I posted a long comment, which expands on the Digital Commons idea I was proposing, on Steve Bowbrick’s post discussing freeing content at the BBC. I’ve copied it below as it’s something I think I will expand on further and this is not a bad start:
This is along the lines of the issue I was raising at the BBC/TechCrunch debate – but you’re looking at it from the perspective of freeing the content they have broadcast, whereas I was approaching it from an angle of new content which would automatically be ingested into the BBC free of the existing restrictive rights model.
If you wish to use the current content for which they have rights agreements in place or the archive content – then the BBC has no chance of being a rights innovator or a copyright activist – which automatically has the knock on effect of giving them no leeway in freeing the content. Tom Loosemore, one of the panel at the BBC/TechCrunch debate, has the scars to prove how difficult this is and Tony Ageh, another of the panel, is currently mired in the joys of finding a solution for the archive.
See the snippets of a much longer – but currently untraceable on the BBC site – interview with Simon Hayward-Tapp on the BBC Archive website for a glimpse into the world of archives and rights.
The BBC has the will to do the right thing but it would be sued out of existence by the rights holders if it tried to be too radical. One of my suggestions to Tony Ageh is to mimic the accepted practice of the BBC News webpages and simply use some of the archive material they have available in a low quality format and have a link to the high quality download on the website of the rights holder. News does a story on a company and has a link to the company’s website in the right hand navigation bar – accepted practice. So, it’s nothing new. It’s just applying accepted practice to another digital medium. Where you can find agreement with rights holders, who have high quality content available, post low quality versions on the archive site and have links to the high quality versions – a win-win scenario. The BBC gets content cleared from the archive and the rights holder gets traffic from the BBC. Now you probably will find that this is a tiny percentage of the archive – but it’s a start and it would also be a signpost for other rights holders with content in the archive that they could now consider worth clearing it to drive traffic to their online offerings. The BBC trades traffic for content clearance.
Ultimately though, in my opinion, the BBC should be seeking to get content from the public and then act as a “store and forward” publisher, along with contributing some of its own content into a Digital Commons. Imagine if the BBC gave you the tools to publish your data/content wherever you wanted to from a central location. You could upload your images/video/text/audio to a space the BBC provided for you as part of your “digital licence” fee and once there you could have a suite of tools available which would allow you to publish that content to any other platform. Part of the job of the tool would be to pass the content through a BBC stamping procedure – which would allow for the content to be tracked across the Internet. This would let the BBC maintain quality control and manage any legal issues. Maintaining an area as a Digital Commons would mean that anyone wishing to play with BBC content could do so quite easily with the full knowledge that any content the BBC placed in a Digital Commons was public domain – a digital public service!
If the tools of production and publishing for digital content have been decentralised then what the BBC can do is act as a centralised clearing house for the content. This is a way it can innovate and act as a activist on content rights and as a consequence free the content!