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Created: September 26, 2003.
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RoMEO and OAI-PMH Teams Develop Rights Solution Using ODRL and Creative Commons Licenses.

Project RoMEO (Rights Metadata for Open Archiving) has completed its first year of operation with funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and has published a rights solution report. A sixth interim Study and the Final Report describe an XML-based system for the expression of rights and permissions governing metadata and resources in institutional repositories. A principal goal of RoMEO, like that of the Creative Commons, is to neutralize the negative effects of (default) copyright law and controlling intermediaries in order to facilitate easy, open access to protected digital works. On this model, consumers do not need to ask permission for use of resources because permission in various forms has already been granted. The RoMEO Project team sought to develop an interoperable set of metadata elements and methods of incorporating the rights elements into document metadata processed by the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). The goal is to protect research papers and other digital resources in an open-access environment. The project team has developed an XML metadata notation using the Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL) and Creative Commons licenses for disclosure of the rights expressions under the OAI-PMH. The markup model covers both individual digital resources and collections of metadata records. A new 'OAI-RIGHTS' Technical Committee has been formed by members of the RoMEO and OAI project teams to further develop the proposals and to publish generic guidelines for disclosing rights expressions.

Project RoMEO Background

"The JISC Focus on Access to Institutional Resources (FAIR) programme aimed to 'evaluate and explore different mechanisms for the disclosure and sharing of content (and the related challenges) to fulfil the vision of a web of resources built by groups with a long term stake in the future of those resources, but made available to the whole community of learning.' Many of the projects funded under the programme are exploring the establishment of Institutional Repositories of academic research output, using the Open Archives Initiative's Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) to disclose and harvest metadata about those resources (often referred to as eprints).

However, some of the main barriers to the success of such repositories are not technical, but legal and cultural. In particular, the Institutional Repositories model raises a wide range of IPR issues.

For example, if academics sign away their right to self-archive through journal publisher Copyright Transfer Agreements (CTAs), the whole process may collapse at the first hurdle. Once a paper has been self-archived, how can academics ensure that the rights they want asserting (say the right to be named as author, and to stop the text being altered) are asserted? Conversely, how can they ensure that other rights given them by copyright law that they may not care for (e.g., to prohibit copying) are waived? There are also rights issues for Data Providers and Service Providers. Data Providers may be pleased that their metadata is being harvested, but what if someone then starts selling access to it? Service Providers may add value to the metadata they harvest, but who owns the rights in that enhanced metadata and how can it be protected?

The RoMEO Project was funded for one year to investigate the IPR issues relating to the self-archiving of eprints by academic authors via Institutional Repositories. It aimed to develop some simple rights metadata by which such papers may be protected in an open-access environment. It also aimed to investigate the issues relating to the IPR protection of metadata disclosed by Data Providers and harvested by Service Providers, with a view to developing a means by which the rights of such freely-available metadata might be protected under the OAI-PMH..." [adapted from the Final Report]

RoMEO Project Use of XML and RDF for Rights Expression and Disclosure

In the RoMEO Project second phase the developers considered markup formalisms which would best express and disclose the rights identified in the requirements gathering phase. Details of this investigation are published in the interim "RoMEO Studies 6: Rights Metadata for Open Archiving."

For design of a set of rights expressions that would meet the requirements of academic research papers and metadata, the RoMEO Project favored using existing rights expression languages rather than developing their own expression language. The Extensible Rights Markup Language (XrML) was "dismissed on the grounds that it was a commercial, patented product with unclear licensing terms, and at the time of RoMEO project development, XrML did not have a Data Dictionary component. Thus, although the grammar of the language was available (how rights expressions would fit together) XrML had no generally agreed upon words or terms to give those expressions meaning. By contrast, ODRL was an open source language with a form of Data Dictionary. That is, the ODRL Dictionary provides a list of terms, but no generally agreed upon meanings for those terms. ODRL was the language used in the academic author survey... A comparison of the ODRL and Creative Commons solutions showed that either would meet the basic requirements of academics and Data and Service Providers as found by the RoMEO surveys, although a RoMEO application profile of ODRL would provide a higher level of granularity of expression than the simple Creative Commons metadata. As the RoMEO Project progressed, the Creative Commons initiative increased in momentum, as did the level of support from open access proponents. The Open Archives Initiative developed a keen interest in adopting the Creative Commons solution, as did the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. DSpace, the open-source institutional repository software developed at MIT, also expressed its intention to adopt the Creative Commons licences..."

