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Television Media Technology

Video on Demand From the Public Library 89

ye oulde library lover writes "In light of the recent story about Wal-Mart and movies on demand, readers should know there is a free service available from some public libraries that lets you download movies and tv shows. The service is just beginning, so selection is pretty mediocre, but the sponsors, Recorded Books and PermissionTV, make some big promises. If your library ponies up the dough for the top service, you will be able to download movies on the same day as their dvd release. All you need is a library card. You can see one of the early adopters — Half Hollow Hills Community Library in the library's blog. Look for MyLibraryDV."
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Video on Demand From the Public Library

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  • Don't torrents pretty much do that? So when it's a community initiative, it's piracy, but if the goverment does it, it's ...
    • The difference is this is legal. its only old movies and Julia Child cooking shows though (so far)
    • It'll have DRM for sure. Which leads to the REAL question: Does it run on Linux?

      • No. Windows only.
        • That sound you hear is the whoosh of sarcasm rushing over your head and the head of the previous poster. Of course it only runs on windows. This is why I stopped using the public library in the first place.
          • That sound you don't hear is the other people in the world who give a crap. Public libraries feel compelled to contract with the companies (who in turn feel compelled to use the DRM the MPAA forces on them) who sell these services in order to stay relevant and keep up with an increasingly modern, less book-oriented public.
            In my library, we haven't gone to video yet, but we have DRM'ed downloadable audio books (from Overdrive) because that's the only way we can offer them without getting our asses sued off.
            • People don't ask because they know what the answer is and don't bother. That's why I've given up on the public library.
              • It is precisely that kind of thinking that will get you no response from your library. Nobody is going to read your mind. If you have desires or concerns, voice them. Ask questions, ask for services, write letters to the director, the board of trustees (or the county administration, depending on what the structure of your library system is). If you come off defeatist (which you do in this thread) or like a jerk with an axe to grind (which far too many of the people we get complaints from do), you probably w
    • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @05:15PM (#17925868) Homepage Journal
      legal, is te last word you're looking for.

      Yes, funny thing, Libraries have been given special permission to lend things.

      You should go to one some time.
      • And here I thought I had a right to lend or resell my possessions to my friends and family. Guess it turns out they'll have to buy their own pencils, video games, and books. Oh well, we may be turning into a permission society, but at least it'll be good for the economy.
  • by majortom1981 ( 949402 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @04:37PM (#17925394)
    I am a network technician at the Huntington Public library in NY next school district over from Half Hollow. We are looking into this service too. we are doing testing. Its not bad but you have to install a client. There are a couple of services that libraries can use.
    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @04:53PM (#17925610)
      My library has this and the librarians are clueless how bad this is.
      The main problem is this the company and the librarians and the broshures they hand out say it's for MP3 players. well it's not: it only plays on WMA 10 compabtible devices. This means no ipods, very few Mp3 players even the ones that play the older WMA files. It won't play on a mac and it won't play on linux computers. And it won't even play on older windows machines that don't have WM player 10. Sure you can download it but is granny gonna do that?

      Also the way the check out works is that you can check it out once for two weeks, renew it once for two weeks, and then you can never check out the same book a second time, making it essential to have multiple fake library IDs if you want to get through some long book.

      Now given that the libraries have fixed budgets I'm sure this resulting in the purchase of fewer CDs . The 95% of the world that does not have a WMA 10 compatible "MP3" player is subsidizing this.

      If you want to use it you have to not only buy a WMP 10 compaitble Music player, but now you also have to use some new music management system different from the one you use for your other players to transfer the audio. You have to have a windows computer too.

      I guess the most galling thing to me was that librarians kept showing me the printed broshure from the company saying it worked with any Mp3 player and insisting I must be mistaken.

      • by ffflala ( 793437 )
        Libraries have to pay closer attention to copyright than the average user (though what their patrons do with it is not their responsibility)

        Audiobooks --which you're talking about-- are commercial recordings and as such are faced with the same problems as copyrighted music. Your library can and probably does provide thousands of recorded titles including music and spoken word.

        What you're suggesting is the only really useful thing would be like them converting all their audio files to mp3s and making them av
        • Good information, but got a bit condescending towards the end.

          I wonder if you missed the main point of his post - that librarians are fooled by the brochure and don't realize the limitations on the software they are buying/using. By buying a system without knowing its limitations, they are not in a very good position to pay a fair price. And by continually giving patrons incorrect information, they are just causing confusion and wasted time.

