Digital content creators may soon get what's coming to them -- money.
The Advanced Cultural Technology/Cinemage Group, headquartered in Vancouver, has created an Internet-based software that allows publishers of digital content to centrally catalog and retrieve millions of reproductions over the Internet while earning and allocating royalties through intellectual property rights.
"The concept behind the billing and authentication is to allocate a value to the piece and all the royalties associated with that", said Finn Knutsen, vice president of ACT. "It helps to secure and uphold the intellectual property rights because when you distribute products through this system, royalties are distributed on the spot."
The software comprises enhanced viewer software, servers for different formats of content, and a central administrative component. Users will have to register at the site and include a password and credit card number. The software supports 128-bit encryption. It will be launched in Cannes at MILIA '98, the international content market for interactive media, from Feb. 8 to Feb. 11.
The requirement to pay for content will inevitably result in a clash between die-hard Web libertarians and Web content providers.
Lesley Ellen Harris, a copyright and new media lawyer in Toronto and author of Digital Property: Currency of the 21st Century, predicted a growth in software that protects intellectual property rights during the next 12 months.
But although she believes that while this type of software is necessary, she doesn't think it will completely take over.
"There will always be free content on the Net, although it may not be the same content", she said. As an example, Harris offered The Wall Street Journal, which offers some free content but requires a credit card for more enhanced services.
However, David Jones, president of Electronic Frontier Canada, said that the burden should be placed on the creator, not the user.
"I think creators and writers should be rewarded for their work, the idea of copyright is a good one", Jones said. "But users aren't infringing your rights by doing what you want them to be doing -- reading your article." There are still plenty of ways users may get around paying, such as through caches and copying, he said.
The Cinemage software will not allow users to jump straight to an image on the server without first going through the password and payment. The company is also looking at upgrading the program to delete an item from the user's cache after it's downloaded.
Those who buy the software can take other precautions. Some programs on the market can electronically wrap any downloaded item to provide it for a limited evaluation period. Others can apply a digital water mark to track work once it's been copied from the original site.
The Cinemage software was created originally for the World Heritage Exchange, which hosts images of artwork, sculptures, photographs, and crafts from museums around the world. ACT will be adding some tools to enrich the experience, including textual, video, and audio support.
The software is not restricted to museum content but can be used for any distributor of goods and services that involves multiple payees.
In the United States, the Association of American Publishers designed The Digital Object Identifier (DOI) System to link customers with publishers, enable copyright management systems, ensure the authenticity of materials, and advance electronic commerce. DOI is already being used by dozens of American and European publishers since its pilot test in July 1997.
- - -