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IP, managing digital rights and content - RTD problems and opportunities - El.pub Analytic No. 10

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The uncertain legal situation of IP
Expanding digital content - growing IP problems
Content ownership versus content consumption
DRM development
Are current fears realistic?
Researching the market not the technology
Content management
CMS and knowledge management
CMS users and personalisation
Requirements for managing knowledge
Directions for CMS RTD
References and further recent information
Comment on this issue of Analytic


We should start by apologising for the time between publishing Analytic 9 and Analytic 10. A paper for our recent Barcelona workshop on the subject of "Content and Knowledge: RTD issues" [1] contains an expanded version of the content management section of this article, and slowed the flow of analysis articles.

Readers of Analytic will know that the current emphasis is on digital publishing RTD and how it relates to the needs of a knowledge society. In this article I look at the inter-related, indeed tangled, relationships between digital content and intellectual property rights (IPR), content management and digital rights management.

The uncertain legal situation of IP

Since the introduction of cheap means of reproducing commercial content, the photocopier, the tape recorder and the video recorder, the owners of intellectual property have not been happy with the legal situation in regard to copyright. They have accused the general public of theft on a grand scale, usually estimating their losses in the billions of dollars, euros etc. However, they have, to a large extent, confined retaliation in the courts to large scale pirating, usually carried out on bulk recording equipment. Whether the estimated losses from private copying would be turned into real sales, in the event of an effective ban, is a matter of intense debate but little firm evidence.

The legal position has been less clear than implied by the IP owners, as courts in most developed economies have ruled in favour of consumers where limited copying has been carried out for educational or private, non-commercial purposes. This vague legal situation has not stopped lobbying by rights owners for state support in relation to library lending or for state enforced levies on blank recording material. Such moves have met with varying degrees of success in different countries.

The position with regard to industrial patents is rather different as major infringements are usually prosecuted strongly and result in penalties or out-of-court settlements. Software has been in an anomalous situation as it has only recently been allowed access to patents (in addition to copyright) - and then in a limited form both geographically and in technical scope. Software producers have formed associations to track down and prosecute large scale copying whether by pirates or internally in large corporations. Again the position of non-commercial copying by individual consumers is often unclear, partly because unlike most copyright material where a fixed copy is sold, software is normally only distributed on a license basis.

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