Podcast: Preservation Challenges in the Age of Digital Disruption

In part 2 of a podcast we started in April, NYU Professor Howard Besser and Grad Student Manon Gray share thoughts and experiences about preserving media, as well as some speculations about the challenges libraries may face in the near future. 

The study referred to in the podcast is "Video at Risk" 

Libraries vs. Big Streaming - an unfinished tale of copyright and disruption

A desperate call appeared on the VideoLib listerv.   "13th," a much-lauded social-issue documentary, nominated for an Oscar, could not be shown in class, to groups, or placed in an archive of important 2016 films.  It was showing only on Netflix, where no such rights are usually available. How, the post asked, can it be obtained?

In this case, a reprieve came when Ava DuVernay, the filmmaker, intervened with Netflix and tweeted it out. Public showings would be allowed (although so far, the archiving problem remains).  Such is the Age of Streaming, where most born-digital programming on Netflix, Amazon Prime and other direct-to-consumer platforms comes only via stream, encumbered by highly restricted terms of use.

John Vallier, University of Washington

John Vallier, University of Washington

It was fitting that the librarian who first sounded the alarm about "13th" should be John Vallier, Head of Distributed Media at the University of Washington.   Vallier comes from an ethnomusicology background -- he also plays drums -- and finding, preserving and distributing music is one of his life's missions.   With music having been the first-wave of media disruption, Vallier has been in the thick of the issue for a bit longer than video-only counterparts.

It started for Vallier back in 2009.  "Two things prompted my involvement," Vallier reflects in a recent email interview with Media This Month.  "D.J. Hoek's 2009 article on the topic in American Libraries, "The Download Dilemma: The demise of the compact disc signals an uncertain future for library sound recording collection," and my own realization that more and more of our audio and video content was only being accessible via portals cloaked in library-hostile terms of use (I'm thinking here of iTunes and Amazon, for example)."

Vallier went beyond the worried and concerned stage and took concrete steps.  In 2010, he and colleagues from UW -- backed by an NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up grant -- tried to negotiate library-friendly end user license agreements (EULA) with Amazon and Apple.   They were rebuffed (the single exception Vallier and his team were able to negotiate: a deal with Universal Music Group for 25 percent of a single recording of a Berlioz symphony, and the account is suggested reading [http://blogs.library.duke.edu/scholcomm/2014/07/28/planning-for-musical-obsolescence/]).

But rather than deliver a EULA-ogy for library music collections, Vallier pressed on, securing a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).   Vallier joined in with the UW Libraries and the Music Library Association (MLA) in this venture -- a two-year project that involved one round of community input at the MLA annual meeting in 2014, a meeting with consultants at the ALA meeting the same year, and a concluding summit in late 2014.   The summit was held at the Library of Congress, and took the form of a discussion with the board of the National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB), which includes representatives from scholarly associations, libraries and the music industry.

A raft of recommendations emerged from the summit:

  • Legislative reform, focusing on revision of copyright law.
  • Pursuing a test case via fair use doctrine and best practices.
  • Developing new EULA's with willing partners.
  • Developing new methods for long-term preservation of digitally licensed music.
  • Initiating a campaign of public relations and publish pressure.

Looking back two years later, Vallier professes to still have some hope.  "While the overall topic can seem daunting, irreversible, dire, I have been inspired by working with so many esteemed colleagues on [this] topic," Vallier writes.  "While we didn't 'solve' the issue, I think we are better poised for confronting this issue because of such collaborative work."

Yet as disruption proliferates, the challenge has also grown.  "It's getting worse and spreading rapidly to video, as many have predicted," Vallier notes.  "Just today I had to let some faculty know that we wouldn't be able to purchase the HBO streaming title they wanted because it was only available online from HBO. And yesterday I had to cancel a long list of purchases I wanted to make on Bandcamp as it looks like their terms of use have become more draconian in recent years and in-line with the Apples, Amazons, and Netflixs out there."

"The user-base for library music collections is fairly small when compared to those who check out and use library video collections," he continues. "Because of this, the impact is more noticeable with video. A library not being able to provide access to the latest Netflix-only documentary has a far more disruptive impact than a library not being able to provide access to the latest Deutsche Grammophon release on iTunes. Now when this issue will really become disruptive to librarians, and actually garner more recognition, is when more and more e-book content only becomes available via Amazons, etc."

Reflecting on the recommendations developed at the 2014 summit and refined afterwards, Vallier sees progress on some fronts.   He sees a "glimmer of hope" in the appointment of Carla Hayden as Librarian of Congress, but other staffing questions at the Library, and the partisan climate in Congress, make copyright law reform uncertain. As to fair use, Vallier writes: "It’s really going to take an institution brave enough to volunteer for a lawsuit in order to get clarity on the role of fair use with this issue. Any takers out there?"

In his UW day job, Vallier has become less involved in overall media collection development.  He now spends his time supporting a media maker space ("Media Arcade"), and also attends "to the stewardship and digitization of various audio/video/film archives."

"Being involved with the online-only issue on the one hand, and analog archives on the other, has given me a greater appreciation for the latter," Vallier concludes.  "While it may be dusty and deteriorating, there’s something implicitly reassuring about working with a tangible object, such as reel-to-reel tape."

Further reading:

Hoek, D.J.  "The Download Dilemma: The demise of the compact disc signals an uncertain future for library sound recording collection."  American Libraries.  July 2009. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2009/07/27/the-download-dilemma/

Sound Recording in Crisis (University of  Washington portal)

http://guides.lib.uw.edu/friendly.php?s=research/imls2014

Tsou, Judy, and John Vallier.  "Ether Today, Gone Tomorrow: 21st Century Sound Recording in Crisis."  Notes, Music Library Assoc. Journal.  March, 2016.

