TheyWorkForYou adds guerilla video and timecode of UK Parliament

Stef sez, ", the Open Source re-imagining of the site that the British Parliament should be, has been quietly acquiring video from BBC Parliament for a while now, and has over 30,000 clips. However, due the archaic nature of the Mother of Parliaments, there has been no sufficiently accurate timecode data (anywhere!) to make it available on the site to users. Solution: they've built a little crowdsourcing game: watch the video, match the text, the clip goes live, and you move up the rankings. Improving democracy has never been so addictive. Let's see if we can get all the clips live before the Cease-and-Desist arrives." Link (Thanks, Stef!)


  1. I don’t understand what this actually does. Taking videos and matching texts to them. Why? Could someone explain, please? I am not British, maybe that’s why it isn’t obvious to me.

  2. The text is a transcript of a speech which is in the video, but they don’t know when in the video the speech starts.

  3. The site holds transcripts of Parliamentary discussion and debates. The clips are being matched to the appropriate transcripts so you can watch or read the debate.

  4. I can’t see anyone sending a cease-and-desist for this anytime soon.

    The video clips are presumably grabbed from BBC Parliament — a free TV channel broadcasting highlighted or live debates from both houses — or the govt’s equally free webcast.

    The debate transcripts and voting records are a matter of public record and have been for many years. is a fantastic site doing extremely valuable work; there’s no need to try spicing it up by pretending that they’re somehow operating at the edges of the law.

  5. Eustace, why do you say this is a revolution? And why does Cory Doctorow suggest that a Cease-and-Desist notice will arrive? The way I see it, it’s legal to acquire both the BBC videos and the transcripts. So this site matches the videos with the transcripts to be more accessible to the viewers. So what’s the big deal? Why would there be a problem with that?

  6. @Memespring – Oh, I didn’t know that. Score another point for!

    Memespring’s link quotes Helen Goodman MP:
    “I am not sure whether the hon. Lady is aware that television proceedings and subsequent use on Members’ websites are undertaken subject to a licence issued by the Speaker. The licence stipulates that material must not be hosted on a searchable website and must not be downloadable. The reason for that is to ensure that it is not re-edited or reused inappropriately for campaigning or satirical purposes.”

    Hmm. Playing devil’s advocate, I can think of a good argument for this:

    Everyone knows how damaging an out-of-context quote can be; MPs are only human (some would say barely even that), and can’t be expected to phrase all of their speech in a way that could never seem damaging when taken out of context. And lets not pretend that most of the voting public is rational or dedicated enough to check the original full sources of any quotes they see. So using edits of the recorded video as part of a political campaign just opens the floodgates for this sort of abuse.

    The logical step for a campaigner would be to make a funny and extremely cutting satire of their opponents then anonymously upload it to YouTube or similar. This anonymity and defense of “it’s just a joke, not part of my campaign” is an obvious loophole for the above rule.

  7. @#9 Careful, you’ve just put that material on a searchable website. They’ll be sending cease-and-desists to BB! :P

    (I would guess you could consider posting a speech in parliament that states that speeches in parliament may not be posted to searchable websites in case it were satirised to a searchable website could be considered satirical… Ironic, at the very least.)

  8. @#6 You asked “And why does Cory Doctorow suggest that a Cease-and-Desist notice will arrive?” He doesn’t: he’s quoting another person.

  9. @Bugs

    I wish that was true. The debates aren’t public; they’re crown copyright. When TWFY started, it was with a wing and a prayer that Parliament would take the view that the publicity would be too bad to sue, and instead they would rather grant a retrospective license (which, eventually, they did).

    I admit I don’t know the provenance of the TV footage, but it’s extremely unlikely that’s its public domain.

  10. UK copyright law doesn’t really have a public domain in the normal sense (this is frequently irritating, although not a huge problem), so it’s pretty certain that it isn’t.

  11. in the US, this video would be considered a government work and thusly not subject to ©. this is one of the reasons we’ve been able to reuse c-span’s rebroadcast of house/senate proceedings.

    other western liberal democracies don’t have the same rules. for instance, the australian house of representatives has the following restrictions on their video representation:

    * The material shall not be used for:
    o political party advertising or election campaigning
    o satire or ridicule
    o commercial sponsorship or commercial advertising
    * The television broadcasts are continuous and while in that complete and unaltered state are protected by parliamentary privilege.
    o extracts or excerpts of the broadcast are protected if they constitute fair and accurate reports of proceedings.


    no satire or ridicule? lame, lame lame.

  12. @Danny

    The video footage is from BBC Parliament — a couple of our mySociety guys (notably Étienne and Tomski, with Matthew building the crowd-sourcing stuff) have been working with them for a while now to get this going.

    But yes, we’re operating on the fringes of the law again. The content is all under Parliamentary Copyright (not Crown Copyright these days) and we’re using it subject to the agreement we have with the BBC. Whether we’re actually breaking Parliamentary Copyright or not is a matter for some debate; whether this material should be available in the simple, easy-to-find way that we’ve made it, however, is a much less complicated discussion, I’d suggest.

    If anyone wants to know more, leave us a comment on the mySociety blog post about TWFY video (or email me, Danny ;o)

    (Disclaimer: I am a director of mySociety Limited and a trustee of UKCOD, the registered charity that runs the mySociety project.)

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