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Managing and Marketing Digital Assets and Intellectual Property

Content Directions offers DOI Handles to manage digital property rights and online access permanently

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DOI Digital Object Identifiers to Manage Digital Assets

DOI is a system for identifying and exchanging intellectual property in the digital environment.

DOI provides a framework for managing intellectual content, for linking customers with content suppliers, for facilitating electronic commerce, and enabling automated copyright management for all types of media. Using DOIs makes managing intellectual property in a networked environment easier and more convenient, and allows the construction of automated services and transactions for e-commerce.

Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) can be used to register digital assets across a company's broad collection of research reports.

DOIs are a system for identifying and exchanging intellectual property in the digital environment. The identifier is like the UPC (bar code) in the physical world, but for Internet-based resources such as digital content published online. It uniquely identifies digital objects and provides permanent links to the publisher and/or to any related services the publisher wants to enable, thus facilitating online transactions of all kinds, including e-commerce, rights management, and digital distribution.

Next Generation URL

Created by Robert Kahn, the primary architect of the Internet, the DOI can be thought of as "the next-generation URL," because it is:
  • Unbreakable
  • Multi-linkable
  • Dynamic
  • Industry standard
  • Scalable
  • Low-cost
In 1986, Kahn founded the nonprofit Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) in order to pursue the notion of a national information infrastructure. Over the last two decades CNRI has worked with government, educational and private organizations on a variety of R&D initiatives, and provides the secretariat for the IETF.

One of CNRI’s leading initiatives is the "digital object architecture" and its implementation through the system of unique, persistent identifiers it calls handles. The Handle System is somewhat like the DNS, in that it provides a registry to find things online.

"While the DNS registers machines [with domain names], the Handle System registers digital objects. The DNS served its purpose well, but now we have something better and different,with persistence and location independence. The digital object architecture is a reconceptualization of the Internet to deal with specific information objects, instead of just flows of packets between servers. It takes transport out of the picture [although you still need it underneath]."

The Handle System for Intellectual Property Units

The Handle System has been operational since 1994, and growing steadily, with somewhere upwards of 10 million handles now registered.

Although the implementation is complex, its use is not. The result is as simple as, say, a or e-mail account/ID that you can keep for life (updating the information behind your unchanging e-mail ID to point to the new address). In the same way, for example, you might use a handle for your blog, so that you could keep the same handle and update its location information (rather than mailing all your friends) when you switch from one blog-hosting service to another.

Handles work seamlessly with the DNS: For human use, they can be embedded in URLs and resolved through a proxy server (such as CNRI’s, so that they look just like a “regular” URL

What’s different from the DNS is that the Handle System’s location independence, including identifiers that have no meaning (and therefore do not need to be changed, when, say, an owner changes its name or an object changes its location).

Thus, the Handle System obviates the DNS problem of broken URL links.

Currently, CNRI runs the handle servers, but the system is designed so that any entity can set up its own registry and run its own handle servers without continued involvement from CNRI.

One of the Handle System’s most valuable uses could be for managing a public key infrastructure or for identity management more generally. Or it could provide a valuable degree of persistence and indirection for ENUM.

However, the Handle System lacks the visibility of the DNS; after all, it is so open that no one has seen much edge in marketing it until now. In addition to the IDF, a number of organizations including the Department of Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) and the Library of Congress are running their own handle servers as internal registries.And groups in several countries, including CNNIC (which also handles China’s .cn TLD), have been experimenting with it on a national basis.

DOIs, a Branded Publishing Registry by the IDF

But there is now a broader, outward-facing implementation, overseen by the IDF. Created by major players in the publishing industry, the IDF oversees the most visible, external registry in the Handle System, for what it calls “Digital Object Identifiers,” or DOIs, a branded, trademarked version of handles.

The IDF board includes the Association of American Publishers, The International Publishers Association, and various publishers including John Wiley & Sons and Springer Verlag as well as technology companies including Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.

