As video footage and video remix become one of the primary forms of conveying and discussing political issues, we find that video is less permissive than text with respect to copyright. In other words, with text we are accustomed to and legally permitted to quote, annotate and share each other's words in political dialog. However, we find that in the case of video often presidential debates, war footage and many other things that we would like to use in political videos, are protected by copyright. Video has traditionally been treated more as "content".
In the case of video journalism, this "content" falls between the cracks. There is a great article by Rebecca MacKinnon, former Bureau Chief of CNN Japan, about how the focus of CNN changed from journalism to money-making "content" as it shifted from the leadership of Ted Turner to Time Warner.
I believe in amateur journalism and even amateur video journalism. I think projects like The Hub that we are doing at WITNESS are very important. On the other hand, there will always be a role for professional journalism, especially when it comes to wars, corruption and politics because of the cost of deploying and defending, both physically and legally, the journalists sent in to get the stories.
There is a famous moment in video journalism when the Gennifer Flowers scandal was breaking. The heads of the big news networks at the time decided not to run the story. They controlled how and when news broke. However, CNN had started distributing their full news feeds to local news stations allowing local news to edit their own news. Some local networks decided to run the story that they found in the unedited news feeds from CNN and the next day all of the networks opened with the story. See Steven Johnson's Emergence for a good account of this episode.
I think that news networks making their footage available to the public is the next step in this decentralization and the participation of the public in the global dialog. I'm very thankful to Al Jazeera for taking the first step in what I hope will be a more common practice of news agencies making their material available for reuse and remix.
Al Jazeera is releasing 12 broadcast quality videos today shot in Gaza under Creative Commons' least restrictive Attribution license. Each professionally recorded video has a detailed information page and is hosted on blip.tv allowing for easy downloads of the original files and integration into Miro. The value of this footage is best described by an International Herald Tribune/New York Times article describing the release:
In a conflict where the Western news media have been largely prevented from reporting from Gaza because of restrictions imposed by the Israeli military, Al Jazeera has had a distinct advantage. It was already there.
More importantly, the permissive CC-BY license means that the footage can be used by anyone including, rival broadcasters, documentary makers, and bloggers, so long as Al Jazeera is credited.