[OAI-general] OAI and intellectual property issues

Herbert Van de Sompel herbertv@CS.Cornell.EDU
Thu, 19 Jul 2001 10:31:02 -0400 (EDT)

hi all,

I have been following this interesting discussion from a distance (while
packing our stuff for our move to the UK).  A lot of really important
issues have been raised.

In this mail, I would like to add a few elements to the discussion:

* First, the "open" in Open Archives Initiative doesn't refer to the
concept of "open access".  It refers to the fact that repositories have a
machine interface that allows third parties to harvest metadata from the
repositories.  see the OAI FAQ at http://www.openarchives.org/faq.htm
under the heading "What do you mean by 'Open'". Even at the time of the
Santa Fe convention of the OAI (the predecessor of the current metadata
harvesting protocol, which focused on open access preprint literature),
the notion of "open" meant "open in an architectural sense".  see for
instance the paper on the Convention 
the Convention itself
(http://www.openarchives.org/sfc/sfc.htm#openarchives).  As such, it is
fair to say that the OAI protocol doesn't make any statement regarding the
business models under which the full-content described by metadata in
repositories is available.

* As already mentioned in this discussion, the OAI protocol (as opposed to
the Santa Fe Convention, I guess) does not address issues of acceptable
use of harvested metadata: which service provider can do what with
harvested metadata?".  At the Cornell meeting (september 2000) where the
foundations for the OAI protocol were agreed upon, an explicit choice has
been made to hand over acceptable use issues to communities implementing
the OAI protocol.  Having said that, the protocol does explicitely allow
for the inclusion of an "about" container attached to each harvested
metadata record.  Typically such an "about" container could be used to
specify the terms and conditions of the usage of a metadata record.  The
very first example in the protocol document actually shows an example
where this is done.  As such, it allows individual communities to express
terms and conditions regarding metadata use at the level of individual
records.  In addition to that, at the level of a repository, the response
to the Identify verb allows for the inclusion of an open-ended
"description" container.  Again, communities could use this container to
include terms and condition information for all metadata records in the

So, I think that from a technical perspective, the hooks are there to
allow communities to specify terms and conditions re the usage of metadata
harvested from their repositories.  Then again, the issue raised by this
discussion (in my opinion) is whether it would be a good idea for the OAI
to provide a "default" for terms and conditions at the level of individual
records and at the level of repositories, which could be overwritten by
communities with diverging needs.  The problem I see with that is that it
would probably mean that the OAI would have to take some kind of position
in the IP debate, which I think the OAI has been avoiding since the moment
of the move from the Santa Fe Convention to the OAI Protocol.  The
latter remark is by all means an expression of a personal perspective of
the situation, and it should not be regarded an official statement of the

many greetings

herbert van de sompel  

On Thu, 19 Jul 2001, billn wrote:

> I believe that the IP issue here is real and will cause problems unless
> OAI sets a standard disclaimer that says (essentially):
> "You are permitted to harvest metadata from this site for the purpose of
> access and/or providing a service for others. You may build services
> with metadata and claim IP rights for the metadata *plus* service, but
> you may not prevent or interfere with others who harvest metadata even
> for the same purpose. Only the created service can be protected by IP,
> not the metadata or access rights."
> While this probably leaves loopholes a lawyer could drive a semi
> through, OAI needs something that establishes its *intention* in the
> legal arena. I imagine a call to the EFF could provide some help with
> the wording.
> This style should cover the use of public and free access sites, but
> some additional restrictions may be added where a private company who
> invested large sums to develop the data requires a license and/or
> payment for access to the underlying data. Charging for the metadata
> would be counterproductive, although they may require registration
> first. 
> This issue will not go away if ignored. It will simply create a quagmire
> of different legal verbiage and restrictions that could cripple the
> potential of a great concept. Please give serious consideration to
> establishing your IP standards.
> Bill Nicholls
> Advanced Software and Technology, Byte.com
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