open the past, create the future

massive media – WIPO

Speech to WIPO information day, May 2005

I am going to take you through a quick tour of the world of broadcasters and large content creators, in particular those organisations that are providing a new model for access to culture and knowledge in the digital environment – a model that I hope will be considered in the context of today’s agenda of Intellectual Property, development and public policy.

The idea today is to look at what media organisations are doing in response to the dawning realisation that they are becoming simply Massive Media in a world where everyone is potentially a broadcaster, where everyone is creating content for mass consumption, indeed a world where there are signs that mass media is now truly mass media, created by the masses for the masses.

Quickly slipping away are the days when Massive Media controlled the what, when, where and how their audience experienced media. Audiences are either acquiring media under there own terms, or even more challenging for the large organisations, turning to other suppliers – suppliers that are on the network – the emerging true mass media network.

In other words, rather than broadcasting to a passive audience with few alternatives, Massive Media are starting to understand that they are broadcasting to a very active, very large network, a network that is rapidly becoming adept at self-commissioning, a network of public access – and it is this mass media network that is increasingly deciding the what, when, where and how.

These audiences, consumers, customers, members of the public are becoming the media, the prosumers, the creators and in doing so they are creating this alternative, truly mass media. This is facilitated by technical and legal tools such as peer 2 peer distribution – a technology that allows everyone to be an efficient, cost effective broadcaster. Also legal tools such as Creative Commons licences with which these active audiences are both licencing their own works – Yahoo has 12 Million works now listed in its search index under a creative commons licence – and to identify the source material that fuels and inspires further creativity and innovation.

So while audiences are busily redefining themselves as contributors to the creative industries, as active, engaged prosumers of creativity and innovation, the encumbant industry players – that’s Massive Media – are increasingly seeking measures that would seem to ensure that their creativity and innovation never reaches this audience, never reaches the network.

Of course, not all Massive Media is comfortable with a future that sees them reliant on audiences making an appointment to view or listen and only view and listen. Some Massive Media are recognising that this provides an extraordinary opportunity to have a relationship with audiences that sees them more as partners in creativity and innovation, as the supplier rather than simply the consumer.

Some Massive Media have the luxury of long histories and experience of change in their industry. None more so than the BBC – originally a Radio company it was very wary of television’s impact on radio audiences however it took the leap only to discover that both had a place in people’s lives. Similarly, the BBC has already experienced the power of enabling audiences innnovative and creative output.

In 1982, the BBC, in conjunction with Acorn, released a personal computer onto the market. It was designed to a very high specification and represented the cutting edge of personal computers.

Around 1 Million BBC Micros – as they were known – were sold before the BBC withdrew from the market unclear as to the whether the undertaking had been a success.

In retrospect however, we now recognise that far from a failure, the BBC Micro was actually part of the toolkit with which our audiences took their first creative steps into the digital age.

The BBC facilitated this creativity by ensuring that the Micro was Open – open at every level. Users could and were encouraged to hack the hardware, hack the software, create their own applications, create their own solutions, create their own uses, and some of them chose to create their own games. This was an important part of the success story that is now the British Games industry, exceeded in net worth only by Japan and the US.

20 years later and the BBC realises that yet another medium has arrived, facilitated in part by the success of the early micro computers, this medium is the internet, the network. And the BBC faces a challenge akin to the shift to television – how does it stay relevant to its audiences, how does it continue to deliver public value in this digital, networked world. Fortunately the BBC has something that will help it take its first steps into a creative partnership with its audiences, something that will ensure it a place on the network and at the centre of provision of public value,

it has –

600,000 hours of archival video
68 years of continuous viewing

it also has
more than .5 million audio recordings.

and the BBC has committed to to releasing this extraordinary cultural heritage through a project called the Creative Archive.

The Creative Archive is a public service initiative to digitise and distribute primarily audio and video material in such a way that it allows audiences to download, watch, listen and critically, RE-USE, RE-MIX the content in their own creative endeavours…and then share the results – with the network, the new mass media network.

In other words, we want our audiences to rip, mix and share their BBC. We want the BBC to be part of our audiences creative process, we want the cultural heritage, the history of ideas and expression that is the BBC archive to become part of the foundation on which our audiences can build – and in doing so we think we will provide the fuel for a rich, diverse, truly creative mass media.

