“Rights stuff”: how the World Cup is undermining Al Jazeera Sport popularity in the Arab world

Palestinians are switching off Al Jazeera and switching on Israeli TV. The incredible move has occurred for one reason only: football. As reported by AFP yesterday, more and more Palestinians are buying Israeli TV subscriptions to follow the Word Cup. A subscription to Israeli TV costs 25 dollars, against the 100 boxes asked by Al Jazeera Sport.

Many polemics arose all across the Arab world at the time when Al Jazeera announced to have bought exclusive rights for the World Cup and to be willing to “resell” the championship for 100 dollars to end-users.  A very high fee to bear for low income viewers in many places in the Arab world -which is not made up only by the rich Gulf states-. Together with this, Al Jazeera Sports has been strongly fighting piracy or “rebroadcasting” practises that were quite enough tolerated all across the Arab world. The AFP reports that “Harun Abu Ara, the head of Al-Quds educational television, a local Ramallah station, had to stop showing the matches a few days ago when he was warned against doing so by lawyers from Al-Jazeera“.

“Since we stopped rebroadcasting the matches we have received dozens of calls a day from customers who were used to watching them on our channel,” he said. “If we are prohibited from rebroadcasting Al-Jazeera, the natural result is that the viewers, especially the poor, are going to turn to Israeli television, because it is cheaper.”

It seems that Israeli TV is winning over this copyright war amongst Arabs. There is also a “jamming” war happening over the Arab skies: Al Jazeera has denounced that its AJ Sport TV signal was deliberately  jammed on Nilesat and Arabsat. Although the two major Arab satellite providers are declining the allegations, there is a very good chance for this story to be true. That wouldn`t be a surprise in the relations between Al Jazeera and the other Arab media players (and the governments backing them, i.e. mostly Egypt and Saudi Arabia). Politics have always played a major role in media relations in the Arab world, and this won`t be the first time, despite Nilesat (Egypt) and Arabsat (Saudi Arabia) deny accusations.

But this time the game is bigger, because Arab viewers are passionate football consumers. And because Israeli TV is taking advantage of an inter-Arab fight. Of course, not the first time this happens, too.

The whole “rights issue” related to the World Cup exclusivity to Al Jazeera Sport is something that looked so much promising at the beginning (in terms of profit and popularity) but now it is seriously risking to become a losing game for the Qatari station.

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Creative Commons at Al Jazeera Forum

Creative Commons was at Al Jazeera Forum on the 14th march. There was a co-hosted day featuring a panel on “Building successfull projects on open networks”. Joi Ito, Creative Commons’ Ceo, moderated a debate with Mohamed Nanabhay from Al Jazeera presenting the CC Al Jazeera repository case study; Helmi Noman from Harvard University talked about Arab content on the web; and a nice delegation from European Broadcasting Union headed by Nicoletta Iacobacci, Head of New Media was there to discuss the issues, together with blogger and media activist Danny Schetcher from Mediachannel.org.  New media is getting more important than ever, even from a TV news channel perspective as Al Jazeera, and it was interesting to discuss all those issues in the framework of the Forum. Plus, it was great to see a very active Arab world CC group forming, putting together people with different backgrounds and skills, from lawyers to IT experts from bloggers to language experts. This was a great beginning that should hopefully have a follow up on many topics that are core to be developed in the Arab world, like having more content in Arabic over the web, enhancing the new born web 2.0 communities and fostering sharing and cooperation among Arab youngsters.

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Al Jazeera lancia il primo video archivio disponibile con licenza Creative Commons BY

Al Jazeera oggi ha fatto un altro importante passo in quella che e’ diventata in pochi giorni una delle piu’ sofisticate e capaci operazioni di approccio “new media” al conflitto in corso a

giorni in cui ha tenuto un attivissimo canale via Twitter di micro updates da Gaza e disseminato video su You Tube, la Tv del Qatar fa la mossa successiva. La provocazione delle provocazioni, visto che si tratta di un broadcaster. E cosa c’e’ di piu’ prezioso per un broadcaster, se non il suo archivio, il materiale che produce, i contenuti su cui investe?Il core business di una rete TV e’ la produzione e la vendita di immagini, almeno cosi’ era fino a poco tempo fa. Al Jazeera lancia http://cc.aljazeera.net/ il primo archivio di immagini online di qualita’ broadcast accessibile a tutti gratuitamente, persino a scopi commerciali. Un blogger, un filmaker, un giornalista, un’universita’ e persino una rete televisiva avversaria, potra’ accedere a questo footage,rimanipolarlo, rieditarlo, rivenderlo persino, con l’unico obbligo di citare la fonte.  Questo e’ quanto recita la licenza BY, l’attribuzione, la piu’ permissiva licenza disponibile fra quelle ideate da Creative Commons. Un passo molto importante per una concezione diversa del giornalismo, per un suo allargamento in direzione della partecipazione, della rimanipolazione, del cut up.

