Last week, we posted a note about the government Youtube channel, youtube.com/usgovernment. Today, the American Historical Association describes the playlist section of the site. (Ask not what YouTube can do for you…, By Elisabeth Grant, AHA Today, May 26, 2009).
These channels bring together videos on a particular topic from different agencies. For example, the Health and Nutrition channel has videos from the CDC, the Senate, the State Department, and the FDA.
This is a very nice and appropriate service and we like that the government is using popular sites like Youtube to reach Americans with its information.
But we also know that a short-term service is not the same as long-term preservation. Preservation of multimedia is still a big issue. When videos are hosted only on .com sites, it is not always clear that the material can be easily identified and downloaded. (The YouTube Terms of Service says, in part, “You shall not copy or download any User Submission unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the YouTube Website for that User Submission.”)
The proprietary formats of streaming videos can make it more complex to preserve them in an open format that will guarantee their long-term usability.
Some videos may have been created under contracts that allow the content to be copyrighted or may contain “poison pill” copyright content that makes it difficult or impossible to legally preserve or reuse the whole video.
The government has yet to develop a comprehensive policy for depositing digital government information into libraries and archives. Many Federal Depository libraries have been reluctant to accept digital content and the Government Printing Office has been actively arrogating to itself the job of being the sole repository of government information. This is dangerous because every digital depository is vulnerable to technological, social, budgetary, and economic problems and the best solution is to have multiple repositories.
A digital Federal Depository Library program could help solve many of these issues.