By Nancy K. Herther
In the beginning, there was the clay tablet, then the chalkboard, stereoscope, filmstrips, then moving pictures, radio and in the 1940s, we saw the emergence of television—bringing true multimedia news, information, and entertainment into the living rooms of millions. Content was then determined by the three major networks—ABC, CBS, NBC—and later PBS, as well as local channels. Although public access was included, we never saw the diversity that came with cable/satellite programming in the 1970s, with tens of networks offering hundreds and hundreds of programming channels to subscribers across the globe.
All of this is built off the incredible success of the web, which turned 25 years old in March. A recent Pew Research Internet Project report noted that “the invention of the web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee was instrumental in turning the internet from a geeky data-transfer system embraced by specialists and a small number of enthusiasts into a mass-adopted technology easily used by hundreds of millions around the world.”
“In less than ten years,” notes Julie DeCesare in the Library Technology Reports February 2014 report on Streaming Video Resources for Teaching, Learning, and Research, “the availability of digitally converted or born-digital media, especially video, has grown exponentially. Libraries and librarians are constantly navigating, and helping their patrons navigate, this digital shift. Online and streaming video has saturated the consumer market for popular television shows and movies, and the market is fragmented.”
The market is both fragmented and growing at a pace that is difficult to gauge. Internet providers like Comcast and AT&T are now hoping to find a niche in streaming video. Video services like Netflix are producing award-winning original programming available only through their services. The advantage to learning, commerce, and government in developing a strong global base for the development of streaming video is clear.
Creating a Fair and Open Marketplace
Earlier this year the European Parliament released the report, Streaming and Online Access to Content and Services, which noted four foundational values in streaming and online access: Greater efficiency, new economic and business models, improved access to all types of information and content, and broadened access to European diversity. The study found that market research has shown that consumers “1) strongly favour this facilitated, multi-device and multi-platform mode of consulting content that does not necessitate maintaining content on specific hardware and where computing devices become ‘invisible’ to the user (natural computing operated through a natural user interface), and 2) where the possibility exists to access legal content delivered through streaming or which is available online (largely depending on the availability of ubiquitous services), they prefer such access to content over illegal downloading.” In the U.S., we haven’t yet seen this type of effort by the federal government to protect and promote the rights of individuals and the free flow of information in this new arena.
Long-term it will be interesting to see the impact of this media delivery fragmentation on the ability to raise the needed finances to support the development of expensive program development and film production. Some types of programming (game shows, reality programming, etc.) are far cheaper to produce than documentaries or most dramatic films. How will future educational producers be able to sustain the cost of high quality productions with such fragmented audiences? Is Kickstarter offering a viable, alternative economic business model? This channel dispersion is also allowing for much more granular programming, allowing virtually any niche interest to find its audience. No longer will the one-size-fits-all approach dominate.
Videos are all over the web, linked to many scholarly databases (such as in SAGE Research Methods Online), linked to MOOCs, posted as presentations from professional conferences, or home-brewed contributions to the civil discourse. Who hasn’t viewed some health video or learned some home fix-it trick from the comfort of your home or office? Clearly this is impacting the ready reference trade of most libraries, as people can get so much information on their own to their own levels of satisfaction; but how about the value of all of this content to more serious study? Today TED Videos are allowing scholars a “soap box” type of audience exposure. Social media like YouTube is permeating classrooms across the world from Slovakia, Malaysia, Portugal, United Arab Emirates, Italy and virtually every other country on our planet. “Social software allows learners choice in controlling their own learning and are providing students with unprecedented learning opportunities,” concluded a recent literature review.
“Libraries have been relatively slow to embrace streaming video content,” notes the recent CARLI Streaming Video in Academic Libraries: A White Paper. “This situation stems from the variety of challenges this technology poses for institutions that have a mandate to collect and make available a variety of content to their users. Some of these issues are not unlike those that confront individual users of streaming media—slow delivery speed or inadequate selection. Others are unique to the nature of libraries themselves as collectors and preservers of material. And ultimately some are the special purview of academic libraries in their role as branches of educational institutions.” As such, most libraries have approached this warily as they weigh the loss of assured “ownership” with the convenience and expanded access of streaming.