IDF performs the sorts of functions ICANN does for the DNS, including certifying registrars for its local registry (but unlike ICANN, it does not control the global registry). It also licenses the DOI trademark and establishes policies for use of DOIs.

Of special interest to California business people is the DOI registrars include CrossRef, a consortium for journal publishers;... and the leading commercial entry, Content Directions, Inc.

Content Directions, Inc.: Digital Objects (DOI) Get Respect

Of the seven registrars for DOIs certified by the IDF, Content Directions, Inc. (CDI) is the most active commercially. The story begins in 1996, with CDI’s founder and CEO,David Sidman. The scientific community in particular was pushing science journal publishers to find a way to put their very high-value content online in a controllable way. They wanted it online to facilitate sharing, wanted it controllable both to help ensure proper credit in the academic world and also for the usual commercial reasons of protecting intellectual property.

  • The new digital numbering scheme had to be more granular than, say, the ISBN codes used to identify books, for references to scientific articles and other such content sections rather than entire books or journals.
  • It had to be permanent. Scientific journals still refer to Einstein’s 1905 paper on Special Relativity, for example.
  • The system also had to handle very high volumes, of both registrations and references.
  • It had to handle any language and alphabet in which things might be published.

DOI: Digital objects and digital rights

The Handle System was the only system that met all the requirements. The AAP – and Sidman (then at Wiley) – worked closely with CNRI on an implementation. The first registrar was CrossRef, a non-profit consortium of about 200 scientific journal publishers.

The flexibility of MultiLinks and the Handle System

CDI has used the Handle System’s extensibility to develop what it calls "MultiLinks": a specific use of the DOI system to manage and present a variety of functions and contents that a single DOI can link to -- including the content itself, related content (ie: author information), as well as links to a copyright administration server or to retailers’ online shopping carts.

Publishers and other owners of content pay an initial setup fee for registration of the objects, including the MultiLinks, and then they pay for maintenance of the DOIs and their MultiLinks in the global directory, including, for example, constantly changing links to retailers or to related content. The pricing is negotiated; publishers typically pay in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, says Sidman.

DOI Applications: Publishing, Music, Electronics

Some big names in the publishing business have signed up with CDI thus far:McGraw-Hill broke the ice last year by embracing DOIs for all its published content. Since then, Thomson Learning, Corbis (Bill Gates’s stock photo agency), RAND, Penguin Putnam and others have followed suit. Even the AAP itself has embraced DOI and uses CDI as the registrar for its association journal and other publications.

But Sidman has eyes on more: "The flexibility of the MultiLinks [and of the underlying Handle System] just opens whole worlds of applications." CDI and a large music company are developing a system in which CDI will register the label’s offerings for several major artists,with three kinds of objects – for the artists, for their albums, and for individual songs.

Their music business goal is to improve the online content experience, to make it easier and more fun for customers to hear their favorite artists and look things up about them online at the same time, find related performances. . .and to support all this, of course,without losing control over their copyrighted material.

What the content providers really want is to make another sale when friends pass each other a song or a book or a magazine article. The vendors’ dream of user-oriented, flexible digital rights management, of the sort that will require a registry like the DOI registry, is precisely to make it easy for that secondary sale to happen. The question, of course, is whether friends are really willing to be sales agents.

CDI is also talking to a maker of networking equipment, which is looking to use DOIs to track individual pieces of equipment, allowing various parties to see or update information about the individual item’s history – manufacture, journey through a variety of sales channels, configuration, repair and maintenance. The idea is to manage after-sales support more effectively – much the same idea as motivates many of the RFID applications

International DOI Foundation
c/o Norman Paskin
5, Linkside Avenue, Oxford, OX2 8HY, UK or
Tel: (+44) 1865 559070

Content Directions, Inc.
Tina Aridas
Deputy Manager
Marketing & Press Relations
(718) 965-8490

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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