By YVONNE FRENCH with MARIA FLO
“It used to be publish or perish. Now it’s demo or die,” 200 attendees were told at an electronic publishing seminar at the Library.
During a session titled “Publishing on the Internet,” Paul Evan Peters, executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information, summed up the seminar in those two short sentences.
For the industry that is known as the last to switch from manual typewriters to word processors, the words came as a bit of a wake-up call.
“It’s been a long time since [publishing decisions were made at] those luncheons at the Algonquin,” said Philip Nowlen, University of Virginia dean of continuing education. The March 30- April 1 conference, “Exploring the New Media: CD-ROM, Internet Online and Copyright Issues,” was jointly sponsored by the Library and the University of Virginia.
Organized by Bob Zich, director of the Library’s Electronic Programs, and the Beverly Jane Loo, director of the university’s continuing-education publishing and communications programs, the conference included sessions on copyright and commercial and nonprofit electronic publishing, whether by use of CD-ROM or on- line networks.
Bob Zich, director of electronic programs at the Library, compared the Internet to the wild West. “A kind of spirit exists that anything is possible,” said Mr. Zich. He offered a short who’s who of publishing on the Internet and described how the Library can help publishers acquire material. “The Library will make the ‘plain vanilla’ version [of materials such as a collection of Mathew Brady’s Civil War photographs] available for free on the Internet. We are happy to work with publishers to develop added-value versions for commercial distribution or to convert new material,” Mr. Zich said.
Although some of the academic and commercial publishers were clearly knowledgeable about electronic publishing, many others were slogging up the learning curve. But all of the publishers were challenged to move quickly onto the Information Superhighway by the keynote speaker, who urged them to set up computer servers with enough capacity to allow readers to download best-sellers in time for the end-of-year holidays.
“The main challenge for publishers will be to have a big enough pipeline,” said James E. Clark, chairman and CEO of Netscape Communications Corp., formerly Mosaic Communications Corp., the pioneer provider of software that for use with the World Wide Web. Although most titles do not become best-sellers, publishers need to have enough capacity to deliver those that do, he explained.
“It’s going to be an Internet Christmas,” he continued, predicting that by the end of the year, every major telephone company will have announced Internet access, turning what was once a small scientific community into a global market and meeting place with more than 40 million users.
By the end of the decade, as telephone and cable companies work to expand the speed with which information travels to the home, people will be able to get books, movies, news, information and video on their PCs through Web browsers that search open-access networks, Mr. Clark said.
“As a couch potato you will be able to use a remote to search the Web and retrieve data. We will have a complete worldwide information structure for sharing, educating and entertaining,” said Mr. Clark.
If Mr. Clark was the futurist of the three-day conference, Mary Berghaus Levering, the Library’s associate register for national copyright programs, was the realist. She provided information that helped answer many of the publishers’ most pressing questions.
Mrs. Levering explained that current copyright law already covers digital publications because it protects “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression now known or later developed from which they can be perceived, reproduced or otherwise communicated either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”
However, Mrs. Levering said, additional technological tools are needed to prevent piracy of digitized intellectual property and to encourage wide dissemination of digital publications.
Among the additional tools needed are secure electronic billing and royalty payment mechanisms that include payments to authors and publishers for use of digital publications.
Also needed are encryption technologies to protect integrity and authenticity, including “headers” with copyright management information and “digital envelopes” that would involve encryption of the works themselves. The headers would contain copyright ownership, licensing and royalty payment information. Once a licensing transaction has taken place, the work is decrypted and made available to the licensee, she explained.
“In order to assist in the implementation of such systems, the Copyright Office plans to develop an electronic copyright registration system that would include licensing information and could link with other electronic rights management systems,” Mrs. Levering said.
The Copyright Office is conducting a testbed project with five universities to determine (1) the feasibility of receiving and processing electronic copyright registration applications and deposits of works over the Internet and (2) the storage, retrieval and use of these materials in accordance with the terms and conditions established by the copyright owners. The initial test to be conducted this summer will cover electronic registration and deposit of unpublished journal articles (technical reports) in the field of computer science.
“It is hoped that the project can be systematically expanded, format by format, to enable electronic registration and deposit of a wide variety of works in digital form, including images, motion pictures, books and so forth,” Mrs. Levering said in reference to the Electronic Copyright Management System.
Encryption would allow bank and other transactions to be made securely “so people can’t snoop,” Mr. Clark said. A message traveling from California to the East Coast may go through computer relay centers at four or five institutions, each one the possible home to a corrupt listening program, Mr. Clark said.
He described encryption as a way of scrambling data so that the bits of information are randomly ordered by assigning them values reached by factoring two prime numbers. The number of possibilities is so great that it would take 100 machine years to reassemble the data properly, long enough to bore even the most persistent hackers, Mr. Clark said.
“Encryption gets rid of the party-line aspect of the Internet,” he said, before going on to explain private- and public- key encryption.
A private key lets a person seal a document against scrutiny by anyone except those to whom the sender has given his public key, which then decrypts the document. “It’s like a signature,” Mr. Clark said. A header, wrapper or envelope, “signed” by a certifying company, provides an additional layer of security in a technology known as “secure sockets layer.” When somebody decrypts the header, the certifying company is notified, Mr. Clark said.
Because many banks and credit card companies are already on- line, the new technology is ripe for the transfer of credit card and personal identification numbers in return for the encrypted material, Mr. Clark told the publishers.
“Think about it. It’s a brave new world out there.”
Rhea Zimbar is an assistant in the Public Affairs Office.