Citizen Science Journalism

Yesterday an anticipated, but nevertheless dramatic geologic event occurred – a lahar roared down the slopes of Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand. I first caught the news via a Technorati blog search on the term “geology” which pointed me to a post at NZ Weather (which, in turn, points to some good local news sources). Shortly thereafter I found an AP story picked up by Yahoo News. What particularly intrigued me was the spectacular b-roll (unnarrated video) footage of the lahar courtesy of AP Video (link no longer available [Chris Rowan found it – different source, same b-roll, still no way to buy it]) that accompanied the original story. That video has since been supplemented and narrated and can be viewed here. The unnarrated b-roll, though, is what really captured my imagination. It contains some spectacular helicopter footage of the lahar in progress and the tephra dam that failed at the summit crater lake. The educational uses would be amazing! I want that footage!

So, what did I do? I went to the AP Video website to see if I could purchase it. What a waste of time! As far as I can tell AP is uninterested in making money off its footage when it comes to the little guy – all I can see are offers you’d need to run a full blown news organization to buy. Now obviously AP got that footage from someone else, and I’d be just as happy to pay that person or organization for the use of that footage, but I have no idea how to track the original source down. (Any ideas? Post ‘em in the comments.) Why is this important? Well, I could probably find some way to rip AP’s video, maybe strip the audio, and reuse it myself. That might even be legal (fair use) if I was doing it for just my classes here at Fort Hays State University, but the moment I post it to the web on my blog it’d be a clear copyright violation – even though it’s not for profit and my intent would be to educate. It’s no mystery that current US copyright law has become an abomination to the Founders intent in the progress clause (“To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” – US Constitution Article I, Section 8). But until we can get that fixed, I’d really like to have some legal way of procuring this video for educational (but not strictly classroom) use, and making it available under a Creative Commons License.

So how does this relate to citizen science journalism? Well, I love blogs, and one can do a good job writing up this story in the way a traditional newspaper would publish it (i.e., words and still images). In fact, Ole Nielsen over at Olelog did a fine job of that. But this is the sort of geologic phenomenon screams out for video coverage! At one time I had hoped that Science Network TV (“CSPAN for Science” – NOT!) would cover breaking science news like this, but they’ve been a great disappointment for me when it comes to geology in the news (heck, geology period). So while they’ve dropped the ball, citizen journalism has taken off, thanks to blogs and vlogs. And I want to do my part. So can somebody tell me how I can legally procure a copy of that raw video footage? – because there’s not much geology that exciting here in Kansas that I can shoot myself.

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.