DRM vs.Open

Submitted by Robert Alstead on Tue, 01/10/2006 - 16:00

For content creators Google's Video Marketplace (see story) may prove a welcome source of revenue. However, the downside is that some people will commercialise what may already be legitimately available for download for free.

Some films are already in the public domain or are free to watch under less restrictive licencing than on pay video sites.

For example, on Google Video the Sherlock Holmes film Dressed To Kill (1946), a black-and-white feature starring the stiff-uppered Basil Rathbone, is selling at $7.99, or a day pass at $0.99. But you can download a good quality Mpeg2 version (the file-type used for DVDs) of the same film for free at The Internet Archive. If you are not prepared to wait the few hours it takes for the film to download (this is over a fast connection), there are more compressed files that you can download and view on The Internet Archive, including a tiny streaming format.

The non-profit Internet Archive carries a huge amount of other moving image material - 26,947 video clips at the time of writing - ranging from German artfilms of the Sixties to fascinating, cigarette advertisements in nostalgic technicolor. The latter is part of the Prelinger Archive, a collection of ephemera like corporate videos, television spots, public information films, and such-like collected by Rick Prelinger over a period of 20 years.

The Moving Images section also includes 627 movie features, like Frank Capra's Why We Fight series of WW2 propaganda films. All are free to download, often in DVD quality. Even the amateur footage on The Internet Archive can be compelling viewing. Just check out some of the chilling footage uploaded of the Asian Tsunami.

The Internet Archive was founded in 1996 by philanthropist and digital guru Brewster Kahle. His intention was to build an internet library so that researchers, historians, and scholars could access historical collections that exist in digital format. Its goals have changed as the internet has evolved, with catalogues of most types of media now available. The site is perhaps most famous for its "waybackmachine" which carries snapshots, going back a decade, of millions of web sites. The Internet Archive has been one of the forerunners of high-resolution video downloads and video hosting. If you don't need DRM then it's as good a place as any to publish your videos online.

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