"One key technical problem with adopting the Creative Commons solution was that their metadata was expressed in RDF/XML and did not have an associated XML schema -- a prerequisite for any metadata disclosed under the OAI-PMH. The RoMEO project therefore proposed a two-fold solution. It would work with the CC licences for expressing rights over research papers, as they looked set to becoming an emerging standard. However, in addition to approaching the CC to encourage them to develop an XML schema for their RDF, the project would also develop ODRL versions (XML instances) of the CC licences that would conform to the ODRL XML schema. The ODRL versions should provide a more accurate description of the content of the eleven CC licences than the CC's own RDF... The next step was to consider how best to disclose the rights expressions under the OAI-PMH. After discussions with the OAI, the RoMEO team proposed that rights expressions for both individual and collections of metadata records, and individual and collections of resources, be disclosed. However, this work is to continue through the formation of an OAI/RoMEO Technical Committee, OAI-RIGHTS, which hopes to report in Spring 2004..." [adapted from the D-Lib Magazine article]

From the Announcement

An announcement of September 29, 2003 was issued with the title "Open Archives Initiative and Project RoMEO Initiate OAI-Rights":

"The Open Archives Initiative and Project RoMEO announce the formation of OAI-rights. The goal of this effort is to investigate and develop means of expressing rights about metadata and resources in the OAI framework. The result will be an addition to the OAI implementation guidelines that specifies mechanisms for rights expressions within the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH).

The area of rights expressions is wide-open with many organizations proposing languages and mechanisms. Therefore, the OAI-rights effort will aim to be extensible, providing a general framework for expressing rights statements within OAI-PMH. These statements will target both the metadata itself and the resources described by that metadata. In the context of this broader framework, OAI-rights will use Creative Commons licenses as a motivating and deployable example..."

Members of the OAI-Rights Organizing Committee include Carl Lagoze, Herbert Van de Sompel, Michael Nelson, and Simeon Warner (for the OAI); Elizabeth Gadd, and Steve Probets (for Project RoMEO). The OAI-Rights Working Group includes representatives from US Library of Congress, Rightscom, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, American Physical Society, Erasmus Electronic Publishing Initiative, Hewlett/Packard DSpace, Project RoMEO/Loughborough University, of Southampton, Cornell University Information Science, Humboldt University Berlin, Old Dominion University Computer Science, California Digital Library, FEDORA/Cornell University Information Science, UKOLN, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Creative Commons.

About Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL)

The Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL) Initiative "is an international effort of Supporters aimed at developing an open standard for the Digital Rights Management sector and promoting the language at numerous standards bodies. The ODRL specification supports an extensible language and vocabulary (data dictionary) for the expression of terms and conditions over any content including permissions, constraints, obligations, conditions, and offers and agreements with rights holders."

"The ODRL Initiative believes strongly in the benefits of free and open standards to the wider community. As a result, all ODRL specifications are available without any obligations and have no licensing requirements. This is in the spirit of the 'open source' community."

"ODRL has been officially accepted by the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) as the standard rights expression language for all mobile content. OMA found that ODRL meets its requirements of a light-weight and simple language for expressing rights, easy to implement, optimised expression for delivery over constrained bearers and suitability for specifying rights independently of the content type and transport mechanism." See the OMA ODRL Profile and the earlier news item.

"ODRL is intended to provide flexible and interoperable mechanisms to support transparent and innovative use of digital resources in publishing, distributing and consuming of digital media across all sectors including Publishers, Education, Entertainment, Mobile, and Software, ODRL also supports protected digital content and honours the rights, conditions and fees specified for digital contents." [adapted from the ODRL home page and online overview]

About Creative Commons

"Creative Commons was founded in 2001 with the generous support of the Center for the Public Domain... Creative Commons is now housed at and receives generous support from Stanford Law School, where Creative Commons shares space, staff, and inspiration with the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society..."

"Creative Commons's first project, in December 2002, was the release of a set of copyright licenses free for public use. Taking inspiration in part from the Free Software Foundation's GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), Creative Commons has developed a Web application that helps people dedicate their creative works to the public domain -- or retain their copyright while licensing them as free for certain uses, on certain conditions. Many citizens of the Internet want to share their work -- and the power to reuse, modify, and distribute their work -- with others on generous terms. Creative Commons intends to help people express this preference for sharing by offering the world a set of licenses on the CC Website, at no charge... Unlike the GNU GPL, Creative Commons licenses are not designed for software, but rather for other kinds of creative works: websites, scholarship, music, film, photography, literature, courseware, etc. CC hopes to build upon and complement the work of others who have created public licenses for a variety of creative works... The aim is not only to increase the sum of raw source material online, but also to make access to that material cheaper and easier..."

