Networked Cultural Heritage Newsletter

NINCH Networked Cultural Heritage Newsletter No. 1
June 25, 1996

Welcome to the first newsletter on the NINCH-Announce list: a news
and information digest for those working to preserve and make available our cultural heritage resources by networked digital technology.




The continuing issue of greatest import for this community is the movement of the "NII Copyright Protection Act" (H.R. 2441 and S. 1284). Legislation was introduced to House and Senate in late September 1995, based on the recommendations of a White Paper produced by the Information Infrastructure Task Force's working group on intellectual property rights.

Although presented by its framers as offering no major additions to existing law, many felt that with the addition of a "transmissions" right to copyright holders, and with no discussion of the implications of the electronic environment on the "fair use" understanding, that the balance between owners and users of copyrighted intellectual property was upset and not specifically addressed by the legislation.

Broadly speaking, specific issues that many have felt needed addressing and clarifying include:

  1. that an ephemeral "copy" of material made onto a computer's hard drive solely for the purpose of "browsing," before even reading the material, should not be subject to the new transmission right;
  2. that the concept of "fair use" of copyrighted material, understood to apply to all other forms of copyright material, still applies under the transmission right;
  3. that libraries may use digital technology to preserve copyrighted material;
  4. that just as under the "first sale" understanding of existing law, in which the purchaser of a copy of a book or other material may pass it on to another person, so too may someone who has purchased digital work pass it on to another, as long as they do not make a copy of it;
  5. that the potential of "distance learning" enabled through digital technology not be abridged by anachronistic limitations on the kind of materials transmitted or the sites to which they may be transmitted;
  6. that the fair use of transmitted material via copying devices not be disallowed by sweeping and broad banning of a family of copying devices but be allowed on a specific device- and technology-specific basis;
  7. that, given that copyright management software may at times contain incorrent information, criminal prosecution should only follow when the *intent* to engage in copyright infringement can be shown.

The Digital Future Coalition, representing business, library, educational, consumer and technology organizations has reiterated that, in many ways, the "fair use" concept, un-examined and un- reiterated in the legislation, is at the heart of many of its objections to the legislation as it now stands. The DFC has responded with detailed textual changes to the legislation, presented at a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, May 7, 1996. Earlier statements to the same effect were made before the Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property of the House Judiciary Committee, February 15. Analysis, history and proposed legislative changes may be found on the Web site of the Digital Future Coalition. Other analysis can be found at the site of the Association for Computing Machinery and at that of the American Committee for Interoperable Systems

Another major concern, especially among Internet Service Providers and libraries, regards their liability for copyright violations by others using their systems. See the DFC page for statements on this issue.

Many feel this legislation and the issues it raises concerning the way that we all engage in intellectual property has not received the public attention it deserves. However, the rapid speed of the progress of the legislation has been stalled recently in the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property, where mark-up was threatened a month ago. According to DFC, "reportedly, changes in the original version of the bill made by Subcommittee Chairman Carlos Moorhead to sensibly narrow the scope of overly broad "anti-piracy" provisions were unacceptable to major copyright owners. In addition, final agreement consensus had not been achieved on how best to limit the liability for copyright infringement of "on-line service providers," which could include libraries and schools." Now, however, it appears there has been sufficient recognition of the problems that the bill raises, that mark-up has been delayed for many weeks and many expect now that it will be postponed for consideration to the next legislative session.

However, of concern now are the intentions of the United States to push ahead with gaining agreement on the international field with essentially the same legislative language. The World Intellectual Property Association (WIPO), a UN agency that administers the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, is expecting to vote on a new Protocol this December at a formal diplomatic conference in Geneva. The US delegation to WIPO has strongly urged the inclusion of proposals to update copyright law for the digital age. Fear is rapidly growing that the US will push for the inclusion of its domestic legislative language before domestic consensus has emerged. The Digital Future Coalition is urging leadership to request that the US delegation withdraw all those proposals before WIPO that come under the scope of this, as yet, unresolved domestic legislation until the Congress has given full consideration to the NII Copyright Act. For details on this development see DFC's "International Issues" page.



A refreshing account of why copyright is so important to the creative community was contained in a .speech delivered by NEA Chair Jane Alexander last month before the New York Bar Association on the "Advantages & Problems Created by the New Information Technology." Although Alexander says that the copyright controversy makes "Some of us feel like we've been thrown in the thicket along with Brer Rabbit," Ms. Alexander writes very articulately about the challenges of this issue at the heart of the digital enterprise.



Recently, the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) announced the winner of its contest for a Web Access Symbol' (for people with disabilities)--a tilted globe with a keyhole cut into its surface.

The symbol will be seen on web sites that are deemed accessible to those with disabilities. As background to the development of the symbol, Robbin Murphy of New York's artnetweb brought our attention to "Electronic Curbcuts," an enlightening essay by NCAM's Larry Goldberg in the Getty Trust's "Cyberspace/Public Space" forum.



