Posts Tagged ‘techcrunch open bbc debate’

Freedom? Open source? Show me how!

July 22, 2008

“So the philosophical questions remain:

  • should broadcasters like the BBC allow users to collate other material alongside BBC assets?
  • and if so, how do we technically guarantee that content is appropriate for younger users and doesn’t cross the line with third party rights agreements?”

So says Marc Goodchild of CBBC in this post on the BBC Internet blog (disclaimer – I am the editor of the BBC internet blog).

Marc’s post opens up a pandora’s box of questions which need to be answered if the BBC is to make any progress in the wonderful world of the internet.

Last week I had two meetings.

One was a coffee, really rather than a meeting. It was with a colleague who I respect very much and works in the same part of the BBC as me. He’s a great bloke and chatting to him over many years has helped me learn about what’s going on. He has a legal background and has I think its fair to say not much truck with many of the more fashionable nostrums of the open source/freedom movement in technology and on the net.

“Why should the BBC let anyone use its brands or assets for nothing?” he says (I paraphrase for effect). “What benefit does the BBC get out of it? Why let people play around with our stuff? The brand has a commercial value and a public service value. We need to protect that, not give it away”

A contrast with my other meeting. This was a proper meeting (well, no coffee and in a room). A Controller and someone who wants the BBC more open with its data. The Controller (as they say) “gets it”. He wants people to be able to come to the BBC and know instantly what assets they can take away and how they can play with them.

Easy to say. Tough to do.

As Anna wisely said at the Techcrunch Open BBC event, it’s all very well expecting the BBC’s Director General to “get religion” but that would require the BBC Trust, regulators, rights holders, government, the opposition and the European Commission to get religion too.

And if anything the mood music from all of them is getting tougher. We still seem to be making the same arguments as we did thirty years ago. This recent speech from the new Culture Secretary asks this question:

Have we said content should be free?

(The “we” here is rather important. And the “we” is not the small number of people who might read this blog)

and tellingly:

The music industry has been the canary in the internet coalmine in terms of the consequences of piracy and illegal file-sharing. There is a lot of thinking yet to be done on this question. But we have signalled in our creative economy programme that if the policy and creative industry insiders don’t solve this problem, we will bring the same values of the real world – the values that say shoplifting of a CD is unacceptable – to the internet.

So Marc’s questions are practical challenges to those who think the BBC should open up its assets.

How are you going to do it?

And how are you going to persuade the people with the power that it should be done?