22 June 2004

Sharing Digitally-recorded content

Proposals to make available digitally-recorded content across campuses need to address a number of legal and technical issues before plans are implemented.

As a part of the National Institute of Language Learning (NILL) project, the Division is installing a system to record, repurpose, store and reticulate free-to-air radio and television from local terrestrial services and from satellite-delivered services. Some of these services may also be streamed live around the University network, across to the CIT, and possibly beyond into the AARNET and GrangeNet networks. The stored materials will also be available on demand to the CIT and possibly beyond.

Currently-available and proposed bandwidth availability through AARNET and GrangeNet means that technically it is possible to share video and audio files at quite good quality (up to and exceeding the quality available on the TransTV network, for example) to the door of many educational, research and cultural institutions across Australia from Brisbane to Perth.

The issues are the networks within the institutions, and the legality of sharing copyright material across institutions.

Institutional networks
It is planned that the Video on Demand server at UC will be attached to the University network in such a way as to provide high bandwidth from the server to the network. There are issues that are currently restricting the bandwidth to some desktop computers within the University network that are being investigated, but in theory the capacity should exist to transmit high-quality video and audio to the desktop from the Video on Demand server.

Bandwidth is at risk of greater restriction the further the desktop computer is from the UC server: in institutions with poor internal network architecture it may be impossible to view video files or listen to audio files. Internal network issues are the responsibility of the organization concerned, and not UC, AARNET or GrangeNet.

Legal issues
The University currently pays Screenrights for copying and communicating broadcasts (radio, television, cable and satellite) through a Part VA statutory licence under the Digital Agenda amendments to the Copyright Act which came into force in 2001. The agreement with Screenrights is managed through the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee (AVCC).

The Digital Agenda amendments require the University to take "all reasonable steps" to ensure that access to broadcasts made available on-line in reliance on Part VA is restricted to those people entitled to receive access, such as staff and students of the university or of another university with a remuneration notice in place. There may be a cost advantage if material is made available only to those students who need to receive it, for example through password authentication.

TSU is seeking guidance from the University to ensure the proposed system conforms to the requirements of the Screenrights agreement, and under what circumstances we can make the materials available to others outside this institution.

AARNET has also expressed the desire to investigate a sector-wide agreement with Screenrights (which may be covered already by the AVCC arrangement), to ensure all participants in AARNET and GrangeNet can exchange video and audio materials for education and research purposes.