The Fast-Growing Library Marketplace
Most libraries have begun with the purchase of special collections offered by vendors generally familiar with library markets and offering such key services as MARC records, synchronized scrolling transcripts, HD-quality video, semantic faceted indexing, the ability to create playlists, linking to course management systems, clip-making tools, annotation capabilities, and COUNTER-compliant usage statistics. Few thorough user studies have been done so far; however, a recent Australian/Kanopy paper suggests that the potential of video from a mere possibility to a “fait-accompli” isn’t that far from reality.
Last year, Alexander Street Press unveiled its streaming hosting service for libraries, which “allows libraries to host their music and video assets on a single, high-functionality platform—in effect providing one-stop streaming for their patrons.” The company’s catalog already includes more than 10,000 educational and award-winning streaming titles. Libraries—and our vendors—are quickly realizing that the tide of streaming video is too strong, too compelling to ignore.
A 2012 study found that YouTube videos were increasingly cited in formal journal publications including “journal articles (53%), conference papers (24%), reviews (12%), and other types of publication (11%) including editorials, letters, notes, and short surveys. The social sciences lead all other subject areas. Another study of motivations for citing YouTube in academic publications found that “new non-standard academic medium can be helpful for research communication, although different fields cite online videos for different reasons in scientific literature.” Whether we are ready or not, streaming media are already accepted as key research materials in the classroom and in scholarly publications.
Clarifying Basic Legal Issues
Copyright continues to be an issue for the entire industry. However, it is especially an issue for libraries, with many producers insisting that any showing of a film outside the privacy of a home setting is considered a public performance—requiring additional fees or prohibiting some uses of the property. Some film producers or vendors provide a very narrow definition of Fair Use doctrine’s exemptions for educational use. I was once told by a film company that by purchasing their documentary I was agreeing to their definition of Fair Use in that the documentary would only be used in classrooms and shown in its entirety—no film clips would be allowed and students (like it or not) had to sit through the whole program. Clearly, we decided to pass on the offer.
Public performance (PPR) is another contract aspect that is sometimes defined very narrowly by vendors. Individual use of videos for research purposes or course assignments outside the classroom is sometimes deemed public performance, requiring a much higher price. Due to unresolved issues about PPR fees for applications that fall in Fair Use guidelines, many producers began to delineate their pricing by type of institution/organization purchasing the title.
Closed captioning is another issue that continues to plague accessibility compliance. Any college or agency that receives federal financial assistance must make its programs, services, and activities (such as broadcasts and websites) accessible to individuals with a disability, including individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, pursuant to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act may also apply. Too frequently, even when a requirement for closed-captioning is specified, suppliers send DVDs or video without this key function.
In streaming, there appears to be a less structured access policy by companies. Kanopy, for example, notes their goal of working with “educational institutions, predominantly university and college libraries. Once a library has signed up, any member of the institution can access the videos that the library has selected—a nice difference from having to examine and negotiate variant understandings of Fair Use DVD vendor by vendor. As Films on Demand notes, their “family of streaming video subscription collections offers convenient one-stop shopping for librarians, faculty, and educators.” Being able to leave some of the thorny legal issues to the vendors is just another good reason, at least at this stage of streaming video, to make use of the third-party vendors and their services in assembling packages of film titles with a single legal structure.
A recent article by librarians at the University of Bellevue in Nebraska stated that, “copyright laws are dauntingly complex, accessibility laws demand compliance, film rights can be expensive, effective pedagogy often lags behind available technologies, and universal design is unfamiliar ground for many educators.” Researchers at the University of Washington Libraries and the Music Library Association are now conducting an IMLS-funded project titled, “National Forum on Online-Only Music: 21st Century Sound Recording Collection in Crisis.” Their research is based on the premise that “libraries are facing an existential crisis. As more and more books, videos, and sound recordings are licensed and distributed through online-only means, the amount of material available for libraries to collect is shrinking.”
Streaming music’s online distribution networks—such as Amazon’s MP3 Store, Apple’s iTunes, and Google’s Play—are quickly becoming the only real outlets to purchase music. “As CD sales shrink and online sales expand, a growing portion of our recorded music history is made unavailable to libraries. With CDs or other physical items, libraries—and individual consumers—were able to own their own music recordings, which gave them the right to lend them and preserve them for future generations of scholars and fans.” This research project involves “hiring expert consultants, holding three National forum meetings, and developing approaches to the issues including a licensing scenario by which libraries may purchase and provide access to online-only music.” The results of this, they hope, will “aim to hone our strategies for moving forward and, it is hoped, negotiate a solution whereby libraries can purchase, own, and provide access to online-only distributed titles.” This is a project to be watched by folks involved in streaming video as well.
One Library’s Response
In 2011, the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University updated its guide, Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video, focusing on “current acceptable practices, drawing on the actual activities of creators…backed by the judgment of a national panel of experts…[that] also draws, by way of analogy, upon the professional judgment and experience of documentary filmmakers, whose own code of best practices has been recognized throughout the film and television businesses.” A must-read for producers and librarians alike, the guide seeks to dispel such Fair Use myths as:
- If I’m not making any money off it, it’s Fair Use
- If I’m making any off it (or trying to), it’s not Fair Use
- Fair Use can’t be entertaining
- If I try to license material, I’ve given up my chance to use Fair Use
- I really need a lawyer to make the call on Fair Use
Additionally, the 2011 version stresses that Fair Use could, indeed, include the following:
- Commenting on or critiquing of copyrighted material
- Using copyrighted material for illustration or example
- Capturing copyrighted material incidentally or accidentally
- Reproducing, reposting, or quoting in order to memorialize, preserve, or rescue an experience, an event or a cultural phenomenon
- Copying, reposting, and recirculating a work or part of a work for purposes of launching a discussion
- Quoting in order to recombine elements to make a new work that depends for its meaning on (often unlikely) relationships between the elements
The most vexing streaming access issues today aren’t technological or content-based, but inherent in the nature of content licensing. As we experienced with ebooks and other new media, we can hope that, as producers and distributors become more experienced with this new type of distribution, current barriers will continue to fall.
Video has long been used as a powerful educational tool, for both enhanced teaching and energizing discussion and debate. Today many schools are integrating student-produced videos into their curricula as well, allowing students greater freedom and creativity in presenting their research and ideas in new, often highly creative ways. However, here the problem of content may be an issue. Students still need to carefully represent their work to people who might be in their videos and comply with Fair Use and subject permission in the creation of their work.
From Experimentation to Maturation
Technology continues to offer new and exciting opportunities that need to be considered in every aspect of information service and delivery. Moving beyond simple access to streaming video raises issues of future platform development and user customization tools to make video truly useful for research and learning. Videos are great for helping student visualize information and prompt discussion and debate, but passively watching a video doesn’t necessarily take students below the surface of underlying concepts or drive critical thinking. We are just beginning to see the development of key tools and social options needed for successful educational benefits.
The award-winning web documentary series The Journey of Documentary, is a great example of pushing current boundaries. “An online interactive documentary about how to make an online interactive documentary,” the site features “emerging filmmakers and academics and generates conversation around transmedia & interactive multiplatforms for documentary/storytelling and acts as a hub for collaborations and networking opportunities worldwide.”
The Journal of Visualized Experiments, JoVE, “the world’s first peer reviewed scientific video journal,” is an exciting application of newer media to make scientific research, presented in a visual format “to help researchers overcome two of the biggest challenges facing the scientific research community today; poor reproducibility and the time and labor intensive nature of learning new experimental techniques.” In publication for eight years, the success of this innovation is leading to other new applications as well. Video abstracts are now appearing in some science journals. In a recent case study, University of Minnesota Libraries’ Scott Spicer found that “video abstracts are a natural evolution of science communication into multimodal environments” and that he expects “publishing trends will likely continue to grow gradually, with appreciation for non-traditional scholarship (multimodal scholarship) and new measures for assessing impact (altmetrics) potentially encouraging greater adoption.”
For faculty and librarians, we need better linkages to reviews and curricular examples, a broad-based network to gather the truly best sources in an easy to navigate framework, a robust search engine, and even some type of “viewer advisory” service to help direct users to similar videos to what they find valuable. The traditional library cataloging schemes do not provide the necessary finding aids and user tools required.
Today we are starting to see the recognition of video viewing as a collaborative process. Video annotation tools are available that have been shown to help students learn the fundamentals of film production, content analysis and “close reading” of scenes and dialog by marking and commenting on the film as it plays. As a form of active reading, these annotations or linked comments allow the viewer to both assimilate and, in effect, re-use the video as they form new ideas by adding some information to a specific section or fragment of the original video.
