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Re: [ARSCLIST] MP3 bit rates and usage factors for Web pages
I've been out of town and I'm just catching up with ARSClist, but here
are some of my thoughts related to Richard's question and the discussion
1) If rights allow you to, put it online and let people download it.
Yes, you lose some control, but in cases of real infringement beyond
what you state people are allowed to do with the material, you can
always turn the lawyers loose on them. We recently licensed a recording
from our collection to Norton for the new book that just came out on
Richard Feynman and we charged them a lot of money. That particular
recording is not online, but we do have Linus Pauling material from the
same collection online that is free to download. If somebody wanted the
Pauling material for similar commercial purposes, we would still charge
them a lot of money even though it is online. Free access online does
not ruin the market for commercial exploitation nor does it mean you
give up your rights to control what people do with things. Some people
may sell bootlegs on ebay, but legit users like Norton are going to
license it properly.
2) There is perceived value to higher bitrate recordings. For our
cylinders, we determined that 96kbits was sufficient. However, we used
128kbit because people perceive 96kbit mp3s to be of low quality, even
if they capture every last bit of frequency response. You could also use
VBR which is becoming more common.
3) Streaming is great, but it requires extra infrastructure. It is
helpful to be able to stream material so people don't have to download
large files to see if the material is actually of interest to them, but
it requires a dedicated server and a separate set of files. We've found
that given a choice people download more than they stream by a wide
margin. I can't give you exact figures, but people want to grab it and
go. Restricting to streaming might be a possibility if there are rights
issues that don't allow you to provide downloads. Yes, people can
capture audio streams with software, but that's breaking the law. People
also knife plates out of books which is also illegal, but we don't shut
our doors as a precaution. We should do our best to maximize use and
minimize risks and get on with things.
4) If copyright and/or donor agreements allow you to, give them the
whole recording online, not an excerpt. Why are we obsessed with
control? Do we want to evaluate the character or scholarly credentials
of each user before deciding to grant them access? That's been the
history at some institutions (I'm not naming names), but it is
antithetical to my way of thinking and is a waste of the archivist's and
the researcher's time. Over the past two weeks people have downloaded
over 200,000 mp3 files from our cylinder website. That is more use of
our historical audio collection (78s and cylinders) than the collection
has seen in its 30+ year existence by several orders of magnitude.
Granted, giving away music online is like handing out dope at a Grateful
Dead show and you won't find this kind of traffic for an oral history
collection, but the principle is the same. I'm just really glad that I
didn't have to process each one of these requests individually!