Saturday, September 17, 2005

Internet Rights and Current TV

Originally uploaded by Insurgent.
I just made this post. In the Current TV Studio, and decided to cross-post it here as well...

As all of us producers should know, by uploading your video to the Current TV Studio, you are providing Current with the exclusive rights to exhibit your video work online for a 3 month period. In other words, you are contractually bound not to upload your video anywhere else, be it, the Amazon Tribeca Film Festival, You Tube, or even putting the video up on your own blog or personal website. I personally feel that this requirement is neither fair nor necessary, but that is not the focus of this post.

What does seem to be of significance is the fact that quite a few producers have either neglected or elected to violate this portion of the submission terms. For those in violation of this requirement, what liability are they opening themselves up to?

By my assessment, it seems that the absolute worst-case scenario would be that Current could elect to air your piece as a VC2 contribution and withhold your fee of $250.

This worst-case scenario seems unlikely to happen as it opens Current up to a fairly significant legal battle over $250 which is, well, stupid. That said, the next worse situation would be for Current to elect not to air your piece, or even to take it out of the screening room. We don't know about the former, but I have no reason to think Current has begun to do the latter.

So why is it that Current doesn't want us to host our own video on our own personal websites? According to the Submission terms FAQ:
We realize this part of the deal might seem burdensome. But here's the logic: We're going to present your video in our online Screening Room so people can vote and comment on it, with the notion that if it's popular or interesting, it might be something we'd like to pay for and broadcast on air.

If anybody else can swoop in and scoop up the good stuff, we're just providing a public service to other TV networks. Which would be nice, but, you know, no thanks.
Ok, so check out that last paragraph... you can't put your video on your own website because [other TV networks] can swoop in and scoop up the good stuff. Essentially Current is stating that you can't put your video up on your own website because other TV stations are swarming like vultures, trolling the internet looking for low-res internet video that they'd like to steal and air without the producer's permission. Asserting that other stations would not recognize the producer's Creative Commons or Copyright license, that other stations wouldn't ask for permission, and furthomore that other stations wouldn't ask for the non-compressed video.

It seems a bit forward for Current to align themselves against other commercial media television stations and to describe them as thieves; the idea would seem ludicrous had it not actually happened to me during this past summer with some footage I shot of an anarchist demonstration in San Francisco in which a cop was injured. (For more information on that story, please see this entry from my blog.)

But really now, what is your reasoning at Current for the exclusive internet rights? Is it really the vultures, the other television stations that wouldn't hesitate to illegally swoop in and scoop up all the good stuff?

Please tell us...


At 6:42 PM, Blogger Insurgent said...

Anastasia responds: The thread continued...

Hi Josh -- you answered your own question by quoting our FAQ where we answered the question,

Your question:

"Is it really the vultures, the other television stations that wouldn't hesitate to illegally swoop in and scoop up all the good stuff?"

Our FAQ, which you quoted:

"If anybody else can swoop in and scoop up the good stuff, we're just providing a public service to other TV networks. Which would be nice, but, you know, no thanks."

# posted by Anastasia on 19 sep 2005 @ 1:32pm | flag

So let me get this straight Anastasia, Current is making a public claim that other television stations are liable to illegally and without the permission of the producer steal content for their own stations...

This is in fact, what you're saying...

While it's true that this did happen to me with a piece of footage I had put online this summer, each of the stations repeatedly apologized for accidently using my footage without obtaining proper rights ahead of time, and I was under the impression that it really had been a mistake.

I certainly don't know of any instance in which a produced piece was straight up stolen and put on national television, and the liability in doing so would certainly overshadow the potential upsides.

Quite frankly Anastasia this reasoning is not only assinine but it makes the station look unprofessional in accusing these other networks of blatant and illegal theft.

# posted by Insurgent on 19 sep 2005 @ 3:24pm | flag | delete

Hi Josh. You're entitled to your opinions as is anyone in our community. We appreciate you expressing them!

# posted by Anastasia on 19 sep 2005 @ 3:31pm | flag

It's also possible, and certainly more probable, that other organizations would swoop in and attempt to legally (ie, sign) producers they see on the site. While that may or may not be good for the producer, if we're the ones investing in promoting them to a broader audience it's not exactly in our best interest to let them get poached by another network.

Nor is it really fair to us - it costs us money to stream the video, it costs us money to build and maintain this website, etc. If anyone thinks the best venue for their video is their personal website, they are free to post it there and not upload to Current. However, I suspect you'll get a much broader showing for your work here on this site, and if we don't end up airing it, you're free to walk away and shop it elsewhere.

