LIS 855: Reading Journal Week 8

Unit Topic: Technological Protection Measures

Reading list:

  1. Eschenfelder, K. R. (2008). “Every Library’s Nightmare? Digital Rights Management and Licensed Scholarly Digital Resources.” College and Research Libraries, 69(3), 205-225.
  2. Eschenfelder & Agnew (2010) Technologies Employed to Control Access to or Use of Digital Cultural Collections: Controlled Online Collections. D-Lib Magazine. Vol 16, No 1.
  3. David Millman (2003) “Authentication and Authorization” Encyclopedia of Library and Information Studies, 2nd Edition.
  4. Zhu, A.; Eschenfelder, K.R. L(2010) Social Construction of Authorized Users in the Digital Age. College and Research Libraries. Anticipated Publication Date: November 2010

It’s an amazingly diverse jungle out there where technological protection measures in databases are concerned.  Much as I’m nodding my head along to the studies of these phenomena–what measures are used, by whom, to whom, and how–part of me knows that unless there is a dedicated committee to these database access issues in whatever library or consortium I end up working in, I will just end up coping the way I cope with other differences between databases: learning their intricacies and search interfaces by practice and trial and error.  It really wasn’t too hard to have a good handle on 5 to 8 different vendors’ interfaces when I was working at College Library.  A lot of these vendors are also major players, so by knowing their interface, you end up knowing the interface to a bunch of databases, not just one.  And a lot of this information is transferable.  Although one can never be perfectly sure of the ins and outs of every little database, you start to know where vendors like to hide certain functions and what the obstacles may be when you or a patron run to access problems.

That’s the coping end of things.  The advocacy end of things is separate.  One thing I wonder is how much of the variety in TPM is due merely to how new and quickly-evolving the technology is.  It simply may not be a realistic time to ask publishers and vendors to come to a consensus on what technological protection measures to use.  New and better measures are being created all the time.  Nonetheless, librarians should still be alert to the TPM trends of the electronic aggregator/publisher industry and speak up if the trends start heading towards evil lockdown.  Having some sort of clearinghouse database detailing the TPMs of databases could potentially be useful for advocacy.  If we were able to convincingly show certain trends in TPM adoption and their effects on users’ behaviour, we might have persuasive arguments to make regarding what measures actually work the way their implementers intend them to and which are detrimental to users’ ability to exercise Fair Use.  This kind of database would be less useful for practical reference use, however.  It’s often faster to figure out a database’s TPM by trial and error than looking it up and trying to decipher what the TPM descriptions actually mean.  Also, it seems like vendors could easily update or change their TPMs at any time, which would once again make trial and error more efficient in figuring out a database’s TPMs.

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