Public radio and DIY podcasts: a PRI producer weighs in.

In previous posts here on BB (one, two, three), some readers argued that deep linking is a fundamental right on the 'net, and syndicated public radio shows like "This American Life" should just let fans roll their own podcast code if they like. Others, like reader Brendan Greeley, disagree:
I'm a producer for Open Source, another public radio show distributed by PRI. I'm not in any way speaking for PRI or TAL, though PRI has been great in their support of our use of CC licenses, and TAL is of course the greatest radio progam ever made ever. I think, though, that by creating your own podcast of TAL content you're assuming that TAL can ONLY ever be a radio show, that is, it can only ever make audio files and distribute them. But a media company is much more than the files of content it makes. The shape of our RSS feed is a part of our content and brand just as much as the mp3 enclosures it delivers. If someone decided to grab our publicly available, CC-licensed mp3 files and re-distribute them in a different way than we'd planned (say, filtering out everything but shows about Iraq) I can imagine we'd have a problem with it. It would limit, for example, our ability to accompany the mp3 enclosures with our own descriptive text. It would limit our ability to insert other content -- extras from interviews, a separate file of a promo for a new podcast we're launching -- into our RSS feed. Consumer platforms change by the month; there are ways we haven't thought of to use an RSS feed to shape our content, but we sure want to hold on to the ability to make those decisions when they come to us. The second you take those mp3 files, wrap them in your own packaging and make them available to others in the way most convenient to you, you've reduced a radio program to a provider of one-hour weekly audio files. Maybe that's all TAL wants to be -- certainly every week it provides extraordinary one-hour audio files -- but shouldn't TAL get to make that decision? Also, guys, public radio operates on painfully thin margins, and TAL is a very expensive show to produce. Ira Glass is not a big-media fat cat. Help us out here.
Reader comment: Chris Spurgeon says,
I have great respect for both "This American Life" and "Open Source", but I have a bit of an issue with one of Brendan Greeley's comments. He says, "If someone decided to grab our publicly available, CC-licensed mp3 files and re-distribute them in a different way than we'd planned (say, filtering out everything but shows about Iraq) I can imagine we'd have a problem with it." But wait a minute. Right on the "Open Source" home page, it says that the content is licensed by a Creative Commons "Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0" license. That license (details here) allows derivative works, such as (I assume) an Iraq-only set of Open Source mp3 files. It seems like there's a disconnect there between the actions they'd "have a problem with" and the actions they've allowed.
Robert "kebernet" Cooper says,
I would like to echo Mr. Spurgeon's appreciation for Open Source -- I think it is one of the best hours on radio -- but Mr. Greeley obviously has no understanding of what a network is. The first rule of network programming is "never trust the client". You can never assume that any client is going to use your network services properly, the way you expect or even the way you want. This leads us to Jon Postel's famous axiom, "In general, an implementation must be conservative in its sending behavior, and liberal in its receiving behavior." To assume that (a) anyone will consume your website the way you designed it, rather than on, say Lynx, a voice browser, or using a Greasemonkey script, is preposterous. To assume that (b) anyone will even look at your RSS feed or see what is there besides the enclosures, is preposterous. I listen to Open Source on my iPod shuffle, synced with amaroK. I never even KNEW there was anything of interest in the feed besides the audio. To assume that (c) people won't deep link your content, filter your content, rate, organize or categorize your content is preposterous. Moreover, not only is it preposterous to make these assumptions, to somehow pretend that these inherent network behaviors diminish the value of your content really shows a complete lack of understanding about what makes the web truly great.