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Best Practices for Video Activists

A guide for creators of video and audio content on how to capture and prepare material to be effectively collected, shared and preserved by organizations to ensure the integrity and discoverability of digital documentation of the Occupy movement.


Be aware of your rights. This is not a document prepared by legal experts and it does not contain concrete legal advice. Laws regarding recording differ from state to state. Be mindful that the event you are documenting will contain private individuals and there is the possibility of your material being confiscated and used against yourself or others. Be mindful that institutional archives can put access restrictions on material, but they are not able to resist subpoenas, and if it is a state-run archive they cannot resist freedom of information requests.

  • There are 12 states that require consent of all parties involved in a recording under most circumstances: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington.
  • There are 13 states that have outlawed the use of hidden cameras: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Utah.[1]
  •  There are at least 3 states that have specific laws against the recording of police officers: Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts.[2]

For further information visit: rcfp.org/first-amendment-handbook

There are many lawyers supporting and working with Occupy movements across the country, and we recommend reaching out to the Occupy legal groups nearest you to obtain more relevant information.

For standard rights information view:
American Civil Liberties Union’s Know Your Rights PDF

Capturing Content

There are measures that can be taken at the point of creation that will greatly assist in the cataloging and preservation efforts of your material, as well as allowing for a high quality source for your own records. The information you capture is essential for all future users to identify and validate your material.

  • Shoot and record at the highest available quality that your chosen device will allow. When an event worthy of documentation occurs in the heat of the moment, it is understood that the best equipment for documenting may not be at hand. Regardless of the type of device being used to capture content, make sure all available quality options on your device are set to the highest possible standards.
  • Make sure the date and time on our device is set properly
    Some of the most useful descriptive metadata is the date and time a recorded event took place. This information allows for verification of the actual event when compared to other recorded material, and can be of great use for legal purposes as well. If planning to record regularly, periodically check to make sure the date and time are correct on your device.
  • Record detailed information of the shooting location
    When circumstances permit, visually record or verbally name important landmarks, street signs etc. Describe the event being recorded, names of individuals who may appear or are interviewed, and try to document consent of those individuals.

For further suggestions on capturing content view:
Witness’ Top 10 Tips for Filming #Occupy Protests, Arrests & Police Conduct

Witness’ 7 Tips to Ensure Your Video Is Usable in the Long Term

Offloading Content

When removing content from your device, how you offload and save the material can further assist in efficient long-term storage, preservation and access.

  • Pull unaltered raw files from digital devices directly to your computer desktop
    For cards that may have proprietary structure (e.g. P2 or XDCAM) use the provided software to copy the entire structure from the card to the desktop if applicable. Save the raw file before importing into any non linear editing programs (e.g. Final Cut Pro). Save edited versions along with original raw file. Never delete your original file as it is important to maintain the unaltered source for verification purposes.
  • Keep your material organized
    Create a single master folder that contains separate folders designating file types (e.g. video, audio) or other qualifiers to help keep your material organized and easily accessible. File names should be brief and describe content. Limit titles to 25-30 characters; include the date and location (e.g. YYYYMMDD_OWS_NYC_BKBRIDGE). The date is the most important information to provide. When collected and ingested into an institution, file names will be changed according to the practices of the institution. Back-up files on external hard drives and keep them in geographically separate locations. [3]

Uploading Content

There are different venues to share digital material online, many if not all of them focusing on ease of use but ignoring the maintenance of descriptive and technical metadata, and often severely compressing files resulting in degradation of video and audio captured. These are suggestions for the best method of sharing your Occupy material, including organizations that have begun collecting material for long-term preservation and access.

Tagging your material

When tagging your video make sure to include: date, time, city, location, accepted Occupy tags (e.g. #OWS) and event tags (e.g. #N17) We recommend doing internet searches to find common tags for your type of event. Keep in mind that there are thousands of tags associated with this movement at this stage, so choose informative tags that come up repeatedly in a brief search.

Internet Archive
Testing different upload and download methods has shown that the Internet Archive is the best option for sharing material. IA allows for ease of use in uploading the source file along with text files to provide additional metadata if the user is so inclined. Users can also download the uncompressed, unaltered source file an unlimited number of times, which is extremely useful for collecting organizations. IA disseminates content more effectively and reaches a wider audience. IA also allows for the application of creative commons licenses.