 

Digital Disruption Part 2: How well do we understand licensing? (A podcast)

Although the responses are still undergoing analysis, Manon Gray's master's thesis contains a survey to probe the understanding of licensing terms between media librarians and distributors. She and Professor Howard Besser (both at NYU) talk about how they put it together, and what they hope to learn and contribute to the academy knowledge base. 

Literature referred to in the podcast includes the following: 

Cross, William. "More than a House of Cards: Developing a Firm Foundation for Streaming Media and Consumer-Licensed Content in the Library." Journal of Copyright in Education & Librarianship 1.1 (2016).

Duncan, Cheryl J., and Erika Day Peterson. Creating a Streaming Video Collection for Your Library. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. 

farrelly, deg, and Jane Hutchison. "Academic Library Streaming Video: Key Findings from the National Survey." Against the Grain 26.5 (November 2014).

farrelly, deg. "Issues in academic library streaming video." Journal of Digital Media Management, 5.2 (Winter 2016-2017).

 

Howard Besser is Director of the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation masters degree program at New York University.  He also teaches a regular Cinema Studies course on New Media, Installation Art, and the Future of Cinema.  His current research projects involve preserving digital public television, preserving and providing digital access to dance performance, preserving difficult electronic works, issues around copyright and fair use, Do-It-Yourself media, and the changing nature of media with the advent of digital delivery systems. Manon Gray  is an MA student in Moving Image Archiving and Preservation and has a bachelor of arts in comparative literature from Princeton. She’s interned at the San Francisco Cinemateque, the Whitney, and the Smithsonian, and served as an AV consultant at the Dominican Studies Institute at City University in New York.

Howard Besser is Director of the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation masters degree program at New York University.  He also teaches a regular Cinema Studies course on New Media, Installation Art, and the Future of Cinema.  His current research projects involve preserving digital public television, preserving and providing digital access to dance performance, preserving difficult electronic works, issues around copyright and fair use, Do-It-Yourself media, and the changing nature of media with the advent of digital delivery systems.

Manon Gray  is an MA student in Moving Image Archiving and Preservation and has a bachelor of arts in comparative literature from Princeton. She’s interned at the San Francisco Cinemateque, the Whitney, and the Smithsonian, and served as an AV consultant at the Dominican Studies Institute at City University in
New York.

Digital Disruption Disrupts Media Decision-Making

Of all the formats libraries collect, media has migrated most quickly and frequently. The professional universe has been populated with a dizzying array: 16 mm, Umatic, VHS, Betamax, LaserDisc … Libraries have collected all these formats (and more) and continue to acquire physical media. User demand for streaming content, however, has completely changed how librarians think about acquiring and preserving media.

A few years ago, obtaining streaming rights was a novelty - now streaming is quickly replacing the DVD or any other ‘tactile’ receptacle for data. The tipping point has tipped. The idea of a library as a place where you go to get stuff has not changed, only the relative meanings of the terms ‘go,’ ‘get,’ and ‘stuff.’

Digital Disruption in your library reflects not only technological advance, but evolving business approaches - suppliers disrupt not only with their differing capabilities to deliver a robust stream of bits, but also with the price, duration and exclusivity of the rights they purvey, along with digital tools that add value to their offering. And it turns out there’s no standard template for the mix of providers and systems that makes up the best options to for your patrons.

Debra Mandel - Director, Digital Media Commons Studios, Northeastern University

Debra Mandel - Director, Digital Media Commons Studios, Northeastern University

We recently spoke with Debra Mandel at Northeastern University, Chair of the Streaming Media Community of Interest at the Boston Library Consortium, which includes 18 academic and research libraries in New England. The community was created with the expectation of discovering best practices for collecting and hosting streaming media. “We met with one media hosting vendor whose platform provides a viable option for consortial members and liaised with a video collection vendor to provide resource sharing proposals,” says Mandel, “but it soon became clear that each academic institution’s library and IT department have unique media landscapes. Thus, sharing a centralized media platform or developing shared collections are very challenging undertakings.’ (The COI continues its work in many other areas, despite that realization.)

Video images are created, shared, and watched so often in the course of an average day that it is a challenge for librarians to identify relevant content, acquire it, and make it accessible. The number of professional librarians whose jobs are devoted exclusively to media is shrinking, reflecting both the current reality of diminishing funding, evolving professional responsibilities, and the quite justifiable notion that media is part of every librarian’s job. As Mandel and the COI learned, individual libraries have unique approaches to collecting audiovisual content based on budgets, institutional size, mission, priorities, and numerous other considerations. These practices and others demand greater investigation. 

Welcome to the monthly newsletter of the National Media Market. This column will explore Digital Disruption in partnership with you. NMM wants to know about your experiences, ideas and questions, whether you’re a librarian or other professional who acquires media, or a distributor or filmmaker with an interest in the world of libraries.

Expect a monthly article in this blog and our newsletter that explores an aspect of Digital Disruption. We hope this series will increase your knowledge, but also your curiosity. We also hope it will make more accessible a larger community of interest with the vision to understand that media is a powerful communication tool that can be harnessed to achieve specific and important ends.

Please feel free to contact us directly with comments or suggestions. Also, please find NMM on Facebook, Twitter, and on our conference website at www.nmm.net.

 

Newsletter editors: Jeff Tamblyn and Peter Cohn