Institute for the Future of the Book’s founder Bob Stein is a prominent thinker and entrepreneur in the electronic publishing industry, paving the way for enhanced e-books thirty years ago by founding the first commercial multimedia CD-ROM publisher, The Voyageur Company. Eleven years ago, Stein started “Night Kitchen” to develop authoring tools for the next generation of electronic publishing. That work is now being continued at the Institute. Social Book, created by the Institute for the Future of the Book, is a social reading platform that allows reader to add their own commentary to texts, share these ideas with others, follow others’ comments, and create communities of interactive reader/writers.
SocialBook is yet another example of Stein’s ability to envision the future: “SocialBook, it seems, is a terrific example of an emerging class of applications that might be called ‘[collaborative] thinking processors’ as opposed to reading environments or word processors. SocialBook’s structure enables multiple perspectives to be brought to bear on a problem. It’s an exciting real-world proof of Alan Kay’s dictum that “point of view is worth 80 IQ points.” Work is now underway to translate SocialBook into a true social annotation and communication app for streaming video. The software makes it possible for students or teachers to provide guided video experiences or for even distance learners to share their observations and opinion on “the formal aspects of film—lighting, cinematography, sound, editing, and other techniques—but also aspects of the film’s content, such as historical references and other details that students might overlook.”
We are used to built-in note-taking and highlighting options with ebrary and EBSCOhost e-book systems. Adobe Reader for iPad and iAnnotate PDF are similar systems for e-books. Some available tools today include the Universite libre de Bruxelles’ open source tool ULB Podcast. From the University of Minnesota, VideoANT is another open source mobile and desktop video annotation tool that supports annotation of any publicly accessible video file or YouTube video. Three other products are Vidbolt, Vialogues, and RapGenius. Of course the “ownership” of the information contained in these types of social annotations brings up more questions related to DRM. Readers may remember the issues raised years ago when Amazon removed both the e-book text and users’ own annotations and notes when found to be offering a book with questionable rights.
A Strong and Developing Marketplace
“It took a while before mechanical vehicles evolved into buses, trucks, and tractors, and that’s what we expect to happen with video,” explains Alexander Street Press Marketing Director Jessica Kemp. “Video needs to take its rightful place alongside journals, books, and other forms of content. I expect that in doing this, video will fuse into a hybrid of media. You can see this happening already with journals that have video abstracts or video animations embedded, or in initiatives like the Vook.”
Mega-aggregators, like Amazon, Apple, and Google, “have already influenced media enormously,” Kemp continues. “Netflix and YouTube have forced providers to increase their network bandwidth, and have introduced academics and students to the power of video and documentaries. However, much of what Netflix and YouTube do isn’t helpful in teaching or research. Faculty aren’t happy to revise syllabi when YouTube clips disappear. Rightsholders aren’t happy when their most valuable content is pirated. Most of all, it simply isn’t easy to cite, search, or integrate this kind of content into academic workflows. Much of the value that we provide looks time consuming and unprofitable to the mega-aggregators.”
“No one gets rich in the educational media business,” Allen Dohra, Ashmbrose Video Publiing’s Vice President, notes. “Video streaming is the future and the future is now.”
Kanopy’s CEO Olivia Humphrey sees an evolving market. “Currently the consumer market is very fragmented in all segments meaning the audience has to visit different platforms for different needs. This is not ideal, so I would hope the market becomes more integrated across the board. Saying that, we know students watch Netflix for very different reasons [than] they choose to watch Kanopy. Netflix acquires content for entertainment, and overlooks some of the more ‘high-brow’ documentaries. Many of our filmmakers do not wish to have their films on Netflix or Amazon as the models are designed for big studios or high-profile movies, not small independent filmmakers.”
“It will be interesting to see how the consumer market plays out, as the competition is becoming very heated,” Humphrey explains. “The consumer model will need to be significantly adjusted to accommodate academic market needs, but these tech companies have transformed many models and industries so I have no doubt they will eventually play a role in the educational sphere. Overall, any player that advocates video in schools is a win for students, and I think we need to continue to challenge traditional models of video distribution in education.”
Streaming has been around for a relatively short time. The majority of services targeted to the needs and interests of education have been around for little more than a year. Advances in computer networking, the growing installed base of powerful home computers and modern operating systems, has made streaming media practical and affordable. Our users are increasingly depending on these for their home entertainment and eager to experience these in their work and education as well. In Part 2, we explore some of the options for libraries—whether they are interesting in testing the waters or ready to take on a major transition to streaming
(Click here to view the second part of this series: ATG Original: A Veritable Tsunami of Streaming Videos (Part 2 of a 2 part series))