The values of openness, novelty, and innovation are more likely to translate into economic value in new media than the values of predictability, highly regulated production, and closed IP regimes on which “mass” media models are based. — David Rooney and Phil Graham, ACRO Co-Directors
The Australian Creative Resources Online (ACRO) is an open resource repository storing digital and digitised multimedia materials – from video clips, digitally drawn images, photographs, and audio segments – in editable formats intended for reuse. Emphasising an open framework, ACRO aims to create a distribution network of high-quality, low-cost materials which are either in the public domain or employ open content licences. By offering streamlined access to content, ACRO seeks to engage grass-roots creative producers and community media organisations, facilitating innovation and creative production without fear of litigation or lengthy rights-clearance processes. As materials are reused, it is hoped that creators and producers re-contribute their content to the archive.
ACRO commenced as an Australian Research Council (ARC)-funded infrastructure project in 2002, which was further supported by the University of Queensland in 2003. It currently operates from the University of Queensland Business School. ACRO seeks to provide research opportunities for investigators across diverse fields to define innovative, internationally recognised technical, operational, and archiving systems, whilst being able to appraise the legal, technical, socioeconomic and cultural implications of new media content development, particularly in relation to Australia’s broadband infrastructure development.
- ‘In short, by providing producers, broadcasters, students, teachers, researchers and the community with access to a range of production, research, and educational resources around an open resource repository, ACRO will stimulate long-term creative and cultural capital for creative industries.’ - Rooney & Graham, 2004
The founding objectives of ACRO have been:
- To develop and provide a robust and rapid infrastructure for national research and international collaboration across Australia’s creative industries;
- To stimulate Australia’s broadband content industry, nationally and internationally;
- To provide a rich public resource for creative industries research and content production;
- To develop a resource for productive international research collaborations;
- To develop innovative classification systems and associated database applications for new forms of archive materials;
- To develop new Intellectual Property initiatives and models; and
- To develop innovative technologies and techniques for the development, production, management, and delivery of Australia’s cultural products.
A prominent output from ACRO has been the Hot Buttered collection, offering a selection of Australian surfing videos and soundtracks. The spirit of reuse is at the heart of the Hot Buttered brand: the surfboard company takes it name from Hot Buttered Soul, Isaac Hayes’ second studio album from 1969, which itself begins with a cover of the Burt Bacharach and Hal David classic tune Walk on By. The ACRO project digitised Hot Buttered’s entire audiovisual catalogue which they agreed to make available under Creative Commons licences. Full bandwidth digital copies were created as an essential step of the digitisation. Hot Buttered’s founder Terry Fitzgerald took the opportunity to repackage the digitised collection and release it as an anthology: Hot Buttered Soul, maintaining that ‘surfing is art’. The film chronicles the evolution of the single-fin surfboard over three-and-a-half decades, describing the ‘free surfing dream.’
- ‘ACRO seeks to create a legally safe framework for individuals and organisations to work with multi media resources in an open source environment.’ - Rooney & Graham, 2004
Materials archived on ACRO are either believed to be in the public domain or have been cleared by the copyright owners for use under Creative Commons and AEshareNet Free for Education licences. The default licence used by ACRO is the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 licence, allowing the remix and reuse of works for non-commercial purposes. Commercial use must be negotiated with the rights holders.
For producers, their ability to access the archive to place resources in it is governed primarily by their willingness to place their materials under Creative Commons licence arrangements.
ACRO also permits use of AEShareNet licences, an Australian-based licensing organisation that has been providing standard open content licences since 1998. The most popular of the AESharenet licences is the Free for Education licence, which permits material to be freely used and copied for educational purposes.
ACRO is a nationally distributed, standardised, high-bandwidth digital archive. Its usage reports show that on the 18 March 2008, the average data transferred per day was approximately 38MB. File types hosted on ACRO are currently represented as follows:
According to a 2004 research paper presented by ACRO Co-Directors David Rooney and Phil Graham, ‘Creative Content and Sustainable Community Media Organisations: Australian Creative Resources Online,’ published in Australian Studies in Journalism, the main assumption underlying the establishment of the database has been that
- ‘The values of openness, novelty, and innovation are more likely to translate into economic value in new media than the values of predictability, highly regulated production, and closed IP regimes on which “mass” media models are based.’
The ACRO archives and associated online tools are based on an ‘open resource’ philosophy. The central organising logic of ACRO is that open access to high-quality content and content development tools will bring public and private benefits in the forms of increased cultural activity; increased levels of engagement in cultural production; increased intercultural awareness; and increased economic activity related to cultural production, distribution, and exchange.
- ‘By providing a unique and diverse set of resources, and by encouraging derivative and open usage of those resources for the production of new creative works, ACRO will help lay the foundations for new digital rights management systems and alternative business practices suited to broadband environments.’
Underpinning the archive is the ability to reuse and recycle ‘waste’ materials – the leftovers from traditional cultural production processes such as ‘cutting-room floor’ footage. The Creative Commons licensing framework facilitates the distribution and reapplication of this content for groups in the community, being valuable to film, television, and radio producers, musicians, historians, advertisers, documentary producers, the IT industries, and ‘anybody wishing to study, understand, or capitalise upon Australia’s creative potential’ (http://www.tomw.net.au/2002/acra.html).