          Now, as for the "But if you want to subvert copyright DRM, audio
          • by ffflala ( 793437 )
            Before getting bogged down in discussion of interoperability, because essentially I agree with you:

            Condescending? Probably, it comes from frustration at repeatedly witnessing common sentiment at a problem that could be addressed with effort to learn on anyone's part.

            Same problem with these poorly-informed librarians relying too heavily on vendors for accurate information. That reliance, coupled with reluctance to obtain expertise, keeps many vendors in business.

            Second, do you have no concept of the computer
            • This is where I felt it got a bit condescending: In return just do a LITTLE bit of your own work to get it to play on your fashion accessory of choice for free, m'kay?

              First, as I've said in other posts, libraries aren't free unless you plan on never paying taxes. Second, the fact that most portable audio players and all Macs (around half of which are owned by people over the age of 55, according to a recent survey) can't play these files should not be relegated to a quip about a "fashion accessory."

              The sim
              • by shalla ( 642644 )
                Or, instead, you could look at it as a way of INCREASING who the library is serving.

                I'm another librarian. I darn well know that many of the audiobooks that you can download through our catalog are DRMed WMA files that do not work on iPods and only work on certain mp3 players. (To add to the confusion, we're part of a library consortium and different people have negotiated different deals with different vendors, so the patrons in our county have access to three different types of audiobooks available for
                • Well, I certainly hope you didn't misunderstand the thrust of my posts. My big problem was ffflala's attitude towards the whole thing. It was very much one of trivializing people's wishes to avoid all these compatibility annoyances you go through (e.g the "fashion accessory" comment) and to blame the user for not doing enough work learn how to break the DRM. Second, I was backing up the original posters point about how the librarians bought this crappy system and instead of listening to their patron, the
                  • by shalla ( 642644 )
                    The DRMed WMA is the dealbreaker for the iPod. (Well, the price is too, but conceivably I could get a grant or find a pot of gold or something if I just HAD to have iPods.) I've heard rumors *cough* of ways around it, but I certainly can't in good conscience break the licensing agreement and suggest to patrons that they start shopping around for ways to break the DRM. :(

                    We do have one Mac with iTunes on it, and we do allow patrons to (carefully) purchase and download things to their iPods, but that's an i
      • You are talking about the audio download service that has been around for a year or two. The brochures you mention are about that service. This is a completely different service that's just for video. You don't need any hardware for this, just Media Player 9 or 10.
      • Also the way the check out works is that you can check it out once for two weeks, renew it once for two weeks, and then you can never check out the same book a second time, making it essential to have multiple fake library IDs if you want to get through some long book.

        Not sure about other people, once I've seen a movie that is it for the most part. I've moved on. I think I have seen the same movie maybe 3 times in my life. I have a whole bunch of old VHS and DVD's that have only ever been watched once.

    • I would recommend against this service, as it supports Windows clients only. As a potential customer, you are in the position of encouraging support for other platforms, such as OS X and Linux. You'd be excluding those patrons of your library if you did not recognize them as first class citizens.
  • readers should know there is a free service available from some public libraries that lets you download movies and tv shows.

    Yeah, it's called the internet.
  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @04:42PM (#17925438) Homepage
    Why would individual libraries be doing this? Wouldn't make more sense from a power by numbers point of view to have 1 online library that holds and distributes all the content? Kind of like the library exchange program. If my library doesn't have a book, then I can get to have it shipped from another library that does have the book. There's no reason why each library should have to have their own system. There should be at least a state level (province level cause I'm in Canada) if not national level program. If they really got their act together they could have 1 huge international digital library. With ebooks and everything.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Guppy06 ( 410832 )
      "Why would individual libraries be doing this?"

      Because public libraries are local institutions, rather than federal.

      "Wouldn't make more sense from a power by numbers point of view to have 1 online library that holds and distributes all the content?"

      Who pays for it? Local governments pay for their own.

      "If my library doesn't have a book, then I can get to have it shipped from another library that does have the book."

      I'll bet this only works in the same county (i. e. under the authority of the same local gove
      • Ok, how about this. Each library who wants to make this service available to its patrons pays a fee to one organization so that they can handle all the logistics such as setting up server and all that other junk. This way all the funding is still local and still comes from the local libraries budgets, but they don't have to manage the system themselves. Just because it's a national system does not mean the funding would have to come from federal tax dollars. The library of congress in a national library.
      • As I understand it, there definetly is a tiered library system. There is definetly a distinction between a city library and a county library.

