Access control and protecting IP

Project Bamboo workshop participants appreciated the need for access control systems as a way to avoid violating intellectual property laws*, but few were satisfied by the cumbersome ways these systems are currently implemented. This frustration was shared by all three major groups of attendees-- faculty, librarians, and IT professionals-- but each approached the problem from a different angle.

In general, the faculty members in attendance simply wanted "quick and easy access to copyrighted material without worrying about IP" (Ex 6b, 1b-D). A number of the scholarly narratives submitted to Bamboo touched on the negative impact of overly restrictive access control; examples include databases with authentication procedures that frequently interrupt searching (SN-0014), and the requirement that scholars visit certain archives in person, without being able to copy materials for later examination (SN-0038). Commercially owned collections were called out as having more barriers to access than non-commercial archives (Ex 6b, 1b-B).

Librarians advocated for fair use; one proposed the creation of "a defined and bounded fair use zone that's cross-institutional, cross-repository, allows certain applications of tools/practices within a bounded space." (Ex 6b, 1d-C) Librarians also noted the challenge of differentiating different kinds of use (research vs. publication) when a user submits a request for data; in many cases, copyrighted materials are available for use in a research context, but not for publication. Librarians felt they were frequently in the position of negotiator, trying to balance users' desire for unlimited, unrestricted data and the content owner's desire for control over how their material is used; some of this work was being accomplished through the development of specific language for license agreements. (W3, Perspectives: Content, Stacy Kowalczyk). Because some legitimate forms of scholarly access, such as using text mining tools, can't always be differentiated from attempts to access and/or copy content against the collection owner's wishes (i.e. multiple hits in quick succession from a single IP address), trust is a crucial part of the relationship with content owners.

Librarians and IT professionals stated that that the adoption of Shibboleth and OpenID are productive steps towards addressing the identity management issues closely linked to access control, though it remains a non-trivial task to integrate these forms of authentication with the access control systems for individual collections or corpora. They also felt that, despite scholars' desire to have unfettered access to all materials everywhere, trying to impose a single set of access rules on all collections would be counterproductive. While communities must have the freedom to set their own access restrictions, they stated that a cyberinfrastructure project could still play a valuable role by providing a "seamless and effectively effortless ... mechanism for knocking on the door in a new conversation" (W2, Scholarly Networks, group notes) or setting up systems to provide different levels of access that collections could agree to.

* Workshop participants also saw the value of access control systems for ensuring that others could not see and make use of their unpublished ideas and research materials; see Credit, Collaboration, and Workspaces.

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