Re: [Videolib] Digital Video Licensing

M. Claire Stewart (
Thu, 8 Mar 2007 15:35:49 -0600


I agree with you wholeheartedly and thank you for
setting this out so clearly. Recent history
indicates to me that libraries shift from a
buy/own to a subscribe/rent model at our
financial peril, and the subsequent reduction of
our purchasing power puts our user populations at
a significant long-term disadvantage.

I do not know what the "right" solution is. I
believe all of us on this list from the library
side are invested in, and concerned about, the
future of the independent distributors. I am sure
they feel the same way about us. At this point I
vastly prefer model B to all of the others,
assuming these are our only options, but I don't
feel that any of them are particularly compelling
and all carry us down the path of paying more and
getting less. When the VOD services come with
robust analysis tools, text, shape, color and
other feature search, annotation and bookbag-type
features, very clear fair use provisions for
students writing papers and course reserves, and,
as you say, regular updates and additions, I
might feel differently. Maybe.

I suspect some on this list feel the idea that
they could ever have a locally-hosted video
delivery service is absurd, and will require
resources beyond what would ever be reasonable,
but many schools felt that way 10 years ago (or
even 5) about text e-reserves.


At 10:08 AM -0800 3/8/07, Gary Handman wrote:
>Some Thoughts on Digital Licensing for Video
>Because Berkeley is on the cusp of trying out
>on-demand delivery of portions of its video
>collection, I’ve been doing a lot of talking and
>thinking about the issue of digital licensing of
>video content. It is apparent that the
>non-theatrical VOD marketplace is, at very best,
>immature and confused (and confusing) regarding
>economic models for VOD delivery. A number of
>models seem to be shaking out:
>A. Content maintained on vendor’s remote server
>and licensed annually or semi-annually based on
>number of titles selected, institutional
>head-count, or number of synchronous users. I’m
>not aware of any vendors offering flat annual
>licenses for unlimited institutional access to
>vendor-maintained VOD servers.
>B. Content encoded by vendor in one or more of
>several formats (Windows Media, QuickTime,
>mpeg4, etc.), and licensed for in-perpetuity use
>for a flat fee (e.g. Films Media Group).
>Variable licensing fees based on whether or not
>the institution has bought the licensed title in
>previous formats (tape or DVD). In some
>instances, fees may be based on number of titles
>licensed. In this model, client is responsible
>for uploading and maintaining these files on
>local server. (Client may also be required to
>transcode files-e.g. from mpeg4 to a streamable
>C. Above model but with term licensing:
>licensing for a set period of time, usually one
>to five years. At the end of the term, licenses
>must be renegotiated.
>D. Distributor offers digital licensing rights
>alone-i.e. without supplying the source files.
>Institution is responsible for encoding off of
>DVD or tape and uploading to local server.
>Either in-perpetuity or term licensing.
>E. Jon Miller of First Run/Icarus has suggested
>a model in which an entire catalog of a
>distributor (including new additions) is
>licensed annually for a flat fee. Not aware
>that one is actually putting this model into play
>F. Content encoded and delivered to client by
>an outside vendor which does not have control or
>rights over the content. Annual or per-title
>service costs. Examples of this type of service
>is CDigix ( These types
>of firms seem to be geared largely toward the
>delivery of content (including feature films)
>for higher ed teaching and learning (course
>reserve viewing, learning management systems,
>etc.). Many of these firms claim such use
>constitutes fair use or throw the issue of
>rights clearance on the shoulders of the client.
>Since I think that, at least in the short run,
>the models C or D above are likely to be the
>most common, I’d like to offer a few opinions
>about it. In my book, the requirement for
>periodic licensing of video content (as opposed
>to in-perpetuity licensing) is both impractical
>and unwarranted in terms of fair market
>practices. I’ve occasionally heard vendors
>compare term licensing of VOD content to
>licensing of journal databases and other online
>text resources. There really is no direct
>comparison. Journal databases, which offer
>indexing and full-text journals, are maintained
>remotely by a vendor and offer a content base
>which is continually growing. In some
>instances, online access to specific ejournals
>or aggregates of ejournals is provided at no
>cost if an institution subscribes to the print
>version of the publication(s). The licensing
>model for ejournals varies widely, from being on
>institutional head-count to flat fee annual
>VOD licensing is a considerably different
>matter. Once purchased by an institution, a
>physical tape or DVD, may be circulated or shown
>ad infinitum (or until the physical piece
>disintegrates) to individual viewers and
>classroom groups. If I need to show this to
>groups outside of the classroom, I can purchase
>PPR-a one shot cost. In most cases, once a
>distributor sells a title (or a few copies of
>it) to an institution, that’s pretty much the
>end of that sale (except for replacements, and
>these are usually discounted). It is,
>consequently, unclear to me why I would be
>expected to “re-buy” the same title every year
>or two or three in digital form, particularly if
>I already own a tape or DVD of the titles in
>question. It’s not as if digital distribution
>is cutting into potential future sales of that
>title to my institution. There is no continuing
>maintenance or labor cost to the distributor for
>titles licensed for VOD. (There ARE, however,
>substantial costs to the client in model D
>above: the institution must invest in
>technology and staff to locally-encode and serve
>the material). In fact, the cost to
>distributors of tracking and administering term
>licenses would seem to be substantially higher
>than the one-time gambit of in-perpetuity
>Unlike ejournal databases, the only added value
>to the digital product from year to year is the
>convenience of 24/7 access. (I could go into a
>long and tedious screed here about the current
>inferiority of digitally-delivered images
>compared to DVD or even tape, but I’ll refrain).
>I have a feeling that in many cases the model of
>term VOD licensing has been put into play simply
>because digital sounds new and sexy and that
>period licenses sound economically safer than
>licensing the files “forever”. I also think
>that there is yawning gap between the needs and
>outlook of video librarians vested with
>selecting, maintaining, and delivering standing
>collections and the needs of instructional tech
>players on campuses vested with “point-of-need”
>delivery of classroom content. (The latter
>probably wouldn’t blink at the concept of term
>In any case, your thoughts and comments would be interesting and appreciated!
>Gary Handman
>Gary Handman
>Media Resources Center
>Moffitt Library
>UC Berkeley
>"In societies where modern conditions of
>production prevail, all of life presents itself
>as an immense accumulation of spectacles."
>--Guy Debord

M. Claire Stewart
Acting Head, Marjorie I. Mitchell Multimedia Center
Coordinator of Digitization Projects, Northwestern University Library
(847) 467-1437

VIDEOLIB is intended to encourage the broad and lively discussion of issues relating to the selection, evaluation, acquisition,bibliographic control, preservation, and use of current and evolving video formats in libraries and related institutions. It is hoped that the list will serve as an effective working tool for video librarians, as well as a channel of communication between libraries,educational institutions, and video producers and distributors.