        Also, have you considered that there actuallly are Federal libraries [] like, hrrm, say the Library of Congress? Why couldn't we get a digital subscription to thier collected works? :)

        Also of note, is that most state funded University libraries are public places. While I am sure that most state citizens can't checkout books without being a student, I think that there are
      • "If my library doesn't have a book, then I can get to have it shipped from another library that does have the book."

        I'll bet this only works in the same county (i. e. under the authority of the same local government).

        Our public library (in Massachusetts) will look for hard-to-find books and articles from about anywhere in the U.S., as far as I can tell. I've special requested articles in obscure journals that have ended up coming from various university libraries around the country. About 15 years ago

      • As others have pointed out, I believe that's called "BitTorrent."

        One key difference is that the international digital library GP was describing would probably pay for CDs and DVDs with money from taxes, where the current BitTorrent system is funded by through the RIAA/MIAA legal departments.
    • In the US libraries are funded at the local level by city or county taxes. You do have some colleges that allow public use and check out but they are a less common. Most libraries are members of the Interlibrary loan system, where you can request a book and they will get it from other library.
      Not sure how the video system would work but I have access to two library that have audio book system similar to it. You can go to the library web site enter your library ID/passwprd and then download audio books w
    • The library buys one copy and then can lend it out. If it wants to lend the same thing out to 2 people it has to buy 2 copies. If there was just the one central library, that library would have to have hundreds or thousands of copies of each item in order to accommodate all the people that would want to use it. The cost would be astronomical, this is why they choose this model, each library ponies up some cash to buy their members access to some content, the online library service then buys copies of thi
  • I Love Libraries (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rueger ( 210566 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @04:42PM (#17925440) Homepage
    A good public library is one of the great resources anywhere. I love them.

    Entertainment, information, fun, enlightenment, all for free.

    Plus, even in these Internet days, you can still phone the library with a question and they will look up the answer!

    Our local library has a really amazing collection of DVDs, both recent and classic and foreign films. Kind of like NetFlix without paying a monthly subscription fee.

    It is inconceivable that one could create such an institution these days. No politician would ever - EVER - support the idea today. Can you imagine how the MPAA or RIAA would fight to prevent the free loans of their products? Could book publishers be far behind?

    Libraries - gotta love them.
    • Discovering my local library was the final nail in the coffin of my Netflix membership. The library has more DVDs than I have time to watch and many of the big new releases as well as the more obscure stuff. I'm sure ultimately a service like Netflix has a larger DVD collection, but there's really only so many hours in a lifetime.
    • Libraries are only "free" if you don't pay taxes. Or never WILL pay taxes.

      I'm not saying I don't love 'em. But you have to realize that for those that aren't fortunate enough to get a significant amount of their budget from charitable donations, the money comes out of your pocket.
      • by mothas ( 792754 ) *
        True, and I do pay quite a bit in taxes, but I still think libraries are one of the best values out there. I mean, don't you wish there were a little check box on your tax form sending a dollar to fund public libraries in some way instead of to the current president's re-election campaign?
        • As I said, they're well worth it. I just don't like the whole "free" label being stuck on something that in no way is free. It's like saying that the interstate system is free.
  • A good idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Andyman1134 ( 854184 )
    This looks like it could be a great service, but I can't help but think the movie industry will fight this one to the death. On the one hand, the libraries already have the right to loan movies for free (by law) as well they should be able to. On the other hand, the libraries are unlikely to have deep enough pockets to battle it out with the industry. And it is highly unlikely they will just pass on the chance to fight this one out. If this goes as well as it could (for us) it would severely undercut th
  • Here on long Island (where half hollow hills is) we have whats called "The Suffolk Cooperative Library System" It basically combines all the libraries in suffolk county into one semi unit. Our catalogs can be accessed by anybody in the system and books and dvds can be shipped between libraries. We even do some services as one unit. If it becomes a good service the whole system could offer it. I do not know how the rest of the country works though.
  • Such a deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @04:51PM (#17925590) Homepage

    If your library ponies up the dough for the top service,

    Great. Now my local library, already facing a funding crunch to purchase non fiction books... Has yet another way to waste scarce cash on entertainment. Libraries are supposed to supplement Blockbuster and Netflix, and do the things they won't because there's no money in it - not compete with them.
    Libraries in their race to become relevant - are becoming meaningless.
    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      That right. People should be forced to go to the library to check out media. Leave doing it from the comfort of your own home is for the weak.

