Future Information Ownership Rights (Keeping Lawyers Happy)
In a few weeks, I will be attending a meeting entitled “The Future of Information,” organized by the Strategic Planning Committee of the IEEE Publication Services and Products Board. The PSPB oversees publication of IEEE’s official, printed, and digital material, and even the material of other organizations. In the last few years, the concept of big data has come to the attention of many, including IEEE. Publishers are beginning to recognize the need to “publish” big data sets so that interested communities can access and share source data from which they can carry out their research, etc.
To be fair, IEEE’s current approach to Open Access is not static. The PSPB and professional staff are on top of Open Access trends around the world, and are very responsive to those trends. Yet, it remains to be seen how IEEE will respond to intellectual property and other matters concerning the “publishing” of big data sets.
One of the controversial matters related to Open Access has been intellectual property rights. For example, who holds the copyright of published material; how, if required, does the copyright get transferred to the publisher; and what may others who find and read it, do with it? Enter Creative Commons (www.creativecommons.org).
The Creative Commons (CC) organization provides authors and publishers clear direction regarding the answers to such questions should they choose to use Creative Commons’ licensing scheme.
Creative Commons was a real boon to the developers of Web-based digital multimedia when the practice of “sharing” such materials became widespread and then eventually, problematic. People involved in online teaching and learning, as either developers or (re)users of Web-based teaching and learning materials, are mostly familiar with the notion of Open Education Resources (OER), which in some ways provided some guidance regarding the use of online materials. To be categorized as OER, a learning material must have an intellectual property license– and it’s usually one of the six defined by CC. How or whether CC licensing will or can be used and/or adapted to big data sets should be an interesting topic of discussion. If not CC, then what?
Recently, in my leisure time reading of the March 2015 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine, I came across an article entitled, “Duplication Nation.” The article recounts the history of printing, moving into the world of photocopying and its effects on the publishing world, and then more interestingly discusses 3D printing. The article describes printer operators’ ability “… to save and share physical objects and make as many copies as [they’d] like.” It also states that “… 3D printers mean people will copy other people’s intellectual property,” and more to the point, ”… with 3D printers physical objects become just another form of information to be traded and swapped, moving around beneath authorities’ eyes.”
Using the verb “to print” to describe desktop manufacturing of solid items has always seemed inappropriate to me. Sure, the devices are desktop-sized, and they use (printer-like) cartridges in the manufacturing processes, but how can this be called “printing?” Well, whether or not it’s really “printing” that’s going on, certainly there are digital files being used to produce the outputs of those printers. And it seems pretty obvious that those files, available on the Web, shareable, reusable, etc., probably need to fall under some kind of intellectual property definitions.
And lawyers might then argue that the solid, 3D “printed” output products are derivative works, falling under similar if not the same intellectual property licenses as the input files that produced them. Who knows? Certainly not me. But take note that there is already considerable Internet chatter about these kinds of matters.
All this makes me wonder if Creative Commons licensing can provide the guidance we need regarding this multi-dimensional world into which technology is leading us. But we had better resolve these kinds of matters really soon. After all, given the rate of change of technology, none of us knows when more dimensions of Web-based information will hit us. And aside from the certainty that all of this will generate lots of revenue for lawyers, we can’t know what the intellectual property implications might be on the rest of the digital media supply chain.
Virtual reality, anyone?
Sorel Reisman is the Managing Director of the international consortium, MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) in the California State University Office of the Chancellor, Professor of Information Systems at California State University, Fullerton, President Emeritus (2011) of the IEEE Computer Society, Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE eLearning Library, and member of the board of the Open Education Consortium (formerly the Open Courseware Consortium).