Zen and the Art of CD-ROM Network License Negotiation



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The Public-Access Computer Systems Review


Multi-user access is one of the fastest growing areas of the CD-ROM marketplace. Since several library sites have tested the merger of multiple technologies to build such networks, clearly it is technologically possible to provide either in-house or remote networked access to some CD-ROM databases. As with many experiments in library automation, the technological hurdles that must be overcome belong to the first stage of the process and, complicated though they may be, do not represent the totality of the problem. License agreements represent another challenging area in the universe of CD-ROM networking. The first indication of the complexity at hand is the lack of standard methods for initiating, negotiating, or determining such arrangements. Each vendor is likely to produce a unique license agreement and, in some cases, is likely to have different arrangements with each institution, regardless of the similarity of their network environments. CD-ROM network license agreements are also frequently extensions of or riders to existing single-use agreements, not separately designed legal documents. This situation is further complicated by the implied separation of licenses for data and licenses for software. Additionally, some agreements require that the established relationship be held in confidence, thereby limiting customers' ability to learn how others have handled specific licensing dilemmas. It is clear that this segment of the information industry has not fully matured. End-users, network managers, database producers, and product vendors all approach licensing issues from different perspectives. Even within these groups opinions, policies, and procedures vary greatly. It is also the case that none of these groups have a corner on clarity or sensibility. The issues are often fraught with philosophically opposing motivations, but that is not to say that compromises can not be made. This paper will outline several descriptive categories of CD-ROM network license arrangements available in the marketplace at this time and will attempt to examine and clarify some of their pitfalls.




Wilson, Thomas C. "Zen and the Art of CD-ROM Network License Negotiation." The Public-Access Computer Systems Review 1, no. 2 (1990): 4 - 14.