscurity, so she founded Cita Press, which publishes feminist books in the public domain. With Cita, Castro periodically selects open domain texts to republish, asks designers to redesign their covers, and formats them so that readers can print the books themselves, or read them via a custom e-reader on the site.

Even before starting Cita, Castro’s interest in open access was spurred by a stint working as a designer in the museum world, where so many images from museum collectives were technically public domain, yet there was no information around how to access them (and thus they largely went unused). “There’s an entire industry built on selling you things like stock images and stock illustrations that you could get for free,” she says. “Working in a museum, I realized there was no interest in making sure this was known, because it didn’t help them profit.”


Between graduating with her Master’s and joining Access Now, Castro attended a summer program at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, where she worked with the Harvard Open Access Project, which seeks to increase open access in regards to academic research. Castro says that while an interest in free and open information is what led her to work in digital rights, it isn’t a concept that is always readily embraced in design. “There‘s a ‘celebrity designer’ complex in design, in which authorship and personal voice is prized,” she says, “and that goes against the idea of collaborative design and open access.” With Cita, Castro uses design to literally expand open access to literary works, but perhaps just as important to designers interested in digital rights is the spirit of collaboration and belief in equal access to information that open access embodies. These ideas provided an important bedrock to Castro’s work with digital rights advocacy, and she feels that they could for others, too, in a design industry that values and teaches them….”