Towards A Formalism for Terms and Conditions

Workshop Homepage
September 24 - 26, 1996

A major obstacle to the further development of digital libraries, and the national information infrastructure as a whole, is the lack of adequate means of providing digital objects and information on any basis other than free, unrestricted access. Authors are increasingly taking the path of self-publishing using assorted home-grown schemes to seek payment and to impose terms and conditions on use. Publishers wish to specify terms of use and ensure those terms are enforced (optionally collecting payment), before providing valuable materials on the net. While payment and related topics are the subject of much commercial activity, mechanisms for the specification of terms of use seem to have been largely neglected.

We propose to hold a workshop on developing a formalism for terms and conditions for the use of digital objects and information. This formalism, or language, must be agreed upon by members of several communities involved in the issues raised by terms and conditions. We will limit the scope of the workshop in the hope of making small but concrete and useful steps forward; this strategy has been pursued successfully in recent related workshops on parallel issues of metadata, i.e. data describing the content, characteristics, quality, and other features of stored data. We will not attempt to devise a formalism capable of expressing any possible set of terms and conditions, however detailed - this would most likely be beyond the scope of what may currently be possible. Rather, we will determine a subset that is small enough to be formalized, and large enough to support many useful applications. We will focus on developing a formalism which:

We consider several topics as out of scope for this workshop, including criticism of current or proposed legal structure of intellectual property law, technical means of enforcement, and payment mechanisms since some terms and conditions will specify payment but others will not.

We will invite leading members of the library, publishing, economic, legal, policy, and technical communities to define basic requirements and to propose concrete pilot projects. Such projects can serve as the basis of joint funding and research, and can provide common focus for collaborative prototyping.

The Workshop organizers are James R. Davis (Xerox) and Judith L. Klavans (Columbia University, Center for Research on Information Access and Department of Computer Science).

The workshop is scheduled for September 24 - 26, 1996 at the Columbia University Conference Center at Arden Homestead, north of New York City.

Information for attendees

Arden Homestead
The Arden Homestead

Related Links

Rights Manager
Text for Fair Use Booklet
Terms and Conditions Publication

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This page was last updated on 9/27/96