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Liberating C-SPAN: Metavid opens Congress to the bloggy masses

While I was browsing the posters at Wikimania last weekend, I came across a fellow standing next to an open laptop. "Is that your poster?" I asked. He somewhat sheepishly replied in the affirmative, and proceeded to demonstrate his project -- Metavid. Metavid is an interface to archived video footage from the floors of the US Senate and the House. Metavid provides easy access to this footage to bloggers, documentarians, video mashup artists, and anyone else.

Metavid allows for fulltext keyword searching using the closed captioning of the video, as well as searches limited by speaker and timeframe. I could easily search, for example, for all comments made by my representatives on network neutrality in the past two weeks. If I found videclips that were especially noteworthy, I could download the clip as a high-quality Theora video file, or post a streaming version on my blog à la YouTube.

In his paper, Metavid co-developer Michael Dale provides an interesting discussion of his project's re-appropriation of C-SPAN's public domain footage. C-SPAN has a habit of nastygramming bloggers and others who use their footage, even when said footage is from government-owned cameras (and therefore in the public domain). Metavid removes C-SPAN's trademarked logo from the footage it archives, or "de-encapsulates" it, eliminating C-SPAN's primary ground for legal threats.

While the application remains rough around the edges -- the available video archive is incomplete, the interface is prickly, and browser support is limited to Firefox + an unusal video extension-- this is a very cool project with a lot of potential. Today Techcrunch is profiling a proprietary video sharing application that will also allow for searching within videos and time-specific interaction, and this is sure to be a hot area in the very near future. In the meantime, it's great to see an open project like Metavid entering the fray early.

Further info: another paper about the project here, project blog here.

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