ERCIM News No.32 - January 1998

EU-NSF Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and Economic Issues

by Christos Nikolaou

The first of the two meetings of the IPR and Economic Issues Working Group took place 27-29 August at IEI-CNR (Institute for Information Processing of the Italian National Research Council) in Pisa, Italy. The purpose for these meetings is to generate topics for further research in Intellectual Property Rights and Economics with respect to Digital Libraries. At the end of the two meetings the working group will have defined a research agenda in the area.

The group includes American and European researchers. The European participants are Costis Dallas, Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with interest in computational archaeology, Museum Information Systems, and IPR issues for on-line cultural objects; Christine Vanoirbeek, SGFI (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland) with interest in electronic publishing and commerce; Sebastien Steinmetz, Econometrics Lab of Ecole Polytechnique; P. Bernt Hugenholtz, Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam, and Christos Nikolaou (chair), University of Crete and Institute of Computer Science, FORTH, with interests in microeconomic algorithms for resource management of distributed systems and transaction processing systems. The U.S. participants are Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, U. of Michigan Ann Arbor, information/internet economies, pricing; Jakka Sairamesh, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, microeconomic algorithms for load balancing, performance management, distributed systems; Ann Okerson, Yale University, policy issues for libraries; Pamela Samuelson, U. of California, Berkeley, policy/legal issues for information society, electronic commerce; Bernard Rous, ACM, electronic publishing, and Mike Wellman (chair) U. of Michigan Ann Arbor, AI, with interests in information/ agent economies.

As can be seen from the participants list, the IPR and economics WG is a very diverse group. It was therefore deemed necessary that during our first day of the meeting, each one of us had a chance to introduce himself/herself to the group, present recent work in the area and discuss briefly what the open research issues are that in his/her mind are the most important ones. We started with the WG members who work with content providers. Ann Okerson discussed several issues, related to the delivery and pricing of information to end users, mostly from the perspective of a large academic library. Costis Dallas talked about recent research on Museum Information Systems and the emergence of Internet Archaeology. Bernard Rous presented ACM's efforts to transform to the electronic world, creating digital libraries of its own collections, and trying to reinvent itself as a digital community. Next, we discussed legal issues. T. Bernt Hugenholtz's institute investigates information law as such. The issues covered include property rights and legislation, public information law (information access), private information law (press law), information infrastructure and copyright law. Pam Samuelson works on issues of the Information Society, particularly the role of copyright law. Pam talked about the tension between the desire to maximize information commodities and social order/objectives, such as authors' rights, education, etc. Economic issues were next. Sebastien Steinmetz has been working on the development of Internet technology in France. Jeffrey MacKie-Mason discussed issues in Economics of and Economics for Multiple Quality of Service Networks. He also presented his work on Contents Economics. Last we moved to architectural and system issues. Christine Vanoirbeek discussed document-based technology and how it interacts with IPR and economics. Jakka Sairamesh and Christos Nikolaou talked about recent developments in microeconomic algorithms for resource management in distributed systems and proposed new architectures that could handle open electronic markets. Mike Wellman presented his work with economic agents and discussed various new services and functionalities, such as auction services, that will become necessary as digital libraries evolve.

The second day of the meeting was dedicated to brainstorming on several potential research questions. A partial list of those discussed includes the need to reconceptualize the networked information environment, given the IPR and economic requirements and constraints; the need to study the cost of making and delivering 'first copy' of digital resources in a networked environment; the need to measure (and specify measures for) use of digital information and use data to help determine 'value' of information; the need to study the changing needs, behaviours, of information creators and users in a networked environment, and finally the need to build the basic building blocks of an open network-centric infrastructure, capable of supporting digital library economies and to experiment with economic and electronic commerce models and 'what if' questions.

The group agreed to continue discussing these questions over the net and through the creation of a research agenda report. This report will also include a survey of the current state of the art. Mike Wellman will plan and organize the agenda for the next meeting (Ann Arbor, MI -Spring 1998).

The public web page of the working group is at

Please contact either of the WG coordinators:

Christos Nikolaou ­ University of Crete and ICS-FORTH

Mike Wellman ­ University of Michigan Ann Arbor

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