To upload material to the Internet Archive:

The Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment is focused on Occupy Wall Street material, and is currently looking for digital video material online, is receiving digital audio material from the OWS Think Tank work group, and has provided an OWS Oral History working group with two Zoom H2N recorders.

If interested in submitting material contact:

Chela Scott Weber
Acting Head / Associate Head for Archival Collections
Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media
The Center for History and New Media has created the website listed above specifically for the collection and sharing of Occupy movement material. User upload and sharing is available from the homepage and his open to anyone.

While a popular site that allows that allows for easy access and dissemination, file formats are severely compressed and important technical and descriptive metadata is lost. YouTube is being searched by collecting organizations for relevant material, but it is important to consider that due to the volume of uploads important content can be overlooked. There is also no option to download the source file, even if you are the creator and uploader of the file.[4]

The collection of Occupy material is widespread and is slowly becoming more organized. Above are just a few examples of options, but do not begin to cover the scope of institutional options for collecting.

The Vimeo Plus account allows for the source file to be downloaded, though this is a paid version of Vimeo and excludes regular Vimeo account users. Vimeo also deletes the source files of regular account users after about a week. In general, Vimeo has the same issues as YouTube in regard to the loss of technical and descriptive metadata. Vimeo does make contact information of account holders available, allowing for direct communication if collecting organizations are manually searching for content.

Bit Torrent
We have not tested bit torrent at this stage, but recommend that if you have a bit torrent stream contact the institution of your choice and make sure to provide them with your tracker.

Depositing with an Archive

If choosing an institution for deposit of media materials, review the deposit agreement to ensure that ownership, access, timelines and other terms are in agreement with what you want for your material. Even if you choose to deposit with an institution, keep your original material backed up on a hard drive.

Points to consider when depositing

  •   Consider if you want to gift material (which is preferred) or loan material.
  •   Is it physical or digital property being deposited, what are the rights changing hands?
  • Will any restrictions be imposed on material, and if so for what length of time?
  • Discuss copyright terms.
  • The agreement should list exactly what materials are being deposited- including titles and format types.
  • Agreement on access terms both for users and the donor. In regard to digital material, the donor should maintain their original copy.
  • The role of the archive should be clear in regard to storage, preservation, any restoration care, and cataloging.
  • Discuss any security concerns in relation to deposited material.
  • Discuss whether material can ever be transferred to another archive, should circumstances arise where this may be an issue. Generally donors choose an archive for very specific purposes, and do not wish to see material moved elsewhere.

The copyright holder controls the rights of distribution, public performance, right to prepare derivative works, right of public display and right of reproduction. Be clear when depositing material which rights you want to maintain and which rights you are willing to grant to the collecting institution.[5] Applying a creative commons license to your material beforehand will make it clear immediately what you are comfortable with and avoid any lengthy legal negotiations.

Creative Commons
The goal of Creative Commons is to promote widespread participation in culture by cultivating universal access. CC does not replace copyright, but provides for simple licensing application by content owners to allow for copying, re-posting, and remixing of material without the hassle of filing separate and explicit permissions generally practiced through the outdated copyright process. CC licenses are very useful for preservation purposes as it allows for simple copying and migration.[6]

  •  Applying a CC license to your material
    This process simply requires deciding what you are comfortable allowing others to do with your material, selecting a CC license that works for you, and displaying the appropriate provided CC license icon on your site or work, or simply write out the terms of your license.

For more information about CC visit: creativecommons.org

[1] Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, “Introduction: Recording — State hidden camera statutes,” Rcfp.org, 2011, Web, 8 Dec. 2011,
[2] Wendy McElroy, “Are Cameras the New Guns? The move to stop recording of police misconduct,” Thefreemanonline.org, 31 May 2010, Web, 8 Dec. 2011, <http://www.thefreemanonline.org/headline/are-cameras-the-new-guns/#>.
[3] Library of Congress, “Why Digital Preservation is Important for You,” Digitalpreservation.gov, 26 Jul. 2010, Web, 30 Nov. 2011,  <http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/videos/personal_archiving/index.html>.
[4] De Rham, Rufus, Metadata Spreadsheet, 2011.
[5] Library of Congress, “Depositing Films with Archives: A Guide to the Legal Issues,” Loc.gov, Aug. 1994, Web, 10 Dec. 2011, <http://www.loc.gov/film/donate.html>.
[6] Creative Commons, 2011, Web, 8 Dec. 2011, <Creativecommons.org>.