Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Government sites using YouTube

Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) has advised government agencies of the risk in using You Tube. Potential issues surround copyright and trailer videos served to users based on similar keyword tags used to describe the video. The keyword associated videos which appear after the clip may include irrelevant, inappropriate and potentially offensive video clips. For example on the Premier of Victoria website which features a dedicated Channel for the Premier also dishes up parody videos mocking the governments transport strategy. The Victorian Premier's YouTube Channel

By submitting a YouTube video AGIMO warns the upload automatically grants a broad licence to YouTube and YouTube users to reproduce, distribute and prepare derivative works of and display the video. YouTube can use any submitted video in anyway they like whether it be commercial or non-commercial.

AGIMO also identified caution should be exercised when Intellectual Property (IP) issues are obvious. For third party IP any copyright owners (such as actors) must give permission to grant the YouTube licence and once granted it may extend to whatever is deemed ‘commercially reasonable’. According to the YouTube Terms of use, agencies loose control of their content once it is posted.

Accessibility issues are a prime consideration in the use of multimedia content on government websites. YouTube embedded players do not meet mandatory standards for Accessibility (i.e. no transcripts, subtitles etc).This is a significant issue for all government agencies and is an ongoing difficult issue. For example a visually impaired man recently lodged a formal Disability Discrimination Complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission over the Tourism Queensland's Island Reef Job website. Although the site was not using You Tube he claimed the site used inaccessible colour contrast and non compliant coding to make it difficult for people using screen readers (which present websites as audio for blind people) to understand.

Government agencies need to consider a risk based decision in respect to their target audience and the accessibility requirements of that audience. There
is argument surrounding the ultimate responsibility with the use of YouTube as a video communication channel. It is not clear if accessibility is the responsibility of YouTube or the content owner, however if the information originates from the government, then agencies need to consider their own legislative obligations in making the material accessible and non-discriminatory. A legal precedent exists under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 because SOCOG failed to make their official website, Sydney Olympic Games, adequately accessible to blind users.

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