Re: [Videolib] Digital Video Licensing

Gary Handman (
Wed, 18 Apr 2007 13:03:54 -0700

Hi Mark and others...

Thanks for the insightful and useful discussion, Mark. Think you're
spot-on (as the Brits would say) in most of what you've said.

The bifurcation of VOD content into didactic and archival is, I think, much
more complex and confusing than you've outline. This is particularly the
case for academic libraries, which serve a panoply of functions--from
providing standing collections "Just in Case", to providing materials used
in classroom instruction, "Just in Time." The difference between these
uses and the management issues surrounding these uses are almost always
fuzzy. In other words, in many academic collections, there really is no
clear distinction between didactic and archival uses and functions. I for
one, ALWAYS require a license in perpetuity (even tho such licenses are
often not available) for the simple reason that I really don't know how an
item is going to be used down the road. I can't say for certain what
instructors will require a year from now. And that outdated AIDS video
produced in 1987 may very well be of great interest to public policy and
public health folks twenty years after (for different reasons than when it
was originally bought).

One things that seems to be muddying waters at present (at least in
academe) is the fact that licenses are increasingly being brokered and
content administered not by libraries on campus, but by IT shops, which are
frequently assigned the task of acquiring and pushing video content out in
response to specific teaching needs--the DIDACTIC function, as you've put
it. The reason for this tendency is no mystery: it's because academic
libraries very often have chosen to stay out of the media game
altogether. I'm more than a little concerned that this trend may shape
market practice in the future: if vendors can get away with selling
limited term licenses because the largest market share is perfectly OK with
it, they'll most certainly do it.

Thanks again for the thoughts. Hope others will chime in.

Gary Handman

At 10:39 PM 4/12/2007, you wrote:
>Some thoughts on acquiring VOD content:
>Ok. so I'm late to the party on this one. The original post being 3/8/07.
>But I have some experience with this issue.
>We started negotiating VOD agreements with vendors in July 1999 and our
>first VOD server went up in December of that year. So for seven years
>(including post retirement consulting work) I had some first hand
>knowledge of the beginning of digital rights for non-theatrical video.
>First - Kudos to Mark Kopp for raising the issue of repurchasing the same
>content over and over again. I can't imagine why the textbook publisher
>haven't hit on that one yet . . .
>I remain puzzled why commentary on this list regarding VOD content is
>limited to a license arrangements. Some of our earliest agreements were
>"life of disc" or "life of file" purchases. For x dollars we could put a
>title on our VOD server and make it available to registered and password
>holding users for the life of the file. In most cases the vendor sold us a
>disc as the Master and we loaded it into the server. The content on the
>server is treated no differently than content in a box on a shelf. End of
>But there is another contract factor not discussed in the posts following
>Gary kicking off this thread. The VOD contract issue divides into two
>branches. For simplicity sake let's call the two branches Didactic content
>and Archival. You can plug in whatever taxonomy that suits your
>circumstances under these two headings.
>Archival content includes any title that is likely to be relevant or worth
>preserving beyond five years from its production date. Historic titles,
>social issue titles and documentaries fall into this column.
>Didactic content covers titles made with the intention of teaching
>something or raising awareness about something but with a limited shelf
>life. A series of titles on the Civil War produced in 1980 would be
>unacceptable as a teaching tool in 2007. Likewise a title on AIDS
>prevention produced in 1988 would be dated and ineffective in 2007.
>Now we have two distinct needs when it comes to a VOD license. A limited
>duration license and something approaching "perpetuity."
>I fall back on research done by a grad student at Brigham Young University
>about 30 years ago and repeated several times concerning the useful life
>span of an educational video title. The study concluded that the average
>life span was 5 to 7 years. Shorter for health titles, longer for
>literature and history titles. At the end of 7 years production values
>alone would render the content "dated" in the eyes of the students and
>detract from its usefulness. The studies were not well stratified for
>university level productions. But this is what we have to work with.
>So, it is not a big deal if you can only get a five year (or 7 year) VOD
>license for "teaching " titles in the collection.
>At the end of the term, 80 percent of the titles will no longer be in
>demand enough to justify continuing the license. Same if you purchased
>"life of file" rights. At the end of the service life of the title, it
>would be weeded anyway - thus the life of the file in this case would be 5
>to 7 years.
>Archival titles require a different RFP for a VOD license agreement.
>Something like a rolling purchase agreement may work with some vendors.
>Agree to purchase X dollars of new content (any format content) each year
>to maintain the continued VOD rights for N number of titles on your server.
>Even for a vendor where you only purchase a few titles each year - if they
>will grant a VOD license, you may have to pay something each year in
>exchange for the license and five titles to be named in alternate years.
>Kind of like a future draft choice.
>Or, for that matter, ask for a "life of file" contract for titles that you
>want to preserve in the VOD collection. Will you have to pay more than
>$79.95? You bet. But if the initial investment is ten times that - it's
>worth avoiding future paperwork and the value of the content being
>available to your clients.
>A word of caution on one year rights. You will be held hostage by the
>vendor. More than one state has gone with "statewide" VOD rights for a
>bundle of teaching titles - trained teachers how to use the system,
>promoted the service only to face a 30 to 50 percent hike in the contract
>cost for the following year. Then again the following year until the
>service became too costly and had to be dropped.
>Just as teachers were beginning to accept the VOD concept, and discovering
>the content, the system had to be abandoned. A loss of thousands of
>dollars. And unknowable damage to any future attempt to get a VOD system
>Go for "life of file/disc," or 5-7 year renewable contracts.
>Don't let vendors demand fees based on enrollment or numbers of downloads
>Don't buy into "box lot" bundles of content, clips, chapters or segments.
>Buying a package deal is not "selection."
>Ultimately the marketplace will decide which titles you can add to your
>VOD system. Some vendors see VOD rights like duplication rights - in the
>words on one Company president, "It's like selling air."
>Just don't deal with vendors who don't want to, or can't negotiate terms
>you can live with. And don't let them blame their pricing or duration
>limits on contracts with producers. VOD has been a viable product format
>in the industry for seven years. They can write new production contracts
>to accommodate VOD rights if they want.
>After seven years of living and breathing VOD, following the literature,
>consulting for VOD providers, training a couple of thousand teachers ,
>arguing with content suppliers, and reading this list; I am even more
>convinced that University and Regional Media Centers who wish to go VOD
>should buy their own servers and buy or license their own content.
>It's not as difficult as the uninitiated might expect. And hardware cost
>is the least of the budget issues to be considered.
>This is an amazing listserv. The variety of topics covered and the depth
>of informed discussion makes this a professional treasure house.
>Being a media library manager is a great profession - if you don't weaken
>. . .
>As always -
>Mark Richie
>Professional Iconoclast
>"We still live in a country where anyone can grow up and become President,
>but then that's the chance you take." - Adlai Stevenson, congressman,
>statesman, UN ambassador during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
>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.

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

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.