Workshop on Technology of
Terms and Conditions
September 24-26, 1996
Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Technology Issues for Terms and Conditions
Resolution of intellectual property issues raised in the digital age have created an environment in which experts from several disciplines must come together to identify common ground in order for progress to be made. The necessity for common definitions, common goals, and common understanding is creating major road-blocks to pressing needs of both providers and users of electronic information, needs which must be satisfied quickly as pressures increase. More and more people have access to digital technology, both for the creation and use of information, and more and more pressure is created by this access.
An interdisciplinary workshop was held on September 24-26, 1996 at the Arden Homestead conference facility of Columbia University to bring together experts from the fields of law, publishing, technology, libraries, economics, and policy. The workshop was organized by Judith L. Klavans, Director of the Center for Research on Information Access of Columbia University and James R. Davis, Research Scientist, of Xerox PARC. It was funded by the Division of Information, Robotics and Intelligent Systems of the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering at the National Science Foundation.
The goal was three-fold: (1) to bring together leaders and experts from several disciplines to explore perspectives and pressing issues in intellectual property as viewed from different positions; (2) to formulate a set of common priorities for research and development proposals; and (3) to take a leading role in suggesting to funding agencies directions for research as seen from these various perspectives. In addition to these three larger goals, the technology experts attending were also seeking guidance and information on how to formulate technical languages for expressing these needs; such formalisms are essential both to express requirements on users (for example, who can access the data, e.g. students, alumni, anyone), and to express conditions on use (for example, can the data be just viewed, copied, freely distributed).
The results dealt with perspectives and implications for:
1. The development of computing systems: It appears that computing systems which are built on the premise of explicit resolution of possible semantic ambiguities will need to adapt to the needs for explicit vagueness and intentional ambiguity inherent in legal formulations of terms and conditions.
2. The resolution of legal issues: Input from the legal community defines the basis for measuring legal acceptability as it applies to policy, interpretation, and technical formulation of languages. However, the legal community has kept intentional ambiguity with explicit interpretation in formulating law. A wide range of possible interpretations will have to be spelled out by the legal community in order for the technical community to begin to accommodate to legal specifications.
3. Decisions on ownership levels by publishers: Publishers vary in their approaches to giving electronic access; some are willing to negotiate and others are firmly holding ownership in all formats. The situation faced by libraries is forcing the formation of licensing consortia which is in turn affecting the decisions of publishers. Licensing variations create challenges for the explicit formulation of a language for terms and conditions.
4. Effective measures to respond to pressures due to economic factors: How we sort out legal and technical issues will either feed or disrupt the economic engine. The pressures of both large business forces and significant educational and library forces are pushing in opposing economic directions. Even browsing is an economically significant activity which may well undermine the economic life of the work.
5. International perspectives: In developing rights management technology, it is essential to talk with experts from other countries to understand: interpretation of moral rights, legal differences, cultural distinctions in use, as well as technological matters. The goal of recent legislative efforts is to establish some minimal norms which apply at the international level.
6. The incorporation of user testing at all stages: Since many communities must be satisfied by whatever technology is developed, it is critical for representatives of these communities to be involved in early input to and testing of technology.
7. Community attitudes and acceptance: Since the digital age has imposed enormous change in a very short period of time, and since people tend to be slow to accept change, the only way to achieve acceptance of new legislation, new technology, or new policy is to introduce change incrementally. This principle must be kept in mind as new developments shake the reality that people rely on.
A full list of participants can be found at Terms and Conditions homepage which is reachable via the CRIA home page.
The workshop was intended to explore strategic visions to shape the future in terms of research and development. To this end, the final session of the three-day meeting was devoted to answering the following questions:
Among potential projects identified were: the interface between contract and copyright law, the understanding of how information is priced in the networked environment, the role of ambiguity in interpretation, economic issues, privacy, how users know what bundle of rights they have and the means and advantages for contracting away from those rights, education on technology and the law, education on technology and publishing, technical implementations which are sophisticated and intelligent, interoperation, taxonomies of fair use, social issues and behavior around terms and conditions, and metadata implementations to support privacy and dynamically updatable information.
The workshop was an opportunity to bring together leaders in several disciplines, including publishing, libraries, economics, computer science, law, and policy to focus on pressing questions which must be resolved before technical languages for coping with terms and conditions can be formulated.
Prepared by Judith L. Klavans
October 3, 1996
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