Cory Doctorow: America’s entertainment industry is committing slow, spectacular suicide, while one of Europe’s biggest broadcasters — the BBC — is rushing headlong to the future, embracing innovation rather than fighting it.

Unlike Hollywood, the BBC is eager and willing to work with a burgeoning group of content providers whose interests are aligned with its own: its audience.

The BBC’s news website is the first mainstream news-gathering organization in the Western world to solicit and give prominence to photographs and reporting provided by its visitors.

Professional photographers spluttered at the presumption of the BBC to use amateurs’ efforts. But the BBC is doing its job: engaging the audience, and picking the best from all worlds, commercial and public alike.

The BBC isn’t perfect. It’s a public broadcaster known as much for hidebound bureaucracy as nimbleness and foresight. Its internet offerings have always been forward-looking, but paranoia over its public image has led it to restrictive policies on things like outbound linking. Until recently, the otherwise stellar BBC News site hardly linked to anything apart from other BBC pages.

Stef Magdalinski, a hacker-agitator-entrepreneur, responded with a guerrilla project called Wikiproxy, which rips all the news stories coming off the BBC news wire and mixes them by linking every proper noun to its corresponding Wikipedia entry. Of course, this burns to a crisp the old BBC policy against linking to external sites.

Rather than sue, the BBC created BBC Backstage, a service for remixing the Beeb that launched last week.

With Backstage, BBC’s online department takes all the goop in its content-management system — breaking news, editorials and conferences — and exposes it as a set of standard programming interfaces. Anyone who can hack a little Perl or Python can mix these into any kind of service they can imagine.

The crowning glory of the Beeb’s openness is the Creative Archive.

The Creative Archive is an attempt to digitize all the programming the BBC has commissioned, clear the copyrights and post it online with a Creative Commons-like license. This will allow Britons to download the BBC’s content, distribute it and noncommercially remix it into their own films, music, gags, projects and school reports.

It’s a shame that Auntie couldn’t find the political will to use a proper Creative Commons license, but this is the kind of reversible error that I expect the BBC to correct soon enough.

Meanwhile, the BBC has shown itself to be awfully clueful with its announcement that the Creative Archive will not employ useless, consumer-hostile digital rights management technology of the sort that Movielink and Apple’s iTunes Music Store waste so much time and money on.

More here.