Internet Archive offers transformative tool for docmakers

A resource has launched that could transform documentary filmmaking: an expansive collection of broadcast TV news, hosted by the Internet Archive.

One of the early beta testers of the new service was Kartemquin Producer Emily Hart (she was responsible for archival research on At the Death House Door and The Interrupters, among other projects). In May 2012, Emily met with other experimental collaborators at the Internet Archive in San Francisco. Below, Emily offers her thoughts on why this could be an invaluable tool for documentary filmmakers and other journalists, researchers, scholars and anyone with an interest in media, and how producers can best take advantage of its features.

"The Internet Archive has been quietly recording television news programs around the clock. Last evening, the archive Emily Hartopened the collection to the public. All news broadcast on every channel in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco since 2009 is now available on its website. Users can type in key words, and the service searches closed captioning transcripts to provide clips of every news story containing the key words. Thirty-second clips are immediately viewable, along with the corresponding transcripts. Users can also watch preceding and subsequent clips online, and borrow a DVD from the archive to view an entire news program without breaks.

"This is a transformative tool, providing immediate and free access to a wealth of programming that may otherwise be expensive and time-consuming to obtain, if available at all. The archive plans to expand its offerings and provide news aired in additional cities and, eventually, other countries. The archive is not intended to replace traditional sources that license news footage, but is a way to view what was broadcast and how subjects are covered. Seeing footage is often very different than reading transcripts. The archive allows everything that aired to be viewed, uncensored, and in one venue. It's unprecedented."

The archive and its TV News service is described in the New York Times and can be searched here.

We're grateful to the foresight of Internet Archive founder, Brewster Kahle, in building this amazing collection. Looking forward, we hope that filmmakers will be able to grab clips for fair use, as we feel this is a legitimate use of the tool.