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IJF10: Moheed Ahmad on Why AlJazeera Releases News Video Material under a Creative Commons license

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Moeed Ahmad: It started in 2007. Larry Lessig - he is the founder of Creative Commons - we had invited him to come speak at our Annual Forum, which is normally where issues regarding journalism and media are discussed. Normally, we would have seasoned journalists and new journalists and they discuss issues regarding the profession. For that particular year, we had invited Lawrence Lessig, who is not a journalist by profession. In fact, he is a lawyer. We invited him and we had him do the keynote to start our Forum. It was one of the most inspiring speeches I had heard to that point. He talked about holding on to the ideals of the Founding Fathers of the United States - he is an American citizen - and he's talking about freedom of expression and access to information. He was saying that his own country is sort of letting go those ideals. He was challenging us as Al Jazeera, who are positioned within the Middle East, and we position ourselves to be giving voice to the voiceless - particularly the economic self. He said: "Some form of your content should be freely available for people to consume, to interact and to understand the situation that we report, the areas that we report on." He challenged us, and then as a consequence to that - because subsequently, what we did was making a commitment at the iSummit, which is a conference that happened in Japan - we said: "We are going to release about 10 hours of footage every year under Creative Commons license." That was a commitment made. We were still looking at what is the process, how would you release it, because nobody else was doing that at such a scale at that point. Then the Gaza War started. We were put in this unique position where we had the only English international language channel, with reporters in presence in the conflict zone in Gaza. Journalists from outside were not allowed in. The Israelis had blocked off access. In a conflict situation which interests the whole World, and you are sitting on this content which you are generating, the situation lent itself to releasing it, to letting people have access to it, because there is a need for that information to flow. In that situation - because public opinion is what many times is going to influence how sometimes the World plays out - we lobbied with the government We said: "We made this commitment, let us do this bold step of releasing anything and everything our cameras are capturing during the situation and release it so other broadcasters, who will not be able to contact us and say: "Can we buy this footage?" - which is the traditional way of doing it - and just put it up on the Internet, broadcast quality, so they can take it and don't feel any obligation, which would hinder them to be able to use that footage." We managed to get that approval, and then for the duration of the conflict, anything that was coming in, we created a repository at and we postedour content over there, we put our transcripts and we released it under the BY license - which essentially only requires attribution. All you have to say is that is from Al Jazeera, and you can do whatever you like. Robin Good: The typical reaction from a traditional broadcaster would be: "Oh, but then somebody is going to pick it up and say whatever they want with it!" Moeed Ahmad: That is part of letting go. I know that from an editorial perspective that is something that people would grapple with quite a lot, but in a situation like this, you want the enabling factor. Empowering factor is so much more needed, that these risks are minimal. When you allow the community to take control of the narrative, more than likely they will do justice to it. With attribution, people can still come back and if they want to see the unedited footage, they can see that on the Al Jazeera repository. So I think, those risks were minimal and mitigated. Robin Good: If I was the RAI president - Italian state television main channel - would you advise me to take the same approach - for example, with the news material we produce - or would you not? Moeed Ahmad: Every time, when we present this story, our repository, people say: "But I am a freelancer and this is my bread and butter, if I do this I would not make any money." The idea is not to say: "Everybody must do as Al Jazeera did." The idea is to start exploring the idea, understanding it to begin with. The idea of Creative Commons is not a new idea. The idea of "all rights reserved", the copyright is a new idea. This is not longer about 100 years old. Before, in the 18-19th century, this was not something that was common. The people, artists would take from other artists, and build on it and distribute their content, based on the value they added and they would get recognized as such. The copyright issue, which came as a need of the time, evolved to this state we are in right now. But the media landscape is changing again. The Internet brought a huge shift, also the political changes that are happening and how information can and is disseminated now. This shift is happening again and Creative Commons is again becoming a need. So in terms of - you see, you just need to see what's the best application And I can say, even for private, like commercially-driven organizations, why not to try it with, let's say, not all your content? nobody - even ourselves, we are not doing it for everything. We did it within a particular event, Subsequently we have done it with a particular content that's been requested of us. Take an approach, try it, take, let's say one program that you are not going to make a lot of money on. Consider it as a marketing budget. Why not? Robin Good: Why, as a last point, don't you touch a little bit on these unconventional marketing aspects? Maybe on what are the not immediate benefits of taking such an approach? Moeed Ahmad: Right now, still at this point, very few people have done this. So, if you are going to do it, you are going to get a buzz. There is definite a marketing benefit to any brand that tries to or experiments with this. Then also for us - for example - beware of the situation in the Arab world where the journalism, the media profession is not very old. You had decades and decades since the colonization has ended. It has been a State-run media. So you don't have the same quality of journalists that you would have in other parts of the world, where you have free press and you had journalists who built this profession, and so the standards are there, the quality is there. In the Arab world, you do not have that. So this allows us to enable budding journalists to be able to take some content, experiment with it, train and they will have that relationship with us. So let's say, next year, the year after when these people become professional journalists, they will know that Al Jazeera has this sort of open ground and some already may be interested in working for us. So you, very early on, build that relationship with hopefully some of the brightest people in the industry, who are home-grown. An I think that benefit is not something you can put a monetary value on. Robin Good: Great. Why do not you just say in the camera: "I am Moeed Ahmad of...". Just your business card. Moeed Ahmad: OK. Sure. My name is Moeed Ahmad for Al Jazeera. I am heading the New Media section within Al Jazeera. Recorded by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia. First published on April 28th, 2010.

Video Details

Duration: 7 minutes and 59 seconds
Country: Italy
Language: English
Producer: Luigi Canali De Rossi (Robin Good)
Director: Luigi Canali De Rossi (Robin Good)
Views: 146
Posted by: calmansi on May 1, 2010

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"RobinGood — 26 avril 2010 — Moeed Ahmad, head of the new media department of AlJazeera, explains how his TV channel arrived at the decision to release under a Creative Commons license part of his news, broadcast quality, video material. Interviewed by Robin Good at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy."

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