Paula Le Dieu on Providing The Fuel for a Creative Nation: With Joint Director of the BBC Creative Archive

As a follow up to our piece on the Creative Commons licensing of the BBC’s Creative Archive, we were fortunate to get an interview with Paula Le Dieu, Joint Director on the BBC Creative Archive project.

Why the Creative Commons licence?
The first thing to make really clear, is that this point in time we are heavily inspired by Creative Commons in terms of the approach that we are taking with our licence. We sincerely hope that we will end up with a Creative Commons licence, but there is a possibility that we will go with a separate licence, with the very real aim to make it at least interoperable.

Was it because the decision content has been paid for by the public, so should be there for the public to use?
We didn’t start from that premise. We started from the premise that we had this fabulous archive and we had a requirement in our last charter, the one that we’re currently operating in, that expressly asks us to open up our archive. There had always been a strong feeling that we hadn’t done that as well as we could. There were many reasons for that, but with the advent of what was seen as more sustainable distribution mechanisms and technologies that would allow us to digitise and distribute that content in a sustainable way, the organisation began to feel that there was an opportunity to genuinely open the archive up and make it more accessible. In doing that it wasn’t a significant leap to think about what people might want to do with this material. Once we started to think about what people might want to do with this material, we then started to realise that one of the key values of this material was as fuel for the creative endeavours of the nation.

Once you start to understand that you want to provide the building blocks, you want to provide the fuel for creativity, the next question that comes up is “How on Earth do you allow people access and licence that material in ways that allow them to be able create their own derivative works?”

Of course, at roughly the same time we were thinking about this the folks at Creative Commons were thinking around trying to come up with alternative licensing frame works that would facilitate precisely that kind of activity. It was a really nice meeting of minds there.

What do you think the BBC’s adoption of this licence for its Creative Archive might mean for Creative Commons?
I would be purely speculating. What I would hope that it would mean for Creative Commons and indeed for other alternative frameworks is that with the BBC undertaking this activity and with the BBC thinking seriously about using alternative frameworks that we add a legitimacy to it, that we add this notion that being able to access content in ways that are facilitated by Creative Commons-like licences we are actually providing this fuel for creativity. It’s not just about people wanting to get content for free.

What do you think the BBC’s initiative will mean to other content owners and broadcaster? How do you think it will influence them?
From our perspective we’d be delighted if there were other people out there in the industry who felt they could take the same step. We hope that many will follow, and potentially overtake us – we hope we provide both the inspiration for others to think seriously about whether this is something that they can and would do, and pragmatically share our own learning and experience with the industry such that they can perhaps feel more confident to take that step.
Hopefully this will prompt content providers to be as generous with their content as the BBC, particularly in a world where companies are being more restrictive over what can be done with content, though licensing and DRM.This is where frameworks like Creative Commons are so powerful because they offer alternatives. They’re not going to be appropriate for everybody, but they do give alternative and people can see a different way of doing things.

What’s next for the Creative Archive?
At this point in time, the next step is to get some content out there, and we’re hoping to do that in September. There are a whole raft of areas that we need to cover off in order to do that and I think the licence is a really significant part of that. We have a number of production areas that we need to address in house also, we need to digitise the content and we need to think about how we’re going to distribute that content. The next big step for me is to get some content out!

What’s the distribution channel going to be? Are you going to build an massive extranet somewhere?
Initially, we are going to utilise the existing bandwidth that the BBC has available and not focus too heavily on setting up new or expanded infrastructure. Partly this reflects our interest in how audiences are going to use this material rather than trialling or experimenting with new technologies for the BBC.

For you personally, what’s the most exciting part of the archive? What are you most excited about seeing made available for people to use?
This is such a difficult question! It’s difficult for me because there are so many areas that I find thrilling around the Creative Archive. The licensing side of this is one of those areas that I never cease to be amazed and thrilled by. The depth of thinking that is taking place at the moment around alternative licensing frameworks really does start to point to a brave new world. At the other end of it, what that licence facilitates is a new way of the BBC engaging with its audiences and much more importantly, an new way for BBC audiences to be engaging with BBC material. With the Creative Archive, perhaps for the first time, not just invites but actively encourages our audiences to be part of the creative process. That for me is a really wonderful idea – the idea that we’re providing the fuel for a creative nation.

The BBC on the Creative Archive

Creative Commons

Media Center Xbox 2 On the Cards?

