Re: crazy idea

Ben Achtenberg (
Thu, 21 Nov 2002 14:04:44 -0800 (PST)

Hi Lloyd --

Not a crazy idea at all, but maybe I could offer some alternative
approaches you might think about.

First of all Fanlight has worked out arrangements with some of the
California colleges on pretty much the same guidelines you've outlined
below, so I think you're pretty much on target there. Our concern is to be
sure that schools don't take our agreement as an open-ended license to make
copies, and that the captioned copy is a replacement for, not an addition
to, the originally purchased copy. And we do insist on having a signed
agreement in place.

HOWEVER, one big problem we see with this approach is that the captioned
copies are generally being made from the VHS tapes originally purchased by
these schools, which means that the video and audio quality are likely to
be considerably degraded. If another school were then to request a copy
from the FIRST copy, under your scheme, the quality would be deteriorated
yet again. In fairness to ourselves and to the producers of our films (and
to your students), we would have a hard time agreeing to allow this to
happen. For the same reason, it would not be an incentive to us to have
you send us a captioned copy, as the quality would not be adequate for any
purposes we might have.

So, for the sake of discussion, here are a couple of alternative
possibilities. Either one of them would yield captioned copies that are
equal in quality to the original VHS:

1) If any of the colleges in your system are equipped to do a high-quality
job of captioning, using a professional tape format, we (and maybe other
distributors as well) might be willing to loan them a master copy of the
program in return for getting a captioned master back. We would then be
able to provide captioned copies not just to your schools but to others as

2) If, through your efforts at coordination, you could determine that a
reasonable number of schools were interested in the same film, and were
willing to pay a modest premium over the standard price of the program, you
could probably make it worth our while to have the program professionally
captioned at our own expense. I'm not sure what the amount would be, but I
would guess that we could come up with something that would defray a fair
proportion of the captioning cost while costing each school significantly
less than the time and labor they would put into making their own captioned

Finally, I do want to point out that we're adding new captioned titles all
the time and will shortly be announcing newly captioned versions of nine or
ten of our previously-released programs.

As I hope you're aware, most distributors share your interest in making as
many captioned films available as possible. Everything Fanlight produces
in-house is captioned, and we try to get our other producers to caption
their works as well, but it's expensive. With regard to our older films,
it's especially hard to justify the cost when we cannot predict future sales.

If it does nothing else, the kind of data collection and coordinating
effort you're planning should be a great help to all of us in estimating
future demand. It's great to see somebody coming at a problem like this
with respect for the legitimate concerns of all the parties involved. I'll
be following your progress with interest.

Ben Achtenberg

At 12:08 PM 11/21/02 -0800, you wrote:
>I appologize for duplication, I'm sending this to several lists.
> I have this crazy idea. I'm thinking about trying to get a grant
> for
>it, but I want some input from more people to see if there might be
>problems I don't anticipate. I work at Irvine Valley College Library.
>My idea is for coordinating the closed captioning of videos in college
> The problem is that college libraries are required to add closed
>captions to their videos based on Section 504, and Section 508 of the
>Rehabilitation Act, and Title II of ADA. Currently California is
>craking down on colleges to actually do this (Title 5 and AB 422).
>Other states may follow suit, but for now this may only effect
>California colleges.
> Many colleges are all starting up projects to do this. Many
> colleges
>own copies of the same videos, and if they are not coordinated the same
>work will be repeated many times in different colleges.
> My thought is that a single organization, perhaps a college,
>could do two things to help. First, we could create a database of the
>videos that other colleges have captioned. When a college needs a
>captioned version of a video, they would use the database to find and
>contact the college that has done the work, and get a copy from them for
> The other thing this organization would try to do is centralize
>and simplify getting copyright permission. I would like to ask the
>video copyright holders to allow this organization of colleges blanket
>permission to make copies of their videos within certain guidelines.
>Those guidelines would be that we would not make copies of videos that
>are available for sale in closed captioned versions. We would not make
>a copy of a video unless the recipient of the copy already owned a
>non-closed captioned version of the video. The recipient of the
>captioned version would destroy their non-captioned version. Perhaps
>some other guidelines would be necessary to get the copyright holders to
> Another thing we could offer the copyright holders is copies of
>the videos with captions that the colleges create. They could then use
>them to make captioned version for sale.
> If the copyright holders still won't go along, perhaps the law
> could be
>changed to allow such a process without their permission.
> I know about the High Tech Center Training Unit. They have a
> database
>like the one I'm proposing, but it is very small (650 videos), and their
>purpose seems to be simply to facilitate ILL (which really just
>duplicates OCLC), not to distribute copies. If they are duplicating
>OCLC, wouldn't my project duplicate OCLC in a way? I wonder if this
>could be done with OCLC somehow?
> Does this sound like a good idea? Is it realistic? Do you see
>problems? Do you have suggestions? Who should I contact for more
>Lloyd Chittenden
>Library Technician
>Irvine Valley College Library
>5500 Irvine Center Dr.
>Irvine, CA 92618
>Phone: (949) 451-5712

Ben Achtenberg / Fanlight Productions
4196 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02131
(617) 469-4999 Fax: (617) 469-3379