The Virginia General Assembly likes to keep their proceedings a secret. Missed the live webstream of a debate or discussion about a bill? You're out of luck—there's no way to watch them later.
But. The Virginia General Assembly sells video of their proceedings for $10 per DVD. For the past five years, Richmond Sunlight has annually managed to cobble together the funding to buy a copy of each and every one of those DVDs, rip them, and put them online (on Richmond Sunlight and the Internet Archive) for anybody to watch.
That's where you come in. It's expensive to buy all this video. There are guaranteed to be at least two DVDs per day—one for the House, one for the Senate—but some days they go long and two, even three DVDs are created for one or both chambers. Legislative staff tell us that it'll cost us $1,240 to buy the DVDs for all of 2012, and the video for 2013 will run approximately $930.
So that's $2,170 to acquire approximately 81 days of video. With the 5% Kickstarter fee and the 5% Amazon Payments fee, that's a cost of $2,387 to acquire the 2012 and 2013 video, or an average of $14.73 per day per chamber (the House and the Senate).
Richmond Sunlight makes no money off of this—all contributions will be passed along directly to the legislature to buy these DVDs. In fact, Richmond Sunlight has no money, and never has. It has no bank account, no revenue, no way to pay for anything at all. (As a result, the IRS counts this as taxable personal income for me, so I'll probably have pay a few hundred bucks out of pocket come April 15.) In short, if you don't donate, this won't happen. Period.
$15 will pay for one day's video for one chamber. $30 will pay for one day's video for both chambers. $150 will acquire one week's video for both chambers. For every $15 you donate, Richmond Sunlight will permanently credit you on one day's video for one chamber, thanking you for buying that video to make it available freely.
Support transparency. Join us in liberating the 2012 and 2013 Virginia General Assembly video.
Risks and challenges
I've done this for years. I buy DVDs, I rip them, and I put them online. There's virtually nothing to go wrong. But as I am required to list possible things that could go wrong, here are some candidates. The General Assembly could refuse to sell me video. This would be illegal. If that happened, I would contact an attorney. One or both chambers of the General Assembly could spontaneously stop recording their sessions. This would require enabling legislation, would break a decade of practice, and there is no reason to think that this would happen. If it did happen, then it would be impossible for me to rip the 2013 video, since it would not exist. Finally, I could die or otherwise be terribly disabled, preventing me from ripping this video. I will avoid death or serious injury.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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