Microsoft has been investigating options for a new variant in its Xbox games console line, and it might be bringing out a version that’s a PVR/PC hybrid.

Working with the B/R/S Group, a California-based marketing research company, Microsoft have been conducting focus groups and research on what they’re calling the Xbox Next PC. The proposed unit has a hard disk and CD burner and is a proper PC running Windows.

Microsoft were keen to emphasise that the Xbox was not a PC when it first appeared, but are perhaps happier to blur this distinction now that multifunction home media centres such as Sony’s PSX are gaining coverage. Microsoft’s XNA software solution, enabling easier porting of software between DirectX platforms may make this goal even easier to achieve.

It may be that when XBox Next finally appears, there will be two variants: the next generation Xbox console, and its PC/PVR/console cousin. However, poor sales of the PSX in Japan and lack of US/European launch dates for the console may show the concept to be a bit of a lemon.

For some reason the Xbox Next PC reminds me a bit of those Amstrad PCs you could buy with a MegaDrive built in. Hmmmm – eBay.

B/R/S groups – making life complicated for URLs

The Amstrad MegaDrive Computer

BT to Offer Itemised Broadband Bills

BT Wholesale will be offering itemised bills to its customers from 28th May. Subscribers will be able to view each user’s time spent online and the amount of bandwidth used.

“Previously, BT wholesale gave service providers the start and stop time for each user. With the improved functionality, we are able to record a breakdown of the bytes used both upstream and downstream,” said a spokesperson for BT Wholesale.

BT 100 Music Stores and Climbing

With over a 100 online stores and more to come, the music download business is certainly booming. It seems that everyone has one – from Oxfam to Coca Cola.

To celebrate it’s first birthday, has published a directory of the legal music download sites and stores on the web today, and it demonstrates just how the industry has grown in just a year.

Twelve months ago, when launched, there were 20 sites, with an catalogue of about 200,000 tracks. Now that number is over a hundred, and the major sites have catalogues of more than 500,000 tracks – as more and more distribution deals are made, that particular number will rise dramatically. has launched sister sites in Germany, France and Italy to reach internet users around the world.

Jay Berman, Chairman and CEO of the IFPI said in a statement: “Pro-music has achieved over twelve months what its founding alliance partners intended it to be – a successful international educational campaign about online music. Pro-music is supported across the music sector, has attracted tens of thousands of visitors and rolled out in national versions in French, German and Italian. The site spells out in clear and simple terms the legal and copyright concerns around online music. It explains the fight against internet piracy. And, above all, it has tracked the surge of new legitimate services that have come on stream in the last year. Pro-music has a vital role to play in improving awareness in this area, and there seems no doubt that the second year of the campaign will be even more important than the first.”

California Approves “Anti-GMail” Bill

The California state senate has approved Liz Figueroa’s email privacy bill, with some revision. “My legislation guarantees that our most private communications will remain just that – private,” said Senator Figueroa.

The bill was revised at the last minute – it originally required ISPs to seek permission before scanning emails. As it stands, e-mail and instant messaging providers can scan emails to build a profile for delivering adverts, but must abide by strict limits on how the data is used. The data cannot be shared, kept or shown to a “natural person”. We take this to mean that humans are not allowed to peek at your mail, but bots can. GMail now has to permanently delete any email at the request of a subscriber.

Anti-spam and virus filtering are covered in the bill, and as this is done automatically by software agents, it has never really been a privacy issue.


International Workshop On Saving Energy In Set-Top Boxes

The International Energy Agency is pleased to host a workshop examining the energy efficiency of set-top boxes – the term used to describe a wide range of products that allow televisions to receive digital broadcast signals, connect to the internet, or perform a host of other multi-media functions. IEA, Paris, France

Napster Canada Launches

Racing out music stores globally to get in ahead of iTunes, Napster have launched their Canadian service. It’s exactly the same as the others – with the small exception that it’s much cheaper than the UK store. Yet again.

Tracks start at CAN$1.19 (€0.72) and the subscription is CAN$9.95 (€5.98), compared to the UK costs of UK£1.09 (€1.64) per track and UK£9.95 (€14.90) for a subscription.

Confident pricing, eh? Yes, they have sales tax in Canada, it runs at about 14%, dependent on where you live – so VAT is not to blame.

Since we can be fairly certain that Napster UK realise that their customers have access to the internet and can check prices and do conversions, I wonder what their thinking is with making the UK store twice as expensive as all the others?

If anyone at Napster would care to email with an explanation, I’d be delighted to give them a voice here.

