Rick has partnered with the Internet Archive to make over 6,000 films from Prelinger Archives available online for free viewing, downloading and reuse. With the Voyager Company, a pioneer new media publisher, he produced fourteen laserdiscs and CD-ROMs with material from his archives, including Ephemeral Films, the Our Secret Century series and Call It Home: The House That Private Enterprise Built, a laserdisc on the history of suburbia and suburban planning (co-produced with architect Keller Easterling).
His feature-length film Panorama Ephemera, depicting the conflicted landscapes of 20th-century America, opened in summer 2004. With spouse Megan Prelinger he is co-founder of the Prelinger Library, an appropriation-friendly reference library located in San Francisco. In recent years he has produced archival compilation films on the history of San Francisco (Lost Landscapes of San Francisco, eight annual films, 2006-2013, and Lost Landscapes of Detroit, three films, 2010-2012.) He was awarded a Creative Capital grant in 2012 to make the film No More Road Trips?, which premiered in Austin, Texas, at South by Southwest in March 2013.
He wrote The Field Guide to Sponsored Films (2007) which "describes 452 historically or culturally significant motion pictures commissioned by businesses, charities, advocacy groups, and state or local government units between 1897 and 1980." It is available as a book and as a free PDF from the National Film Preservation Foundation. He recently (2005–2007) worked at the Internet Archive on a large-scale texts digitization project and (2004-2005) helped organize the Open Content Alliance.