Video Diary

February 13, 2010

Ahh, this old place, neglected and crumbling… could use a lick of paint and a post or two, I reckon, so thanks to Famicoman’s article on video hording, I’d like to propose if I may a little an ambitious idea I had recently…

You may or may not be aware of Archive.org‘s Wayback Machine. If not, allow me to enlighten you. As the internet ages, sites come, evolve and then, unfortunately, often drop off the face of the internet with no trace or clues to be found. The Wayback Machine exists to preserve the internet as if it were frozen in time at various intervals throughout the web’s history and provides a way of searching and recovering old versions of long forgotten resources which may never have otherwise ever been seen again. A worthy cause, for anyone interested in the evolution of this big wide world we call the internet. Myself, I’m such a person, but I also have a lot of memories tied up in the depths of television history, so I considered the possibility of such a service for broadcast media.

Long defunct shows, be they fondly remembered or barely remembered at all, are often hard to find. Sure, the internet has ways of preserving some of them, via torrents or flash video archives, but some are seemingly lost forever. Not entirely so, perhaps, but they do not exist to the internet, they exist merely in fading VHS tapes in a loft, or on a decaying Betamax in a basement. Many shows saw their end before the internet could provide a method of preserving and sharing them, disk space was at a premium and bandwidth equally so, while some were lucky enough to find their way onto filesharing services or video hosting websites, sadly huge amounts have not.

My idea is this: imagine those tapes were captured in digital form, much as they occasionally are by some kind souls, and archived in some meaningful way. Imagine there were a location on the internet where you could simply visit, look up any TV schedule on and day of any year, and watch whatever was broadcast that day. Like the Wayback Machine, but for TV stations. A place where you could punch in any day, be it the day you were born, the date of a major world event, the time of something special to you and only you… the possibilities are endless.

A mammoth task by any measure, I have to admit, but as Famicoman mentions in his article, when enough people with enough resources come together, sharing what others do not have, a very broad collection can be obtained and preserved. So what if all of those Betamax and VHS tapes, those archived DVR recordings and grainy video files, those DVDRWs were collected up, sorted and archived? Would it be possible to create such a service? To some extent I believe so, I would expect significant gaps, but any start is a good one. One person might contribute a series of one show, another might add a similarly aged series of another and so on, eventually providing a solid catalogue of shows you only ever see in your imagination today. Ideally station idents would be there too, much harder due to those who see fit to trim video to include only the shows in question, but still very interesting. I’m sure a few people would even appreciate era-appropriate adverts, too.

The most saddening part of all of this is not that the shows themselves currently appear lost, or that it would be extremely difficult to collect pristine archives of every TV channel, but that there is no possible way this could ever be done legally. Rights owners across the globe would descend like a pack of rabid vultures to tear any such service to shreds, leaving only a bloodied carcass and a string of takedown notices and lawsuits. Even if some rights could be cleared and by some miracle it would be possible to get some companies on board, international distribution rights, music rights, content used in clips, appearances by certain people, they would all slaughter an arrangement like this in a heartbeat.

Lucky then that the internet doesn’t always abide by archaic, draconian and crippling laws, rules and regulations, isn’t it?


One comment

  1. I would kill for a complete set of You Can’t Do That On Television but thanks to a Canadian Broadcast company and Nickelodeon’s lack of will to pay them it shall never be. The only copies i have ever seen are sold every once in a while by a guy on ebay for about $1000 for 2nd gen VHS copies. Somewhere in Canada sits the original tapes for one of the greatest shows of my generation basically dead from legal bullshit. So many shows die into the either never to be seen again and it’s a crime against humanity…literally. We have the right to watch this stuff again just as much as we have the right to visit a museum and see the rest of our history.

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