NZ On Screen and Audio Culture

By Hannah Mettner

In 2009, we published a quick case study of NZ On Screen, which was then only two years old. With the launch of its sister site, Audio Culture, in 2013, we thought we’d take the opportunity to revisit both projects. Creative Commons Aotearoa NZ intern Hannah Mettner sat down with NZ On Screen Project Director Clarion Coughlan.

NZ On Screen has provided online access to a wealth of New Zealand film, television and music video since 2008. From the outset they’ve used a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial licence for all the work they put into the site. While the video content belongs to the rightsholders, all the synopses, backgrounds and biographies relating to videos and people is licensed under CC. And this material is impressive in its scope and quality; the introductions to the collections, particularly, are personable as well as thorough.


Rock Concert, 1962, by Eric Calonius. US National Archives, via Flickr. No known copyright.

Clarion, the Project Director, talks about how they want to make the content work; their aim is not to put everything they possibly can online, but rather to choose culturally significant pieces and give them space to talk to each other.

NZ On Screen is a curated website, carefully chosen and added to, and the context provided by the written material is crucial. Clarion says “rather than just publishing videos, we contextualise them through our writing. As NZ On Screen has been paid for by tax payers (via NZ On Air funding), it makes sense to make that writing available under Creative Commons: To give something back”.

Having that CC licensed work reused also serves as a useful advertising tool; when writers reuse their pieces on blogs or have them published elsewhere, and actors’ agencies reuse what is effectively a pre-written biography, the CC licence brings people back to the NZ On Screen website.

Perhaps due to the popularity of NZ On Screen, May 2013 saw the launch of a sister project, Audio Culture – the ‘noisy library of New Zealand music’. The site aims to address the ‘digital silence’ that has surrounded New Zealand music online, and to collect together the stories, multimedia and ephemera that have contributed to NZ music from the last 100 years.

AudioCulture kicked off with 250 pages of people, labels and scenes, all under searchable indexes, plus music, interviews and photographs, with another 300 pages following in the second year. It was certainly very well-received, gaining 25,000 page views in its first month live.

Following the successful formula employed over at NZ On Screen, the music on the site is licensed by PPNZ Music Licensing and APRA/AMCOS and the images have been cleared with copyright owners, but the written content in Profiles, Stories, Labels and Scenes all falls under the CC-BY-NC licence. Like the written content on NZ On Screen, these pieces are not brief introductions; they are well-researched and in-depth, written by a wide variety of contributors, often with a personal connection to the subject, providing an extraordinary depth of context.

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One Response to NZ On Screen and Audio Culture

  1. Danyl Strype 5 February 2014 at 2:07 am #

    Thanks Hannah for this case study. AudioCulture is an exciting project of a type I have been anticipating since at least the late 90s. Places like student radio stations and personal collections contain archives of NZ music, in the cases of at least some pieces of independently released work, perhaps one of the few or even the *only* copy still in existence. Such an archive is an excellent way to ensure that not only is this musical history not lost, but that it is understood in context.

    I’d like to re-quote the statement from Clarion Coughlan of NZ on Screen:

    “As NZ On Screen has been paid for by tax payers (via NZ On Air funding), it makes sense to make that writing available under Creative Commons: To give something back”.

    This is exactly the argument I have been making for publicly-funded music, film, and other cultural works. Many of the works in these archives may have been partly or even fully funded by the public, yet we are still paying rent-seekers to access them online. Enough.