The Association for Information and Media Equipment has announced that it has sued UCLA because it allows students access to streaming video that UCLA has made available to its students. This lawsuit is the result of an ongoing battle between UCLA and this organization of whether UCLA’s decision to permit student access via streaming video is consistent with the fair use exception to the U.S. Copyright law.
It is ironic that this lawsuit was filed the week after I lead a discussion of Web 2.0 and Plagiarism at the DET/CHE conference last week. One of the discussants mentioned the dispute between UCLA and AIME and noted that AIME’s purpose (creating educational video for sale and use) was negated if educational institutions would be permitted to stream the video. Pricing models for video were traditionally based on how many copies of the video were purchased and if only one was purchased, then would not be profitable to make (and sell) the video.
This dispute is reminiscent of the issue faced by music manufacturers after digital music was available. After peer-to-peer sharing networks were created, music manufacturers could not longer force customers to purchase an entire album of music to obtain a song or two that they liked. iTunes and others recognized that there was a market in selling songs individually and as albums. Although the iTunes model did not solve all the problems of illegal downloads, it was certainly a practical alternative for those customers who wanted to obtain the music legally and did not want to purchase an entire album.
So perhaps the pricing model should change. In the article Who’s Right on Video Copyright, the author suggested that videos should be sold by the use (e.g. so that students pay each time they watch the streaming video). Another model might be to encourage institutions to collaborate to help pay for the video (through mini-grants, for example) and those institutions would have access to the streaming video. Another might be to commission institutions who have media majors to create professional videos and compensate students and others to create those videos. A combination of these and other approaches might result in educator access to videos and profits for the video producers. Reliance on the traditional pricing model when technology has changed the way institutions and individuals gain access to videos seems misplaced.