Al Jazeera Offers Creative Commons Video, Lessig Lends Backing

Arabic news network Al Jazeera is encouraging viewers to proliferate images of Israel’s Gaza bombardment, releasing broadcast-quality video footage from the Palestinian territory under a Creative Commons license. One of the few networks operating in the region, it has launched the innovative Al Jazeera Creative Commons Repository, offering both raw footage and its own voiced bulletins, complete with agency-style shot lists, free to download as MPEG files.

Though news agencies usually sell syndicated video to broadcasters, Al Jazeera hopes its videos will be “downloaded, shared, remixed, subtitled and eventually rebroadcasted by users and TV stations across the world“, requiring only attribution. It’s the first time news footage has been released under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license, which allows for both commercial and non-commercial use, it said.

Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, in the release: “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”.

Criticised by some earlier in the so-called “War On Terror” for running Al video messages, Al Jazeera has been gaining legitimacy as an international news source with an Arabic perspective, having launched an English-language TV channel. Recently, it’s been upping its plans to draw a wider online audience, with presence on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, IM, podcasts, iPhone and mobile web. Last week, it announced a deal to pre-bundle its RSS feeds on Sony (NYSE: SNE) Ericsson (NSDQ: ERIC) handsets in the Middle East. Washington correspondent Rob Reynolds is guesting in a chat with P2P video platform Livestation on Thursday.

As Israel bombed Gaza in recent weeks, so the web also became a battleground for information control. Al Jazeera launched maps and other features; both it and Israel’s government have been using Twitter, YouTube and other channels to get their messages out (see NPR’s story and BBC’s).