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Video Culture: The Potential Reshaping Of The Online Video Landscape

There's a curious event going on at the New York University School of Law today and Saturday.

The Open Video Conference is a newly-formed event series focused on the Free and Open Source Software (OSS or FLOSS, depending on who you talk to) that addresses both the technical and social impacts of video on the web. The Open Video Conference, sponsored by the Open Video Alliance, is a bit of a clarion call to all those who have been working away at open source video applications but have not had a chance to speak to one another.

As with open source software, proponents tend to run a bit toward the counter-culture side, with the crowd leaning more toward body piercings than suits: A typically hyperbolic t-shirt, put out by Kaltura—one of the prime movers behind the Open Video Alliance—shows the progression from free speech (1791) through to free voting (1965) and free software (1983) up until the current year, proclaiming 2009 as the year of Free Video.

I remember early Streaming Media shows, back in the 1997-1999 timeframe, had similar discussions and a similar clientele, but those events have morphed over the years into mainly a business/enterprise focus, prompting others to start up shows like NewTeeVee Live and this newer Open Video show. Yet for all the counterculture vibe in the halls of NYU, the fact that this event is being held in a law building on the south side of Washington Square in New York City means that the Creative Commons topics and copyright are being being discussed widely, even within the open source community.

Other topics covered are fairly diverse, though, ranging from how to compete with piracy ("copy them, give it away for free, build something they can't copy, live close to the border as William Fox did when he and a few friends created Hollywood," sayd Matt Mason, author of The Pirate's Dilemma) to open source metadata projects that are being pitched as partially-completed visions that need additional hands to grow into completion, or at least a 0.9 release.

All that to say that there is an underlying sense of the need to simultaneously addressing the "business" issues as well as the social issues.

One presentation encapsulated all of this quite nicely. Ross Harley, Head of School of Media Arts, University of New South Wales (Sydney) presented a session titled "Open Circuits to Open Video: Can Video Artists Adopt Open Video Srategies as Their Own?"

Harley started out with a quote from 1973, attributed to Nam June Paik, an early video artist, which said, in part that the video "cassette will diversify the video culture from. . . . three networks, one-way communication to . . . mobile two-way video communication."

Harley went on to talk about the early Open Circuits and Participation TV concepts from the 1970s and 1980s, which were about sharing and openness, and his position that these early attempts helps clarify the Open Source movement and find their echo in FLOSS or open source, today.

"Creative Commons is one of the best tools we have, today, to address open source video distribution," said Harley. "The difficulties lie, in very real concerns, about the assignation of rights and ways for the distribution organizations and artists alike. What will it mean if we make art freely available via the web, if artists make no money?"

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