Creative Commons technology uses XML/RSS/RDF markup for including metadata in resources so that they can be processed by a licensing engine. The CC website provides resources to assist project developers.

The Creative Commons licensing project "enables users to build and attach machine-readable licenses that dedicate at least some of the rights within a 'copyright' to the public. The Founders' Copyright project enables contributors to dedicate their work to the public domain after a copyright term of just 14 years -- the same term as established by the First Congress of the United States in 1790. O'Reilly & Associates, world-renowned publishers of incisive commentary about technology and society, has released several hundred of titles under the Founders' Copyright. The International Commons Project launched in early 2003 coordinates teams of legal experts around the world with the aim of drafting and eventually adopting country-specific Creative Commons licenses. A planned Conservancy Project will take donations of content and make it available to others under the terms of the donation. The project will function like a 'land trust,' holding and defending copyright or patent rights donated to the Conservancy..."

About JISC Focus on Access to Institutional Resources (FAIR) Programme

Project RoMEO has been funded through the JISC FAIR programme. "The JISC Information Environment is envisaged as a virtual place where members of colleges and universities can deposit and share useful content (eg, research outputs). The current collection of JISC funded content has the potential to grow to embrace both externally generated content from publishers and aggregators and community-generated resources. To achieve the latter, staff and students will need a 'place' or 'places' in which to lodge suitable content and products and a means for exchanging and adding to it. This is an important part of developing a relevant and useful portfolio of resources. The FAIR programme has been developed to create the mechanisms and supporting services to allow this process to prosper and these 'places' to be built. The work of this programme has been inspired by the success of the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) -- a simple mechanism that allows metadata about resources to be harvested into services that can be searched by staff and students..."


"The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting defines a mechanism for harvesting XML-formatted metadata from repositories. The protocol does not provide a mechanism for harvesting data (content) that is not encoded in XML. The protocol also does not mandate the means of association between that metadata and related content. Since many clients may want to access the content associated with harvested metadata, data providers may deem it appropriate to define a link in the metadata to the content. The mandatory Dublin Core format provides the identifier element that can be used for this purpose..." [from the FAQ document]

The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (referred to as the OAI-PMH in the remainder of this document) provides an application-independent interoperability framework based on metadata harvesting. There are two classes of participants in the OAI-PMH framework: (1) Data Providers administer systems that support the OAI-PMH as a means of exposing metadata; and (2) Service Providers use metadata harvested via the OAI-PMH as a basis for building value-added services. A harvester is a client application that issues OAI-PMH requests. A harvester is operated by a service provider as a means of collecting metadata from repositories. A repository is a network accessible server that can process the 6 OAI-PMH requests... A repository is managed by a data provider to expose metadata to harvesters . To allow various repository configurations, the OAI-PMH distinguishes between three distinct entities related to the metadata made accessible by the OAI-PMH. [1] resource: A resource is the object or "stuff" that metadata is "about". The nature of a resource, whether it is physical or digital, or whether it is stored in the repository or is a constituent of another database, is outside the scope of the OAI-PMH. [2] item An item is a constituent of a repository from which metadata about a resource can be disseminated. That metadata may be disseminated on-the-fly from the associated resource, cross-walked from some canonical form, actually stored in the repository, etc. [3] record A record is metadata expressed in a single format. A record is returned in an XML-encoded byte stream in response to an OAI-PMH request for metadata from an item. A record is identified unambigiously by the combination of the unique identifier of the item from which the record is available, the metadataPrefix identifying the metadata format of the record, and the datestamp of the record..." [adapted from the spec]

About Project RoMEO

"The RoMEO Project (Rights Metadata for Open archiving) was also funded under the FAIR programme. It is investigating all the intellectual property rights (IPR) issues relating to the self-archiving of research papers via institutional repositories. One key issue is how best to protect such research papers, and the metadata describing those papers, in an open access environment. The investigations have taken the form of online surveys of academic authors, journal publishers, Data Providers and Service Providers, as well as an interesting analysis of 80 journal publishers' copyright transfer agreements. There were two principal aims of the data gathered through these surveys. The first was to inform the development of some simple rights metadata by which academics could protect their open access research papers. The second was to inform the creation of a means of protecting all the freely available metadata that will soon be circulating as the OAI-PMH is more widely adopted." [from the Ariadne article]

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