Race Fans Rally to Save Historic Race Archive, 2010

Feb 8th 2010 09:00 pm |

Some of you might have been following the continuing saga around the possible loss of the historical race archive on YouTube maintained by Jim Conti (aka partymanners). For those who haven’t, here is a bit of background:

Over the last four years, racing fan Jim Conti has built an archive of over 2000 historic race videos on YouTube.  The archive mainly covers the last 20 years of racing but includes racing from all eras  As far as anyone can tell, it is the largest set of historic races freely available online. If you have watched races via YouTube, chances are you viewed them on Conti’s partymanners account.  Races in the archive have been downloaded 4.5 million times in less than five years.

[You can read more about the background of the archive in an article published in the New York Times last year…]

A few weeks ago, an alert went out via Twitter that Conti’s account had been suspended by YouTube. The reason for the suspension was someone who lent race video tapes to Conti, did not feel they were getting enough attention for their contribution so they filed a copyright complaint against Conti’s partymanners account.  While Conti did all of the conversions and uploads, the jealous party felt they should have been give more credit.  In short, the account was suspended because of pettiness (you can get more details on a thread at the Pace Advantage horse racing forum).

A YouTube account is easily suspended by anyone who claims copyright to its content. The originator of this particular complaint — called the “biggest asshole in racing history” by a prominent racing authority — falsely claimed he owned copyright to races simply because he had copies of them on video. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of copyright law knows this is ridiculous.

The suspension of the partymanners account was recently lifted as the time-frame for the initial complaint expired.   However, this reinstatement might be short-lived as it appears the person who instigated this mess is threatening to request another takedown notice from YouTube.  In reading the back and forth on the discussion board, it’s apparent that this contentious situation might not end well. The content of the race archive remains at-risk.

On Sunday morning, Robin Howlett, a race fan and software developer from Ireland, posted a message on the Pace Advantage forum asking colleagues to begin making copies of partymanners videos so they wouldn’t be lost if the account were suspended again. Howlett posted instructions on how to download the videos from YouTube and created a spreadsheet so everyone could keep track of who copied what. As of Monday evening, approximately 80% of the archive has been copied among six different citizen archivists. In addition, Conti wrote on a message board that he spent the last week making local copies of his videos from YouTube too. It seems, in spite of the selfish actions of one, the content of the archive will be saved.  Unfortunately, if the account is suspended for a second time, who knows when all of the races will be made available again.

When news initially spread about the possible loss of the partymanners archive, I heard some buzz about behind-the-scenes maneuvering to ensure access to these historic races.  I have heard little else since then.  The truth is, the copyright morass around ownership, and the steps necessary to get the proper clearance to “legally” put the videos online, could be tremendously time consuming and expensive.  This gives me little faith that someone will come forward and repeat the work that Jim Conti did over the last four years.  Is it possible that someone could step in? Sure. Will it happen before the content disappears from YouTube? Maybe not.

These races likely exist in tape and film archives throughout the country but they are difficult (if not impossible) to access. If they do exist on analog media, their long term preservation is in jeopardy if they are not being properly cared for.  The “crowdsourced” effort organized by Robin Howlett will ensure multiple digital copies of these races will be saved and documented. While this isn’t ideal, it is a positive step.

It is heartening to see the concern that has arisen over the possible loss of this great archive of racing history.  It seems that Jim Conti – and those who spent the last few days making digital copies from his YouTube account – are the only ones taking action to consolidate, preserve, and make accessible this important footage.  If I am wrong about this, please let me know….


If you would like to read more about the issues surrounding the preservation of historic racing films and videos, check out this post and discussion at the Superfecta blog

Back next week with more history….in the meantime, check out a really nice piece by Zipse at the Track on Gallant Man.


Filed in thoroughbred racing history

6 Responses to “Race Fans Rally to Save Historic Race Archive, 2010”

  1. Caleb B says:

    Is this not a role the Keeneland Library could play for our Industry?

  2. Kevin says:

    Hi Caleb: That is a role that Keeneland plays for our industry and they do a great job preserving racing’s history. Unfortunately, the resources needed for preserving and providing access to 1000s of racing videos might be beyond their capacity at this point. I am sure Keeneland would welcome a significant donation from the industry to do this work but I don’t think they have the resources to do it right now. Again, if I am wrong about this please let me know…

  3. Brian Boyle says:

    Thanks Robin Howlett. You’re a hero to the cause!

  4. Sid Fernando says:

    Thanks for this post, and yes, Robin, big thanks to you and the others!

  5. Good work gang. 😀

    There will always be one bad apple in the barrel,
    but it doesn’t have to spoil the sweetness from the pie.

    I assume the GoogleDocs spreadsheet of videos
    will be accessible at select locations on the web. Am I correct?

  6. […] be uploaded to a second account. Which is … good? When the account was suspended last year, users rallied to save the videos, headed by Thorobase developer Robin Howlett. That’s one reason Conti will be able to restore […]