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Standards Critical to Information Superhighway


Developing and implementing standards for electronic publishing will be critical to how smoothly the new digital media will travel on the Information Highway, according to conclusions reached by participants at a recent industry roundtable discussion in Alexandria, Va.

The roundtable, sponsored by the Information Infrastructure Standards Panel (IISP), a broad cross-industry group of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), was held Nov. 12 and focused on determining what standards are needed in electronic distribution and sale of books, music and movies. Attending were experts in electronic publishing, representatives from the entertainment, telecommunications and computer industries, as well as standards and specification developers and others with a direct interest in affirming that critical standards are needed to implement the Global Information Infrastructure (GII), as the Information Superhighway is frequently called.

Digital Media Need Standards

"Although digital media offer companies, publishers, composers, authors and performers a new way to bring their products to customers, delivering them can present a number of challenges," said ANSI Board Member Oliver Smoot, IISP chairman and executive vice president of the Information Technology Industry Council. "Having standards is vitally important to the delivery process because standards make things work -- whether they be for electric outlets or electronic messages."

Kelly Frey, counsel and director of Strategic Development for Copyright Clearance Center Inc., also underscored the need for standards in the GII.

"IISP's work is critical in assuring pervasive digital commerce because many proprietary systems are being developed to deal with these issues," Frey said. "Unless standards are developed that allow these systems to work together, the `Information Superhighway' could quickly become a `Digital Labyrinth' for most users."

The roundtable also featured a presentation by an IISP task force on 12 potential areas for standardization in electronic publishing. Among the standards identified were: document delivery structures and formats; a uniform file identifier for data about copyright ownership; requirements for a preservation architecture of on-line material; color document interchange; file location and addresses; and control services, including containers, authentication of content, and a means to enforce relationships among content proprietors and users; billing, payment, and reporting.

IISP Meetings Feature Working Groups

Following the roundtable, IISP held a series of meetings where several of its working groups addressed standards in areas such as education, entertainment, network reliability and interoperability, international coordination and security and interoperability. The meetings also featured speakers from the roundtable, as well as a presentation on the Association of American Publishers' (AAP) Project on the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) by William Arms of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, and Albert Simmonds of R.R. Bowker Publishers.

According to Carol Risher, AAP's vice president of new technology, the DOI is being proposed as both a U.S. Standard to ANSI and an international standard by the National Information Standards Organization (NISO).

Other speakers at the IISP meeting included Daniel Duncan, vice president-government relations for the Information Industry Association, who discussed IIA's Digital Content Rights Management Group Project; Dominique Yon, who spoke on an international system for identifying works in the digital distribution chain; and Frey, who discussed copyright management and protection issues.

Cross-Industry Participation Valuable

Smoot noted that IISP is a cross-industry effort whose members represent many industry sectors, including computers, telecommunications, entertainment, cable, banking, broadcasting, and medical. IISP members include representatives from Apple Computer, IBM, Ameritech, AT&T, Ericsson, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST).

The value of the cross-industry participation in IISP, Smoot said, can be seen in its recently released Needs Response Report. The report summarizes responses to IISP Needs from standards developers and other organizations from a variety of industry areas. One report, accessible on IISP's Web site, contains information by IISP Need on available standards, standards projects in process, and related documentation. "This 'pooling' of information is intended to make cooperation easier, avoid duplication and ultimately make the standards developed more responsive," Smoot noted.

"These IISP meetings bring people together from different organizations and industries but with common issues in a specific area," he added. "Standards Needs are reviewed by over 30 standards organizations to determine if existing standards meet the Needs, and the cross-industry aspect provides information and cooperation that's invaluable to standards progress."

Since its formation in 1994, IISP has identified over 100 Standards Needs for the GII.

IISP's Next Meeting

The panel's next meeting is scheduled for January 30-31, 1997, in Arlington, Va. Topic: "The GII: A Consumer's Perspective", highlighting the needs of the user.

Information on IISP, including membership, meeting schedules, and Standards Needs identified to date is available on the panel's World Wide Web site, or by contacting R.M. "Chick" Hayden (telephone: 212/642-4920; email: or Peter Lefkin (telephone: 212/642-4979; email:


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