Legal, Patent, and Digital Rights Management in Publishing

The symposium took place on Thursday afternoon and featured five presentations. David Gange (Altimedia) gave a talk entitled “How to find references that inherently anticipate pharmaceutical patents.” References that “inherently anticipate” a patent can invalidate a patent on the basis of novelty, so they are of a great interest to pharmaceutical companies, both offensively and defensively. The speaker gave examples of how broad compound claims can be affected by questions of metabolites, crystal polymorphs, hydrates, optical isomers, metabolites and other intermediates in real world patent law cases.

In her talk “Digital rights drain? Implications for library services,” Leah McEwen (Cornell University) enumerated some of the many digital rights issues that impinge on libraries including problems of identifying the owners of copyright and authentication of users. One of the cases she highlighted was the problems with theses, where at many institutions thesis authors traditionally signed over reproduction rights to UMI (now ProQuest). But electronic distribution is much more “public” than microform distribution, with an impact on republication as journal articles or books. The rise of entrepreneurship among faculty and students has also complicated intellectual property questions.

Donna Wrublewski (University of Florida) in her talk “Digital rights management and e-books: Perspectives from a research library” presented on other key areas where digital rights management affects library services, including conservation and preservation of materials (can you legally copy a digital object for preservation and can you copy it into a new format?), interlibrary loan and consortial lending, and discovery services (can a library create a full-text index to a copyrighted work?). With formats evolving (and in some cases, becoming obsolete), libraries are forced into a “tech support” role. In many cases, the applicable law is too new for its interpretations as they affect libraries to be clear.

Judith Currano (University of Pennsylvania) pointed to the “Problems of preserving digital content.” Judith summarized the legal status of digital content preservation as “This is a gray area.” Digital rights management is an addition to intellectual property law that seeks to prevent piracy and illegal copying…but it doesn’t work. The combinations of hardware and software that have been tried inhibit legitimate users without stopping piracy. In the meantime, libraries are faced with changing formats, with old formats and the hardware that reads them becoming obsolete, and with license agreements that are ambiguous or over-restrictive as to what can be done.

David Parker (Momentum Press) concluded with “Finding an alternative to restrictive digital rights management: The Momentum Press approach.” David reviewed some of the business models which have evolved in the transition from print publishing to electronic publishing, including various forms of open access publishing. The Momentum Press model makes e-books available for a one-time fee, with perpetual access. No third party aggregators are involved and there is no subscription or maintenance fee.

Charles Huber, Symposium Co-Organizer