The legal and commercial framework for intellectual property in the global information environment continues to be a topic of great importance to our community. While the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) conference of December 1996 is now behind us, the focus has shifted to enabling legislation in the US. In addition, proposals for the revision of the Uniform Commercial Code to address transactions in networked information may reshape the landscape for commerce in intellectual property. The National Research Council has just published an important study, Bits of Power, on the interactions between science and intellectual property policy. Professor Pamela Samuelson, a 1997 MacArthur fellow who holds joint appointments in the Schools of Law and Information Management and Systems at the University of California, Berkeley — and also a member of the NRC committee that authored the Bits of Power study — will offer an overview of current developments and share her views on the policy issues facing the nation. It’s hard to think of a more informed, honest and insightful voice on these critical issues.
The technology framework that has shaped our thinking about the future of the Internet, national telecommunications policy, and the feasibility of developing applications such as digital libraries is undergoing massive change. While much of the Internet world has been focused on very high speed optical fiber networks, for example, major corporations like Teledesic, Loral, and Motorola are investing billions of dollars in low earth orbit and hybrid GEO and LEO satellite networking which promise to expand the networking options and economic trade-offs. Studies have been done that suggest that users will not read lengthy articles on computer monitors because they are inferior to paper; yet a new generation of super-high resolution display devices that closely emulate the properties of paper are emerging from the laboratories. Robert Spinrad, Vice President of Technology Strategy for Xerox, will highlight important developments and help Task Force members to reassess their assumptions about the technology framework for networked information. Bob has been closely connected to the work of the higher education community through his service on the Educom Board and his work with the Commission on Preservation and Access (now part of the Council on Library and Information Resources).