issues have cropped up again with the launch of the BBC Creative Archive
. This entry on my site clarifies the issues to avoid the FUD taking over the actual content provision issues. There are two key areas to consider when talking about content provision:
Availability of Content
: Over the last few years we have seen that the prominence of (CC)
has been rising. Now the BBC
have embraced the idea of this model in a modified fashion as part of their BBC Creative Archive
project. The BBC's approach does not address all issues, but does progress in the right direction and make content available
Also included in this point is the charge made for the available content. In the case of the UK there is a TV licence fee (£126.50 per year, effectively £10.50 per month) covers provision national television and radio channels. Other businesses provide content for an alternative charging method, such as Cable
or Ch4 Broadband service
. There are a wide variety of content sources, both no-charge and paid for sources. This is less of an issue when
considering provision of these services.Accessibility
of Content: If content is to be made available
it needs to be in an accessible form. Content in an in-accessible proprietary format may as well not be available, because if it cannot be used without expensive patent license for a proprietary format (or software decoder) it is useless. Content can also be in-accessible because the format is impeded by software patents, often patent holders submarine launch their codec formats and then later (when the format is in common use) announce that now that everyone is locked into use of the format they will only
permit use of the format once a patent licence has been purchased (Remember the Unisys LZW [GIF] patent?, or the Fraunhofer / Thompson MP3 patents
Codec Open format? Free Software implementation? Score out of 10
Theora Yes. (5) Yes: http://theora.org/. (5) 10
Vorbis Yes. (5) Yes: http://vorbis.com/. (5) 10
MPEG-4 No. Costly MPEG-LA. (0) Yes, from http://xvid.org/. (4) 4
MPEG-2 No. A costly patent licence is required from
MPEG-LA. (0) Yes, from libmpeg2. (4 points) 4
MPEG-1 No. A costly patent licence is required from
MPEG-LA. (0 points) Yes, from libmpeg2. (4 points) 4
Microsoft Windows Media No. Costly MS licence*.(0 points) Partly, ffmpeg. (3) 3
Apple QuickTime No. Costly MS/* Apple licence. (0 points) Partly, ffmpeg. (3) 310 is highest score, 0 is poorest score
. (Openness is valued higher than practical implementations, because the later is nearly useless without the former.)
* (Requires the user to agree to Microsoft licensing terms and pay them £149.98 [dabs.com price of MS WinXP] for a copy of their OS)
Some people choose to ignore or the important issue of accessibility, (for the reasons outlined above) this is the not the best point of view to have. It is essential that the accessibility of available content us planned hand in hand together.
To use the example of the BBC's Creative Archive (if you can ignore the proprietary
Macromedia content embedded into the front page) there are several partners providing content under this licence. If we take for the example, the BFI's [Looks very jolly, doesn't it?]. This video is available in three proprietary formats:
- Microsoft Windows Media
- Apple QuickTime
As you can see from the table above, these are all proprietary formats which require licence fees to use. As the BFI is promoting these formats instead of open formats, users will be obliged to pay licence fees to be able to view the available
content. An unfortunate choice by the BFI/BBC Creative Archive. Is this going to be a recurring problem with the BFI/BBC provisions?
The three proprietary provisions are actually a step back from what Paula LeDieu (co-director of the BBC Creative Archive) stated was the Creative Archive plan in the Q & A session on
1 November 2004. Why was the open format you planned dropped Paula? Why the shift away from an open strategy?
Transcript of Paula LeDieu response in Q & A (Starts 05:33 in) Questioner: "Is there any word on which file formats you are going to use, or is there going to be.. Ok, first of all, File Formats."Paula LeDieu: Yep, ok, file formats. I think that the file formats that we will go out with will are probably 2-3 proprietary and 1 open. But, I always caveat the whole conversation about file formats. We are saying that there will never be a definitive file format for Creative Archive. File formats shift, they are highly fashionable things, and I was talking with the guy that runs archive.org, a guy called Bruce [not audible]. He deals with this all the time, and he says he has got the fashion cycle down to about two years. About every two years he has to rethink and reformat all of the material in the archive. As I said, we will probably go out with 3 proprietary and 1 open, I think depends what the fashion is like by the time we get there. But what I would say is that we will be constantly looking at the marketplace, and constantly looking at what is the most appropriate for the people that are using it. And we will be constantly re-evaluating what format we use.
(Audio was quite muffled, transcript is as good as is possible with the source)
An example of the BBC getting the Accessibility and Availability right is their fresh Backstage project. Take for example their OPML News feed summary. The quality of available + accessible content is a completely separate debate which I will not focus on today.
Labels: ContentFormats, DigitalRights