N-Gage QD Ships

Nokia has announced that the N-Gage QD mobile gaming phone has started shipping in Europe. The QD is a extensive revision of the original N-Gage console, and contains a number of new features and improvements, including better multiplayer features, rethought controls and a display that may not actually blind you after prolonged use.

The price begins at a startlingly cheap €49.99 (US$60.77) with a contract, in some markets.

The QD is backwardly compatible with older N-Gage titles, and Nokia are promising another 50 new games by the end of the year.

With competition from Nintendo’s DS and Sony’s PSP imminent, the QD will have to rely on its multiplayer online functions to survive. Nokia are putting a lot of faith in their N-Gage Arena service to connect gamers and build a fan community. Quality, high exposure titles like Sims Online (which is essentially like handing people crack, isn’t it?) and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 will no doubt help to achieve this.

We will have the definitive review of the console here shortly, once we’ve given the console a thorough going over.

Nokia’s N-Gage QD

Intel’s New Approach to Selling Chips

Microprocessors are old news – they’re now so mainstream that it’s no longer a surprise to see them advertised on television or on billboards, as it was ten or fifteen years ago. Intel know that it’s just them and AMD in the consumer processor market – and now that you can’t win on clock speed, cache size or bus width any more, they need to make their products appear different and sexy to make those billboards interesting again. Let’s face it all those claims about clock speed were dubious anyway – there are too many factors involved and now that AMD don’t even bother publicising processor speeds, it makes a nonsense out of comparisons (that’s right – your Athlon 2800 doesn’t run at anything like 2.8gHz. That’s just a marketing number to make you think it does).

Cue a new shift in Intel’s product emphasis – it’s not the processor, it’s the chip set. Intel now want you to see the benefits of having a motherboard built round their platform. Now that chip sets are working harder for their money, being the gateway to your PC’s multimedia and communications features, Intel want you to know about it.

Grantsdale is heading your way in June, and is pitched to lead a new generation of entertainment PCs. Just the sort of thing that Intel want to see sitting in your living room.

Marketing a processor just wouldn’t give Intel the clout they need to displace other pieces of consumer electronics in the living room – they need to show the full range of functions that a chip set can perform to show that you’re going to be getting the DVD playback, encoding, games and internet performance that will merit a space under your television.

Grantsdale integrates a lot of features that would previously require more electronics to pull off – including Dolby audio and 3D graphics, allowing PC manufacturers to build smaller, cheaper, quieter boxes.

Intel will be spending a huge amount of money to make sure you know why chipsets are important and why you would want one of theirs. As AMD have no visibility in this area, they’re going to have to come up with something fast.

Oh, and apparently, Intel are making a special effort to train retail salespeople in Grantsdale’s benefits. I look forward to some amusing conversations with the staff in Dixons in the summer then.

More news on Grantsdale as it appears.

Intel’s Chipsets

Music Price Wars – But What About Ringtones?

Just why are ringtones so expensive? Don’t get me wrong here: I hate them, but there is a huge discrepancy between the cost of downloading a music track and downloading a new ringtone for that phone that’s you’ll probably only own for a month. Often the ringtone will cost more than the entire original song it is based upon.

Consultancy firm Informa have published a report on the state of the ringtone market, and it looks like it’s all the music companies’ fault.

A ringtone based on a sample from a track can set you back up to four times the cost of downloading the whole song from iTunes – the cost is inflated because record labels require royalties of between 25 and 55% of the cost of the ringtone.

For example a track off iTunes will cost you about €1.50 (US$1.82 – nearly twice as much as the US store. I’m sure that’s justified) when the site appears suddenly next month, yet downloading a ringtone can cost a staggering €6 (US$7.30). And thank you T-Mobile UK, for that confident pricing. How much pocket money do kids get paid these days anyway?

“The reseller is really between a rock and a hard place,” said Simon Dyson, a co-author of the report. “They are torn between raising the price or keeping it steady in the hopes of establishing a market. Demanding such high percentage rates by the record companies could certainly lead to the market being depressed.”

Depressed? That’s nothing compared to what will happen when phones are released that can just play an MP3 file as the ringtone – then commuter-bothering phone owners won’t have to buy anything at all. Then the US$3 billion (€3.6 billion) market will vanish over night – instead of growing to the US$5 billion (€8.5 billion) monster it’s expected to be by 2007.

Incidentally, I know some pandas who have a really good ringtone album out.

Informa Media Group