As part of their ever-expanding interaction with the fan community, the producers of Battlestar Galactica have announced a competition allowing fans access to selected BSG clips, sounds and music which they can mix with their own footage to create new videos. As their instructions explain:

Be a part of Battlestar Galactica!

We’re giving you sound and visual effects and music clips that you can use to create and share your own four-minute Battlestar videos.

Create your own mock commercials, short scenes or even mini-episodes — funny or dramatic. Choose from more than 30 visual effects, 20-plus audio effects and cuts from the show’s soundtrack, specially selected to help give your videos the Battlestar look and sound. Use them to make your video, add the required promo clip at the end, and send it to us!

Battlestar Galactica executive producer David Eick will choose one video to broadcast in full on SCI FI Channel during an upcoming Battlestar episode.

This sounds fantastic off the bat. Certainly I’d love to have a play and try out my sorely under-used editing skills. However, the instructions also come with these rules:

Your video can’t be longer than four minutes. Don’t use footage you don’t create yourself or that you didn’t get from the Battlestar Videomaker Toolkit.

Do not use any music for which you don’t have the rights.
Do not include images, photos, logos or artwork that you did not create or to which you don’t hold the rights (such as pictures from magazines, books and other Web sites).

No inappropriate content. If we can’t show it on network TV in prime time, don’t put it in your video.

Do not post your film on other sites, such as YouTube, MySpace, Google, etc.

You must be a legal resident of the United States and over the age of 18.

So, once again, the Battlestar Galactica franchise is treated as a purely US property. While I sympathise with the demands and difficulties of copyright, I have to concur with the forums in my disappointment that these wonderful fan-engaging opportunities are not open to the wider, global BSG community. This is another instance of what I have called the tyrrany of digital distance.

Also problematic is the notion that these videos can’t be uploaded elsewhere – be it YouTube, MySpace or similar. I imagine such restrictions disuade some fans or simply get ignored (and its not like YouTube currently lacks BSG fan-made films).

All of that said, I commend the producers of BSG for this initiative, I just hope they can widen both the level of participation and allow fans broader rights to distribute (not profit from, just distribute) the fan films they’ll be creating.

[Via Rex]

Microsoft Australia have a new promotional offer and new website – – pitching Office 2007 at Australian university students. As The Age notes:

Microsoft sells the premium version of its new Office 2007 software suite for $1150, but in a new promotion it is offering the package to Australian university students for just $75. The almost 95 per cent discount for Office 2007 Ultimate is offered through a website made specifically for the promotion, It comes as Microsoft’s cash-cow office productivity suite – which has more than 400 million users worldwide and accounts for about 30 per cent of the software giant’s income – is being increasingly threatened by free alternatives. Most notable is OpenOffice, but there are also a number of web-based competitors such as Google’s Docs & Spreadsheets and Zoho Office. […] When asked why the discount was not being offered to TAFE or non-tertiary students, a Microsoft spokeswoman said: “Microsoft has targeted universities in the roll out of this three month pilot program. If the program is successful, we will look at extending the offer to TAFE students as well as K-12.”

In many ways this is a clever strategic move by Microsoft to ensure that the university students of today – and leaders of tomorrow – are thinking Microsoft when they move out of the universities. It certainly speaks to the competition coming from other options – I must admit I’m musing Google Docs more and more as their export to PDF function makes editing documents intended for the web far faster than using Word and the Acrobat plugin.

Microsoft are also try to tap the web2.0 world of blogging:

Microsoft hopes to spread the word about its offer virally by running a blogging competition, and the first prize is a Vespa GT200 scooter. “All you have to do is mention the word ‘Office’ and the link ‘’ in your blog,” the website reads. “Winner is judged on creativity of the story.”

Of course, there is real potential for that competition to turn against Microsoft, especially when students find their new spiffy formats of Word aren’t compatible with previous versions. Then again, perhaps someone at Microsoft is either feeling ironic this week – or is rather ignorant about Microsoft’s ongoing anti-piracy war – as this ‘cool’ list appears on the competition page of the It Not Cheating website:

So … “It’s not cheating if … you don’t get caught.” That’s certainly not the message my university wants to send. Nor, I suspect, it is what Microsoft really wants to say. Rather, in the push for blogging credibility, Microsoft haven’t thought through their own campaign! It may be intended as satirical, but I suspect most people will find these attempts at being hip rather ironic!

Update (1.35pm, Tues 6 Mar 07): Long Zheng has a more robust argument about why this Microsoft initiative is a bad idea here. (Of course, all those criticisms aside, I have to admit: were I currently a student without a copy of Office, I’m pretty sure I’d be looking to get myself a $75 legal copy tomorrow!)