      If you library is cashed strapped, then they shouldn't do it. If you think they are anyways, get involved.

      It is called a PUBLIC ligrary for a reason.

      • by zCyl ( 14362 )

        People should be forced to go to the library to check out media.

        Not that this will be the primary group of people interested in this service, but what about the elderly and disabled? It seems to me that they would find access to their local public library from their own home to be a valuable service. People who can't walk or drive to the library might still like to read books or watch movies from their library.

        Leave doing it from the comfort of your own home is for the weak.

        Or written more responsibly,

    • I concur.

      While I am not one to say, "Buy lots o' books." The fees a library will pay to provide this service will be high, and IMHO might be better spent other places.
  • Might as well look at what they have now before the RIAA or whoever tears it to shreds. Unless their selection is really bad, its only a matter of time before someone gets ticked.
  • by phatlipmojo ( 106574 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @04:53PM (#17925624)
    Nuh-uh. Not cool.
  • by Captain Rotundo ( 165816 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @05:06PM (#17925762) Homepage
    I don't like sounding like a GNU/Linux zealot, but it is disheartening when these people always choose windows only options, especially when there are easily availble ways to distribute media for any OS. I am near the half hollow hills district, I wonder if I get a cross library sticker (so I can borrow from them since they are in the suffolk county system) if it would let me download too :)
    • What Library are you with? A couple of Libraries in the suffolk system are testing this. We are testing it here in Huntington. Go and ask . They might show it to you.
    • by zCyl ( 14362 )
      Well, as a fundamental principle there cannot really be an open source program which supports digital rights restriction (because someone can just remove it). So either they must be willing to accept standard convenient file formats which do not include rights restrictions, or they have to use a closed-source program which does. As far as I know, the number of closed-source media players on Linux is fairly small.

      Of course, the ideal solution is for public libraries to simply use standard file formats. Pe
      • Well, as a fundamental principle there cannot really be an open source program which supports digital rights restriction (because someone can just remove it).
        Uh-oh! Somebody better go tell Sun []!

    • Libraries are supposed to be about full access to all citizens, and this "certain Windows versions" only DRM excludes the poor ("welfare won't pay for a PC that can run XP"), the rich ("Dude, I bought a Mac"), and the intelligent do-it-yourselfer's ("just added a new node to my beowulf cluster of atomic supermen"). This is partly why libraries still loan cassette tapes and VHS when you have to go way out of your way to buy either new in a store (not counting the never opened collectibles in 2nd hand shops
  • With physical media (books, CDs, DVDs) the card is an important proof, that one has no outstanding items before she/he can borrow more.

    Why can't the Internet downloads be anonymous? To make sure, only local residents can view the material?

    A silly restriction in the Internet age — instead of spending money on each library's card-verification software, web-server hardware et al., they should've hired Akamai or someone like that to carry the stuff for everyone.

    Would've been far better and likely c

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by rabidus6 ( 896985 )
      We just got this at the library I work at. We pay for a certain amount of downloads per month, if it exceeds this we have to pay more. So we only allow residents of the city to use it since they are the ones paying the taxes.
      • Two words: proxy cache. If that's the way it is, the least you could do is set it up so the same file is never downloaded twice.
      • by mi ( 197448 )

        We just got this at the library I work at. We pay for a certain amount of downloads per month, if it exceeds this we have to pay more. So we only allow residents of the city to use it since they are the ones paying the taxes.

        Your library is trying to fit the new media into the old way(s) of doing business — not entirely unlike RIAA/MPAA.

        While it made sense for each local library to stock their own copies of books, the dispersed storage of copies of downloadable files is foolish. It duplicates (tri

  • Don't tell me, let me guess... Windows only? Let's take a look.

    Yep, Windows only. [].

    • by smoker2 ( 750216 )
      And due to this being the standard practice (or so it seems) I have taken it upon myself to collect as much media as possible by fair means or foul, merely as a means to save it for future generations to access.
      What choice do I have ? Pay the Microsoft tax, or ... Pay the Microsoft tax. So much for freedom of speech and Fair Use.
      It's interesting how, on open source operating systems there is no DRM angle. Maybe because we realise that "open" means just that.
      Back to you, fuckers !
  • As a strong proponent of 'point and click as fast as you can' as opposed to 'RTFM' I downloaded the app, loaded it, ran it, got a list of movies, picked out a nice Abbot and Costello movie from 1952, clicked download, and BAM.