Since announcing this, the BBC has been joined by Channel 4, the Open University and the British Film Institute to form the Creative Archive Licence Group – Channel 4 are already providing materials under a Creative Commons licence and will release more under the Creative Archive Licence and the British Film Institute released their first samples of material two weeks ago under the Creative Archive Licence.

How is the BBC going to release this extraordinary archive –

It isn’t going to be something that happens overnight – this is going to be a long journey for both the BBC, our audiences and our contributors – and it is a journey that is largely uncharted.
Fortunately however we do have some clues as to how we might navigate some of the trickier parts.

When we first started thinking about the Creative Archive the most pressing concern was whether we could afford to distribute digital audio and video. As a broadcaster distributing online we were distressed to discover that the more popular we were, the more expensive our bandwidth bills became…if we were to put the archive online we could only do so in the hope that it was really really unpopular!

Fortunately, P2P distribution technologies emerged and we realised that our audiences could be both our creative partners, and our distribution partners.

Another challenge was how we were going to let people know what they could and couldn’t do with material in the Creative Archive. We needed a communications and a legal framework that signalled to our audiences that many of the rights traditionally associated with copyright are waived.

Fortunately, we had some great models that we could look to. The Free and Open software community have been successfully using alternate licencing agreements to foster creativity amongst software developers for the last 20 years – this has led to the creation of a large body of software including Linux – now a major player in the software market place.

More recently organisations such as have ported these alternative licencing frameworks to the world of content and it is these that have provided the communications and legal framework we need.

Indeed the licence launched by the Creative Archive Licence group three weeks ago is heavily indebted to creative commons and was developed in conjunction with them and their efforts to create a UK based creative commons licence. We have done this in order to ensure that eventually the Creative archive licence and the Creative commons licence interoperate.

The Creative Archive licence therefore requires attribution. In other words, you need to let people know who contributed to your creation, including yourself of course.

The Creative Archive licence allows for the use of creative archive material for Non-commercial purposes only.

it requires if you create something new using creative archive material you do so under that same terms that you acquired it. In other words, the creative archive licence travels with the new work.

Uniquely to the Creative Archive licence, you are only licenced to use Creative Archive material within the UK.

And finally, also unique to the creative archive licence, it does not allow for use of material for endorsement purposes.

At one point we did consider whether in addition to telling our audiences what they could and couldn’t do, we would try and technically enforce what they could and couldn’t do through the use of Digital Rights Management.

However, it became very clear that DRM was not the answer for Creative Archive.

If we think about DRM technologies as being an envelope in which content is placed – you know one of those business envelopes with the clear plastic windows? Well DRM relies on making really strong envelopes that are difficult to open. You can only experience the content through the little plastic window.

So if you then think about what the Creative Archive is encouraging audiences to do – experiencing the content by watching or listening whenever you want, on any device you want AND incorprating the whole or parts of it in your own creative works – you come to realise that we are explicitly encouraging you to reach into the envelope and pull the contents out. Un-openable envelopes, like DRM prevents access, re-use.

There are of course many issues with the delivery of such an extraordinary body of creativity. I want to focus on one in closing this presentation.

It is well known that the BBC and indeed many institutional archives do not hold all the rights in the materials they house on behalf of the public. This has meant that we at the BBC are spending enormous amounts of time ensuring that we speak with and clear permissions with rights holders in the archive material.

Speaking from personal experience in leading the Creative Archive project for the last two years I can say that one thing has become abundantly clear. We treat all content as if it is the hit, the ratings blinder, a stand out creative moment that brings enormous rewards for the rights holders. Sadly of course this is not even close to the reality. But in establishing protections in the form of copyright laws with extending periods, we are continuing to assume that all content is equal. We are effectively ensuring that the very material that needs the most help to ensure that it reaches the largest, most relevant and most needy audiences is the very same material that we build ever higher walls around.

In doing so, we actively ignore the balance that such laws were established to protect – the balance between providing adequate incentive to create and ensuring maximum public good. We must consider the impact that protecting the few hits has on access to the vast body of cultural heritage and the potential for creativity and innovation by the masses for the masses on the shoulders of such work.

With 12 million+ works released under creative commons licences, with more than 70 countries in the process of porting creative commons licenses to their jurisdictions, with major Massive Media players like the BBC seeking to actively fuel creativity it would appear that the creative communities are ready for a more nuanced approach to protection of their works while recognising the contribution they can make to the creative foundation for the next creative cohort.

thank you.


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