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licensing in the cloud gets a silver lining
There are some tasks that you might think are inherently complicated and even require an army of lawyers to complete. One of these would probably be licensing a piece of content to use in another work, e.g. an image to use in a magazine article. MetaBroadcast has been building some prototypes for an ICtomorrow project called the Digital Licensing Framework (DLF) that aim to provide a model for how to radically simplify this process.
The DLF provides an experimental service designed to put people who wish to license a piece of copyrighted material quickly in touch with a copyright holder. The user gives the system a bit of information about who they are and where they would like to use the content. In return the DLF service provides them with one of these simple answers: YES - the content can be licensed (with contact information provided, too), NO - it is not possible to licence this work for your project, MAYBE - call to discuss. The DLF does not issue the licences directly but removes any complexity about finding the right contact.
No user interface is provided directly (yet) as part of the DLF service. Instead it is queried programatically leading to an interesting opportunity to innovate around the service. We have been involved in three pieces of work: The Silver Lining - a user interface that allows anyone to search for content to license, a federated search interface that looks for content across many different rights holders, including those in our Atlas platform, which thanks to our third piece of work now includes music data from EMI. Here I would like to give you a tour of The Silver Lining.
Two core principles are at the heart of this prototype: simplicity and a familiar search experience. The language used throughout the prototype is designed to make sense to everybody and actually using it should be no more complicated than using your favourite search engine. All you have to do is type in what you are looking for and The Silver Lining will find related content for you from lots of different sources and then contact the DLF service to get the licensing details. It is designed to be very responsive so as results come in you will see them sent to your browser straight away.
Let's explore a practical example of the site in action. Say we are in the education sector and engaged in the task of writing a web page about London. The first thing to do is to tell The Silver Lining a little bit about ourselves and what we want to do. At the top the page is some drop down boxes designed to build up a couple of sentences to describe ourselves. You can pick "education" to complete the I work in... sentence and then using the other boxes to say I'm looking for content to use on a website in a web page. This is really important information to provide as it will influence the answer from the licence providers as to whether you will be able to use a piece of content.
Type in "London" into the search box and hit Search. Very soon you should see the results appearing - TV & Radio shows, films, music, books and images will all appear in your results. The band across the bottom of the thumbnail image will change from "Loading" to "Yes", "No" or "Maybe". If you click on a "Yes" or "Maybe" result you will see an information panel appear on the right hand side of the page showing you the details of the person you need to contact. As the system queries a wide range of sources you will see quite a wide range of content available, the system is easy to use but does not restrict your options.
To see The Silver Lining in action have a look at the video below. We have lots more ideas on how to improve this system and make it even easier to use such as adding comprehensive context aware help and further refining the rights selection so that combinations of rights and content types that don't make sense cannot be selected. For now we hope that this prototype will help shape the future of digital licensing and help make life a bit easier for those looking to licence content.