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

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?