From my notebook

posted by Steve Bowbrick

What stops the BBC from sharing content, technology and resources with the outside world? Actually, the number one obstacle, if the many conversations I’ve had here at the BBC over the last few weeks are anything to go by, is rights. Rights rights rights. Rights rights rights rights rights. The Gordian knot of multiple, overlapping rights regimes and multiple historic rights owners for every asset in the BBC’s catalogue. But I’m here to tell you that there are other obstacles to sharing—many in fact. This chart is a first attempt at capturing all the reasons the BBC might come up with for not opening up…

(Most of the comments on this post are actually over at flickr).


Comments so far.

  1. Posted by Nick Reynolds (BBC) on Monday 20th October

    In my personal opinion, regulation is not as big a problem as people think. People at the BBC often hide behind “policy” or “regulation” as excuses for not doing things. In fact all the regulation should do is make you try that little bit harder.

    Culture and rights are the big ones on the chart.

  2. Posted by Alex Murray on Monday 20th October

    I’ve commented over on flickr but I’m going to repost it here in case people can’t be nurked to click through. I say this as someone who has now worked in three different “empires” of the BBC and had to deal with the obstacles of sharing across the divide between them:

    I’d say there’s a huge glaring omission from that image then: infrastructure. It’s the one factor that can – done properly – remove culture, expectations, regulation and rights from the equation. You remove the issue of infrastructure and they should cease to be obstacles and become simply excuses.

  3. Posted by Robin Hamman on Monday 20th October

    I think inertia also shouldn’t be under-rated as an obstacle.

    People at the BBC who genuinely want to share content, ideas or information often find ways to do that. Sure, they have to fly under the radar, but fly there they can and sometimes do.

    But the system(s), on a whole, tends not to default towards openness. This means that someone somewhere has to make the conscious decision, and often action to back it up, to open things up. That’s sometimes risky and sometimes time consuming – causing the easy, well trodden route to appear as the most logical: Don’t bother.

    Change the default, however, and you’re on to a winner.

  4. Posted by Nieman Journalism Lab: Pushing to the Future of Journalism on Tuesday 21st October

    [...] web of circles and lines is BBC blogger Steve Bowbrick’s conception of what’s standing in the way of a more “open” BBC. There’s a discussion going on in the comments of Steve’s post, but a better one on the [...]

  5. Posted by James Cherkoff on Tuesday 21st October

    If Fox and NBC can sort out their rights to launch Hulu, then surely the BBC can do the same. More here: http://tinyurl.com/57vk3j

  6. Posted by Mike Dorey on Wednesday 22nd October

    The rights issue is complex, yes, but not impossible to deal with: The issue is getting investment in the relevant systems to inform people of what is exploitable and what isn’t. That’s the tricky bit. It’s also important to recognise that the product of our creative and entertainment industries isn’t freeware – and rightly so – Its content and assets in which people have ownership and livelyhoods tied up. The people that complain about ‘rights issues’ seem to me to be mostly people that have never been an artist, contributor to or maker of anything of creative value. Yes, ‘sharing’ and ‘openness’ are great ideals, but this can and should be on the artist/contributors terms. It’s not for us to suggest otherwise.

  7. Posted by James Cherkoff on Thursday 23rd October

    I think Lessig sums up the rights issues well: “To my generation what they (young folk!) are doing doesn’t seem important because we’ve never done it. You want culture then rent it, watch it, sit on your couch and enjoy it. But younger generations say, ‘Why is what I’m doing illegal? I’m creating, I’m re-expressing, I’m criticising, I’m spreading ideas.’ But the reality is that under our law – that’s illegal.”

  8. Posted by Robert Bole on Friday 24th October

    The rights issue is a big obstacle and one that folks just hate to address because if involves the economic interests of folks we love to love, namely artists, documentary filmmakers, etc. and folks that we love to hate, such as Hollywood, commercial media, reality shows, etc.

    It also involves lawyers, which can drive media folks batty…so there are lots of obstacles to just getting up enough energy to address the point.

    However, there is also another issue that tends to get swept under the rug a bit: “To what purpose?” Sharing is great for self-expression as Lessig suggests, but the leap from “re-expressing” to original content is not too wide or insurmountable. If folks want to create, they can create without having to go to far afield in finding cleared or free content.

    Here is what I would ask us to work on: let’s carefully define the purpose of sharing and follow that through the thicket of rights. Especially with the BBC. If sharing leads to a substantial benefit for a definable public purpose (i.e. fighting poverty) then that should be the guiding point for both pursuing the collaboration, as well as modeling organizational behavior.

  9. Posted by Mike Dorey on Friday 24th October

    With regards ‘what the young folk are doing’ – This is (mostly) just theft, actually. Nor is it just related to ‘young’ people, actually. If you were to walk out of HMV with a DVD you hadn’t paid for, the ‘it’s fine – I’m going to create, and re-express’ argument wouldn’t get you very far.

    With regards ‘the purpose of sharing’ Will that include representations from content owners, contributors etc? I have no doubt there is a benefit for public purposes, *but* again, its not for us to say: It is for rights-holders and owners to decide. Perhaps not everyone *wants* their content shared. Fine: Thats their privilage – not ours.

  10. Posted by Why the BBC doesn’t share » Nieman Journalism Lab » Pushing to the Future of Journalism on Monday 27th October

    [...] web of circles and lines is BBC blogger Steve Bowbrick’s conception of what’s standing in the way of a more “open” BBC. There’s a discussion going on in the comments of Steve’s post, but a better one on the [...]

  11. Posted by Steve Bowbrick on Tuesday 28th October

    Mike, much as I respect creators in general I would challenge what you’re saying. We may legitimately judge that the rights of licence fee-payers and the interests of UK Plc trump the more narrowly-defined rights of creators – at least in some circumstances: for instance when works are older than a certain age or when enforcing rights would essentially be officious or wasteful. I’ve written about this here.

  12. Posted by knolleary » Blog Archive » Links for 2008-10-20 to 2008-11-06 on Thursday 6th November

    [...] BBC Common Platform: From my notebook – "Rights" is often used as the reason the BBC struggles to be more open with its content. As a part of his Common platform work, Steve points out that "there are other obstacles to sharing—many in fact. This chart is a first attempt at capturing all the reasons the BBC might come up with for not opening up…" [...]

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