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NRC Releases IP Study

Today, November 3rd, the National Academy of Sciences presented the
report of the Committee on Intellectual Property Rights and the Emerging
Information Infrastructure.  This report was created under the aegis
of the National Research Council's Computer Science and Telecommunications

For more information, the Chair's Statement, today's Press Release, and
Report Summary and Conclusions, visit the web site at:


Chairman Randall Davis (Professor, Computer Science Department, MIT),
introduced the report, which is not silent on licensing. For example, 
from the Dr. Randall's opening statement:

"The trend toward licensing also is making a substantial difference in
access to digital information. In the hard-copy world, purchasing
individual copies of a work has been the dominant mode of acquisition for
hundreds of years. In the digital world, licensing is becoming the
dominant mode.

"This has several important consequences. For example, it offers a
flexibility that traditional sale does not - licenses can and are being
written to customize the product and its terms to the needs of the

"But increasing use of licensing also means that information is more an
event to be experienced, rather than an artifact to be kept. When you buy
a subscription to a traditional journal, you own the back issues when the
subscription expires. With an online journal, what do you own when the
subscription expires?

"If licensing of information products becomes widespread, we may see
contract law taking the place of copyright law. While there a number of
carefully thought-out public policy concepts built into copyright law,
such as the first-sale rule, licenses are contracts and as such are under
no obligation to conform to the letter or spirit of public policy in

"Licensing also has an impact on archiving: Archiving is allowed only if
it is explicitly authorized in the terms of the license. While some
publishers facilitate such provisions, particularly those who publish
scholarly journals, many others have not. The committee recommends
establishing a task force on electronic deposit, charged with determining
the desirability, feasibility, shape, and funding requirements of a system
for placing digital files in depositories."

Also see an MSNBC article about the report, written by Alan Boyle, Science
Editor, at:


There's too much in this report to summarzie; it's a must read for those
who care about intellectual property. Some of the key recommendations are
that policy makers should not be in a hurry to overhaul IP laws until
society has had a chance to experience more fully the digital environment,
in a variety of ways. The report also recommends that policy makers should
create a system of electronic depositories to preserve digital

Ann Okerson
Yale University Library