A new web site backed by some of the internet’s leading thinkers promises to make it easier–and cheaper–for artists, scholars, students, and other creative people to share their digital works.

Ourmedia.org seeks to become a central repository for such items. But a quick perusal of the site before press time suggested some of the content might be inappropriate for K-12 students.

Creative digital works are now “scattered … on people’s computers [or] hidden away on the web in faraway crevices,” J.D. Lasica, a veteran journalist who co-founded the project, told the Associated Press. “We thought it was important to gather a lot of this stuff under one roof.”

The site also addresses a chief obstacle to posting video and other large files to the internet: The more popular an item gets, the more its owner has to pay for web hosting services.

Ourmedia says it will offer hosting services for free, and the site pledges to retain home movies, photos, cartoons, software, text files, and any other digital work forever. The only exceptions are pornography and items under someone else’s copyright, which are not permitted on the site.

For each file posted to Ourmedia, the owner must specify what people can do with it, choosing from among a half-dozen or so licensing packages. Owners can claim full copyright protections if they want, though the project encourages sharing, Lasica said.

The Internet Archive, a nonprofit online repository, and Bryght, a Canadian publisher of open-source materials, are donating storage and bandwidth services. Ourmedia’s advisory board includes Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle and Dan Gillmor, a pioneer in citizen journalism.

The site is being marketed to educators as “a tool to help foster learning at every grade level, particularly for students, faculty, and staff working with digital media.”

Ourmedia says it uses more than a dozen volunteer moderators to make sure pornography and other questionable or copyrighted materials are not posted to the site. The site is a strong proponent of free speech, but it asks users to respect one another and report instances of abuse within the community.

Ourmedia also asks users to “understand that content contributors have wide latitude in the kinds of materials they may contribute to the site, and you may find some media on this site objectionable–just as anyone may come across unseemly material in any library.” The site says this potential obstacle for educational use is “the price of access for all.”

When browsing through the content posted on the site’s free blogs, links to materials “considered as adult or as religiously offensive; containing swear words, violence, sex, nudity, excessive stupidity, etc.,” were found to be as advertised. It seems certain that any use of the site in a K-12 school setting would need to be closely monitored.

Other content that would not be considered “obscene” in its most graphic sense–for instance, “Stoners teaser trailer”–would certainly offend many parents and teachers. A ratings system appears to be forthcoming but is not yet in place. Usernames like “antichrist” and frank discussions about the color commentary featured on the political blog Wonkette.com probably wouldn’t play well in many school districts.

In the “publish my media” area of the site, users are given a web-based tool to publish video, audio, photos, text, and software. For smaller files, users can follow a series of simple steps that are similar to attaching a file to an eMail message. To upload files of more than 10 megabytes, however, users must download the Ourmedia Publisher tool.

Registration for the site is free and requires only a username and password, though an eSchool News reporter experienced a few glitches when attempting to register. Site operators did not respond to an eSchool News reporter’s queries before press time.



The Internet Archive