Al Jazeera sa bene che, in un momento come questo, sulla crisi di Gaza c’e’ anche una crisi informativa, poco accesso ai media, e le poche fonti accessibili sono soprattutto in arabo. Mettendo in circolo le sue immagini, Al Jazeera attivera’ l’esercito di traduttori volontari, quelli che scrivono Wikipedia, che passano ore al computer a discutere articoli e traduzioni. Allertera’ le centinaia di migliaia di blogger che in giro per il mondo postano su quello che sta succendendo. Svegliera’ gli appassionati del filesharing, che per una volta potranno farlo in maniera assolutamente legale.

E forse anche qualche Tv si interessera’ a questo footage e, perche’ no, lo usera’ per programmi, documentari, approfondimenti.

Il circolo virtuoso creato da Al Jazeera potenzialmente e’ infinito.

Rimane una cosa, aldila’ del significato politico, che per ora lasceremo da parte. Con questa mossa, la TV del Qatar dimostra di essere all’avanguardia, persino nel discorso new media. Dimostra di essere in continua tensione con se stessa, di avere voglia di superarsi e di non riposare sugli allori, di andare oltre quella scuola di giornalismo -professionale eppure tradizionale nell’impostazione- che pure e’ stata lei stessa a creare nel mondo arabo.

Tralasciando il discorso politico, e rimanendo su un piano strettamente mediatico, tanto di cappello, quindi, a una rete che si comporta meglio di tutti i servizi pubblici del mondo. All’obiezione che gia’ mi sento fare da parecchi – e cioe’ che tanto Al Jazeera i soldi “ce li ha” percio’ si permette queste “stravaganze” gratuite- rispondo si, ce li ha, ma avrebbe potuto usarli in altro modo. In fondo, se ci pensate bene, quanto costa fare un sito come quello che oggi ha fatto Al Jazeera? Quanti costi aggiuntivi comporta per una rete, che gia’ ha investito nel suo core business -cioe’ produrre quei video, mandare i corrispondenti, pagargli stipendi, assicurazioni, etc- mettere online quegli stessi video? Costi aggiuntivi pari a zero. Non si tratta di soldi, si tratta di osare. Al Jazeera si e’ giocata la carta del brand image, quella del ritorno economico sul lungo periodo. Vedremo se avra’ ragione

ora, comunque, e’ l’unica TV di cui si parla, persino negli Usa, sul piano di copertura new media della guerra a Gaza. Ne ha parlato qualche giorno fa un bell’articolo dell’International Herald Tribune.

Vorrei aggiungere una nota personale: sono sicura che molti penseranno che Al Jazeera tira fuori l’archivio su licenza Creative Commons guarda caso proprio ora che c’e’ la guerra a Gaza. Una mossa politica, piu’ che mediatica. Per sfatare questa supposizione, ci tengo a dire che dal maggio 2008 sto lavorando, per conto di Creative Commons, a vari accordi nella Regione araba per la diffusione delle licenze soprattutto nel settore media. Al Jazeera e’ la prima Tv araba che ha risposto all’appello, e sono molti mesi che stavamo studiando questo sito, frutto di un lavoro e di accordi in corso da molto prima della crisi di Gaza. Il sito, nel futuro, ospitera’ altro footage, oltre a quello ora : urgente per evidenti ragioni, giornalistiche prima che politiche.

Inoltre, il team di New Media che ha lavorato a questo sito, capeggiato dal sudafricano Mohamed Nanabhay, e’ composto di giovani sotto i trent’anni, espertissimi di tutte le tecnologie piu’ moderne. Da tempo studiavano le innumerevoli possibilita’ della Rete. Si tratta di semplice Ricerca e Sviluppo. Al Jazeera aveva investito in un settore, e adesso sta raccogliendo dei frutti.

Spero che in Italia, come nel resto del mondo, queste immagini servano a blogger, videomaker, giornalisti, televisioni e anche semplici cittadini, per capire cosa sta succedendo a Gaza e, anche, piu’ in generale, per avere un’idea di come potrebbe essere l’informazione del futuro. E speriamo che altri esempi di TV seguiranno ad Al Jazeera, magari stavolta europee, inshallah.

Al Jazeera launches Creative Commons video repository

Al Jazeera yesterday announced the world’s first repository of broadcast-quality video footage released under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license. Select Al Jazeera video footage – at this time, footage of the War in Gaza – will be available for free to be downloaded, shared, remixed, subtitled and eventually rebroadcasted by users and TV stations across the world with acknowledgement to Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera will release its exclusive Arabic and English coverage produced by the Network’s correspondents and crews in the Gaza Strip online at http://cc.aljazeera.net. The ongoing war and crisis in Gaza, together with the scarcity of news footage available, make the repository a key resource for anyone producing content about the current situation.

