Al Jazeera has started to share some of its footage of the military conflict in Gaza under a liberal Creative Commons license that allows commercial reuse and remixing. The clips are made available as broadcast-quality MPEG1 downloads as well as blip.tv streams. Al Jazeera’s Gaza footage is supposed to be the start of a extended Creative Commons depository that will eventually feature various Creative Commons-licensed clips.
The project is notable for two reasons: No TV network, to our knowledge, has ever allowed its audience as well as its competition to reuse any of its footage commercially under the terms of a Creative Commons license. The importance of this initiative gets underscored by the fact that Israel has been banning foreign media organizations from Gaza, which makes the Al Jazeera footage even more valuable.
Al Jazeera’s Creative Commons repository features a handful of videos, each between 10 and 16 minutes long, that chronicle the conflict day by day. The footage is provided without any commentary and consists of various on-scene shots of destroyed houses and infrastructure, as well as some graphic pictures of wounded children and adults, with the occasional eyewitness account in Arabic mixed in. All of the clips feature Al Jazeera’s logo.
The Creative Commons attribution license used by Al Jazeera mandates that any reuse of the material clearly references the network as the original rights holder, but doesn’t come with any further restrictions. A few broadcasters around the world have been experimenting with Creative Commons and similar licensing schemes in the past, but most of these experiments utilize far more restrictive terms.
German public broadcaster NDR, for example, has been publishing some of its coverage under a Creative Commons license that doesn’t allow any commercial reuse or remixes. The BBC’s Creative Archive depends on even stricter licensing terms that only allow use and reuse of the content within the UK.
So what’s in it for Al Jazeera? The network won’t make any money from others reusing this footage, but it may win a few more eyeballs. Al Jazeera has been struggling to gain a foothold in the U.S. market, where it is largely ignored by cable companies and is still fighting the perception of being a propaganda network.
It tries to bypass the cable gatekeepers by actively embracing online video outlets like YouTube and Livestation. Sneaking Al Jazeera’s logo into as much of the current Gaza coverage as possible with the help of these Creative Commons licenses could prove to be a valuable step toward winning America’s heart and minds.