    Please enter your library card number.
    I looked for the 'signup now' button on their website, didn't see one.
    Called, they told me I'd have to come in and apply in person.

    Doh! Quite a drive from alabama just for a library card!!!!!
    Anyone live near happy hollow hilly library that can run
    • The problem is that tax payer money in that school district is paying for that library. They dont want people who are not hlaf hollow hills school district patrons to use it. Talk to your local Library i am sure they are at least testing it. PS its actually not a bad service if you like older black and white movies, cooking shows, and non hollywood blockbuster movies.
  • by mschuyler ( 197441 ) on Wednesday February 07, 2007 @06:11PM (#17926702) Homepage Journal
    Libraries in their race to become relevant - are becoming meaningless

    No, libraries are responding to their customers. The customer is always right because the customer knows what he or she wants. And the customers of public libraries (who pay the taxes) want nearly everything.

    During the VHS/betamax wars, the customers pressured libraries to provide this medium. The libraries responded. When books on tape became popular with a certain segment of the population, they asked the library to provide them. Libraries responded. When DVDs and CDs came along, customers asked libraries to provide them. Libraries responded. When the Internet became popular, customers asked libraries to provide free access. Libraries responded again. In many cases, the ONLY free access available is at your local public library.

    Libraries responded to these new types of information pretty well, I think, while still providing a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books, children's books, storytimes, programming, reference service, interlibrary loans, holds, local history collections, genealogy departments, classes, and all the traditional things libraries have historically done.

    This particular service we've been discussing is new. There are only a couple of offerings. Yup, they are only windows. That's because, dear readers, the vast majority of people are not at all interested in Linux, slashdot, or whatever arcane OS is popular with geeks. It is simply not relevant. When someone comes up with a service that caters to all at once, libraries will get it. Many libraries are well aware of the MP3, iPod issues on some of these new services. But they are not going to wait until they've satisfied 100% of potential users until they implement, particularly on a trial basis, these new services. When LIBRARIES tell vendors their offerings are not good enough, the vendors will change. It happens every time. Libraries also generally have a vast array of "internet accessible" information you are not going to find with Google. This includes almost all periodicals and indexes, both popular and academic. Just go to your local library's web site and look at the list of "online resources." It's incredible. From JSTOR to Information Access, Proquest to Morningstar, Business Reference to Academic Index. That's a vast amount of information available.

    If you don't use your local library, that's okay. They are quite busy enough already. I don't physically visit my library either; I do it all on-line. But criticizing libraries because they respond to their customers is crazy. If they didn't, they would already be gone. Lots of the criticism here is of organization that do NOT respond to their customers (e.g. Nvidia). You can't have it both ways.

    "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them." -Mark Twain
  • Wow, the slashdot community meets it's twin! In a sort of Star Trek "Mirror, Mirror" way without the evilness. By that I mean that the Library [] community has been at the forefront of infotech since BCE putting the tech to real use for the general populace - making the info available. Tags? try the MARC [] based WorldCat [], Deep Web? try your National ary/ [] Librar
  • A friend of mine and I had this same idea back in maybe 1998, we knew it would go nowhere without some form of copy protection (was "DRM" even coined back then) that just didn't exist at the time. Neither of us were good enough coders or marketers at the time to make what was needed and so we forgot about it. It's nice to see it happening, but I'm afraid the DRM here is going to exclude too many people, as someone already mentioned.

    My wife would love to be able to download content instead of drive to th
  • at our county system. About a dozen languages for download. Windows only "of course".
  • I havent used them yet, but I've them in the catalog. They basically expire in three weeks, but I'm not sure how they implement that.
  • If you have to run Microsoft software to make it work

    If you have you cant copy it to your mobile media device to watch it during the commute

    If there are restrictions on my freedom to use it the way I want to's not free, just gratis, and then only for those who conform the the corporate giant.

    Our public institutions should not be supporting corporate agendas, like "you must run Microsoft".

"I'll rob that rich person and give it to some poor deserving slob. That will *prove* I'm Robin Hood." -- Daffy Duck, Looney Tunes, _Robin Hood Daffy_