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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

iCite Rights and Creative Commons

posted: May 27, 2003 2:37:38 PM

Having mentioned Lawrence Lessig's blog, I wanted to post something about the iCite net and digital rights expression. Lessig is the Chair of the Creative Commons project, features of which I am planning to cooperate with, by default, in the iCite net.

iCites will be able to express their digital rights (copyright / terms of use), and I am planning, for the iCite prototype, to use Creative Commons offerings as the initial means to do this. (People will be able to use and/or create other formats for expressing rights, including a "null format" if they choose not to express them.)

Similarly, iCites need to express their privacy policy—the rights they offer to their users. I am assuming that iCites owners most commonly will allow other users to modify many of their iCites. As a simple example, an iCite can be used to track comments to a blog entry, and the authors of those comments can modify the blog iCite to include the comments.

In these types of interactions, the user probably will add some personally identifying information to someone else's iCite, and so they rightly should know about their rights with regards to that information and any content they create.

iCites will not, by default, automatically restrict uses based on copyright, terms of use, or privacy policies. But, one goal would certainly be to express those rights in machine readable formats like that in the Creative Commons technology or the W3C's Platform for Privacy Preferences (p3p). With such formats, people can write modules for iCites (either iCite validators or iCite filters) that enforce such rights.

For example, I may wish to allow people to quote excerpts from my blog as long as they attribute it and link to it, but not want people to cache whole posts. I should be able to express this in a machine readable format, and iCites that read this information should at least report on my wishes if not actually enforce them.

To me, the enforcing part is kind of a convenience, like "help me not violate anyone else's rights" rather than "I am forcing you to not violate my rights". I think the latter approach is unflexible and suppressing. The former approach is about giving individuals the tools they need to be more conscious in their relationships with others. Pirates will just disregard either approach anyway, so I like the latter.

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