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RE: If electronic is to replace paper

> -----Original Message-----
> Sent: Thursday, November 18, 1999 7:31 PM
> To: liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
> Subject: Re: If electronic is to replace paper
><snip> What might seem more practical is to set up
> regional archive centers which could be tapped by libraries, but I can
> foresee and understand the opposition most publishers would express
> regarding such complex and hard to control arrangements. And anyway, what
> does "regional" or "local" mean in this age of rapid, long distance
> communication? That seems to leave us with the option of having one
> centralized, well-staffed and well financed database. But we must not lose
> sight of the risks taken when our database for science and technology
> resides under one roof.

This ignores much of the digital rights management (DRM) technology being
developed by Intertrust, Xerox, Microsoft, and others.  By securely
embedding transaction specific rights information (or references to that
information) in the original content, these technologies include the
client/end-user/end-use in the access/permission chain.  There a
historical and pervasive biases in the publishing/library community toward
server-side rights management technologies (i.e. controlling
distribution).  Meanwhile the music industry, which has to deal with a
significant gray-market, has been advancing more flexible systems that are
independent of the distribution path. These systems are now being tailored
for the publishing industry. The advantage is that with distributed DRM
technology the question of where the content is stored and served becomes
moot. The distributed technologies directly address the question of "Does
this user have the rights to make use of this piece of content?"  
Multiple redundant archives for both the content and the
rights/authorization data become possible.

> 2. There is a major jockying for strategic positions going on between and
> among publishers and such organizations as the Association of American
> Publishers, the Copyright Clearance Center, the various document delivery
> companies, and so on, regarding who will control the flow of electronic
> versions of journal articles, and collect the fees therefrom, keeping some
> proportion for their troubles. Just what proportion is reasonable and fair
> is going to be a major bone of contention that will take a long time to
> sort out.   <snip>

You should take a look at http://www.intertrust.com/media/pdf/tick.pdf for
a description of how one DRM system would allow the market to determine
what is a reasonable portion of the final fee.  Because the fees accrete
along the value chain with the services added, the user (or the bill
payer) can decide which fees/services are worthwhile. Multiple service
providers can compete, and can adjust their offerings and pricing to
remain competitive. Other technologies, and implementations of these
technologies, are in the works from a variety of vendors.  Market demand
will drive their features. Right now they are being developed based on
best guesses and the specific demands of the (very vocal) few who are
willing to make concrete commitments.

The publisher and customer communities are going to have to balance the
benefits (multiple redundant archives, open distribution channels, wider
accessibility and flexible business models) against the context specific
drawbacks of DRM technologies. (I won't attempt to enumerate them here,
where one person's drawback is another's benefit.) But bringing some real
market forces into play will go a long way toward determining the
magnitude of those benefits and drawbacks, instead of making assumptions
based on precedents set in a substantially different medium. Which is more
valuable to a library, ownership and perpetual access to a limited
collection which is purchased for an anticipated demand, or access on
demand to an infinite collection on a transactional basis.  I suspect the
optimum will lie somewhere in the middle.  However, we will never see that
optimum balance unless technologies that allow true middle-ground business
models are brought into play.

In IMHO, the only way to break out of the cost vs. accessibility
straightjacket that traps this community will be by trying some very
different ways of defining cost and access. If the community creates the
demand, the technologies are available (and will be fine-tuned).  We just
have to break away from paper-based dogma enough to see how pricing models
with no paper analog could make everyone more productive.

David Ades