This first NINCH Newsletter cannot go by without acknowledging the defeat earlier this month of the Communications Decency Act, when a federal district court panel ruled that it was unconstitutional. The ruling came in answer to a suit brought by the Citizens Internet Empowerment Coalition (CIEC), and declared that the ruling protects First Amendment rights, the public's open access to information and the librarians that provide the access.

The American Library Association was the lead plaintiff in the suit and ALA executive director Elizabeth Martinez declared that she was impressed by the open-mindedness of the judges and "their willingness to learn more about the Internet and how it works." However, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility was not so sanguine.

CPSR Executive Director Audrie Krause, speaking at a press conference in Philadelphia, pointed out that France, Australia, and other nations had already taken steps to limit free speech rights on the Internet and, domestically, many expect the Justice Department to challenge the Philadelphia decision with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. "Today's ruling suggests that the key to ensuring free speech in cyberspace is to make sure that the technology is understood by those who are in a position to make our laws," said Krause. The text of the judges ruling in the Communications Decency Act suit is posted at



In a recent posting on HUMANIST, Alan Morrison, Information Officer of the Oxford Text Archive points out that this is the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Archive: a landmark in the provision of electronic texts, now "a basic requirement and the normal output of study," for scholars. Some reorganization at the Archive is occurring, both with the appointment of a new Head, Michael Popham (previously Centre Manager of the CTI Centre for Textual Studies) and with its being selected as appointed 'text provider' for the new British Arts and Humanities Data Service, which will provide information, advice and resources to the electronic user community. Alan Morrison notes that Lou Burnard, custodian of the Text Archive for the past 20 years, will still continue to oversee its work as Manager of the Humanities Computing Unit at Oxford.



Tito Orlandi reported on Humanist (10.0056) that The Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome had announced a new multimedia textual archive: Archivio Testuale Multimediale (ARTEM). ARTEM's major goals will be as follows:

  1. To build a repository of electronic texts in the Italian language, selected on the basis of the best editorial reliability, and fully encoded according to the best standards available. The repository will be freely accessible on the World Wide Web.
  2. To link the repository to other similar ones, offering the same scientific reliability.
  3. To build a catalogue of existing electronic texts in the Italian language, providing a statement of their editorial reliability and encoding methodology, and stating if and how they are available.

Special attention is devoted to the problems of encoding, following the SGML procedures, according to the standards proposed by the Text Encoding Initiative. The previous analysis of textual features, to obtain the full list of elements to encode, will be declared and discussed. Collaboration is envisaged with the Oxford Text Archive, Princeton's CETH, the Tresor de la Langue Francaise, the Institut fur deutsche Sprache of Mannheim, and all academic institutions dealing with electronic texts and interested in this project.

All those interested in the project, and especially those who can provide information on existing e-texts in Italian, may send e-mail to



PATRON--Performing Arts Teaching Resources Online--is a new Electronic Libraries (eLib) Project recently announced by the University of Surrey in the UK. Funding has been provided to develop a pilot system to deliver on-demand digital audio, video, scores and text for music and dance across advanced high speed broadband networks to the desktop.

This will include digital encoding and storage of CDs and videos on a "media server;" transmission of digital materials using MPEG protocols over dedicated advanced high-speed networks; and on- demand delivery of materials to the desktop within the Library and performing arts departments with simultaneous distribution of music scores and audio CDs/dance notational scores and video clips.

The project will also include the exploration and management of copyright and licensing issues associated with digital libraries in the Performing Arts.

Liz Lyon, the project co-ordinator is eager to contact those administering related projects, wherever they may be.



From the general to the specific, the International SGML Users' Group, or rather its Belgian-Luxembourgian Chapter, is organizing its third annual conference on the practical use of SGML this fall. SGML BeLux '96 will occur October 31, 1996 in Brussels and there is a CALL FOR CONTRIBUTIONS:
"SGML BeLux is again seeking presenters to talk about all aspects of the practical use of SGML. If you or your company have used SGML in innovative ways in a document application, learned about some SGML problems the hard way, have a clear opinion on how SGML should be used or have valuable advice for beginners, we invite you to share your knowledge and experience with us.

Contributions to the conference can include a full-length paper or a collection of slides dealing with a topic of interest to the conference participants. Presenters should send an abstract in English of approximately 25 words, including title of the proposed presentation, names, affiliations and complete addresses. If the proposal is accepted, final drafts must be submitted in camera-ready form. Abstract deadline: August 15, 1996.

Contact: Paul Hermans, Conference chairman, Pro Text, BC, Interleuvenlaan 62, B-3001 Leuven, Belgium. Tel: +32 16 40 66 81, Fax: +32 16 40 66 91, E-mail:


For comments or suggestions on this newsletter and its content,
e-mail David Green or call 202/296-5346.

News Center | Home