Use Case Mapping Digital Rights

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Andre Freitas

Provenance Dimensions

Dissemination control: Licensing

Background and Current Practice

The Web is evolving towards a single information space where applications can potentially consume information from massively distributed sources. However, the organizations and individuals behind the published information resources usually have different motivations and constraints about the way the available information can be used. The ability to express and later consume the digital rights associated with published information will play a fundamental role in the way organizations will adopt new web technologies in an increasingly dynamic web environment, where information can be constantly aggregated and transformed.


Provide a comprehensive and both human and machine processable description of the digital rights provenance associated with the usage of an information resource.

Use Case Scenario

Alice is creating a web application with the objective of providing to investors a comprehensive view about financial markets including financial statements, stock market time series, qualitative and quantitative analysis, economic and political news and changes in legislations. The application consumes information from different sources, including Government Agencies, Media Companies and Financial Companies from different countries. Since the set of information sources is not completely defined a priori by Alice, the application needs to dynamically assess the digital rights associated with the information.

Examples of constraints and digital rights provided by each source include:

- Media Company A makes its data available for both commercial and non-commercial use.

- Media Company B requires Alice’s application to display the source of the information.

- Media Company C only allows Alice’s application to display the title and the link to a headline.

- Media Company D requires a commercial license if the data is commercially used.

- Government Agency A allows only non-commercial use of information and requires that the information should not be translated, formatted or modified.

- Government Agency B does not allow the provided information to be displayed overseas.

- Government Agency C requires that the license text should be displayed together with the information. - Financial Company A does not allow the aggregation or derivation of the information.

- Financial Company B limits the number of accesses by the type of commercial contract.

- Financial Company C aggregates data from a different set of organizations, forwarding their usage terms to Alice’s application.

Alice also defines the digital rights of her application and also forwards some of the digital right terms defined by the sources.

Problems and Limitations

In the scenario described above, the application created by Alice need to assess the digital rights associated with a given information resource. Since Alice cannot predict which information sources will be used, and considering that the delegation of this decision to the end users could overload them with licensing information, there is the need to define appropriate mechanisms for minimizing the amount of user intervention in the system.

The definition of a standardized vocabulary for expressing digital rights provenance will play a fundamental role in the process of allowing information producers to associate machine processable usage terms to information resources. Despite being suitable for some application domains, the attribution of pre-defined license types (such as GPL, LGPL and creative commons) does not have the granularity necessary to cover common digital rights constraints necessary in some domains. Currently, the Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL) [1] initiative is starting to cover some of the dimensions required for a complete digital rights vocabulary.

The definition of an architecture built over a digital rights provenance vocabulary which can provide the base for the application of policies and for the enforcement of digital rights is also a critical issue on the practical deployment of digital rights on the Web.

Existing Work (optional)

[1] The Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL):

[2] Creative Commons (CC):

[3] Digital Rights Management (DRM):

[4] liblicense: