Digital Distribution Offers Opportunity

Digital distribution provides a number of opportunities for creators, patrons, and institutions to interact with content. NISO exists to facilitate those uses, to remove barriers to interoperability where they exist, and to develop consistent practice when engaging with digital content. The value of a standardized approach is to speed creation, distribution, and use of practices, outputs, or products. Three different examples of that were highlighted in the past few weeks.

One example of the ways in which digital content can be more openly shared and in particular, the ways that standards can facilitate that, can be found in the draft Content Profile/Linked Document (CP/LD) standard. This draft specification was opened for public comments last week and will remain open through May 12. You can download a draft and submit comments at the project webpage. CP/LD defines a machine-readable, self-describing, standards-based markup format that can be used to exchange data between systems, APIs, and services. It enables arbitrary portions of content, data, semantics, and other resources from separate sources to be combined into a single, standards-based format optimized for interchange, search, and display. This new standard provides the community with a structure that can be used to combine content, data, and semantics in a way that will facilitate new opportunities across our industry and support significant advancements in scholarly communication. Thank you to the working group members for bringing the project to this state.

This standard is contrasted with ever greater control being exercised over the distribution and sharing of content that was at the center of a recent copyright-focused court decision. On March 24, a US federal judge issued a ruling in the case of Hachette v. Internet Archive on the subject of IA’s National Emergency Library. At issue was IA’s practice of controlled digital lending (CDL). The ruling was a clear win for the publishers, although IA has already signaled its plans to appeal. Much has been written about the case, the ruling, and its impacts (including my personal views). 

As it relates to our community, NISO has been working on developing a recommended practice for an Interoperable System for Controlled Digital Lending (IS-CDL). With support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the project is focused on the practical workflow issues for implementing CDL in a library. The developing Recommended Practice will explore issues such as content sequestration, access control, and workflow for CDL. This project is explicitly NOT focused on the rights issues or the validity of CDL, or the selection process for what materials an organization might include in a CDL service. It was under consideration before the filing of this lawsuit and is not related to the specifics of the case, outside of the broad topic of CDL. Regardless of the outcome of this case, there are circumstances in which CDL could be implemented, such as for special collections, or accessibility provision, or course materials, where limited duplication and circulation of content is explicitly allowed under copyright law and CDL processes might support that circulation. This project will continue and is seeking to issue a draft version for public comment later this year. 

Finally, it was with sadness that I read last month of the passing of Gordon Moore. Most are familiar with Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistor switches that can be etched onto a silicon chip will double every two years and that the cost of those chips will fall along a similar but opposite trajectory. Many are likely less familiar with Moore’s role in propelling us toward a world where AI language models can pass a bar exam, where autonomous cars can convey us around town, and where a refrigerator can know that you need more milk. All of these things can be traced back to Moore’s pioneering work, first at Shockley Semiconductor, then at Fairchild Semiconductor, which he founded before launching Intel in 1968. 

Earlier this year, I read Chip War, a book by Chris Miller that describes  the growth and current landscape of the semiconductor industry. Moore plays a central role in that story. It would be hard to overstate Moore’s role in the development of computer technology and its eventual inclusion in practically every device today. Interestingly, one might think of his success as being built upon standardization of the chip manufacturing processes necessary to make exacting technology at the astonishing scale that now exists. His legacy continues through the work of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, but more importantly, in his impact on each and every one of our lives. You would not be reading this message, in the way that I have written it, the way you received it, or the way you are visualizing it, were it not for Moore’s vision, tenacity, and execution.



Todd Carpenter
Executive Director, NISO