Like many folks, I saw the news today about the always-wonderful Internet Archive offering up a treasure trove of TV news broadcasting
and thought it was a great thing. They're basically making available every TV news recording they could get from 2009 forward, including all of the major TV networks, the news channels (CNN, Fox News, etc.), etc. They'll also have a bunch of local TV broadcasts as well, which is cool. All in all, it's launching with 350,000 clips
. They'll even have recordings of The Daily Show
as a part of the archive -- which seems fitting, since Internet Archive mastermind Brewster Kahle noted that with this collection, they can "let a thousand Jon Stewarts bloom" by letting them find interesting (or contradictory) news clips.
You can go check out the TVNews Search & Borrow
site right now. The search feature is pretty cool, combing through closed captions to find the relevant content. So it's neat to do a quick search on topics of interest and see what they turn up. Of course, there are still a few kinks to work out. Out of curiosity, I did a search on SOPA
, and got back some relevant news stories (including the Jon Stewart story about blackout day
. But... I also got a bunch of Spanish-language programs about soup. Even when I limited the language to English. I assume those things will get better over time. Each clip is split into 30 second increments, so it's not like you're automatically getting the full broadcast, though you can piece together the clips.
And it's not just a "historical" archive. They're going to continue to add to it, with new clips being available 24-hours after they air.
Of course, all of this made me wonder about the copyright issues involved. The NY Times had this somewhat cryptic statement:
The act of copying all this news material is protected under a federal copyright agreement signed in 1976. That was in reaction to a challenge to a news assembly project started by Vanderbilt University in 1968.
I was curious about that, and a few people pointed me to 17 USC 108 (f)(3)
, which notes that:
nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the reproduction by lending of a limited number of copies and excerpts by a library or archives of an audiovisual news program subject to [a few other clauses concerning archives]...
This is based on the Vanderbilt Television News Archive
, which the Internet Archive directly calls out in its own announcement as being the inspiration for this new project. Inspiration... and legal helper.
Here's a bit of historical perspective from Historians.org
Indeed, in the early days of the archive, CBS had sued for copyright infringement, claiming that broadcasts could not be recorded without the permission of the networks. At the time of the lawsuit, Congress was in the process of revising the copyright law. Congress recognized the growing importance and influence of television media on American culture, thought, and politics, and felt that news broadcasts should have special protection under the copyright law, to allow the American people access to their own history. Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee introduced an amendment to the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act to give universities and archives the right to record news broadcasts off-air and to make a limited number of copies for research purposes. Following the enactment of the new law with this provision, CBS and Vanderbilt mutually withdrew from the lawsuit.
But does that really make the Internet Archive legal? I'm not so sure the TV guys are going to see it that way. That same report at Historians.org notes that Vanderbilt is not allowed to share nearly all of its collection online -- and it also notes that "The advent of the Internet and the consequent possibility of making digital copies and lending them online have, however, raised new legal problems that need to be resolved." I would imagine that a key one among them is whether or not the Internet Archives' setup qualifies as "lending a limited number of copies
One would hope that an informed court would recognize that this fits with the intent of Congress in creating this kind of exception, though I fear that the networks are likely to fight pretty hard on this one, even as it seems like this service could really benefit
them as well as others, rather than really take away from anything they do.