This is the first time that video footage produced by a news broadcaster is released under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license, which allows for both commercial and non-commercial use.

Mohamed Nanabhay, who headed New Media at Al Jazeera and launched the project, stated: “As one of the only international broadcasters in Gaza, our coverage of the war has been unsurpassed. The launch of Al Jazeera’s Creative Commons Repository means that our Gaza footage will be made available under the most permissive Creative Commons license (CC-BY). With the flexibility of the license, we expect to introduce our outstanding coverage to an even wider audience across the world. This means that news outlets, filmmakers and bloggers will be able to easily share, remix, and reuse our footage.”

Lawrence Lessig – founder of the Creative Commons organization and Professor of Law at Stanford University – stated: “Al Jazeera is teaching an important lesson about how free speech gets built and supported. By providing a free resource for the world, the network is encouraging wider debate, and a richer understanding.”

Joichi Ito – CEO of Creative Commons and a world-renowned technology  entrepreneur – added: “Video news footage is an essential part of modern journalism. Providing material under a Creative Commons license to allow commercial and amateur use is an enormous contribution to the global dialogue around important events. Al Jazeera has set the example and the standard that we hope others will follow.”

As a pioneer in news and media, Al Jazeera is always looking for ways to make its unique content accessible to audiences across the world and the launch of Al Jazeera’s Creative Commons Repository is another concrete step in this direction.

For details on downloading and accessing content from Al Jazeera’s Creative Commons Repository please go to http://cc.aljazeera.net or contact creativecommons@aljazeera.net.

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Joi Ito’s lecture on Creative Commons in Talal Abu Ghazaleh Business Forum

Joi Ito’s lecture has just finished couple of hours ago here in Talal Abu Ghazaleh Business Forum, Amman, Jordan. Joi’s speech was as usual full of insights, very much focused on innovation as the primary engine for economy and business to move forward. And Creative Commons was described as “an open source for content”, the tool which could speed up the innovation by allowing people to share ideas legally and safely in order to progress -culturally, scientifically, economically and humanly speaking- thru sharing.

(Joi speaking in Amman, the King of Jordan’s pic behind him)

 This is a concept which would be key to develop in the Arab world, too. Some people in this Region do think that since copyright is not such a big constraint as it is in the US or EU Creative Commons may not be needed as a tool. Many people raised their hands to ask this question today in Amman. As Joi explained very clearly and wisely, since the world becomes more globalised and more connected, also the legal framework come to be similar. Btw, this is also happening in the Gulf, where many countries have absorbed the WTO rules on intellectual property. And since all the audiovisual media in the Arab world are originated in the Gulf, this is very much likely to reach the Maghreb and Mashreq very soon.

 

(Audience in the Talal Abu Ghazaleh Business Forum)

Jordan will be the first Arab country to have a CC license 3.0 ported hopefully in the very next months.

As Ziad Maraqa, one of the CC leads in Jordan, has underlined today, they had to face lots of big issues when translating the licences into Arabic and adapting to Jordanian copyright law. One of the most discussed change today was the translation of the word Creative Commons itself into Arabic, which many bloggers don’t see appropriate (see the discussion in the public forum). But, as Joi Ito underlined, the translation of the name Creative Commons is the most controversial issue in every jurisdiction according to the final users of the license:) Many other key topics as the use of the licenses in audiovisual media or in education have been discussed.

From left to right, Shadi Murtada from Abu Ghazaleh Company, Joi Ito, Ziad Maraqa CC Jordan lead.

The discussion with the audience was very lively and showed a great deal of interest. A good start for CC in the Arab region. Mabrouk!

Creative Commons conference to be held tomorrow in Amman

I am currently in Amman, Jordan to join the Creative Commons conference organised with Abu Ghazaleh company. Joi Ito, the Ceo -a very cool Ceo:)- is going to lecture here, followed by Ziad Maraqa, the CC lead in Jordan together with Rami Olwan. This is a great step for CC in the Arab world and Jordan is the first Arab country to have translated CC licenses which are now under public discussion. Lots of Jordanian bloggers have already blogged on this. I hope to see many people coming from different backgrounds, inshallah. For those of you who are in Jordan pls come to have a look!

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Creative Commons calls for videos

The Creative Commons 2008 fundraising campaign has just started. Everybody is invited to join and contribute to help building the commons! And, for those who want to contribute also by creating new cool stuff, there is a new video campaign that invites to release your 90 seconds of audiovisual creativity in a smart video project. To simply tell the others why you support, use and love CC. Yalla!!