Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, October 13, 2008

Can DRM enhance open licenses?

Roberto García González and Rosa Gil, Semantic copyright management for internet-wide knowledge sharing and reuse, Online Information Review, 32, 5 (2008) pp. 585-595.  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:

Purpose – To extract the full potential from internet-wide knowledge sharing and reuse, the underlying copyright issues must be taken into account and managed using digital rights management (DRM) tools. The paper aims to focus on the issues involved.

Design/methodology/approach – Traditional DRM and open licensing initiatives lack the required computerised support and flexibility to scale to internet-wide copyright management. Our approach is based on a semantic web ontology that conceptualises the copyright domain.

Findings – The Copyright Ontology facilitates interoperation while providing a rich framework that accommodates copyright law and copes with custom licensing schemes.

Research limitations/implications – The ontology is based on the description logic variant of the Web Ontology Language. Despite its scalability, this variant has some limitations on expression that will be overcome with the help of semantic web rules in future versions of the ontology.

Practical implications – The ontology provides the building blocks for flexible machine-understandable licenses and facilitates implementation because existing semantic web tools can be easily reused. Moreover, existing initiatives can be mapped to the ontology to make it an interoperability hub.

Originality/value – The paper contributes a novel approach to DRM, based on semantic web technologies, that takes into account the underlying copyright legal framework. This is possible thanks to the greater expressiveness of semantic web knowledge representation tools.

Comment.  I can see how the semantic web could enhance DRM for non-open licenses.  If the authors are saying that it could also help open licenses deal with exceptions (say, for commercial use or derivative works), then I can see that too, although I'd still want to ask whether the assistance was worth the overhead.  But if they are saying that it could improve upon open licenses at the job of removing access and permission barriers, or that any kind of DRM could improve upon the absence of DRM for that purpose, then I don't see it.  Nor do I see how "open licensing initiatives lack the required computerised support and flexibility to scale to internet-wide copyright management."  But I don't have access and will wait until I can read the text.