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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

IPTC and Rights Expression Languages

IPTC has been looking at how to express rights for news content. At the Rome IPTC meeting, I presented the work to date (slides are on slideshare). And Daniel Pähler presented ODRL, the Open Digital Rights Language.

The News Industry Need for Machine Readable Rights
Various news publishers have identified the ability to be able to express rights in a machine readable way as being a priority. In part, this reflects the fundamental changes that have been transforming the news industry. Once, an agency such as the Associated Press distributed content to editors at newspapers and broadcasters, who would select which items they would use. In the process of this selection, they would be able to read any editors' notes, which could include any restrictions that needed to be observed. However, increasingly, news outlets are fully automated, with very little - if any - editorial oversight of what is published. Amongst other things, this drives the need for the expression of rights and restrictions in a way that can be evaluated automatically. This automation would allow the editorial process to be more efficient. In general, an editor still needs to exercise their judgement as to whether a particular restriction applies in a particular context. But, automatic evaluation of rights and restrictions can identify the items that need those decisions, rather than having editors inspect every single item. (This exercise of editorial judgement means that these systems are not like DRM, in which particular actions are forbidden and typically enforced by the devices involved).

IPTC and Rights Expression
IPTC reviewed how the various news formats that it maintains allow for the expression of rights. In every case, there are currently semi-structured ways to express rights using natural language, which wouldn't easily allow for the fully machine-readable rights expressions that member companies need to express. On the other hand, the IPTC has consistently decided that it didn't want to develop a machine-readable rights expression itself - members of the IPTC have felt qualified to develop news formats, whereas legal matters are a different domain.

ODRL and ACAP
After reviewing several candidates, we felt that ODRL v2 was the best fit for an existing (though not quite yet complete) rights expression language. In particular, it offers the ability to create an industry-specific rights vocabulary that can be "plugged in" to the ODRL framework. The IPTC has been working with ACAP on developing this vocabulary and with the ODRL group to help refine the ODRL v2 framework itself.

Daniel's slides can be downloaded from the ODRL Wiki.  They give a nice introduction to the ODRL effort and the ODRL v2 approach.

Questions on Rights and ODRL
Daniel and I were asked several questions about rights for news in general and ODRL in particular. For example, there was some discussion about whether rights are really only applicable to photographs (the consensus was no - every media type has increasing amounts of rights being applied). There were questions about how to apply rights to the parts of an item (such as the frames within a video). The partMeta structure of NewsML-G2 handles this nicely (assuming we were to include ODRL within the partMeta structure, which I think we would). There were also questions about what industries are using ODRL today. Chiefly, the mobile phone industry uses ODRL v1 as part of the OMA DRM system (http://xml.coverpages.org/ni2004-05-31-a.html). Daniel explained that there are several academic projects that are using or working on ODRL v2 (Daniel himself is from the University of Koblenz).

Get Involved
You can find out more about the ACAP ODRL profile - and even participate in the work - by visiting the a special Wiki page set up by ODRL for ACAP:

http://odrl.net/wiki/tiki-index.php?page=ACAP+Profile

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