Saturday, 26 November 2005

Ourmedia: free hosting for your MP3s and other audio, video and images

As promised in response to comments on my Delicious Playtagger post, this is a "howto" introductory guide to (which promises "free storage and free bandwidth for your videos, audio files, photos, text or software. Forever. No catches." ). Note though that's it's still in alpha, i.e. not quite ready for prime time yet, so it can be a bit slow - and that there are in fact some "catches", which I'll cover below. (I should also say that it's not the only option if you want to upload video files - for example there's Google Video, of course; and see the list on the Creative Commons site of places to publish your music. But I like Ourmedia for audio like speeches.)

How to sign up to for file storage on Ourmedia

The sign up process is unfortunately much trickier than it should be. There is a big fat trap which the Ourmedia "How to register page" doesn't explain (though it should - if anyone knows the webmaster there please ask 'em to!).

1. You must register for an account at the Internet Archive (that's right, the Internet Archive, NOT Ourmedia) by entering your desired screen name, email and password - but my top tip is that you DON'T do it until you've read the rest of this paragraph, or you may be sorry. Now here's the trap: you MUST enter a SHORT email address to register, or you won't be able to upload files to Ourmedia (so a Spamgourmet address won't do, and probably neither will a Gmail alias).

I don't know how long is too long, I had to use my regular Gmail address in the end; I wish Internet Archive/Ourmedia would tell us, ideally on the Ourmedia registration page, that you have to register at the Internet Archive first with a short email (and how long is too long) if you want to be able to upload files - else people could waste time registering at Ourmedia first. It may seem to work if you use too long an email, but then you'll fall flat on your face at the next stage, as I did.

2. Next, go to Ourmedia and at the top right, login using as your username the email address you registered with the Internet Archive (NOT your screen name there), and with the same password as you registered with the Internet Archive. You can then click the Edit tab to change your Ourmedia username from your Internet Archive-registered email address to something easier, if you wish, though it doesn't have to be the same as your Internet Archive screen name (and when saved that will then enable you to login under the new username in future). The username when logging in doesn't seem to be case sensitive on Ourmedia but best play it safe. But do NOT under any circumstances try to change your email address in the Edit tab to anything other than the short email address you registered with the Internet Archive, or you won't be able to upload any files.

The catches

Not so much catches as conditions, perhaps. Ourmedia is meant to help creative people store and let others see or play their work, as their FAQ says: "People who create video, music, photos, audio clips and other personal media can store their stuff for free on Ourmedia's servers forever, as long as they're willing to share their works with a global audience."

So, you can only use Ourmedia to store files to which you own the rights, e.g. photos or videos you've taken, music you've written/recorded, or which others have released under a Creative Commons licence. They only allow you to store legal MP3s/videos etc, not copyright or commercial material. Yes, some well known commercial artists have made their music/songs available free on Ourmedia, like David Byrne and the Beastie Boys, but that's only because they're cool and trendy and up with the times (hint hint to other commercial artists!) and have voluntarily decided to release some of their works in such a way that others can legally distribute and even remix them, etc, for free.

Oh, and no porn as well as no material which infringes others' rights; but otherwise they're quite laissez faire about it.

Also, obviously given the purpose of Ourmedia you can only store files that you're willing for others to access for personal use only, for free. (If someone else then tried to exploit it commercially e.g. by selling CDs of your music, that would not be allowed unless you gave permission - the Creative Commons licence tries to protect you from that sort of thing.) If you don't want people to be able to play your music etc. free even for personal use, then you can't use Ourmedia. The CC aim is more fame and sharing than gain, though that of course may come with the fame - the CC blog often includes some good stories of how some people have had commercial offers after they publicised their work and gained a fan base via Creative Commons licensing of their work (e.g. allowing others to remix).

Uploading your MP3s or video

Now you're all signed up and know what you can or can't upload, you can proceed to store your legal audio, video or images etc on Ourmedia.

Sign in to Ourmedia as mentioned above. Click the "publish my media" link under "MY CONTROLS" on the left, then click the media type like Audio (or Video, or whatever).

It's mostly pretty self-explanatory. Give it a title (which will be the title of the page the media file e.g. sound clip will appear on). Click Browse to find the file on your hard drive, and pick the type of file (e.g. speech). Keywords are tags, you can add your own for searching, one per line (multiple words are fine).

The Basic Details bit at the bottom of the page has to be filled in. This is the bit where you set the permissions to your uploaded work. I am only going to mention the Creative Commons licence, as it may not be familiar to all (I don't use the others listed in the dropdown, myself). There are helpful explanations of the CC licence on the CC site, just click the "more info" button against each option.

Most of us probably don't want to allow commercial uses of our work (unless we get paid for it or at least a cut!) but some might be OK to let other people modify, remix or change their work (but still crediting the original creator). Choosing the jurisdiction isn't necessarily straightforward, I don't think, given the international nature of the Web, so I just go for generic myself, but that doesn't mean generic is right for you - you may need to take legal advice if you don't know or aren't sure. Copyright holder is generally you if you wrote the music or took the video. I've never got the Accompanying photo to show up on the page, so don't bother trying to upload one anymore (if anyone has, let me know how!). And date/year created is obvious.

Now once you've filled all that in you can hit Submit to upload the file. (You can preview it but it takes forever even with my 2MB broadband connection so I don't). After a while the page for your file will come up, with a player and controls to play it (if it's MP3 - sadly they haven't introduced a player for Ogg files yet). Right underneath the play controls box is a bit that says "This media's URL: Link". Obviously you can right click on the word "Link" and copy the link, as that will be the URL of your uploaded MP3 (or whatever).

You can then insert that link into your blog post or webpage to make it playable via Playtagger (step by step instructions are in my separate beginners' guide to Playtagger).


One neat thing is that people can subscribe to a feed of your media file uploads on Ourmedia. My feed URL there for instance is (so anyone who wishes is welcome to subscribe - I post my pics on Blogger, but all my audio and (in future video) files there.

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JD Lasica said...

Thanks for the informative writeup. Obviously we have some work to do to make the registration process a lot easier. Integrating the Internet Archive and Ourmedia registration systems is on our roadmap, once a foundation or corporate sponsor actually writes us a check instead of just talking in generalities about how they support the idea of citizens media. :~)

As for long email addresses being rejected, I hadn't heard about that until your report. I just learned that the Internet Archive has a 128 character limit for email addresses, and until we get a federated registration system, we're stuck with that limitation. But this morning they added an error message for addresses above 128 characters thanks to your entry, so at least that makes it clearer.

Remember, we're a free, all-volunteer open media project, so I hope some of your readers will contact us ( to help create a richer, more accessible website and community. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is always a good read - Thanks!

Improbulus said...

Thanks for your comments Joseph and Florencia.

Joseph, I do appreciate it takes time and money to integrate things, but I'm glad you've added an error message. I would point out though that the problem seems to arise even for email addresses of less than 128 characters, at least in my case it was only 20 or 30, so you might get that looked into or amend the error message - and, more importantly I think, your Help page. Cheers.