WisconsinEye is to Wisconsin politics what C-SPAN is to federal politics. They're a non-profit organization that provides video of all public events in the State Assembly and Senate as well as news conferences and other public policy events. WisconsinEye broadcasts these videos on Charter Cable Channel 995 and via streaming video on their website. WisconsinEye is an invaluable public resource, but they're not as open as they appear, nor as they should be.
As a non-profit resource for the citizens of Wisconsin, WisconsinEye must make their content easily accessible and available to all Wisconsinites. However, they currently lock down their video in proprietary Microsoft software. This makes it very difficult for Wisconsinites to view and share the pivotal events that take place in the people's house, and it unnecessarily increases WisconsinEye's expenses.
The videos are stored in the Windows Media format, which makes them very difficult to view unless you're running Windows. If you use a Mac, you have to install special Microsoft software called Silverlight, and even if you run Windows you may have to. In the days of YouTube, where special software is rarely required to view videos online, why does WisconsinEye make us install special software to view public content?
The level of difficulty that WisconsinEye users experience and the steps required to view a video is depicted in WisconsinEye's barely helpful help page.
I don't use Windows. I don't even use a Mac most of the time. I use a beautiful OS called Linux. So, since the videos are in Windows Media format, I have to violate a few questionable user agreements just to view the WisconsinEye videos. Why should it be potentially illegal for Wisconsinites to view videos of sessions of our Senate and Assembly? There's absolutely no good reason.
Linux isn't even the biggest WisconsinEye loser. No smartphone can view and access the WisconsinEye video archives. Not iPhone, and not Android. So, when you're not sitting in front of a computer, you can't view what's going on in the Capitol, but you can watch all the YouTube videos you want. We can do better, cheaper.
WisconsinEye should make it easy to embed videos in third-party websites as other video and news sites such as YouTube and MSNBC do. Wisconsin's other non-profit channel, Wisconsin Public Television allows embedding of videos. If WisconsinEye doesn't want to offer the bandwidth to embed their videos in other websites, they need to offer their videos for free download - not just streaming. Without that ability, we're left to chopping up the WisconsinEye videos and posting them on YouTube via the fair use doctrine. Not only that, but WisconsinEye wants you to think you're in violation of the law when doing so, by making you click through a user agreement.
This is absolutely unacceptable, and recently, WisconsinEye seems to have made sharing even more difficult. It should be clear that Wisconsinites have the right to share clips of WisconsinEye videos, and Wisconsinites should have the right to share full videos for non-commercial use.
This is not how a non-profit resource should be provided. It's like your local library saying you can read all the books you want in the library, but you can't make copies of any text or take any books out of the library to share with friends. That's just ridiculous.
There is free software that WisconsinEye could use instead of the proprietary Microsoft software to both save money and make it easier for Wisconsinites to view and share WisconsinEye videos. Switching from Windows Media to a format such as WebM would reduce the complexity of viewing files for the majority of WisconsinEye users. Most users won't have to install any additional software to view WebM videos. It would also immediately add support for Linux users (I realize we're few and far between, but we also tend to be informed and vocal). A different royalty-free video format, H.264, would allow iPhones and Android phones to view WisconsinEye videos, too.
All WisconsinEye videos of government proceedings should be licensed under a Creative Commons license. So that everyone knows that we can share the public resource, and so we have the unambiguous right to share full videos. WisconsinEye can still lock down their original content (which is quite good) and try to make money selling DVDs, but the videos of government proceedings must be open and freely available online. Making these changes probably won't reduce their revenue from DVD sales, they'll save money on Microsoft license fees, and they'll get more exposure and viewers.
I find it difficult to support WisconsinEye while they keep their videos of government proceedings locked down. It just doesn't make economic or ethical sense.
Time Warner Cable or AT&T U-Verse customer? You're missing out on WisconsinEye.