My perception of that clause is that its an attempt to strike a balance between our need to be in the business of discovering and promoting new talent and fresh points of view rather than being an incubator for other networks. I certainly hope you and the rest of the community don't find that assinine.

# posted by gantenbein on 19 sep 2005 @ 4:35pm | flag

I certainly hope you and the rest of the community don't find that assinine.

I don't. I think it's fair and balanced.

Insurgent, obviously your videos are available on the net if you upload them to this site. It's not your website but who cares? You post a link on your site and that's it. People can watch it either way.
If you are afraid that your visitor will leave your site and end up here at, well there are some things called popup and javascript or at worst target=_blank. I know it's not the most elegant stuff one can imagine but I think the chance that your piece will end up on TV is worth the inconvenience.

Stardate, the bulk of my readership on my vlog is through a subscription to my RSS feed, incidently, 90% of these people access my blog through Apple's iTunes software (Steve Jobs is on the board of Current and Al Gore is on the board at Apple). iTunes and other RSS video aggregators use an enclosure to access the actual media file itself.

While my videos on Current.TV do have a link to the node where the video can be viewed, there is no actual media asset to link to. Therein, people using the software from another company that Al himself is involved with can subscribe to my videos via my website, but they can't through Current TV.

I'm not afraid that my visitors will leave my site and end up at Current, if I was, I wouldn't have linked to Current at least a dozen times, and I certainly wouldn't have put half a dozen videos on my blog that mention Current TV (INdTV) in one way or another.

This isn't a matter of inconvenience, it's a matter of having to choose between a possible viewership which I have no reason to believe has any sort of significant crossover. My Stats for Current TV are roughly equivalent to My stats on Ourmedia, and I happen to be very proud of the fact that I've managed to get my work out as well as I have, Current's policy forces the producer to choose between independently distributing that piece of work or signing away a 3-month exclusive contract with only a potential for a possible $250 first video fee.

In regards to Gantenbein, that it is also possible "that other organizations would swoop in an attempt to legally (ie, sign) producers they see on the site." Well, that actually wouldn't be legal either, although if the other organization involved has plausible deniability that they were aware that the producer was already signed under an exclusive video and television option agreement. Just as it's the producers legal obligation right now not to sign away any rights that are in violation to Current's Submission policy, the same would be the case if Current were to permit their producers to share their videos on non-commercial websites. Furthermore, by allowing producers to provide a link to their website on their profile, and their AIM SN, it would still be quite easy for these "organizations" to seek out these producers and "scoop up the good stuff." Functionally speaking, I'm really not understanding the difference here.

And Gantenbein, could you please explain how video being available on the producer's personal website could actually hurt Current TV, fiscally or otherwise. Yes, it costs you money to stream the video, and it actually costs you more to stream the video more, so by allowing the media asset to be distributed through independent means could almost be said to benefit you there. Yes, it does cost money to build and maintain the website, but that's what advertising is for.

Wow, that was long... one last thought though Stardate... I don't think "fair and balanced" can be used today without a heavy dose of irony...

At 4:56 PM, Blogger James Kever said...

Josh,, err... Anastasia rather... informed me because I do not have releases signed by those I interviewed in "The 'N' Word", they will not air the story.

Obviously, this pissed me off, and prompted me to do a story about media law.

While in Orlando, I interviewed an internet attorney, and the professor at UCF who teaches Mass Comm Law.

As it turns out there is a difference between documentary broadcast for entertainment, and news broadcast for news.

Anastasia told me, in some cases they broadcast stuff without releases... when it's "timely" and "newsworthy". But my story... well clearly that is documentary and would require releases.

Forget my first amendment right and freedom of speech.

This led me to the understanding that Current.TV is not revolutionary marriage of tv and internet that I once thought they were.

The majority of the stuff that does make it to air on Current isn't produced by the common man either.

Watch their channel, it's just as much for professionals as any other network. Further, the stuff that makes it on TV that was in the screening room is seriously edited. And a good majority of the stuff on air never has to go through the screening room process.

So to make this long sad story short, Current is a poor example of what electronic media can be.

While I wont commit to never submitting anything to Current.TV again, I'll be damned if I do anything specifically for them (ie branded and format).

To quote the words of an infamous video blogger...

Fuck that.

At 10:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results.”
- Herman Melville

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