Hard News by Russell Brown


Today, we post the full recording of David Lange's 1985 Oxford Union debate speech. It's been quite a long road here. Ever since I published the original transcript, readers have been asking after the recording itself and I've been negotiating with Radio New Zealand Sound Archives Nga Taonga Korero, which provided me with "listening access" for the transcript, for permission to make it available.

After an appeal higher up last week I thought I'd cracked it, but RNZ's final offer proved to be that I provide a letter of indemnity against copyright claims (which, with a note in hand from Margaret Pope expressing her and David's strong wish that I be able to use the recording, I was happy to do), but that I could not make the file available in any form that could be downloaded.

This was not great for me: streaming means lower quality, and difficulty in access for people on dial-up connections. I really wanted people to be able to download a good quality file and play it offline.

My ideal scenario was to release the speech under a Creative Commons licence: specifically, one composed of the Attribution/Non-Commercial/Share-Alike components. This would allow derivative works, but would not allow them to be sold without explicit permission from the copyright holder. (David seemed to quite like the idea of being sampled into a dance track.)

I saw it as an opportunity to establish some good practice behind the government's fine words about a New Zealand Creative Commons. That iconic speech by a New Zealand Prime Minister seemed an ideal candidate for such practice. (In any case, I was in no position to meet the $45,000 ratecard price for the global rights implicit in posting the 30-minute recording on the Internet.)

Why make these things available? Public good. When we published the transcript here, 10,000 people read it in a week and a half. It took about two days to rise to the top of Google rankings for the relevant search queries. This week, since David's death, about 600 people have come to the transcript from Wikipedia's David Lange entry, which links to it.

The MP3 file posted today is encoded at 96kbit/s and is about 20MB. If you want to link to the recording - and you are naturally very welcome to do so - please use this link.

Anyway, on Monday I took another tack and approached TVNZ CEO Ian Fraser for permission to use the TV broadcast audio (which so far as I can tell is the original source of the radio copy). He came to the party with no conditions, for which I am extremely grateful, and I trust you are too. In the circumstances, it was simpler not to proceed with the Creative Commons idea this time.

I must make it clear that I'm not bagging Sound Archives. It's a brilliant resource, they're nice people and they're simply operating to their current rules; rules they had to bend to originally give me listening access. I intend to work with them on some other ideas in future. It's much easier for TVNZ to be generous with the audio when it can still hold the pictures close. But I look forward to the development of a government policy on archive access, one that the answers the demand for actuality in the network age.

On another matter: the current One News Colmar Brunton round focuses on Clark v Brash and the viability of a New Zealand First coalition. A member of the household was polled last night, and in addition to the usual questions, answered a series of binary questions as to whether Clark or Brash were better equipped to handle foreign affairs, taxation, social welfare, the brain drain, the Treaty and forming a coalition with Winston Peters. There were also questions on whether the driving age should be raised and whether the engine capacity of young drivers' cars should be limited.