PSP 2003 Annual Conference
Digital Rights Management Track
by Kathy Dempsey
When I attend an information-packed conference, I'm usually not intrigued enough
by any one track to stay in it for a whole day and forsake all the other
offerings. But at Internet Librarian I broke with tradition and spentan
entire day in a track titled "DRM: Promise, Threat, or Tool for Libraries?" It's
a shame that each session was sparsely populated, because this track had a great
group of speakers and the most comfortable seats in
DRM (digital rights management) is a deep topic that even a whole day's worth
of presentations couldn't completely demystify. The fact that there's no widely
agreed-upon definition is further complicated by the idea that DRM solutions
must serve so many people's interests: content creators, publishers, aggregators,
distributors, and buyers.
A few vendors are creating DRM software that will allow searchers to instantly
clear copyright and pay for information they've found. With these digital payment
tools in place, scholars can get to and use full text and have their payments
go back to the publishers. Through the magic of statistics, publishers would
know which authors' work made money. This way, they could hopefully go one
step further and pay the appropriate copyright fees to the authors.
Automating this process is obviously a good thing. DRM further simplifies
life by allowing its users to avoid having a "patchwork quilt of agreements" (as
it was labeled by Dave Davis of the Copyright Clearance Center). But designing
the software is a multilayered work in progress. Although some packages are
available now, vendors continue to strive for products with even greater functionality.
Because the speakers in this track represented the interests of DRM software
vendors, publishers, users, librarians, and lawyers, there wasn't a consensus
or a nice end-of-day summary that I can pass along. About all everyone agreed
on was that a DRM tool was necessary to handle digital information, the amount
of which will only increase. Users need platform-independent access, document
security, secure payment tools, excellent statistics reporting, and simple
interfaces. Second-generation products are already filling some of the voids
left by the first round. The following services were discussed:
• Copyright Clearance Center's Rightslink (http://www.copyright.com/Rightslink/Default.asp)
There was discussion of DRM eventually being "baked into" operating systems as
they were built. Mike O'Donnell of iCopyright went so far as to say, "I believe
that in the future, all content will be instantly licensable." That would be
nice and would lessen consumer confusion considerably. But at this point, that's
• iCopyright's Instant Clearance Service (http://www.icopyright.com)
• SealedMedia's multi-component software product (http://www.sealedmedia.com/products)
If you want to follow this topic as digital rights management tools are created
and debated, try the following sources:
• Copyright Clearance Center provides news coverage at http://www.copyright.com.
• GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies publishes a Web site called DRM
You can sign up for e-mail updates.
• Library of Congress Copyright Office makes its NewsNet newsletter
available at http://www.copyright.gov/newsnet.
• The Software & Information Industry Association offers lots of news
on DRM bills and laws at http://www.siia.net and a large bibliography at http://www.siia.net/divisions/content/biblio.asp.
Kathy Dempsey is editor of Computers in Libraries. Her e-mail address