‘Democracy on Deadline’

The power of the media as a make-or-break element in a functioning democracy sets the foundation for a journalist’s struggle to seek out and report the honest truth. But how does the role of a free press factor into the vitality of a free society?

These concepts are examined vividly in the exceptional documentary, Democracy on Deadline by director Calvin Skaggs (Go Tell it On the Mountain) and co-producer Jed Rothstein. The documentary puts the audience in the position of several of the world’s finest journalists, complete with candid interviews and not-seen-before-in-America footage that is in one way reminiscent of Control Room, the 2004 documentary on the Arab-language satellite network, Al Jazeera International.

The filmmaking and production of “Democracy on Deadline” is outstanding, mixing uniquely regional experiences with candid exchanges and graphic footage over the course of two hours. In one memorable instance, the audience is literally in the back seat of a car driven by Ha’aretz correspondent Gideon Levy, delayed at a checkpoint at the West Bank border crossing. This is not business as usual, we’re assured, when Levy gets on his cell phone, enraged that the border guards were not previously notified and waiting for him to cross with American journalists in tow.

“Democracy on Deadline” examines issues and struggles regarding press freedom around the world through an examination of six unique (and high-profile) case studies in progress. The film profiles various journalists in different settings — all taking relatively radical approaches to reporting and exuding a vociferous enthusiasm for their responsibilities as guardians of democracy.

In one segment, Dana Priest of the Washington Post is followed by a camera as she works security insiders (watch quicktime video) at what appears to be a press event regarding the status of detainees in December 2004. We watch Priest at her desk taking notes as she digs deeper and deeper for dirt on her CIA black prisons article, nearly a year before she would publish the core piece in her package that landed her a Pulitzer.

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Must-See Katrina Video

‘Orgullosos de Estar Aqui’ [Spanish for “proud to be here”] is a ten-minute feature for Current TV on the Latino workforce in post-Katrina New Orleans and features interviews and footage of the ongoing racial tension in the continual rebuilding of the city.

I highly encourage you to watch this video and pass it along to friends as this is one hook on the Katrina story that the media has completely missed.

Future of Web Apps Summit Podcasts

MP3s and video of most of the speaker presentations from last month’s FoWA summit in San Francisco are now available for public consumption. Chow them down here.

Also: Here’s a collection of links to the great PowerPoint presentations of some of the speakers:

Speaker Presentation Slides

GooTube: Impending Doom? For Users, Maybe

In the same breath as pocketing a cool $1.65B in Google stock, licensing and copyright-protection agreements were made with the likes of Warner, Sony/BMG, Universal, CBS (it’s looking like one singular beast of a media mongrel at this point).

You Tube has been all the rage for it’s year-and-a-half existence, but — isn’t YouTube’s success primarily a result of its lax oversight and takedown policies? Surely, Chad Hurley and his couple dozen of employees at You Tube don’t care anymore — as long as they sell their Google stock in the near future. But once you can’t get anything you want on You Tube, the traffic will most naturally channel itself elsewhere.

Alex Veiga wrote about this today for the AP, and the article‘s a good read, complete with a variety of quotes. The basic drift is:

[R]ecent agreements with high-profile content creators require YouTube to deploy an audio-signature technology that can spot a low-quality copy of a licensed music video or other content. YouTube would have to substitute an approved version of the clip or take the material down automatically.

Veiga predicts that YouTube’s anti-piracy platform will resemble the nightmare watermarking techniques of Audible Magic. Competitor Guba uses content-comparison software called “Johnny” to filter out copyright infgingements on videos uploaded there.

CJR’s Gal Beckerman says the deal is “doomed just because it is.” YouTubers are “gravely concerned,” summarizes another article.

The real winners here are the VC’s, like Sequoia Capital, which invested 11 million into YouTube and come out of the deal with a whole lot more, writes Staci of Paid Content.

Sure, Google and YouTube will most likely come out OK. The real losers, however, are the users — that is to say everyone save for the handful of jackasses makin a mean living by hording and raping other people’s property (not the kind of OPP that any content producer or consumer would be down with).

Is Google lining up to be the darling sweetheart of government-sponsored corporate Internet ownership? Google does publish a little one-sheet guide to Net Neutrality, deep in their help section). I’m guessing there aren’t many Save the Internet badges floating around Mountain View.

(Apparently you’ll never find out what’s going on at Google if you’re using Yahoo Maps). Which reminds me of a prank Yahoo! pulled when they launched their new Maps beta last year. The address for Google was listed as “The Dude’s Fish Store.” It’s hilarious — read about it here. Perhaps the grey boxes on Y!Maps are just retribution.)

Day Against DRM

Defective by Design has designated today (Oct. 3) Day Against DRM Day.

Digital Rights Management licenses, watermarks, and sabotaged appliances should be avoided at all costs today as a general statement against DRM. DRM and its growing acceptance as a “protection” for copyright holders and corporations alike, creates fear and levels creativity. The fact that Sony was allowed, last year, to get away with their rootkit, is one example of how DRM enables surreptitious corporate crime, while strangling and discouraging the freedom to express and create.

DBD notes 10 Things you can do in recognition of Day Against DRM Day here (one of which is to include this link wherever you can). Also, watch videos highlighting the problems with DRM. Check out the Day Against DRM Flickr photo pool slideshow: