Grants/The Within the Law Project

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The Within the Law Project

Applicants: Eric Faden (Bucknell University), Peter Kaufman (Intelligent TV)
Affiliation: Bucknell University, Intelligent TV
CC affiliated? No
Contact: Eric Faden
Coordinator: Eric Faden
Project Start: 2010/10/01
Project End: 2011/10/01
Download budget Discussion

Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.

The Within The Law Project is a crowd-sourced educational project that recreates a lost 1917 feature film with its original musical score. The original film, which featured silent film star Alice Joyce seeking revenge on the men who wronged her (but always “within the law”), enjoyed considerable success but every known print of the film, all of its advertising materials, and the film’s original score were intentionally destroyed by the Vitagraph studio due to a copyright infringement complaint. Our project’s online environment will allow users to remix CC-licensed elements (film footage, backgrounds, intertitles, music) to re-create the film’s various scenes, upload their own original CC-licensed audio-visual contributions for others to remix, and, of course, watch the re-created film as it evolves and changes over time. The online environment provides users access to archival materials about the film (the original treatment and the only known copy of the score, contemporaneous reviews, internal studio records, etc.) to aid in the reconstruction as well as high school/university-level curricular materials contextualizing the film, its 1917 copyright controversy, its recreation as a CC-licensed product, and how to produce early cinema and early film music in the digital age.

Detail the tangible project output (e.g., paper, blog post, written materials, video/film, etc.; this would be in addition to the final written report that successful grant recipients will be expected to deliver to CC at the conclusion of the project).

The Within the Law project is a large-scale project at the early stages of development. In the long-term, the tangible project output will be a feature-length film and a documentary detailing the film’s unusual production process. In the short term, however, we are requesting funds to a) host a workshop of archivists, media content providers, filmmakers, web designers, and educators to establish some best practices for using CC-licensed elements to create large-scale online media projects and b) to prototype the on-line environment based on the workshop’s outcomes. Thus, the short-term outcomes would be a best practices document and a prototyped website.

Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?

High school and university students and their teachers represent the project’s core community. We imagine, however, that given the project’s unique nature, there may be interest by the general public as well. The benefits are numerous. First, in the most general sense, this project educates the community on early cinema and early film music. The project demonstrates that many of the intellectual property “problems” we associate with digital content have existed since the beginning of the mass media age. Second, the project encourages users to not just be media consumers but to be media producers by utilizing the opportunities afforded by CC-licensed material to help re-create a lost />

What is your relationship with the community you are targeting? Why are you the best individual/organization to lead this project? Do you have prior experience in related projects?

Eric Faden is an Associate Professor of Film/Media Studies at Bucknell University whose research specialty is early cinema and digital image technologies. In addition, Professor Faden is an experienced filmmaker whose work is distributed by The Media Education Foundation and Third World Newsreel. He is perhaps best well known for his Disney remix viral video, A Fair(y) Use Tale which has accumulated over 10 million unique views on YouTube. He also recently wrote and directed commercial projects for The Electronic Frontier Foundation (San Francisco) and The Independent Film and Television Alliance (Los Angeles).

Peter B. Kaufman is president and CEO of Intelligent Television. He executive produces all Intelligent Television media and directs the company’s research and consulting work. He is also an expert consultant on access issues for the Library of Congress Division of Motion Pictures, Broadcast, and Recorded Sound and in 2008 was appointed co-chair of the new Film and Sound Think Tank of the U.K.’s Joint Information Systems Committee. He has served as director of the Open Education Video Project, funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; Associate Director of the Columbia University Center for New Media Teaching and Learning; a member of the American Council of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure in the Humanities, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and a member of the Social Science Research Council Digital Cultural Institutions Project, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?

The project itself is a kind of living metric since we’re asking users to re-create a film scene-by-scene through remixing and contributing original elements. At any given moment, we can measure the project’s impact based on how much of the film has been recreated and how much traffic the online environment generates. Moreover, we imagine the online environment deeply integrating interactive elements (forums, wikis, social networking, etc.) to ascertain users’ experience. Beyond that, we will include evaluative materials in the curricular resources so teachers can assess their students’ experiences.

How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?

A large users base would obviously benefit this project though exact numbers are difficult to predict. We believe the key to sustaining involvement rests on the project’s educational nature. Including educational support materials encourages teachers to integrate the project into their curriculum so that involvement and contributions to the project repeat every semester as the project is taught in classrooms.

Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".

The project focuses on Creative Commons’ mission in two ways. First, the project itself came about due to an early intellectual property controversy in 1917. While much of early cinema is lost, the original 1917 film of Within the Law was intentionally destroyed due to an infringement claim. In this case, copyright vividly decreased the amount of creative material available to the public. Second, our project highlights creative commons’ mission by encouraging users to not only use CC licensed material but to contribute original content under a CC license (indeed, we imagine all of the project materials—including the finished film—to be under a CC license). We would hope that once users create CC-licensed material on our site, they would be encouraged to continue this practice elsewhere on the Internet.

Describe what technologies and tools your project will use. What kinds of technical skills and expertise do you bring to the project? What are your technical needs?

The larger project will require producing original film content and thus use HD cameras and non-linear editing equipment. An online environment will also need to be constructed and maintained. Our team brings significant experience in both film production and developing web-based projects. Inevitably, however, outside partners will be needed, especially on the online environment design, programming, and hosting/maintenance. Currently, we are considering partnering with university-based centers such as Columbia University’s Center for New Media Teaching and Learning or USC’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy.

What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?

A project of this scope offers just about every challenge imaginable—major funding needs, corralling large groups of resources and labor, mobilizing users, and pushing technological envelopes. Our strategy for success includes building the project slowly and building an open development environment that encourages groups to partner with us. For example, our initial request for funding is for a workshop that can invite interested parties to the table to imagine the possibilities (and pitfalls) for this project before we begin major production initiatives.

How do you plan to sustain your project after the Creative Commons funding has ended? Detail specific plans. How do you plan to raise revenue to continue your efforts in the future?

There are several funding initiatives and strategies we will pursue to sustain the project. For production support, we will seek out traditional media production grants such as NEH Media Makers or MacArthur Foundation Digital Humanities grants. Bucknell University has also indicated support for production through in-kind contributions of equipment and production facilities.

Other grants such as the ACLS Digital Innovation grant can help develop curricular materials and finish the online environment interface. We also anticipate developing partnerships with university-based technology centers for supporting and hosting the online environment.

How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?

While our project focuses on a specific film, the online environment (which we anticipate will be open source) could be utilized for creating any type of large-scale, collaborative media project. This feature might be particularly attractive to film/media archives that have incomplete or fragmented films and wish for users to utilize, curate, remix, and build their collections. In fact, we can imagine a situation where films might be reconstructed or remixed based on fragments from different archives around the world.

What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?

Beyond the grant, we have no specific needs though we would welcome Creative Commons’ input and feedback on developing policies specific to CC-licensed material.

Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)

Since our project is in the early stages of development, we manage our communications through e-mail and a demo website. Once the project is online, however, we imagine a rich communication environment through forums, wikis, and featured videos/podcasts. In addition, as part of the production and development budget, we plan to “roadshow” the technology to various classrooms to help build the community and encourage users to contribute to the project.